The Hun chastises air board

Submitted: Jun 26, 2007

The Valley seems frozen at the moment, although its credit is leaking from subprime loan foreclosures and the milk price is up so people are buying replacement heifers. Perhaps, the leaders have been shaken somewhat by the consequences of their rapacious land-use decisions, by which local lenders, developers, realtors and landowners gained enormously to the detriment of larger financial institutions that bought so much locally generated bad debt. And to the detriment of so many others, closer by, hung out to dry by the big swindle.

There is no doubt that our Valley is rich in shrewd business people. However, other than making money for themselves, these shrewd business people seem totally useless to their communities.

The recent decisions by the Valley air board are ridiculous abrogations of political responsibility. By extending the deadline to clean up the air and lying about its poor quality, they appear to be betting that Bush-appointed judges will eventually make their problem go away before they will have to do anything about it.

Meanwhile, Valley congressmen voted for a Farm Bill just like the one before it, raising the question of how many more years of this kind of farm policy national agriculture can stand. Costa and Cardoza also cast votes -- we're not sure if they considered these votes "independent," "moderate" or "conservative" -- in favor of keeping the doors of the School of the Americas open. This demonstrates that these two and their 38 fellow real macho Democrats have a Latin American policy frozen in the time. "Launch the dirty wars again! The Arabs whupped us by By God we can still kick ass down South and git their oil!" You bet.

But the Valley isn't actually frozen. Dissent is brewing and every day confidence in government is weakening because the public has found that these local, state and federal officials are dishonest and face their constituents with brazen arrogance, daring the public to get organized to vote them out. Merced County supervisors, fully indemnified against legal costs, passed the Riverside Motorsparts Pork project in December. Fully indemnified, the Merced City Council will likely pass the WalMart distribution center project about a year later -- both in complete contempt for public health and safety, natural resources and agriculture. These are the jobs they promised us for UC Merced? Not one voice among them spoke out loud enough for the public to carry over the din of the flak from UC, and finance, insurance and real estate special interests, endlessly bleated by Sonny Star, the local gigolo press.

The same air board set up a public meeting last week about Site 300 in Tracy but did not properly notice it, so promised another one mid-July, to hear public comment against the UC/Bechtel/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plan to increase detonation of depleted uranium and other radioactivity there by eightfold. Meanwhile, the rumor is that Site 300 has already made a short list of four finalists to put a biodanger level-4 biowarfare lab on the site. But the Lab has made no public announcement, no doubt for "national security" reasons. Congressman McNerney, in whose district Site 300 is located, has not been able to bring himself to say a word against this atrocity of pollution and danger to people within a 60-mile radius, however has been busy in complex intra-Party dialectics involving his alleged integrity and the purity of the campaign funds he will accept from whose hands.

Government in the Valley is in the hands of a bunch of merciless hypocrites. However, judgment belongs to the Lord, who said to Jonah:

And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?" Jonah 4:11.

Bill Hatch

California Progress Report
California Air Board Chastised Over Weak Approach on Clean Air by Schwarzenegger and Garamendi; Mixed Reviews on Implementing Global Warming Requirements of AB 32
Frank Russo

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger:

...I was deeply disappointed, however, that the California Air Resources Board voted last week to seek an 11-year delay in enforcement of federal air quality standards in the San Joaquin Valley. Regardless of whether the US EPA's failure to grant California the authority to implement aggressive emissions standards is partly to blame for our inability to meet federal standards, the Air Board let the federal government off the hook by seeking delay.

There are few environmental issues facing Californians that are more important to our children's health, our quality of life, and our economic security than air quality. When one out of six residents in the San Joaquin Valley has been diagnosed with asthma and one in five children carry an inhaler to school, it is a call to action.

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Denny the Mechanic speaks

Submitted: Jun 20, 2007

"It's tough to get any particular issue dealt with in a very rapid fashion short of declaring war on somebody," Cardoza told CBS 5 on May 31st. "We don't move that fast in Congress." --, June 19, 2007

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, entered public life during a period of extreme political corruption in America. Furthermore, as demonstrated by his district's top position in the rate of mortgage foreclosures in the nation, he has seen major pressure applied locally by finance, insurance and real estate special interests with splendid results for us all. His first job, for these same special interests, in the state Assembly was to get UC Merced through its regulatory hurdles. He succeeded to the extent that UC built a portion of its campus without getting through its regulatory hurdles and the state paid millions of dollars for mitigation easements that are essentially largely as mitigation. He led the successful drive to bring the Williamson Act to Merced County, "as mitigation for UC Merced," something the Act was neither written to do or in any legal way could do. However, it was a boon for developers holding large tracts of farm and ranchland. In Congress, as the rear end of the Pomboza (together with former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy), Cardoza authored and co-authored three bills to gut sections of the Endangered Species Act that were obstacles to the special interests of finance, insurance and real estate in his and Pombo's districts.

Upon Pombo's defeat and the Democratic Party takeover of Congress, it has been reported that the new chairman of the renamed House Natural Resources Committee, known when Pombo was chairman as the Resources Committee, demanded Cardoza's removal from the committee. He was given a subcommittee chairmanship on the House Agriculture Committee during a new Farm Bill year.

It is legitimate and frequently the case that professional campaign politicians don't understand issues. They are nuts and bolts mechanics of politics and are not expected to understand issues except in terms of immediate advantage or disadvantage in campaigns. It is not legitimate although also frequently the case the elected officials don't understand issues either. Since his days in the state Assembly, Cardoza has been regaling reporters with the inside skinny on the mechanics of legislation. This pablum is duly published and his constituents are none the wiser about where he stands on the issues.

We have found Cardoza to be of average intelligence although of unusual ambition. As outlined above, we have also found him to be as corrupt as his district, politically economically speaking a national disgrace. Putting the average intelligence together with the corrupt background, we conclude that Cardoza is neither intellectually equipped or morally inclined to understand an issue.

In the case of the section in the Farm Bill that would terminate local and state government efforts to defend their borders against genetic pollution from genetically modified organisms, we have no doubt that the University of California, the nation's top academic plunger into biotechnology, has told Denny the Mechanic that it favors this bill as it is.

In Cardoza's mind, probably it would be tantamount to a declaration of war actually to do the homework to take a responsible position on GMO crops. Although "troubled" (suitably modified by adverbs chosen by his current flak), Cardoza votes to send young Americans to kill and be killed in Iraq.

"We don't move that fast in Congress,"

says Denny the Mechanic.

In the first place, Congress doesn't declare war anymore. In the second place, the US will have lost two wars in Western Asia and killed over a million people before it speaks criticism of a lobby as rich as the biotechnology industry.

Cardoza is wrong on this section of the Farm Bill. He was wrong on the ESA in three bills. He was wrong pushing so hard for a UC campus whose only tangible academic asset is its memorandum of understanding with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of weapons of mass destruction. He was wrong on UC-induced development that has created the present financial, insurance and real estate whirlpool in his district.

Badlands editorial staff

Congress may end ban on genetically modified crops...John Lobertini...6-19-07

(CBS 5) SACRAMENTO Congress is now considering a bill that would eliminate bans on genetically modified crops. Four California counties have such bans in place. It used to be organic farmers only worried about pesticides and chemicals. But now they argue that genetically engineered crops threaten the purity of fruits and vegetables and the products they make. In California, Marin, Mendocino, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties have already taken a stand and have passed their own bans. The conflict is between those who think it's okay to genetically alter plants and animals and those who don't. The ban was slipped into the farm bill late in the process. Central Valley Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) is concerned it won't receive the proper debate. "It's tough to get any particular issue dealt with in a very rapid fashion short of declaring war on somebody," Cardoza told CBS 5 on May 31st. "We don't move that fast in Congress."

GM WATCH daily list

Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops‎
Sent: Wed 6/20/07 9:41 PM
1.TAKE ACTION: Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops
2.Groups say bill voids local bans on altered food
3.Michael Pollan on the potentially corosive power of the farm bill

EXTRACT: The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America... The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill. (item 3)
1.Farm Bill Could Cripple State Food Safety Agencies, Preempt Laws on GE Crops

House Agriculture Committee to Consider Language in the Farm Bill that Would Deny State's Rights to Protect Citizens from Risky Foods

Please take action by June 25, 2007. Thank you.

Dear Food Safety Friends,

I thought you might be interested in this Center for Food Safety e-activism campaign. The House Agriculture Committee is currently considering language in the House version of the 2007 Farm Bill that would pre-empt state's rights to protect its citizens from experimental GE crops and foods, and could eliminate a state's authority to take action in cases of food contamination.

It only takes a minute, please send an email today! This language will be considered by the House Agriculture Committee as early as June 26th.
2.Groups say bill voids local bans on altered food
By Steve Johnson
Mercury News, 20 June 2007

A coalition of 40 consumer, environmental and other groups Tuesday petitioned Congress to delete a provision in a proposed farm bill that they claim would nullify California and other state laws governing food safety and genetically engineered crops.

