Economy

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
Mama,
where will we sleep
tomorrow night
and who could blame him
that question was on
the mind of every
mother
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
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6-3-07
Modesto Bee
Realty red flags...J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13651010p-14244449c.html

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
------------------

5-10-07
Modesto Bee
Valley 'no longer isolated'...Garth Stapley
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13569344p-14170499c.html

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.

...family-owned 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. -- Corpwatch.com, 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
---------------------

5-9-07
Sacramento Bee
UC will remain major player at lab...Michael Doyle, Bee Washington Bureau
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/172548.html

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
http://tracypress.com/content/view/9125/2/

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
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/05/09/BAGTTPNKCU1.DTL&hw=uc&sn=0
02&sc=1000

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
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-livermore9may09,1,6950677.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

5-1-07
Washington Post
Wal-Mart's union stance attacked...Ylan Q. Mue and Amy Joyce
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/30/AR2007043001679.html

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 stores...report 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."

4-28-07
Merced Sun-Star
Wal-Mart foes seek documents...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13530939p-14134877c.html

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
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4-29-07
Sacramento Bee
Can't drink ethanol...Editorial
http://www.sacbee.com/110/story/162586.html

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.

4-28-07
Modesto Bee
Flat land
Prices stagnant despite demand for dairy acreage
By JOHN HOLLAND

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 secretary@calasfmra.com.

4-30-07
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)
http://www.insidebayarea.com/search/ci_5779417
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 June...new 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, Counterpunch.com, 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
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4-25-07
Fresno Bee
Cost to restore river set at $1b...Mark Grossi
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/43792.html

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, http://by135w.bay135.mail.live.com/mail/ReadMessageLight.aspx?Aux=4%2c0%2c633131105411770000&FolderID=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000001&InboxSortAscending=False&InboxSortBy=Date&ReadMessageId=d7772f79-fc83-4424-948d-5ba938593446&n=659198169

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...

4-24-07
Fresno Bee
River price tag put at $500mLawmaker says the restoration cost creates a problem.By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau -- http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/43412.html

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
Counterpunch.com
"Is It Too Late to Get Out?"
Housing Bubble Boondoggle
By MIKE WHITNEY

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."
Baloney.
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".
Huh?
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
------------

Notes:

Income Redistribution in Disguise
Escalating Military Spending
By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
http://www.counterpunch.com/

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.

4-21-07
Tracy Press
Dust up...John Upton
http://tracypress.com/content/view/8873/2/

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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The other news

Submitted: Apr 15, 2007

During the Easter weekend, the US and UK media were consumed with issues of “free speech.” If English is your language, you were bombarded with the Imus story in the US and the somewhat more complicated story in the UK about the 15 British naval personnel released from Iranian captivity. Both stories compelled high moral drama. Imus had insulted the race and gender of a women’s collegiate basketball team. The British Navy people, after confessions of being in Iranian waters when arrested by Iranian forces, recanted their confessions upon release and some sold their life stories to publishers, exciting yet another controversy.

Given the nervous atmosphere in the Mideast, where Israel went to war with Lebanon last summer over the capture of one Israeli soldier on that border, and the Bush regime’s search for a pretext to bomb Iran, the focus on the UK story made some immediate sense. The Imus story is part of the perennial race pathology of the US. Under pressure, corporate advertisers and two networks abandoned Imus.

Given the global ramifications of a US or Isreali-US attack on Iran and the – at present – global importance of who becomes the next commander-in-chief of the US military colossus (if we don’t get a war czar to replace presidential responsibility for making war), these stories are certainly significant. However, from the point of view of the ordinary American clod, Bush doesn’t actually have to bomb or invade Iran. All he has to do is make the fake and gas prices skyrocket, benefiting his friends and contributors.

Nevertheless, there was another story that came out on Good Friday, a UN report on global climate change, called Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability--Summary for Policymakers.

You can read the whole document, as yet uncopyrighted, at:

http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:ZFyJUXeyFZsJ:www.ipcc.ch/SPM6avr07.pdf+UN+climate+change+April+6&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=5&gl=us

When you find it, you may be as exasperated as a friend of mine who found it tedious, bureaucratic and so full of footnotes he could hardly read it.

“It ain’t rocket science!” this veteran net surfing environmentalist shouted.

Actually, global warming is a little bit worse than rocket science, a great deal more complicated, and is not nearly as sexy a story as the pilloring of an American shock-jock or condemnation of British Naval personnel for cowardice and venality (selling their stories). In rocket science, the military contractor, possibly with help from the nearby greatest public research university in the universe, makes a rocket, sells it to the government, and the president or the war czar tells the military to use it on people who live on top of pools of oil. What could be more simple: In the name of Jesus Christ, order our soldiers, sworn to duty, to kill those people with the products of rocket science and take their oil.

But, it is at this point, after the oil is taken, that we cross over to the story of global warming, except in the US, where the Bush regime has gagged government scientists from making the connection between global warming, polar ice-cap melting, and the predicament now facing the polar bears.

Send up UC Merced scientists to study the malign effect of bear farts on the ice cap! Bet there’s grant money in that.

But no, the Imus controversy is much more interesting than a bunch of possibly flatulent, nasty white bears floating around Alaska on melting icebergs. No rapper’s gonna do that song.

Don’t care about no polar bear
Floating to the dock
Of my damn bay
On no ice-cube
No way

Badlands selected portions of the UN-IPCC report, excising numbers referring to charts and graphs supporting the text. The report’s introduction concludes that global climate change is occurring and that people are causing a lot of it. Regional studies foresee bad times ahead for each region, with Africa and Asia being hardest hit. The report concludes with several scenarios, none of them assuming any governmental action on carbon emissions. None of the scenarios are particularly cheerful.

We were struck by a number of things in the IPCC report but, in terms of the local economy, these observations caught our eye:

The most vulnerable industries, settlements and societies are generally those in coastal and river flood plains, those whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources, and those in areas prone to extreme weather events, especially where rapid urbanisation is occurring.

Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies.