At issue is a section in the bill before the House Agriculture Committee that "prevents a state or locality from prohibiting an article the secretary of agriculture has inspected and passed."

The advocacy groups - including Consumers Union, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety and Californians for GE-Free Agriculture - said the provision was quietly slipped into the bill a few weeks ago. The House Agriculture Committee is expected to consider the bill shortly after the July 4 holiday.

If the measure passes, the groups argued, it could render ineffective county laws dealing with biologically manipulated crops once the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reviewed and OK'd the crops.

The groups also claimed the measure could bar county health inspectors from condemning contaminated or otherwise substandard supermarket meat if the USDA had approved the product. But an aide to the House Agriculture Committee said that was not the provision's intent, adding that the bill probably would be amended to make it clear that local inspectors could reject bad food.

In California, four of the state's 58 counties - Santa Cruz, Marin, Mendocino and Trinity - have approved bans or other restrictions on genetically ngineered crops. At least 16 other counties have rejected such measures or passed resolutions supporting such crops.

Contact Steve Johnson at or (408) 920-5043.
3.The Way We Live Now
You Are What You Grow
The New York Times, April 22 2007


. . To speak of the farm bill's influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact - on theenvironment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities - or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico's eaters as well as its farmers.) You can't fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.

And though we don't ordinarily think of the farm bill in these terms, few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape and environment. Americans may tell themselves they don't have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that's not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.

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Dude, Denny's got his cliches down!

Submitted: Jun 17, 2007

"In exchange for having a seat at the table, you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page..."That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." --Rep. Dennis "I'm No Nancy Boy" Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced.

It would be funny if this was a script for a baseball comedy film called "Bull Durham." Unfortunately, this guy is our US congressman during the most corrupt moment of political history since the McKinley administration. But Madame McClatchy's dutiful stenographer, Mike Doyle, takes it all down, word for meaningless word.

The Shrimp Slayer (Not A Nancy Boy) is babbling about as coherently today as he was two years ago, when he emerged from a developer luncheon hosted by Fritz Grupe and splitting $50,000 with former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, the man he called "Mr. Chairman." These two crooks went back to Washington to write a bill to kill the Endangered Species Act -- earning the dual sobriquet, the Pomboza, from local farmers who sensed that whatever Pombo and Cardoza were up to, it did not bode well for the future of agriculture in the north San Joaquin Valley.

We don't have to ask Cardoza where he sits on San Joaquin Valley air quality or species crashes in the Delta or on the newly proposed peripheral canal. At the end of the day, he'll be sitting at the table on the same page with finance, insurance and real estate special interests, which does not bode well for the health and safety of humanity or any other species caught in those plans on that page at that table at the end of that day.

We don't mind crooks in the 18th congressional district of the great state of California. Nobody of any integrity could get the money to get elected to represent this district. We know that. But still, within the squalid limits of character permitted an elected official in this region, we still have our standards, however debased they have become by our dismal political experience. And a stone hypocrite, hiding behind the emptiest cliches in the business, is beyond the pale of even our deformed political taste.

Cardoza, our highest elected official, keeps a district office on the third floor of the Merced County Administration Building. It is evident among the elected officials that decide local land-use planning in the county and its cities, that these cliches are running downhill. This has resulted in a local government culture that is no more than one large hypocritical cliche to hide the fact it has become a financial vortex.

To make matters worse, members of the public intent on conflict-free dialogue continue to meet with the local decision-makers within the context of this large hypocritical cliche, adding to it as they invent grand fables about their political efficacy. Meanwhile, the 18th CD leads the nation in mortgage foreclosures and Valley air quality achieves its own unique designation -- worst of the worst.

When political language ceases to have any meaning at all, politicians are hiding something dangerous. These are times when government regards the public as its top enemy.

Badlands editorial staff

Fresno Bee
Cardoza's ties divide voters. Democratic congressman often walks a fine line with conservative district....Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau

Dennis Cardoza wanted a seat at the table, and he got it...the third-term Democratic congressman from Merced is a Capitol insider, setting the rules for House debate. But in a political twist, the very position that grants Cardoza clout could also estrange some San Joaquin Valley voters. A moderate, Cardoza is nonetheless a lieutenant to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He has her ear. She, in turn, often has his vote. The result is a fine line to walk for a congressman representing an often-conservative district. "In exchange for having a seat at the table," Cardoza said, "you agree that at the end of the day, you're all going to be on the same page." Cardoza and other members of the House Rules Committee decide how legislation is debated and what amendments can be offered...the 13-member panel shapes every bill considered by the House of Representatives. Rules Committee members have extra leverage with their colleagues, because they have their hands on every bill. Cardoza said the position gives him an opportunity to offer more amendments of his own. On the House floor, Cardoza and other Blue Dogs are generally the Democrats most likely to dissent from the party. But in the confines of the House Rules Committee, which meets on the third floor of the Capitol, Cardoza's voting is uniformly Democratic. Behind the scenes, moreover, Cardoza said the story is even more complex. "If you're on the Rules Committee, you vote with your party," Cardoza said. "That does not mean I'm a lackey for Nancy Pelosi." Cardoza likened his role to a "canary in a coal mine." In essence, he is a designated liaison to the Democrats' moderate wing. He lets House leaders know what might cause trouble for centrists. In turn, he gives the 47-member Blue Dog caucus an early heads-up on bills.

"Bull Durham" (1988)

Crash Davis: It's time to work on your interviews.
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: My interviews? What do I gotta do?
Crash Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time."
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring.
Crash Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.

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Results coming in on government by FIRE

Submitted: Jun 04, 2007

The decisions that have created the enormous mess in real estate in the north San Joaquin Valley were made by corrupt local land-use authorities, corrupt state and federal regulatory agencies, with state and federal politicians working the backrooms, all for the benefit of finance, insurance and real estate.

“This year, we’re going to see prices drop in every market across the country for the first time since the Great Depression,” said Steven Smith, a property appraiser and consultant from San Bernardino. -- Modesto Bee, June 3, 2007.

This is the result of all those "win-win, public-private partnerships." This is the result of "One Voice" lobbying delegations. This is the result of public officials making the "hard, right decisions." This is the result of the wholesale demonization of common sense by rightwing radicals at all levels of government. This is the result of "shrinking government to where it can be drowned in a bathtub."

This is the result of a nationwide betrayal of the meaning of public service.

This is the result of American citizens total abdication of the responsibilities of that citizenship.

The possibility of economic depression creates the possibility of real fascism, real resistance, and real social unrest. Nice going, FIRE.

We here in the north San Joaquin Valley have been recently bedazzled by the illusion of "higher learning," as the great American economist, Thorstein Veblen called university education, in the form of UC Merced, the most compelling anchor tenant for reckless urbanization to hit the Valley since the Southern Pacific Octopus.

But, what of the "lower learning"? Those of us of a certain age remember the riverbanks crowded with the campfires of migrant farmworkers whose native language was English. We remember hoboes on our creeks and under our bridges. We remember working tramps passing by on railroad gondolas and in boxcars.

The Great Depression lasted a long time in the San Joaquin Valley and I believe it haunts us even now. And for the fear of it, we may have contributed -- given the interlocking nature of finance, insurance and real estate -- to its return.

The only thing to fear is fear itself, FDR said. Will we be lucky enough to find another such leader, to lead us into world war? Because, when the newspapers say the economy is bad, it is much, much worse than we or the newspaper want to admit.

The "lower learning" is what Roosevelt called the "mother sense" good politicians had in the depths of the Depression, regardless of gender. It was a sense of care and protection for their constituents, which would be about the exact opposite of the economic rape and pillage our politicians have aided and abetted in our communities in the Valley. It would have been the sense that dominated Huey Long, FDR's greatest rival on the left. One of the greatest, most contradictory examples in American history of "mother sense" was Lyndon Johnson, who could never really decide between his heroes Long and Roosevelt and who did so much to complete the New Deal in the midst of the Vietnam War. The greatest of all in our livespan was Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let us turn to song, as they did on the banks of the Tuolumne across from the Modesto Reds ballpark in the Fifties, where I heard them singing every evening during the gigantic Cling Peach Harvest-- so many guitars, so much chat and the sounds of forks and spoons hitting plates, the sounds of children -- the sounds of the human camp in the Great Depression still going on then, for those of us fortunate in our lower learning opportunities.

When I ask memory to speak, I turn to Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel.

Questions of 1934

The tearing up
and moving out
bothered little kids
quite a bit
especially Jody Penshaw
he would ask
every night
where will we sleep
tomorrow night
and who could blame him
that question was on
the mind of every
and father too
though the men pretended
it didn't upset them
they had to concentrate
on that Road 66
that was running
through their minds

--Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, A prince Albert Wind, A Mother Road Production, 1994.