Bill Hatch
------------------------------------

Working Group II Contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Summary for Policymakers

Drafting Authors:Neil Adger, Pramod Aggarwal, Shardul Agrawala, Joseph Alcamo, Abdelkader Allali, Oleg Anisimov, Nigel Arnell, Michel Boko, Osvaldo Canziani, Timothy Carter, Gino Casassa, Ulisses Confalonieri, Rex Victor Cruz, Edmundo de Alba Alcaraz, William Easterling, Christopher Field, Andreas Fischlin, B. Blair Fitzharris, Carlos Gay García, Clair Hanson, Hideo Harasawa, Kevin Hennessy, Saleemul Huq, Roger Jones, Lucka Kajfež Bogataj, David Karoly, Richard Klein, Zbigniew Kundzewicz, Murari Lal, Rodel Lasco, Geoff Love, Xianfu Lu, Graciela Magrín, Luis José Mata, Roger McLean, Bettina Menne, Guy Midgley, Nobuo Mimura, Monirul Qader Mirza, José Moreno, Linda Mortsch, Isabelle Niang-Diop, Robert Nicholls, Béla Nováky, Leonard Nurse, Anthony Nyong, Michael Oppenheimer, Jean Palutikof, Martin Parry, Anand Patwardhan, Patricia Romero Lankao, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Stephen Schneider, Serguei Semenov, Joel Smith, John Stone, Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, David Vaughan, Coleen Vogel, Thomas Wilbanks, Poh Poh Wong, Shaohong Wu, Gary Yohe

Introduction

This Summary sets out the key policy-relevant findings of the Fourth Assessment of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Assessment is of current scientific understanding of impacts of climate change on natural, managed and human systems, the capacity of these systems to adapt and their vulnerability1. It builds upon past IPCC assessments and incorporates new knowledge gained since the Third Assessment. Statements in this Summary are based on chapters in the Assessment and principal sources are given at the end of each paragraph2.

B. Current knowledge about observed impacts of climate change on the natural and human environment … B. Current knowledge about observed impacts of climate change on the natural and human environment A full consideration of observed climate change is provided in the IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment. This part of the Summary concerns the relationship between observed climate change and recent observed changes in the natural and human environment. The statements presented here are based largely on data sets that cover the period since 1970. The number of studies of observed trends in the physical and biological environment and their relationship to regional climate changes has increased greatly since the Third Assessment in 2001. The quality of the data sets has also improved. There is, however, a notable lack of geographic balance in data and literature on observed changes, with marked scarcity in developing countries. These studies have allowed a broader and more confident assessment of the relationship between observed warming and impacts than was made in the Third Assessment. That Assessment concluded that “there is high confidence3that recent regional changes in temperature have had discernible impacts on many physical and biological systems”. From the current Assessment we conclude the following. Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularlytemperature increases. With regard to changes in snow, ice and frozen ground (including permafrost)4, there is high confidence that natural systems are affected. Examples are: • enlargement and increased numbers of glacial lakes increasing ground instability in permafrost regions, and rock avalanches in mountain regions changes in some Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems, including those in sea-ice biomes, and alsopredators high in the food chain

3. Based on growing evidence, there is high confidence that the following types of hydrological systems are being affected around the world:

• increased run-off and earlier spring peak discharge in many glacier- and snow-fed rivers, warming of lakes and rivers in many regions, with effects on thermal structure and water quality.There is very high confidence, based on more evidence from a wider range of species, that recent warming is strongly affecting terrestrial biological systems, including such changes as:

• earlier timing of spring events, such as leaf-unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying, poleward and upward shifts in ranges in plant and animal species.

Based on satellite observations since the early 1980s, there is high confidence that there has been a trend in many regions towards earlier ‘greening’5of vegetation in the spring linked to longer thermal growing seasons due to recent warming .There is high confidence, based on substantial new evidence, that observed changes in marine and freshwater biological systems are associated with rising water temperatures, as well as related changes in ice cover, salinity, oxygen levels and circulation. These include:

• shifts in ranges and changes in algal, plankton and fish abundance in high-latitude oceans;

• increases in algal and zooplankton abundance in high-latitude and high-altitude lakes

;• range changes and earlier migrations of fish in rivers.

The uptake of anthropogenic carbon since 1750 has led to the ocean becoming more acidic with an average decrease in pH of 0.1 units [IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment]. However, the effects of observed ocean acidification on the marine biosphere are as yet undocumented. A global assessment of data since 1970 has shown it is likely6that anthropogenic warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. Much more evidence has accumulated over the past five years to indicate that changes in many physical and biological systems are linked to anthropogenic warming. There are four sets of evidence which, taken together, support this conclusion:

The Working Group I Fourth Assessment concluded that most of the observed increase in the globally averaged temperature since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.

Of the more than 29,000 observational data series7, from 75 studies, that show significant change in many physical and biological systems, more than 89% are consistent with the direction of change expected as a response to warming… A subset of about 29,000 data series was selected from about 80,000 data series from 577 studies. These met the following criteria: (1) Ending in 1990 or later; (2) spanning a period of at least 20 years; and (3) showing a significant change in either direction, as assessed in individual studies.

A global synthesis of studies in this Assessment strongly demonstrates that the spatial agreement between regions of significant warming across the globe and the locations of significant observed changes in many systems consistent with warming is very unlikely to be due solely to natural variability of temperatures or natural variability of the systems

Finally, there have been several modelling studies that have linked responses in some physical and biological systems to anthropogenic warming by comparing observed responses in these systems with modelled responses in which the natural forcings (solar activity and volcanoes) and anthropogenic forcings (greenhouse gases and aerosols) are explicitly separated. Models with combined natural and anthropogenic forcings simulate observed responses significantly better than models with natural forcing only. [1.4]Limitations and gaps prevent more complete attribution of the causes of observed system responses to anthropogenic warming. First, the available analyses are limited in the number of systems and locations considered. Second, natural temperature variability is larger at the regional than the global scale, thus affecting identification of changes due to external forcing. Finally, at the regional scale other factors (such as land-use change, pollution, and invasive species) are influential. [1.4]Nevertheless, the consistency between observed and modelled changes in several studies and the spatial agreement between significant regional warming and consistent impacts at the global scale is sufficient to conclude with high confidence that anthropogenic warming over the last three decades has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems. [1.4]Other effects of regional climate changes on natural and human environments are emerging, although many are difficult to discern due to adaptation and non-climatic drivers. Effects of temperature increases have been documented in the following systems (medium confidence):

• effects on agricultural and forestry management at Northern Hemisphere higher latitudes, such as earlier spring planting of crops, and alterations in disturbance regimes of forests due to fires and pests

• some aspects of human health, such as heat-related mortality in Europe, infectious disease vectors in some areas, and allergenic pollen in Northern Hemisphere high and mid-latitudes

• some human activities in the Arctic (e.g., hunting and travel over snow and ice) and in lower-elevation alpine areas (such as mountain sports).