Buy it!

Bill Hatch

Modesto Bee
Realty red flags...J.N. Sbranti

A bleak picture was painted of the region’s housing market at a recent conference for real estate appraisers...Appraisal Institute’s Northern California Chapter focused on housing trends and the slumping real estate market throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley. Statistics released recently by building and real estate associations also show a troubled market:
• Home prices falling: The worst of the housing price slump may not be over...home values throughout the country will fall 25 percent to 50 percent below what they were at their peak...the median-priced new home in Merced County was $310,990, which was nearly 22 percent below March 2006...
• Slow home sales: It’s taking much longer for homeowners to sell their property compared with last year, according to the Central Valley Association of Realtors. New home sales also are very sluggish.
• Why home buyers commute: ...prices drop $6,000 per mile
• Investors gone: Many of the homes purchased during the region’s real estate boom years were bought by investors and second-home buyers, but such buyers have disappeared...
• Exotic mortgages: untradi- tional loan terms...“These buyers took shortcuts to homeownership with ‘stated income loan.’ Today they’re called ‘liar loans,’"...“The ‘toxic’ mortgages taken out in 2004, 2005 and 2006 are resetting, causing problems for many who gambled on continued appreciation,” Race said. “They were playing ‘house poker,’ and many are ‘all in’ right now.”
• Subprime loans in trouble: About 18 percent of mortgages in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are subprime loans...
• Foreclosure homes for sale: Homeowners at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure often try to sell before it’s too late...there were 1,733 homes for sale in the Northern San Joaquin Valley that were in process of foreclosure or already had been taken back by the lender
• Loans tougher to get: Rising foreclosure rates on subprime loans are expected to make mortgages harder to get...
• Building permits decline: The Northern San Joaquin Valley building boom is over. Merced County building permits fell 64.6 percent during the first four months of 2007, compared with the first four months of 2006.
• Realtors quitting: Membership is shrinking in the Central Valley Association of Realtors... a drop of 800, or 24 percent.
• Time to buy: “The best time to buy anything is when nobody else wants it,” Zagaris said. “Next year we’re still going to be in this real estate correction.”

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Dementia Bobcatflax

Submitted: May 10, 2007

"The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." ...Other speakers said the valley still faces an uphill climb in many troubling areas. Laurie Primavera of CSU Fresno noted that rates of teen pregnancy, uninsured people and substance abuse continue to outpace those elsewhere. "We have a lot to do in health care," Primavera said. "We rank as badly as third-world countries." Swearingen said the number of valley workers denied jobs because they can't pass drug tests is appallingly high. "The vast preponderance of evidence suggests that jobs are available; we don't have people to fill them," she said. "Our challenges are not economic development — they are people development." -- Modesto Bee, May 10, 2007

Let us endeavor to interpret Whitesidespeak for the wider audience, or even for the audience of citizens of the Valley who weren't designated "leaders" by the Great Valley Center.

There was a speculative housing boom. That's what she means by "alive." Having retired and turned over GVC to UC Merced, she won't be around for the consequences of predatory mortgage lending practices that created the Great Valley Boomdoggle. In fact, since we live in a purely speculative economy, 8-to-5 will get you a bet Whiteside doesn't stay in the Valley any longer than she has to.

But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- happened in the Valley before Carol Whiteside arrived. That must be understood. And, presumably, now that she's leaving, nothing will happen again.

The Valley has been connected to national and international agricultural markets for more decades than the founder of UC/GVC could count on both hands. The Valley has been connect by canal water to San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley and Southern California. And, lest we forget, the Valley is now connected to a lot of off-shore bank accounts through Valley finance, insurance and real estate lending practices. Then, there's the $236 million in farm subsidies between 1995-2005.

There is nothing outstanding about this year's grants to the Valley. In many cases, these are entitlements going with the poverty of the region. Valley politicians remain out of step with the larger trend in both Congress and the state Legislature because our elected officials slavishly represent a handful of special economic interests whose wealth proves the point that, however dysfunctional a situation may be, it always benefits somebody. If those somebodies are rich enough, they can politically perpetuate the situation that harms the rest of the society for quite awhile.

We haven't heard the phrase, "vast preponderance of evidence" in several decades, but it's good to see it back, doing yeoman service on the side of fallacy, as usual. We think of those 550 Hershey workers in Oakdale recently laid off. The firm was clearly so appalled by drug use that they decided to relocate on the other side of the Mexican border to escape the pernicious influence of drug cartels.

"It gets brighter each day in the valley," beamed UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang. He has been at the helm less than three months; UC Merced absorbed the Great Valley Center in October 2005.

Actually, Stevo, the days are getting every so slightly dimmer in the Valley, thanks to growth induced by your blue-and-gilded junior college. But, as another member of the Badlands editorial staff pointed out, it is getting warmer.

"Water, wealth, contentment, health — who could ask for more?" Channing, 86, crooned a cappella. "Modesto is my hometown!"

It's not the asking, Ms. Channing, it's the doing. For at least 14 years, some Modesto residents have wished to hang a sign under the arch and its blithering 19th-century slogan, saying, "NOT!"

Now that UC has absorbed the Great Valley Center, Valley residents will endure periodic "reports" from the McClatchy Chain about the progress of Dementia Bobcatflax. The mere reality of the Valley was never the least bit attractive to UC or GVC. In their collective overreaching, they failed to grasp it.

The idea, which will be endlessly repeated by UC/GVC, that the Valley will only be "alive" in the act of destroying its natural resources for the benefit of a few plutocratic special interests, is a pathetic excuse for political, economic, social and educational "leadership."

Badlands editorial staff

Modesto Bee
Valley 'no longer isolated'...Garth Stapley

Conference touts the turnabouts in education, transportation, planning...The Great Valley Center's 10th annual two-day conference took on an upbeat tone Wednesday, with dignitaries and entertainers insisting the valley has a bright place in California's future. "The region has come alive. It's awakened," said Carol Whiteside, the Modesto-based center's founder and outgoing president. "We are no longer isolated and invisible." Wednesday, presenters had much to crow about as they pointed to recent turnabouts in the 19-county valley's fortune: Eight counties, including Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced, are exploring combined planning efforts in the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process, and six counties to the north have formed a similar partnership.

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UC at the Terror Trough with big hogs now

Submitted: May 10, 2007
Under the new contract, the team, which includes Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International Inc., would receive $297.5 million over the seven-year contract. The consortium also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University and several small businesses...consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. -- Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2007

Yesterday, it was widely reported that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which received this year the contract to design a new generation of nuclear weapons, has new management:

BWX Technologies Inc. is in charge of cleanup at the Rocky Flats CO nuclear dump site;

Washington Group International Inc. is the new, reorganized name for Morrison-Knudsen, the Boise-based dam-building (Boulder) and war contractors since WWII:

Battelle Memorial Institute, as of 2005, has management contracts with four other national laboratories;

Texas A & M is a university based in President Bush's home state.

Bechtel is an SF-based defense contractor, charged in the Iraq War with repairing and rebuilding public utilities in Baghdad destroyed by the US invasion. This, by all accounts except its own, Bechtel failed to do and pulled out, despite being paid around $3 billion and losing a number of employees to the Iraqi resistance. The Bush administration has a appointed a number of Bechtel managers to prominent positions in the regime. For example, Riley Bechtel is one of Bush's top trade advisors. Bechtel Corporation is one of the world's largest
engineering-construction firms whose projects range from the first major oil pipelines in Alaska and Saudi Arabia to nuclear reactors in Qinshan, China and refineries in Zambia. Founded in 1898, the company has worked on 20,000 projects in 140 nations on all seven continents. In 2002 Bechtel earned $11.6 billion in revenue...The company and its workers contributed at least $277,050 to federal candidates and party committees in the last election cycle, about 57 percent to Democrats and 43 percent to Republicans, the center found. Bechtel gave at least $166,000 to national Republican Party committees, center figures show. --, April 24th, 2003

Bechtel's privatization of the Cochabamba, Bolivia water system, which radically raised water rates and caused massive demonstrations in 1999-2000 helped inspire the mass movement that elected Evo Morales president of Bolivia.

The lineup of major defense contractors and a university from Bush's home state behind the University of California is impressive. We predict that the new team will easily push LLNL onto the short list for a level-4 biowarfare laboratory on Site 300, near Tracy, already radioactively contaminated. Furthermore, we imagine this new team, sophisticated hunter/gatherers of defense pork, will probably prevail and LLNL will get its biowarfare lab -- unless there is serious citizen opposition.

Why Valley poultry, dairy and livestock producers would want live Avian Flu and Foot-and-Mouth Disease nearby is beyond us, but they collective mind of Valley agriculture remains as mysterious as ever except for its attraction to a deal, any deal.

In any event, with the new management team, LLNL will claim the plutonium at Livermore, the depleted uranium used in bomb testing at Site 300 and the proposed biowarfare lab will all be perfectly safe.

The LLNL biowarfare lab is touted by the government to replace USDA-managed Plum Island Animal Disease Center, widely suspected of letting loose several animal and human diseases on American citizens, kept in ignorance "for reasons of national security." How much more closed mouthed LLNL will be under corporate domination remains to be seen. The combination of "national security" and "private property" is a lethal combination America is learning all about since the Florida "recount" in 2000.

"Let's face it," Plum Island scientist Dr. Douglas Gregg once said to a reporter, "there can be no absolute guarantee of securing the island." -- Michael Carroll, Lab 257, p. 20.

Badlands editorial staff

Sacramento Bee
UC will remain major player at lab...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau

The University of California on Tuesday survived recurring controversy to retain a hand in running the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory...renowned nuclear weapons lab, located in the shadow of Altamont Pass, will now be managed by a new partnership of corporate and university collaborators. The Energy Department calls the seven-year contract a fresh start for a lab that's sometimes squirmed under the spotlight. Called Lawrence Livermore National Security, the winning lab contractor includes as partners Texas A&M University and the engineering giant Bechtel. The University of California, which has managed Lawrence Livermore since the lab's founding in 1952, created the new corporation and remains a major player in it. With its $1.6 billion budget, Lawrence Livermore has long put its stamp on both national security and the northern San Joaquin Valley. Nearly one-quarter of the lab's 8,600 employees live in the Valley, and the lab's contaminated Site 300 test area west of Tracy typically stores an average of 10,000 pounds of high explosives. The Lawrence Livermore partnership also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Washington Group International and several smaller firms. Battelle runs nuclear facilities including the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Tracy Press
Almost new management...AP

A team led by the University of California and Bechtel National Inc. was awarded the management contract Tuesday for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, despite past problems at the UC-managed lab. “The University of California knows how to do research and development,” Tyler Przybylek, senior adviser at the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in announcing the decision. “It’s the largest research institution at least in the country if not in the world.”...UC’s partnership with Bechtel will provide the management structure which has at times been lacking at the lab...decision follows a series of financial and security gaffes at the nation’s premier nuclear weapons labs — Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. For years, Los Alamos has struggled with security lapses, credit card abuses, theft of equipment and other mismanagement that subjected it to withering criticism from Congress. Problems at Livermore were never so dramatic, but it had its own issues, including the disappearance of an electronic key card and the loss of keys to perimeter gates and office doors. In March, the Bush administration selected Lawrence Livermore for a controversial new weapons program that could lead to a new generation of nuclear warheads. The new contract is for seven years with a maximum payment of $45.5 million per year, depending on performance. It allows for extensions for 13 additional years. A UC team also has the contract to manage Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which doesn’t deal with nuclear weapons.

San Francisco Chronicle
UC-lead team picked to run nuclear lab...Zachary Coile, Keay Davidson

The University of California kept its $1.7 billion contract to manage Lawrence
Livermore National Laboratory for at least the next seven years by creating a
partnership with private companies and underbidding its chief competition, defense giant Northrop Grumman. university has now won both competitions to run the nation's premier nuclear weapons labs -- Livermore and Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico -- despite a checkered history that has included safety incidents, lost and mishandled classified data and, at Los Alamos, theft and fraud by employees. Energy Department officials announced the decision Tuesday, saying the bidding team led by UC and San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel appeared stronger on science and technology, making it the clear choice... "Livermore National Laboratory is a critical part of our nuclear weapons complex and has been for the last 55 years," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said...

Los Angeles Times
Consortium wins contract to run Livermore lab...Ralph Vartabedian,1,6950677.story

The Energy Department on Tuesday awarded a seven-year contract to operate Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to an industry consortium that includes the University of California, which has run the lab since it opened in 1952. This year the lab was selected by the Energy Department to design and develop a new generation of nuclear bombs, known as the reliable replacement warhead. A report by an independent group of scientists warned that the project faced serious technical challenges. Under the new contract, the team, which includes Bechtel National Inc., BWX Technologies Inc. and Washington Group International Inc., would receive $297.5 million over the seven-year contract. The consortium also includes Battelle Memorial Institute, Texas A&M University and several small businesses...consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. ..consortium is nearly identical to the group that took over Los Alamos, though the relative shares that each member has in the corporation is different. At Livermore, the University of California controls half of the six-member board, said Gerald L. Parsky, chairman of the consortium's board. Meanwhile, three students and alumni at UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Berkeley went on hunger strikes this week to protest the involvement of the university system in designing nuclear weapons.

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Which side are you on?

Submitted: May 03, 2007
Come all you WalMart workers,
Good news to you we'll tell,
Of how Human Rights Watch
Has described your living Hell.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

Don't scab for the Waltons,
Don't listen to their lies,
The working poor have got no chance
Unless we organize.

They say in Walton's WalMart
There is no neutral tent,
You'll either be for a union
Or a thug for management.

Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

-- Adapted from Florence Reece, "Which side are you on?" Harlan County KY Coal Miner Strike, 1931

Washington Post
Wal-Mart's union stance attacked...Ylan Q. Mue and Amy Joyce

Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group based in New York, released a report yesterday detailing what it called excessively aggressive tactics by Wal-Mart Stores to stop union organization in its is the first comprehensive look at the retailer's anti-union operations...said, though much information had previously been reported. Most of Wal-Mart's actions were legal but heavy-handed, the report says, including a rapid-response team to prevent organization, a hotline for store managers and tips on staying "union free." In addition, the report cites more than a dozen rulings against Wal-Mart by the National Labor Relations Board that found that Wal-Mart illegally confiscated union literature, prohibited discussions of unions and retaliated against union supporters. Wal-Mart criticized the report as relying on "incomplete interviews and unsubstantiated allegations." It accused the group of using the findings to bolster support for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize unions and would represent one of the most significant revisions of federal labor law in 60 years. One of the most-cited examples came in 2000, when 11 meat cutters at a Texas store won union recognition, the first in the company's history. Soon after, Wal-Mart eliminated the positions at 180 stores in six states. It has said the two events were not related. In 2005, Wal-Mart shuttered a store in Canada after workers voted to unionize. At the time, the company said the employees' demands would have made it impossible for the store to sustain its business. But last year, Wal-Mart said it would allow the All-China Federation of Trade Unions to set up outlets in its stores in China. The report says there were 15 rulings against Wal-Mart by the National Labor Relations Board between January 2000 and July 2005 that still stand... In one case in Pennsylvania, the report says, the NLRB found that Wal-Mart illegally transferred union supporters out of a store and brought in union opponents to dilute efforts to organize. Harley Shaiken, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who specializes in labor issues, called the report "a devastating critique of Wal-Mart's labor practices."

Merced Sun-Star
Wal-Mart foes seek documents...Leslie Albrecht

Wal-Mart Alliance for Reform Now, a Florida-based anti-Wal-Mart group, filed a public records request with the city Wednesday asking for all Wal-Mart-related documents -- including e-mails between city staff and Wal-Mart officials -- from 20 city departments. WARN organizer Nick Robinson said the request is designed to bring more public scrutiny to the planned distribution center... Opponents say trucks servicing the center will damage Merced's already poor air quality; supporters say it will eventually create 900 jobs. The City Council will vote on the distribution center later this year. Such requests are standard practice for WARN, which has stopped new Wal-Mart supercenter stores from being built in 24 Florida counties, said Robinson...Wal-Mart isn't going to give us records." The fight against the Merced distribution center is the first campaign WARN has waged outside of Florida...
Quick facts: Wal-Mart Distribution Center
WHAT: The 1.2-million-square-foot distribution center would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week sorting merchandise for Wal-Mart stores. There are currently nine Wal-Mart distribution centers in California.
WHERE: The site is a 275-acre parcel between Childs and Gerard avenues west of Tower Road in southeast Merced. The site is about three-quarters of a mile from the new Mission Avenue interchange.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY: Proponents say the center will bring an economic boost, eventually creating 900 jobs that pay $13 to $14 hourly. Opponents say the estimated 450 trucks that will drive in and out of the center every day will worsen Merced's already poor air quality.
WHAT'S NEXT: Consultants are writing the environmental impact report about the distribution center. The report will likely be released in the fall. After public hearings, the City Council must vote to approve the distribution center if it is to move forward.

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Ethanol biotech bubble

Submitted: May 01, 2007

The ethanol bubble reveals the pathological side of the political economic system as well as the housing bubble did, and no doubt the same few people involved in ethanol were involved in housing speculation not long ago. The housing bubble pushed our air quality over the edge: the San Joaquin Valley now has as bad or worse air than the Los Angeles basin. Ethanol is shaping up to be nothing but a huge water grab. The ethanol bubble will end about the time a new housing bubble begins.

There is a reason why corn is primarily a Midwest crop. The reason is called rain, as in what Central California doesn't have, being a desert.