Recent climate changes and climate variations are beginning to have effects on many other natural and human systems. However, based on the published literature, the impacts have not yet become established trends. Examples include:

• Settlements in mountain regions are at enhanced risk to glacier lake outburst floods caused by melting glaciers. Governmental institutions in some places have begun to respond by building dams and drainage works.

• In the Sahelian region of Africa, warmer and drier conditions have led to a reduced length of growing season with detrimental effects on crops. In southern Africa, longer dry seasons and moreuncertain rainfall are prompting adaptation measures.

• Sea-level rise and human development are together contributing to losses of coastal wetlands and mangroves and increasing damage from coastal flooding in many areas.

…Ecosystems

The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources).

Over the course of this century net carbon uptake by terrestrial ecosystems is likely to peak before mid-century and then weaken or even reverse11, thus amplifying climate change. Approximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5oC. For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5-2.5°C and in concomitant atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ecological interactions, and species’ geographic ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity, and ecosystem goods and services e.g., water and food supply.

The progressive acidification of oceans due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to have negative impacts on marine shell forming organisms (e.g., corals) and their dependent species.

Food, fibre and forest products

Crop productivity is projected to increase slightly at mid to high latitudes for local mean temperature increases of up to 1-3°C depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that in some regions.

At lower latitudes, especially seasonally dry and tropical regions, crop productivity is projected to decrease for even small local temperature increases (1-2°C), which would increase risk of hunger.

Globally, the potential for food production is projected to increase with increases in local average temperature over a range of 1-3°C, but above this it is projected to decrease.

Adaptations such as altered cultivars and planting times allow low and mid- to high latitude cereal yields to be maintained at or above baseline yields for modest warming.

Increases in the frequency of droughts and floods are projected to affect local production negatively,especially in subsistence sectors at low latitudes.

Globally, commercial timber productivity rises modestly with climate change in the short- to medium-term,with large regional variability around the global trend.

Regional changes in the distribution and production of particular fish species are expected due to continued warming, with adverse effects projected for aquaculture and fisheries. 11Assuming continued greenhouse gas emissions at or above current rates and other global changes including land use changes

Coastal systems and low-lying areas

Coasts are projected to be exposed to increasing risks, including coastal erosion, due to climate change and sea-level rise and the effect will be exacerbated by increasing human-induced pressures on coastal areas.

Corals are vulnerable to thermal stress and have low adaptive capacity. Increases in sea surface temperature of about 1 to 3°C are projected to result in more frequent coral bleaching events and widespread mortality, unless there is thermal adaptation or acclimatisation by corals.

Coastal wetlands including salt marshes and mangroves are projected to be negatively affected by sea-level rise especially where they are constrained on their landward side, or starved of sediment.

Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk. The numbers affected will be largest in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable.

Adaptation for coastal regions will be more challenging in developing countries than developed countries due to constraints on adaptive capacity.

Industry, Settlement and Society

Costs and benefits of climate change for industry, settlement, and society will vary widely by location and scale. In the aggregate, however, net effects will tend to be more negative the larger the change in climate.

The most vulnerable industries, settlements and societies are generally those in coastal and river flood plains, those whose economies are closely linked with climate-sensitive resources, and those in areas prone to extreme weather events, especially where rapid urbanisation is occurring.

Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas. They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities, and are more dependent on climate-sensitive resources such as local water and food supplies.

Where extreme weather events become more intense and/or more frequent, the economic and social costs of those events will increase, and these increases will be substantial in the areas most directly affected. Climate change impacts spread from directly impacted areas and sectors to other areas and sectors through extensive and complex linkages.

Health

Projected climate change-related exposures are likely to affect the health status of millions of people, particularly those with low adaptive capacity, through:

• increases in malnutrition and consequent disorders, with implications for child growth and development;

• increased deaths, disease and injury due to heat waves, floods, storms, fires and droughts;

• the increased burden of diarrhoeal disease;

• the increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground level ozone related to climate change; and,

• the altered spatial distribution of some infectious disease vectors.

Climate change is expected to have some mixed effects, such as the decrease or increase of the range and transmission potential of malaria in Africa. Studies in temperate areas have shown that climate change is projected to bring some benefits, such as fewer deaths from cold exposure. Overall it is expected that these benefits will be outweighed by the negative health effects of rising temperatures world-wide, especially in developing countries.

The balance of positive and negative health impacts will vary from one location to another, and will alter over time as temperatures continue to rise. Critically important will be factors that directly shape the health of populations such as education, health care, public health prevention and infrastructure and economic development.

More specific information is now available across the regions of the world concerning the nature of future impacts, including for some places not covered in previous assessments. AfricaBy 2020, between 75 and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to an increase of water stress due to climate change. If coupled with increased demand, this will adversely affect livelihoods and exacerbate water-related problems.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries and regions is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change. The area suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and yield potential, particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, are expected to decrease. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition in the continent. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020.

And so, grow biofuel in Africa now!

Local food supplies are projected to be negatively affected by decreasing fisheries resources in large lakes due to rising water temperatures, which may be exacerbated by continued over-fishing.

Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea-level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations. The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5-10% of GDP. Mangroves and coral reefs are projected to be further degraded, with additional consequences for fisheries and tourism.

New studies confirm that Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and changebecause of multiple stresses and low adaptive capacity. Some adaptation to current climate variability is taking place, however, this may be insufficient for future changes in climate.

Asia

Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, rock avalanches from destabilised slopes, and affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede.

Freshwater availability in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia particularly in large river basins is projected to decrease due to climate change which, along with population growth and increasing demand arising from higher standards of living, could adversely affect more than a billion people by the 2050s…Studies mainly in industrialised countries.

…11Coastal areas, especially heavily-populated mega-delta regions in South, East and Southeast Asia, will be at greatest risk due to increased flooding from the sea and in some mega-deltas flooding from the rivers.

Climate change is projected to impinge on sustainable development of most developing countries of Asia as it compounds the pressures on natural resources and the environment associated with rapid urbanisation, industrialisation, and economic development.

It is projected that crop yields could increase up to 20% in East and Southeast Asia while it could decrease up to 30% in Central and South Asia by the mid-21st century. Taken together and considering the influence of rapid population growth and urbanization, the risk of hunger is projected to remain very high in several developing countries.

Endemic morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoeal disease primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise in East, South and Southeast Asia due to projected changes in hydrological cycle associated with global warming. Increases in coastal water temperature would exacerbate the abundance and/or toxicity of cholera in South Asia.

…Europe

For the first time, wide ranging impacts of changes in current climate have been documented: retreating glaciers, longer growing seasons, shift of species ranges, and health impacts due to a heat wave of unprecedented magnitude. The observed changes described above are consistent with those projected for future climate change.

Nearly all European regions are anticipated to be negatively affected by some future impacts of climate change and these will pose challenges to many economic sectors. Climate change is expected to magnify regional differences in Europe’s natural resources and assets. Negative impacts will include increased risk of inland flash floods, and more frequent coastal flooding and increased erosion (due to storminess and sea-level rise). The great majority of organisms and ecosystems will have difficulties adapting to climate change. Mountainous areas will face glacier retreat, reduced snow cover and winter tourism, and extensive species losses (in some areas up to 60% under high emission scenarios by 2080).

In Southern Europe, climate change is projected to worsen conditions (high temperatures and drought) in a region already vulnerable to climate variability, and to reduce water availability, hydropower potential, summer tourism, and in general, crop productivity. It is also projected to increase health risks due to heat waves and the frequency of wildfires.

In Central and Eastern Europe, summer precipitation is projected to decrease, causing higher water stress. Health risks due to heat waves are projected to increase. Forest productivity is expected to decline and the frequency of peatland fires to increase. ** D [1

In Northern Europe, climate change is initially projected to bring mixed effects, including some benefits such as reduced demand for heating, increased crop yields and increased forest growth. However, as climate change continues, its negative impacts (including more frequent winter floods, endangered ecosystems andincreasing ground instability) are likely to outweigh its benefits…

Adaptation to climate change is likely to benefit from experience gained in reaction to extreme climate events, by specifically implementing proactive climate change risk management adaptation plans…

Latin AmericaBy mid-century, increases in temperature and associated decreases in soil water are projected to lead to gradual replacement of tropical forest by savanna in eastern Amazonia. Semi-arid vegetation will tend to be replaced by arid-land vegetation. There is a risk of significant biodiversity loss through species extinction inmany areas of tropical Latin America. …

In drier areas, climate change is expected to lead to salinisation and desertification of agricultural land. Productivity of some important crops are projected to decrease and livestock productivity to decline, with adverse consequences for food security. In temperate zones soybean yields are projected to increase…

Sea-level rise is projected to cause increased risk of flooding in low-lying areas…

Increases in sea surface temperature due to climate change are projected to have adverse effects on Mesoamerican coral reefs, and cause shifts in the location of south-east Pacific fish stocks…

Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect wateravailability for human consumption, agriculture and energy generation…

Some countries have made efforts to adapt, particularly through conservation of key ecosystems, earlywarning systems, risk management in agriculture, strategies for flood drought and coastal management, and disease surveillance systems. However, the effectiveness of these efforts is outweighed by: lack of basic information, observation and monitoring systems; lack of capacity building and appropriate political, institutional and technological frameworks; low income; and settlements in vulnerable areas, among others….

North America

Moderate climate change in the early decades of the century is projected to increase aggregate yields of rain-fed agriculture by 5-20%, but with important variability among regions. Major challenges are projected for crops that are near the warm end of their suitable range or depend on highly utilised water resources…

Warming in western mountains is projected to cause decreased snowpack, more winter flooding, and reduced summer flows, exacerbating competition for over-allocated water resources.

…Disturbances from pests, diseases, and fire are projected to have increasing impacts on forests, with an extended period of high fire risk and large increases in area burned…

Cities that currently experience heat waves are expected to be further challenged by an increased number, intensity and duration of heat waves during the course of the century, with potential for adverse health impacts. The growing number of the elderly population is most at risk.

Coastal communities and habitats will be increasingly stressed by climate change impacts interacting with development and pollution. Population growth and the rising value of infrastructure in coastal areas increase vulnerability to climate variability and future climate change, with losses projected to increase if the intensity of tropical storms increases. Current adaptation is uneven and readiness for increased exposure is low.

… The Emission Scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES)*

A1. The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B) (where balanced is defined as not relying too heavily on one particular energy source, on the assumption that similar improvement rates apply to all energy supply and end use technologies).

A2. The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.

B1. The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.

B2. The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels. An illustrative scenario was chosen for each of the six scenario groups A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1 and B2. All should be considered equally sound. The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions targets of the Kyoto Protocol…
---------

4-10-07
Monbiot.com
The Real Climate Censorship
It’s happening, it’s systematic, and it is precisely the opposite story to the one the papers are telling.
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian, 10th April 2007.
http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2007/04/10/the-real-climate-censorship/

The drafting of reports by the world’s pre-eminent group of climate scientists is an odd process. For many months scientists contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tussle over the evidence. Nothing gets published unless it achieves consensus. This means that the panel’s reports are extremely conservative – even timid. It also means that they are as trustworthy as a scientific document can be.
Then, when all is settled among the scientists, the politicians sweep in and seek to excise from the summaries anything which threatens their interests. While the US government has traditionally been the scientists’ chief opponent, this time the assault was led by Saudi Arabia, supported by China and Russia(1,2).
The scientists fight back, but they always have to make some concessions. The report released on Friday, for example, was shorn of the warning that “North America is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from climate change related events”(3). David Wasdell, an accredited reviewer for the panel, claims that the summary of the science the IPCC published in February was purged of most of its references to “positive feedbacks”: climate change accelerating itself(4).
This is the opposite of the story endlessly repeated in the right-wing press: that the IPCC, in collusion with governments, is conspiring to exaggerate the science. No one explains why governments should seek to amplify their own failures. In the wacky world of the climate conspiracists, no explanations are required. The world’s most conservative scientific body has somehow been transformed into a cabal of screaming demagogues.
This is just one aspect of a story which is endlessly told the wrong way around. In the Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail, in columns by Dominic Lawson, Tom Utley and Janet Daley the allegation is constantly repeated that climate scientists and environmentalists are trying to “shut down debate”. Those who say that manmade global warming is not taking place, they claim, are being censored.
Something is missing from their accusations: a single valid example...