As the GMO boys and girls get busy on engineering just the perfect corn for ethanol, gene drift will occur, as it has occurred wherever corn is grown. The ethanol-making genes will drift into corn grown for dairy sillage and get into the milk supply, here in the land free of GMO regulation, perhaps causing gases of another sort. Then UC can study the contribution milk-drinking San Joaquin Valley citizens make to air pollution, along with the bovine flatulence (adding insult to the injury of doubled corn prices and continuing low milk prices to dairymen in the largest dairy state in the nation).

But, that's OK because the honey bees are dying, so the almond growers can convert to ethanol corn and make a real killing before selling for real estate. We know nothing is going to be done about the honey bee collapse because the House subcommittee in charge is chaired by Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a man who doesn't like any non-human species that shows signs of weakening. Dairies could follow behind the almonds and everybody could grow ethanol corn with the latest chemical fertilizers and diesel farm equipment.

Federal and state government doesn't solve ag insect problems anymore,it funds them:

Medfly: $150 million since 1980, now proposal for permanent program at $16 million/year; the government cannot control its entry through ports like Long Beach;

Pierce's Disease, Glassy-winged sharpshooter: now spread to 28 counties, control programs in 51 counties, population of GWSS growing, two new infestations last year, 80 research projects, $20 million a year.

No wonder UC Merced wants to start a medical school. It's following a hallowed tradition of colonization of diseases as each generation of government/corporate/university technologists goes to work on the plagues caused by the last generation of the great win-win, public-private funded technologists, and government/corporate/university propagandists keep promising us that famous Black Box. The latest is a UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory biowarfare lab on a site where it also tests depleted uranium bombs near Tracy. So, the UC Board of Regents, under the guidance of Chairman Richard Blum, Sen. Feinstein's husband, dangle the promise of a medical school for the Valley (first conceived for Fresno in the mid-60s) and give you depleted uranium dust and a lab full of the most dangerous pathogens to local agriculture in existence, and hope nothing bad happens because Pentagon biowarfare pork it prime.

Actually, there is a black box. It is called Boomdoggle. It's not a solution for you and me, but it works for people speculating on the next Valley bubble, and who can afford to live outside the worst air pollution area in the nation. But they are the same speculators from finance, insurance and real estate special interests that control the dumbest, most corrupt air quality board in the nation.

Corporate domination of political institutions has meant economy-by-bubble, and each step of the way, working people get poorer, our common environment gets worse, and fewer people get richer. While corn growers yawp about their high prices, the subsidies are going to investors in the ethanol plants. We're a long way from biomass tax breaks now. We've entered the era of high finance in Green Pork.

Way back in 1981, Grass Valley-based folk singer, Utah Phillips, defined the problem in a song called "All Used Up."

I spent my whole life making somebody rich;
I busted my ass for that son-of-a-bitch.
And he left me to die like a dog in a ditch
And told me I'm all used up ...

They use up the oil and they use up the trees,
They use up the air and they use up the sea;
Well, how about you, friend, and how about me?
What's left when we're all used up?" -- Utah Phillips, (c) 1981, On Strike Music.

1 acre foot = 325,851 gallons = 130 gallons ethanol/acre foot (if, as Sacramento Bee editorialists wonder, the USDA figures are right).

Badlands editorial board

Sacramento Bee
Can't drink ethanol...Editorial

Businesses in California are racing to build plants to make ethanol...But it will take the state's most fought-over resource -- water -- to grow the crops used to produce ethanol. Many crops can be used for that purpose, but at the moment ethanol plants are picking corn -- the most water-intensive ethanol crop there is. How much water? How much corn? The answer is startling. According to a study of California agriculture by the respected Water Education Foundation, it takes about 118 gallons of water to grow a pound of corn. And how many pounds of corn does it take to produce a gallon of ethanol? About 21 pounds of corn, according to one publication from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If these numbers are accurate, the answer is about 2,500 gallons of water. For one gallon of ethanol. There is a goal to produce about a billion gallons of ethanol in California a year. That's about 2.5 trillion gallons of water for 1 billion gallons of ethanol. Take all the water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that now goes to Southern California and Valley farms, use it to grow corn -- and it still wouldn't be enough water. First, a water-intensive crop such as corn in the Central Valley is a bad choice. Second, since there is only so much water for agriculture in California, some other existing crops won't be grown. Third, it behooves the state to grow ethanol crops in the most water-efficient manner possible and set up laws and policies that guide industry in that direction. It is downright scary to see such a rush to ethanol without a better look at the consequences.

Modesto Bee
Flat land
Prices stagnant despite demand for dairy acreage

Farmland in the Northern San Joaquin Valley is pretty flat — at least as property appraisers saw it last year.
Land prices leveled off despite the continuing strength of the almond industry and the demand for dairy acreage and rural homesites, said an annual report from the state chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

"It was a pretty dull year following a huge increase that took place between 2003 and 2005," chapter president Randy Edwards, an appraiser based in Hilmar, said Friday.

The report, released Wednesday in Sacramento, tracked land values around the state for dairy farms, orchards, vineyards, rangeland and other acreage that produces California's bounty.

The per-acre values ranged from $150 for dry rangeland in the state's northeast corner to $600,000 for dairy land in the path of Los Angeles-area growth.

The values varied even for a single crop in a single region, depending on soil quality, water supply and other factors.

An acre of Stanislaus County almond trees, for example, could cost as little as $10,000 if watered from a well or as much as $25,000 if supplied by the Modesto or Turlock irrigation districts.

Dairy, the top farm sector by gross value in the northern valley and statewide, continued to be a major force in land values. These farmers have been adding land for feed crops and for disposing of manure under increasingly strict rules.

The dairy industry has struggled recently, however, with low milk prices, high costs for feed and other factors, as well as the lingering effects of last summer's severe heat wave.

"It appears the market is poised for a downward correction, unless a recovery in milk prices and reduction in feed costs (primarily corn) ensues in the near future," the report said.

Almonds, the region's No. 2 farm product, continue to thrive because of efforts to market the increasing harvests. Nut growers are even moving onto less-than-ideal soil, thanks to advances in tree breeding and irrigation, the report said.

Walnut orchard values continued to be strong. The report noted that this crop has not been as vulnerable as almonds to periods of low commodity prices.

Peach orchards ticked up in value. The report said it was too early to tell whether this was because of an ongoing industry effort to trim the acreage to deal with an oversupply of the fruit.

The report said farmland prices continued to be pushed up by the demand for rural homesites — parcels much larger than city lots but often too small for commercial agriculture. This trend includes grazing land on the west and east sides of the valley, up into Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.

Edwards said the report overall shows that agriculture remains a key part of the valley economy.

"It's not the 800-pound gorilla, but it's stable, with the low spot being the dairy industry and the high spot being the almonds," he said.

The report, "2007 Trends in Agricultural Land and Lease Values," is available for $15 from the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers. For more information, call 368-3672 or e-mail

Inside Bay Area
Tracy should ponder benefits from Site 300...Tim Hunt, former editor and associate publisher of the Tri-Valley Herald. He is the principal with Hunt Enterprises, a communications and government affairs consulting firm.
(In other words, one more journalist who has become a flak and a lobbyist -- Badlands)
LETTERS of support abound as the University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory seek to bring the nations premier agriculture and animal research facility to the labs Site 300 facility near Tracy. The missing letter, unfortunately, is from the nearest municipality to Site 300, the city of Tracy. The University of California is seeking what the Department of Homeland Security calls the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. There are 18 sites across the nation being considered with selection of three to five finalists scheduled in site is scheduled to open in 2013 or 2014 and replace the governments current site at Plum Island off the coast of New York...homeland security department plans to build the lab to research human, zoonotic (animal to human) and animal diseases to counteract the potential terrorist threat of a weapons-grade animal diseases that have both human health effects as well as huge potential to disrupt the food supply. To conduct the research, the facility would contain secure biosafety labs at the level 3 and level 4 (most secure) levels. Forty University of California sites have BSL-3 labs, while there are seven BSL-4 labs operational in the United States. The UC effort has received a strong letter of support from Gov. Schwarznegger, as well as support from Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena, Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher and former Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews from the Tracy area, as well as a number of agriculture and animal trade groups, such as the Farm Bureau. The San Joaquin Board of Supervisors is on record favoring the facility. The sticking point is Tracy... The lab and Site 300 management have a good safety record and have significantly upgraded security since the terrorist attacks of 9/11... Theres no BSL-4 further west than Montana despite the Bay Areas growing focus on the biosciences. Agriculture and ranching are huge economic engines in California, and there also are the potential dangers that come with being the container gateway to Asia through ports in Long Beach/Los Angeles and Oakland. The only question should be whether the facility can operate safety at Site 300, because once thats determined, the lab has nothing but upside for the region and the state.

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Valley hydraulic brotherhood coocaloo as usual

Submitted: Apr 25, 2007

There is an estimated $2.5 trillion in subprimes and Alt-A loans---20% of which are expected enter foreclosure in the next few years. Any up-tick in interest rates or unemployment will only aggravate the situation. -- Mike Whitney,, April 24, 2007

To effect the San Joaquin River settlement agreement between environmental groups and the Friant Water Users Authority, a congressional bill was required. The amount specified in the December bill was $250 million. McClatchy Washington Bureau reported yesterday that a "long-awaited study" put funding at $500 million to restore water flow through a 50-mile stretch of the river in the middle of Fresno County. Fresno Bee reports today, "Cost to restore river set at $1b," according to the executive director of the west San Joaquin Valley water district, San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority. Yesterday a state Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee (known to McClatchy as a "Senate panel," not even a legitimate committee), voted against funding two reservoirs in Northern California, one of them the Temperance Flats dam proposal, above the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River.

Hello, world, we are the San Joaquin Valley. We are going through one of our periodic water-madness periods in which it is revealed to the discerning eye that the San Joaquin Valley is nothing but a gigantic public works project for agribusiness and finance, insurance and real estate. We talk like we own it. We don't. The American public paid for most of it.

Consider the official voice of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors, for example. The exchange contractors sued the federal government about 50 years ago for building the Friant Dam where the San Joaquin River leaves the Sierra foothills, sending about 90 percent of its water down the east side of the Valley in the Friant-Kern Canal. The federal government thoughtfully built the exchange contractors the Delta-Mendota Canal, which sent San Joaquin/Sacramento Delta water south to the contractors, because cattle baron Henry Miller had good riparian rights to the San Joaquin on the west side and because the Bureau of Reclamation had stolen all the water for the City of Fresno and eastern Fresno, Tulare and Kern counties' growers. Now that federally subsidized water is worth a mint in Los Angeles and Valley cities at municipal retail rates. But, so too the Delta Mendota water, worth municipal millions in fast-growing Los Banos, Patterson, and the "new towns" planned all up and down Interstate Highway 5, the magnificent achievement of Chuck Erreca of Los Banos, chairman of the state Department of Transportation when I-5 was approved in the days of Gov. Pat Brown.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Water Resources is reporting the snow pack hasn't been so low in 30 years, reminding old farmers of the drought of 1976-77, worse than the early 1990s. It serves to remind us that modern California, built on the boundless exploitation of limited natural resources, has never been rationally managed, and this year will be no different.

Consider how $250 million becomes $500 million becomes a billion dollars in a matter of days in McClatchy. Here we haven't even gotten to the next level of congressional debate on the dirty secret of west-side irrigation, that it produces extremely toxic levels of heavy metals and salts to grow its subsidized cotton, the almond orchards of finance, insurance and real estate speculators and federally subsidized ethanol corn -- and it has no place to put the toxic waste from this destructive form of agriculture.

A very powerful political coalition is forming to stop the San Joaquin Valley settlement agreement between farmers and environmentalists. It will probably force the case back into court for a ruling, negating years bargaining work between the farmers and environmentalists. Federal judge Lawrence Karlton has said no one will like how he will rule and it would be far, far better if a good settlement was put into effect. But the lobby of what the great former generation of San Joaquin journalists dubbed "the hydraulic brotherhood" won't let that happen and their little terriers like Rep. Devin Nunes, Water Agency Mouthpiece-Visalia, are yapping. Behind the yappers are other Valley congressmen, Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, for example, quiet in the press but working behind the scenes to derail the settlement agreement. To the hydraulic brotherhood and its minions in public office, there is something obscene about farmers and environmentalists agreeing on anything and, besides, they don't pay the big bucks developers do to fund the magnificent political campaigns among turkeys chosen in advance by the largest landowners and developers in the districts.

The price of letting water flow in the second longest river in California is a pittance compared to the hinky mortgages speculators assumed in the mad home construction boom-and-bust in the San Joaquin Valley as politicians, finance, insurance and real estate special interests seek to convert farms to subdivisions upstream from LA.

Bill Hatch

Fresno Bee
Cost to restore river set at $1b...Mark Grossi

The price tag of restoring the San Joaquin River might be $1 billion or more, according to an analysis announced Tuesday night. An official from a west San Joaquin Valley irrigation authority quoted the figure, which differs from other estimates that place the cost closer to $600 million. Environmentalists and east Valley farmers last year ended a long-running lawsuit and agreed to revive the seasonally dry river. The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Authority, the west-side irrigation group, represents owners of 240,000 farmland acres next to the river. Officials fear their land might be flooded if the restoration isn't done well. "I know the numbers are going to cause controversy," said Steve Chedester, executive director of the authority. "The river basically hasn't existed in one stretch since the 1960s." The restoration project probably is among the biggest in the country, said Bill Loudermilk, regional manager in this area for the state Department of Fish and Game. The restored river will either run through a rebuilt section of the river or the bypass, said Monty Schmitt, a scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the lawsuit over the river in 1988. He said no decision has been made yet.

Sacramento Bee
Defeated dams still supported; Governor isn't backing away from $4 billion in bonds after negative vote by Senate panel, By Judy Lin,

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he has no plans to scale down his $4 billion proposal for building two new dams in the state despite watching Democrats reject his bill earlier in the day.
The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee killed the governor's plan to put bonds for two dams -- one on the west side of the Sacramento Valley and one east of Fresno -- on the 2008 ballot. Senate Bill 59 by Sen. Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, had Republican support, but couldn't muster the necessary five votes to pass out of the Democrat-led committee...SB 59 called for voters to approve a $3.95 billion plan to build one dam at Temperance Flat just above Friant Dam near Fresno, and the other on Sites reservoir in Colusa and Glenn counties. Together the dams would yield up to 3.1 million acre-feet of water. By comparison, Folsom Dam holds about 1 million acre-feet...Opponents led by environmental groups argue that the dams aren't needed as long as Californians continue to conserve. They say the projected cost of constructing the two dams has already increased by 10 percent, from $4 billion to $4.4 billion, and noted that some of the water would be lost due to evaporation.Republicans from the Central Valley counter that there hasn't been new dam construction in the last 25 years while the state's population has grown by 15 million...

Fresno Bee
River price tag put at $500mLawmaker says the restoration cost creates a problem.By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau --

A long-awaited study puts the federal government's cost of restoring the San Joaquin River at $500 million -- raising questions about how to pay for the painstakingly negotiated plan.
One legislator is using the new Congressional Budget Office study in his attempts to derail the proposal to send more water down the river. The additional water would allow the return of long-depleted salmon populations.
"I think the costs are a lot higher than have been advertised, and that's a considerable problem for the bill," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia. He has been critical of the restoration plan's possible effect on farmers if less water is available for irrigation.
The plan's supporters retort that the costs aren't unexpected. As they prepare for a May 2 Senate hearing, they will try to shave the cost estimates and identify the necessary offsetting savings.
"We've known for some time that we had a [budget] issue," Dan Dooley, an attorney for the Friant Water Users Authority, said Friday. "Until this report, we didn't have the specifics, but I'm confident we'll work through it."
The bill language itself only specifies $250 million in spending. The new cost estimate adds other required environmental spending, as well as the loss of federal tax revenue from California bonds that would be sold to help pay for the project as part of the state's share of funding.
Farmers and environmentalists differ over what the final total cost will be, with estimates ranging from between $600 million and $1.2 billion.
New rules in place under Democratic leadership require congressional spending to be balanced with additional revenues or with new savings. The San Joaquin River bill is one of the first natural resources bills to confront the new pay-as-you-go budget requirements.
In coming weeks, river restoration supporters will confront the political challenge of identifying other programs to trim so that the San Joaquin River might live.
"Good luck," Nunes said. "Who are they going to cut?" ...