3-9-07
San Francisco Chronicle
U.S. accused of silencing experts on polar bears, climate change. Scientists told not to speak officially at conferences...Jane Kay
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/09/MNGBQOIBMG1.DTL&hw=endangered+species&sn=001&sc=931

The federal agency responsible for protecting Arctic polar bears has barred two Alaska scientists from speaking about polar bears, climate change or sea ice at international meetings in the next few weeks, a move that environmentalists say is censorship...rule was issued last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but was made public this week. "It's a gag order," said Deborah Williams, a former high-level Interior Department official in Anchorage, Alaska... The documents make the subjects of polar bears, climate change and sea ice off limits to all scientists who haven't been cleared to speak on the topics. The scientists "will not be speaking on or responding to these issues'' of climate change, polar bears and sea ice, the memos say. Before any trip, such a memo must be sent to the administrator of the Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington. According to the memos, agency scientists must obtain a memorandum designating which official, if any, is allowed to respond to questions, particularly about polar bears, and include "a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the Administration's position on these issues.'' At a news conference, Fish and Wildlife Director H. Dale Hall denied that the memos were a form of censorship. Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity..."That type of memo might be appropriate for the State Department and purely political issues," he said. "What we're dealing with here is science. How many polar bears are there? Why are they going extinct? What is the cause of the ice melting? It's completely inappropriate to ban scientists from talking about science.''

4-15-07
Washington Post
Interior Reviewed Studies Weighing Risks to Polar Bear
Effort Preceded Protection Proposal …By Juliet Eilperin
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/14/AR2007041401449.html

Interior Department officials -- who have maintained for months that they did not analyze how human activities were affecting Arctic warming and endangering polar bears' survival -- completed a review examining studies of this very subject less than a week before proposing that the government list the bears as threatened with extinction, according to the department's own documents.
The "Range-Wide Status Review of the Polar Bear," which is posted on a government Web site, was completed six days before Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed adding polar bears to the endangered species list on Dec. 27. It cites several studies on how greenhouse gas emissions are affecting the Arctic, and how cuts in carbon dioxide could slow the pace of warming there. None of those citations made it into the department's final listing proposal…

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April 12, 2007: Day in the life of the north San Joaquin Valley

Submitted: Apr 12, 2007

A strong, chilly wind is blowing in the north San Joaquin Valley today, stirring up an enormous amount of dust coming in part from graded but unfinished subdivisions, as the financial, insurance and real estate industry hunkers down for an explosion of mortgage default.

But, poetry aside, the news of the day is as gritty as the sight of tons of topsoil blowing away from the county.

The Merced Sun-Star editorialists have returned to wearing their other hats as editors of the UC Daily Bobcat, once again flakking for the institution where one administrator is currently serving 60 days for forgery and theft. In their opinion, we should all go out to the UC Merced to celebrate Bobcat Day and Fairy Shrimp Festival. Last year's UCM Fairy Shrimp Festival was a dud, so the UC bobcatflaksters renamed it, evidently hoping the mammalian charm of cuddly bobcat mascot, Baby Boy, would overwhelm the feckless hauteur of the endangered crustaceans.

When it comes to wildlife, UC believes its right to exploit is above the law. It broke every regulation and practice on the care of wildlife when it appropriated its little mascot, found mysteriously in a paper bag outside the city zoo more than a year ago. He should have gone to a rehabilitation center certified for bobcats in Morgan Hill. Instead, he was stolen by UC Merced in violation of a number of regulations established by the state Department of Fish and Game, which that institution of easy virtue did not enforce. As for the fairy shrimp, even as UC pretends to celebrate vernal pools and the 15 federally endangered species that inhabit them, including the shrimp, in the densest fields of vernal pools in the nation that surround the campus site, UC lawyers are working ceaselessly behind the scenes to undermine the federal Clean Water Act provisions that would prevent UC Merced from expanding and destroying the vernal pools and the fairy shrimp. With that level of propaganda coming out of the UC Merced administration, the public wonders how much truth is taught in the classrooms. To suppose there was no connection between the propaganda and the instruction is naive.

UC Merced administrators expect to submit the medical school's business plan to the UC Office of the President by June,

the UC Daily Bobcat announces, in another article that appears to be news but is just more propaganda. We think the UCM bobcatflaksters have a schedule made up at least a year in advance detailing the release of stories about how UCM administrators are developing this med school. Who can be against a med school? Right? Except, doesn't UC Davis -- also located, despite UC Merced flak, in Central California -- also have a med school? Why would it not expand its own medical services, as it has recently done as far away from Davis as Willits? Isn't the problem with medical services in the Valley the same as it is throughout the nation, rapacious insurance companies, aided and abetted in the latest Medicare "Reform" Act by the Valley's own former Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Bakersfield? Does the Valley really need another research medical facility, in the announced case of UC Merced, focused on respiratory diseases? UC Merced has precipitated the biggest speculative growth boom in local history, bringing with it immeasurable increases in air pollution. It appropriated the bobcat for sentiment; it wants to appropriate the vernal pools for its ediface complex; and it wants to appropriate our lungs for research grants.

Speaking of our lungs, UC Merced's partner within the UC system, UC Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, confessed recently that its bomb-testing activities on Site 300 near Tracy will put depleted uranium in the air. Perhaps UC Merced telemedical facilities on the west side will be able to measure how much depleted uranium will travel how far and how deadly its effects are, neatly broken down into ethnic cohorts. This sort of information will be of use to the Pentagon and UC will be able to get grants to study it, no doubt.

Not satisfied with terrorizing the north San Joaquin Valley with depleted uranium bomb drift, the UC Livermore lab is on the short list to locate the most dangerous type of biological warfare lab (Level 4) on the same site . The UC Livermore lab is in court with Tri-Valley Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment, which sued over establishment in Livermore of a Level 3 lab. In testimony for the court, the U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration provided this useful bit of information:

"it is not possible to accurately predict the probability of intentional attacks at (Livermore) or at other critical facilities, or the nature of these attacks..."

The Level 4 lab UC Livermore wants to establish near Tracy would be called a National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, "which would research incurable diseases that harm humans, animals and plants..."

In light of the world health threat posed by Avian Flu, it is an interesting choice of locations because the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds intersects in these counties with the largest concentration of poultry in the state. Assuming the wild, migratory birds to be the vector from Asia, where the virus is florishing, it seems likely, despite excellent bio-security at our modern poultry facilities, infection from the wild to the domestic could take place. Presumably, the proximity of the biolab would help the poultry industry deal more quickly with an epidemic, which in turn might help protect people in the vicinity. On the other hand, in the event of a "catastrophic accident" in the lab, or a terrorist attack on it, Avian Flu would be the least of our worries, down wind from Ebola, etc. We could have a biological Chernobyl on our hands?

We aren't supposed to ask that question because if we get scared, defense experts tell us, they -- the terrorists -- have already won.

But, don't worry: UC medical researchers in space suits would be right there to study your final moments and you would have made your personal contribution to research science. Maybe there will be a plaque over your mass gravesite.

That's just downright cynical, some would say. By not wanting this lab in our backyards, they would go on, we are preventing valuable scientific discovery and defeating our technological edge in this important field. Defense experts would go on to say that biological warfare is in our future and labs like these will have to produce the antidotes to weapons genetically engineered. And they will have do so quickly. And that's all we can know about it because the rest is secret for reasons of national security. We Americans must become "resilient" to terrorist attacks, the experts say. Like we were after 9/11? We were so resilient that in addition to having put our "footprints" on the "arc of instability" (aka Muslim nations with oil) we restricted habeas corpus, the oldest liberty we had -- not the acts of a people resilient either economically or politically. Given our national experience, what can we expect from the combination of universities, corporations and the government in response to more terrorist attacks but more autocracy, militarism and corruption? Given our local experience, can we expect this university to tell the truth about anything?

In other news of the day, Sallie Mae, the nation's largest student-loan sharks, have agreed to quit bribing college administrators in charge of advising students and their parents on where to get the student loans. This is a staggering ethical achievement. Sally Mae began in 1972 as a government program, but, as its website puts it, "The company began privatizing its operations in 1997, a process it completed at the end of 2004 when the company terminated its ties to the federal government." The investigation began in New York. Colleges and universities (UC loudest of all) bray about the personal and national necessity of higher education for one and all, leading the cattle to the financial slaughter while taking kickbacks. We will just have to wait and see which UC administrators were in on the deal. USC has already been hit with a scandal.

Here in Merced, the stink from local law enforcement is still rising, after all these months. A local criminal defense attorney, John Garcia, has filed a civil suit in Merced Superior Court, adding former DA Gordon Spencer to a list of respondents including the DA's office, Merced County and the Merced County Sheriff's Office. The suit alleges conspiracy, assault, false arrest, false imprisonment and civic rights violation arising from what appears to be a drug sting operation. We can find no word on the Richard Byrd v. County of Merced, et. al. case filed in July 2006 in federal district court in Fresno. In that case, Byrd, a former local policeman, alleged that some of the same characters Garcia is suing bilked him out of a valuable piece of property while he was in the county jail on trumped up charges. Either Spencer was a sloppily corrupt public official or the Sun-Star got involved in a (prize-winning) witch hunt that produced no convictions. So far, the jury is still out unless the Byrd suit was settled so quietly the Sun-Star missed it.

The Modesto Bee is up in arms about mortgage foreclosures and beating the drums for federal assistance to homeowners. What McClatchy really means is a federal bailout for finance, insurance and real estate special interests. Mortgage lenders, focusing on areas like Stockton, Modesto and Merced, among other vulnerable locations in the nation (Atlanta and South Texas, for example), went on a feeding frenzy under the banner of "Freedom through Home Ownership," babbled daily in the press and in every other media outlet in the land. The "lending industry," as banks and other financial institutions like hedge funds and derivative ghouls are called these days, bought bundles of these loans, including a lot of bad paper. Now, they are crying to the federal government -- on behalf of the poor homeowners, naturally. The only question here is if the bailout of these obscenely wealthy speculators will be larger than the savings and loan bailout. If the experience of six years of Bush is any indication, the homeowning victims of predatory lending practices will get the shaft.

A desperate bit of flak from the state Department of Water Resources yesterday prefaces our next story:

“The Department of Water Resources has long been committed to balancing water operations with protection of the Delta environment,” said DWR Director Lester Snow. “Today’s court filing underscores the department’s ongoing efforts to protect these resources, our actions to comply with the court’s findings, and the long term strategy to restore Delta ecosystems while ensuring reliable water supplies to the 25 million Californians served by the State Water Project.”

DWR sensitivity to the dying Delta ecosystem is so overwhelming that it filed with the Alameda Superior Court yesterday to do what it can to modify the judge's draft order to fix the environmental disaster caused by the state's systematic overpumping the Delta for the last four years. DWR enlisted the state Department of Fish and Game in its desperate plea. Once the judge issues a final order, DWR has 60 days to fix the problem. As the fish die and water rationing begins, there is bound to be an extraordinary display of sophistry. However, we think the last word has already been spoken by the original petitioner, Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. The state, he said, was "refrying the egg."

Meanwhile, The Bush pulled back another nomination for a top position at the Environmental Protection Agency, sensing it might have some problems in Congress. Nevertheless, the administration and a nation that spent the weekend dithering about Iran and Imus while the UN's report on global warming was ignored, especially that bit about human agency.