April 24, 2007
"Is It Too Late to Get Out?"
Housing Bubble Boondoggle

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson delivered an upbeat assessment of the slumping real estate market on Friday saying, "All the signs I look at" show "the housing market is at or near the bottom."
Paulson added that the meltdown in subprime mortages was not a "serious problem. I think it's going to be largely contained."
Wrong again.
Paulson knows full well that the housing market is headed for a crash and probably won't bounce back for the next 4 or 5 years. That's why Congress is slapping together a bailout package that will keep struggling homeowners out of foreclosure. If defaults keep skyrocketing at the present rate they are liable to bring the whole economy down in a heap.
Last week, the Senate convened the Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Charles Schumer. The committee's job is to develop a strategy to keep delinquent subprime mortgage holders in their homes. It may look like the congress is looking out for the little guy, but that's not the case. As Schumer noted, "The subprime mortgage meltdown has economic consequences that will ripple through our communities unless we act."
Schumer's right. The repercussions of millions of homeowners defaulting on their loans could be a major hit for Wall Street and the banking sector. That's what Schumer is worried about---not the plight of over-leveraged homeowners.
Every day now, another major lending institution unveils its plan for bailing out the housing market. Citigroup and Bank of America have joined forces to create the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America which will provide $1 billion for the rescue of subprime loans. This will allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages and keep them out of foreclosure. The new "30- year loans will carry a fixed interest rate one point below the prime rate, putting it currently at 5.5 percent. There are no fees, and the banks pay all the closing costs."
But why are the banks being so generous if, as Paulson says, "the housing market is at or near the bottom." This proves that the Treasury Secretary is full of malarkey and that the problem is much bigger than he's letting on.
Last week, Washington Mutual announced a $2 billion program to slow foreclosures (Washington Mutual's subprime segment lost $164 million in the first quarter) while Freddie Mac committed a whopping $20 billion to the same goal. In fact, Freddie Mac announced that it "would stretch the loan term to a maximum of 40 years from the current 30-year limit."
40 years!?! How about a 60 or 80 year mortgage?
Can you sense the desperation? And yet, Paulson says he doesn't see the subprime meltdown as a "serious problem"!
Paulson's comments have had no effect on the Federal Reserve. The Fed has been frantically searching for a strategy that will deal with the rising foreclosures. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that "Federal bank regulators called on lenders to work with distressed borrowers unable to meet payments on high-risk mortgages to help them keep their homes".
When was the last time the feds ordered the privately-owned banks to rewrite loans?
Never--that's when.
That gives us some idea of how bad things really are. The details of the meltdown are being downplayed in the media to prevent panic-selling among the public. But the Fed knows what's going on. They know that "U.S. mortgage default rates hit an all-time high in the first quarter of 2007" and that "the percentage of mortgages in default rose to a record 2.87%". In fact, the Federal Reserve and the five other federal agencies that regulate banks issued this statement just last week:
"Prudent workout arrangements that are consistent with safe and sound lending practices are generally in the long-term best interest of both the financial institution and the borrowerInstitutions will not face regulatory penalties if they pursue reasonable workout arrangements with borrowers."
Translation: "Rewrite the loans! Promise them anything! Just make sure they remain shackled to their houses!"
Unfortunately, the problem won't be "fixed" with a $30 or $40 billion bailout scheme. The problem is much bigger than that. There is an estimated $2.5 trillion in subprimes and Alt-A loans---20% of which are expected enter foreclosure in the next few years. Any up-tick in interest rates or unemployment will only aggravate the situation.
Kenneth Heebner, manager of CGM Realty Fund (Capital Growth Management), provided a realistic forecast of what we can expect in the near future as defaults increase.
Heebner: "The Greatest Price Decline in Housing since the Great Depression" (Bloomberg News interview)
"The real wave of pain and foreclosures is just beginning.subprimes and Alt-A are both in trouble. A lot of these will go into default. The reason is, that the people who took these out never really intended to fully service the mortgage---they were counting on rising home prices so they could sign on the dotted line without showing what their income was and then 2 years later flip into another junk mortgage and get a big profit out of the house with putting anything down
"There's a $1.5 trillion in subprimes and $1 trillion in Alt-A the catalyst will be declining house prices which is already underway. But as we get a large amount of these $2.5 trillion mortgages go into default, we'll see foreclosed houses dumped on an already weak market where homebuilders are already struggling to sell there houses. The price declines which have started will continue and may even accelerate in some of the hotter markets. I would expect that housing prices in "2007 will decline 20% in a lot of markets".
"What you are going to see is the greatest price decline in housing since the Great Depression..The one thing that people should not do, is go near a CDO or a residential mortgage backed security rated Triple A by Moody's and S&P because these are going to get down-graded by the hundreds of millions---because they are secured by subprime and Alt-A mortgages where there'll be massive defaults".
Question: "Will the losses in the mortgage market exceed those in the S&L crisis?"
Heebner: "They're going to dwarf those losses because the losses could easily approach $1 trillion---that dwarfs anything that has ever happened. Enron was $100 billion---this will be far greater than that..The good news is that most of these loans are owned by Hedge FundsYou hedge funds buying these subprime and Alt-A loans and leveraging them at 10 to 1. They buy a pool of mortgages at 8% and they borrow against it in yen for 3% and then lever it at 10 to 1so you have a lucrative profit And the hedge fund you are running, the manager is going to get 20% of the gain---so even if it's a year before you go broke; you get rich until the fund is shut down".
Heebner added this instructive comment: "The brokerage firms created "securitization" they know the products are toxic. I don't think they are going to suffer losses; they simply passed them on to everyone else. The only impact this will have is the profits that flow from it will get less.But it is less than 3% of revenues in even the most exposed brokerage firm so THEY'RE NOT GOING TO GET CAUGHT" ...

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UC Bio-Terror Pork

Submitted: Apr 22, 2007

It has been proved beyond doubt that Iraq contained no weapons of mass destruction, therefore the excuse for the occupation was a lie. The nation was traumatized by the incredible violence of September 11th. Seven days later, it was further traumatized by letters laced with lethal strains of anthrax delivered to two US senators, Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both trying to debate the Patriot Act being rammed down Congress’ throat by the Bush administration. Five people who handled the letters died and 17 were sickened. The strain of anthrax was traced to the US Army Ft. Detrick biowarfare lab. To date, the FBI has not identified the sender, it has been suggested its investigation is a cover-up, and congressional requests for hearings on the investigation has been unsuccessful so far.

In June, the Department of Homeland Security will decide on the short list for a new biowarfare lab containing the most dangerous known pathogens. University of California/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will be in the running with a proposal for a 500,000 square foot facility in the middle of its bombing range, Site 300, where it has also applied for a permit to explode depleted uranium bombs. The permit is an improvement. UC/LLNL has been doing it for years without permits. UC/LLNL already has a biosafety level-3 biowarfare lab in Livermore. The proposed Tracy lab would contain both level-3 and a level-4 biowarfare labs.

There are four level-4 labs in the country, but the Bush administration announced plans for construction of at least three more.

Biosafety Level 3 includes a wide spectrum of viruses, bacteria, and fungal agents. Bacterial agents include: tularaemia, pulmonary and nonpulmonary tuberculosis, glanders, melioidosis, typhoid fever, paratyphoid fever, plague (bubonic, pneumonic, and septicaemic), Q fever, typhus (scrub and epidemic), and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Viral agents include over 170 arboroviruses such as West Nile, yellow fever, and various forms of encephalitis (i.e. Dengue fever and Hantavirus), lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCM) (neurotrophic strains), Hepatitis B and C, HIV, and Rift Valley fever. Fungal agents in BSL3 include: Coccidioides immitis (which causes pulmonary disease), pulmonary histoplasmosis, and North American Blastomycosis.

Biosafety Level 4 covers a smaller group of pathogens that pose a “high risk of exposure and infection to personnel, the community, and the environment.” These include a number of arenaviruses, filoviruses, and arboroviruses such as: Junin, Marburg, Russian Spring-Summer, Congo-Crimean, hemorrhagic fever, Omsk hemorrhagic fever, Lassa, Machupo, Ebola, Sabia, and Encephalmomyeltis.

There are currently four Biosafety Level 4 laboratories in the United States. These are: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta; the United States Army Research Institute on Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Frederick, Maryland; the Southwest Institute for Biomedical Research in San Antonio; and the University of Georgia in Athens, which houses a smaller, “shoebox” facility.

The Bush Administration recently announced the construction of at least three new Biosafety Level 4 laboratories—at Boston University Medical Center; the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston; and the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana—as well as the expansion of Biosafety Level 4 capacity at the CDC and USAMRIID. USAMRIID is the only Level 4 laboratory currently under military protection. – Boston University Biodefense website

While Northern California media has been up in arms about the $500-million contract between UC Berkeley and British Petroleum for biotech research, the far more dangerous UC proposal is its level-4 biowarfare facility near Tracy. Given the propaganda talent UC, LLNL, the federal government and defense contractors are capable of mustering, we are even curious about the timing. The connection between the two lies in UC’s rabid promotion of biotechnology. Its warfare application is in manipulating pathogens. This manipulation can range from creating antidotes to creating ethnic-specific toxins. On the livestock front, it can range from vaccines for foot-and-mouth or Avian flu to super-virulent strains of those diseases to destroy the food sources of targeted populations. And because biowarfare (called “biodefense” by the government and UC) labs are highly secret for reasons of national security, of course, you will never know what they are researching or what hit you, your flock or herd, or when.