Bill Hatch
----------------

4-12-07
Merced Sun-Star
Time to mingle with Bobcats...Our View
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/ourview/story/13479121p-14088905c.html

Merced area residents will have a golden opportunity this weekend to get to know their recent neighbors to the north...Saturday's Bobcat Day and Fairy Shrimp Festival represent a chance for Mercedians to get to know the almost brand-new UC Merced campus and the people who live and work there, as well as have some fun in the process. For the uninitiated, the Golden Bobcat is the school's mascot and vernal pools surrounding the campus are home to fairy shrimp. Events at the North Lake Road campus are free and open to the public... arts and crafts fair...vendors, live bands, performers and family-oriented presentations...public tours. Can't you visualize a 6-year-old deciding he wants to attend UC Merced when he grows up, based on the fun and inspiration he soaked up while visiting the campus with his mother, father and siblings? That could happen and we hope it does. The once-a-year event will allow UC Merced students and faculty to get to know local residents and people who have never visited the university to learn what it has to offer. Students trying to figure out their future academic direction certainly could gain some insight on programs and options at UC Merced... Let's bridge the distance between UC Merced and the city by enjoying Bobcat Day and the Fairy Shrimp Festival.

UC Merced plans to build high-tech health centers...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13479084p-14088947c.html

UC Merced administrators say plans are in motion to establish a series of health centers in the San Joaquin Valley that would improve access to health care in underserved areas...the school has received a $225,000 state grant to jump-start plans to create four telemedicine centers, also referred to as "eHealth Centers." Telemedicine centers generally use videoconferencing equipment to transmit a patient's medical information and images from relatively remote areas to doctors and specialists in other areas of the state...centers also allow doctors in different areas to have live videoconferencing discussions about their patient's health -- even if they are hundreds of miles apart. University officials have not decided where the centers will be located since the plan is in its preliminary stages... Doctors from UC Davis and UC San Francisco will be providing some of the medical expertise. UC Merced is partnering with administrators at UC Davis to help develop the centers, since UC Davis was one of the first entities to establish its own telemedicine program in 1996. Establishing the telemedicine centers fits with UC Merced's ambitions to eventually establish a medical school at the campus. UC Merced administrators expect to submit the medical school's business plan to the UC Office of the President by June. If the plan is approved by UC regents, the state legislature would then decide whether to fund the medical school.

Stockton Record
Livermore lab says bigger blasts would send depleted uranium into air...Jake Armstrong
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070412/A_NEWS/704120321

Bigger outdoor blasts proposed at an explosives test range southwest of Tracy could release up to 453 pounds of depleted uranium into the air a year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory officials told air pollution regulators in an application last week. Lab officials did not disclose that information in a November request to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District... The district initially granted the lab permission, but revoked the permit in March after learning the blasts would contain radioactive materials. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, and when detonated, it would be carried by wind, said Gretchen Gallegos, of the lab's Operations and Regulatory Affairs Division. The lab has not found radiation levels above federal thresholds at its monitoring stations, she said. "All of our activities are well within any health measure, and there's nothing to be concerned about," Gallegos said. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials will tour Site 300 Monday to further evaluate the University of California's proposal to locate there the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, which would research incurable diseases that harm humans, animals and plants. The visit is part of a nationwide tour of 18 sites vying for the federal laboratory. DHS officials will then shorten the list of proposals, conduct environmental reviews of the finalists, and decide on a site in October 2008.

San Francisco Chronicle
Livermore...'Unlikely' attack at lab could release microbes, study says...Keay Davidson
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/12/BAGDDP78DN1.DTL&hw=livermore+lab&sn=004&sc=1000

U.S. Energy Department draft environmental assessment study concludes that a direct terrorist assault on the facility is "highly unlikely" to succeed. But because it acknowledges local activists' concerns that catastrophic accidents are possible, it is now up the lab critics who have sued to block the opening of the facility to consider whether to pursue further court action, including a possible order to stop the Livermore lab from opening the microbe facility. The Livermore site already has a lower-level lab for investigating microbial diseases, but the proposed new Biosafety Level 3 lab -- dubbed BSL3 for short -- would store microbes of medieval scariness. They include plague, botulism and Q fever, a bacterial disease that in its more virulent form, chronic Q fever, kills up to 65 percent of its victims...proposed lab would also investigate anthrax. In October, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered the Energy Department to conduct the environmental study following a suit by Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment and Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. Construction of the facility was finished in 2005, but it hasn't opened pending the completion of litigation. On Wednesday, lab critics responded with scorn to the long-awaited, 80-page environmental study. The study was released by the U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration...environmental study acknowledges that "dramatic human health impacts and economic disruption can result following the release of pathogenic materials...also says "it is not possible to accurately predict the probability of intentional attacks at (Livermore) or at other critical facilities, or the nature of these attacks. The number of scenarios is large, and the likelihood of any type of attack is unknowable."...study does not describe any potential scenarios for terrorist attacks "because disclosure of this information could be exploited by terrorists to plan attacks." Ironically, the report includes a map showing the precise location of the microbe lab, in Building 360 on the Livermore lab site. Public feedback is welcome through May 11. Afterward, the Energy Department will issue a final version of the environmental assessment.

Modesto Bee
Sallie Mae settles, agrees to school-lending ethics...Karen Matthews
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13479198p-14089044c.html

The nation's largest student loan provider will stop offering perks to college employees as part of a settlement announced Wednesday in a widening probe of the student loan industry. SLM Corp., commonly known as Sallie Mae, also agreed to pay $2 million into a fund to educate students and parents about the financial aid industry, and it will adopt a code of conduct created by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is heading the probe. Cuomo said the expanding investigation of the $85 billion student loan industry has found numerous arrangements that benefited schools and lenders at the expense of students. Investigators say lenders have provided all-expense-paid trips to exotic locations for college financial aid officers who then directed students to the lenders. Sallie Mae is the second lender to agree to the code, which is aimed at making the loan process more transparent. Citigroup Inc.'s Citibank, which does business at about 3,000 schools, last week agreed to donate $2 million to the same fund as part of a settlement with the attorney general's office.