In case of an accident at the Tracy facility, lethal pathogens could spread up to 60 miles endangering the lives of seven million people and much livestock besides. Given the combined forces of cover-up – UC/LLNL and the government – people and animals will probably sicken and die without explanation. One of the worst recent examples of biowarfare lab secrecy is Plum Island, NY. Lyme Disease, W. Nile Virus and Dutch duck plague, which first appeared in the US within miles of this facility, are conjectured to have leaked from Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Michael Carroll’s Lab 257, the result of seven years of exhaustive investigation, documents astounding lapses in safety, failure to enforce regulations, reckless disregard for the safety of surrounding populations in New York and Connecticut, and complete stone-walling by the USDA, managers of Plum Island after it took control of this military biowarfare lab. We doubt somehow that the California livestock, dairy and poultry organizations supporting the UC/LLNL bio-warfare lab have read Lab 257. Although the public is allowed very little information about either UC/LLNL’s nuclear weapons or biowarfare programs, we do know that safety and security has never been perfect and never will be perfect. We also know that among the densest populations of poultry and diary cows in the nation lie within 100 miles of the proposed site of this lab, and large herds of beef cattle and sheep seasonally graze closer to the site (that’s why Pombo wears a cowboy hat). We also know that the proposed lab would lie directly beneath the Pacific Flyway for migratory waterfowl, protected by international treaties since early in the 20th century.

The fundamental problem with level-3 and level-4 biowarfare facilities is that, while the government and their university and private partners say they are working on strictly defensive means of countering bioterror attacks, they must research the offensive weapons to find the defenses. The history of these labs in the US has been offensive rather than defensive and there is no evidence to date that the US faces a bioterror attack except perhaps another from whoever sent the senators that US Army-made anthrax.

Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, which has been monitoring UC/LLNL handling of radioactive material and lately biological warfare material, stated recently that “bio-defense building boom” is leading to “these very dangerous facilities being built willy-nilly across the country without any consideration of whether additional bio-lab capability is needed.”

Homeland Security states at times, changing its story at other times, that support from nearby communities is important to its decisions about where to locate new biowarfare labs. Four years ago, UC Davis proposed itself as a site for a level-4 lab, the Davis City Council voted to oppose it, and the lab was not built in Davis. This year, the Tracy City Council voted to oppose the siting of this lab nearby. About 7,000 local citizens have signed petitions protesting it. The land is owned by the federal Department of Energy and managed by UC/LLNL, but technically the land-use authority is San Joaquin County, whose board of supervisors voted to support the project.

Tracy has been in political tumult for months. Hometown of former Rep. Richard Pombo, once chairman of the House Resources Committee (restored to its older title, Natural Resources Committee by the incoming Democratic leadership), a ferocious, successful campaign to unseat him took place involving state and national environmental groups and former Rep. Pete McCloskey. At the same time, a new mayor was elected, Brent Ives, a 20-year executive manager from UC/LLNL. Ives defeated Celeste Garamendi (sister of the state lieutenant governor), an opponent of the kind of growth and anti-environmental policies practiced by Pombo Real Estate Farms (the congressman’s clan enterprise) and among other developers, Angelo Tsakopoulos, whose AKT Development Corp. owns Tracy Hills, a proposed 5,500-unit housing and business project, next to the UC/LLNL Site 300. Pombo and Tsakopoulos donated thousands for attack ads against Garamendi created by the staff of Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, whose Virginia home was raided last week by the FBI looking for documents linking him and his wife to Jack Abramoff, who continues to sing.

Meanwhile, in a comic sidebar, the Federal Register reports an application to designate 3,900 nearby acres called Tracy Hills as a new viticultural zone. Wine grown in that area could have something a little extra in it.

The concentration of pro-growth, pro-war pork, and anti-environmental forces in Tracy is staggering. It suggests a new title for the former, provincial Pomboza, in honor of Pombo and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, who, backed by regional developers, led the last unsuccessful, “bipartisan” charge against the Endangered Species Act. Now, we are dealing with the “UC/LLNL Tsakopomboza” ?

Whenever you think it can’t get worse, it is well to recall the long planning horizon of developers and universities.

Inquiring locally, Badlands learned that AKT Development was not thinking seriously of siting a residential/business community on land adjoining Site 300. The rumor is that it seeking some sort of open-space, wildlife habitat easement for it so that it can be used as “recreational" open space.

To add a particularly sick note to the deal, local opponents of both the increased depleted uranium bombing and the biowarfare lab, found as the result of a public records’ act request, that Mayor Ives and UC/LLNL are proposing a college campus to sweeten the deal for Tracy residents. UC Merced, whose most tangible academic asset remains its memorandum of understanding with UC/LLNL, is part of the discussion to help persuade the citizens of Tracy that with the biowarfare lab, the depleted uranium bombs blasting in air, and possibly yet another UC campus, Tracy will be able to attract the kind of residents that will forever bury the stigma of being a cowtown.

If it wasn’t so absurd, one would suspect a certain amount of conspiracy going on instead of mere rational calculations of profit. But, a theory of conspiracy is unnecessary because there is a perfectly good explanation: the Pentagon is the Mother of All Pork Barrels. That is the only explanation that fits the facts. The US outspends the entire world in its annual defense budget. Its nearest competitor is China, which spends a tenth of what the US spends annually. The Bush administration has broken treaties on nuclear and bioweapons development previous administrations during the Cold War spent years developing, and UC/LLNL is the largest beneficiary of these broken treaties. It has the contract to build a new generation of nuclear weapons (aka “reliable replacement warhead) and now it proposes a super level-4 biowarfare lab of some 500,000 square feet – when there is no demonstrable need for either except Pork – the means by which the public’s taxes are siphoned upward in a series of win-win, public-private partnerships between the government, UC and private defense contractors, landowners and developers.

Merced has been aware for a decade of the paradox of what happens when UC comes to a cowtown. The glorious public research university has a proven capacity to stop all thought. Wherever it places its beautiful blue-and-gold footprint, insane financial speculation, political corruption and the wholesale breaking of laws follow. UC is probably the nation’s premier anti-intellectual public institution of higher education. But that would assume that intellect and ethics have any relationship and that UC is a public institution just because state and federal taxpayers spend billions a year to support it.

To paraphrase Heraclitus, War is father of all, but Pork is king. Some it makes free, others it makes slaves.

Bill Hatch


Income Redistribution in Disguise
Escalating Military Spending

Critics of the recent U.S. wars of choice have long argued that they are all about oil. "No Blood for Oil" has been a rallying cry for most of the opponents of the war.

It can be demonstrated, however, that there is another (less obvious but perhaps more critical) factor behind the recent rise of U.S. military aggressions abroad: war profiteering by the Pentagon contractors. Frequently invoking dubious "threats to our national security and/or interests," these beneficiaries of war dividends, the military-industrial complex and related businesses whose interests are vested in the Pentagon's appropriation of public money, have successfully used war and military spending to justify their lion's share of tax dollars and to disguise their strategy of redistributing national income in their favor.

Tracy Press
Dust up...John Upton

Analysis of an air pollution permit application filed two weeks ago shows that tons of radioactive depleted uranium and other toxic heavy metals could be blown up in outdoor military test blasts near Tracy. Yearly, 20 explosions could each vaporize 220 pounds of depleted uranium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Site 300 testing ground... Lawrence Livermore has applied to detonate more than 4 tons a year of depleted uranium on outdoor gravel-lined Site 300 blast tables...lab already conducts 60 to 100 smaller test blasts annually in which an unstated amount of depleted uranium is used “routinely,” according to a February letter sent to Tracy homes by Site 300’s manager. Lab officials this week said they have no immediate plans to detonate much of the material listed in the permit application... Quantities of materials listed in the permit application were based on “back-calculations” of doses allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency outside Site 300’s border... The lab applied for the highest limits possible to save time and money on later permit amendments and additions, Dunning said. ...Marylia Kelley, described as “unrealistic” the lab’s assumption that just 9 percent - or up to 720 pounds per year - of the uranium that could be blown up outdoors at Site 300 would be light enough for the wind to carry it away from the 7,000-acre weapons testing site. Lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said the rest - as much as 7,300 pounds annually - would settle on the ground at the 50-year-old site, which is already listed by the EPA as one of the nation’s most-polluted pieces of land. Depleted uranium has advantages in military use, but its health effects are disputed. Some blame it for causing debilitating wartime illnesses, while others argue its radioactivity is so weak that it’s harmless. Depleted uranium is used in American armor as well as grenades, bombs and armor-piercing bullets. U.S. forces have used it in both Iraq wars. A 2002 report commissioned by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which summarized other studies, blamed the hundreds of tons of depleted uranium used in Iraq for the debilitating and widespread Gulf War syndrome, for a four- to six-fold increase in Iraqi birth defects after the first Gulf War and for a seven- to 10-fold increase in Iraqi cancer rates. Specific individual deaths and serious illnesses were linked in the report to inhaled depleted uranium, which is toxic and emits low-level radioactivity for the average three to four years that it takes to leave the lungs, according to the report. “The users of depleted uranium have tried to keep the effects of depleted uranium secret,” wrote report author Y.K.J. Yeung Sik Yuen. According to a December letter to the Tracy Press editor signed by Lawrence Livermore health physicist Gary Mansfield, the health effects of depleted uranium are negligible.

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