Byrd sues on civil rights violations, Badlandsjournal.com, 7-28-07

Former D.A. added to civil rights lawsuit...Scott Jason
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13479083p-14088942c.html

A local criminal defense attorney who said he was the victim of a failed interagency drug sting last year has added former Merced County District Attorney Gordon Spencer to his civil lawsuit...is accused of working with a state agent and a Merced sheriff's deputy to have a man give lawyer John Garcia, 64, a bag of methamphetamine disguised as tobacco. Drug agents then got a judge to let them search Garcia and his office. No charges were filed in connection with the Feb. 6, 2006, undercover sting operation that Garcia said violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, damaged his reputation and caused him emotional distress. The lawsuit, refiled on April 5 to accuse Spencer, also names Taylor, Cardwood, the District Attorney's Office, Merced County and its sheriff's department, and the city of Merced and its police department. Garcia is seeking an unspecified amount of money in the Merced County Superior Court case that alleges conspiracy, assault, false arrest, false imprisonment and a civil rights violation.

Modesto Bee
Realtors: Housing slump will worsen in 2007...Alan Zibel and Dan Caterinicchia, AP
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13479195p-14089041c.html

Key Senate Democrats issued a report Wednesday detailing the housing market's decline amid calls for federal aid to homeowners at risk of foreclosure. The report from New York Democrat Charles Schumer, chair of the Joint Economic Committee, came on the same day that the nation's trade group for Realtors offered new projections that the housing slump is worsening. The National Association of Realtors said the national median price for existing homes would decline this year for the first time since 1968 on the same day an activist nonprofit called on Wall Street to help homeowners restructure their mortgage loans. Across town, senators called for the government to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars to help at-risk homeowners. NAR predicting the median price for existing homes nationwide will drop 0.7 percent...estimated existing home sales will fall 2.2 percent... As 1.8 million adjustable rate mortgages reset to higher rates this year and next, foreclosures are sure to continue rising, the 32-page report from the JEC said. The Federal Housing Administration could be revamped to refinance mortgages in danger of default, the JEC's report said... Lawmakers also are talking up proposals to strengthen federal regulation of mortgages, impose a national ban on predatory lending practices among all lenders and require those lenders to establish a borrower's ability to pay back a mortgage loan through the life of the loan, not just for two or three years. Rising delinquencies and defaults among borrowers have resulted in more than two dozen so-called subprime lenders going out of business, moving into bankruptcy protection or putting themselves up for sale.

Stockton Record
Water officials: Judge's ruling went overboard...Alex Breitler and Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070412/A_NEWS/704120333

The Department of Water Resources filed its official response to a March 22 court ruling that, when finalized, could reduce water supplies for 25 million people from Livermore to Los Angeles. In a series of three dozen objections, the state reasserted its claim that older agreements allow it to kill threatened Delta smelt and salmon at the Banks Pumping Plant, even without an official permit under state law. Department of Water Resources Director Lester Snow in a statement said Wednesday's court filing underscores a long-term strategy to restore the Delta while ensuring future water supplies. Bill Jennings, whose California Sportfishing Protection Alliance brought the lawsuit that culminated with Roesch's ruling, said the state was "refrying the egg." "They're trying to reopen the case," Jennings said. "The judge provided a brief period of time to comment on the proposed order, not to reargue the entire case." Among its objections, the state said the word "massive" used by the judge to describe the amount of water shipped south is inaccurate and subject to misinterpretation. And a reference to "significant" numbers of fish killed at the pumps is ambiguous and ignores the state's attempts to save fish and replace those that are killed. Snow's solution presented Monday was to ask the state Department of Fish and Game to determine that the pumps comply with state law, based on federal biological opinions. This "consistency determination" would be the quickest way to obey the judge's order, he said. Fish and Game has 30 days to make that determination. The 60-day pump shutdown clock, meanwhile, would begin ticking when Roesch issues his final ruling, Jennings said. Committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asked the officials why they chose to ask for a consistency determination rather than go through the normal process. Broddrick said this way is far faster and will in effect mirror the rules the federal government relies on to operate its own set of giant water pumps in the area. Steinberg wanted to know why the state would rely on the federal rules. He asked Broddrick if those rules were in dispute. "They certainly are," Broddrick said, referring to an active lawsuit similar to the one that threatens the state pumps. "So how do we reconcile that one?" Steinberg asked. They cannot, Broddrick acknowledged. Essentially, the state is playing double-or-nothing: If the federal lawsuit invalidates the rules governing the federal pumps, and the state's "consistency determination" relies on those federal rules, then the courts could shut down both sets of pumps.

Good to the last drop...Steve Rubenstein
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/12/BAGDDP78EG1.DTL&hw=water&sn=007&sc=996
It must be serious...Rain and snow were so sporadic this winter that water could be scarce this summer. Water districts around the state have begun calling for "voluntary conservation... Unfortunately, many of the water-conservation tricks from past droughts will no longer work. Voluntary conservation is the official term for the step before mandatory conservation, also known as rationing. On Wednesday, San Francisco water officials warned that if things get dire over the summer, rationing is possible...

Reuters
Warming Could Spark N. American Water Scramble: U.N.
by Timothy Gardner
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/12/477/

NEW YORK - Climate change could diminish North American water supplies and trigger disputes between the United States and Canada over water reserves already stressed by industry and agriculture, U.N. experts said on Wednesday.More heat waves like those that killed more than 100 people in the United States in 2006, storms like the killer hurricanes that struck the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 and wildfires are likely in North America as temperatures rise, according to a new report that provided regional details on a U.N. climate panel study on global warming issued in Brussels on April 6...

Washington Post
White House pulls nomination to top EPA air post...Chris Baltimore, Reuters
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/11/AR2007041101710.html

The White House on Wednesday withdrew its choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution office after he ran afoul of key U.S. lawmakers. William Wehrum, nominated to head the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, was the architect of rules to regulate harmful power plant emissions that environmental groups and many Democrats blasted as too lenient. The White House withdrew Wehrum's nomination, along with that of Alex Beehler, its pick to be the EPA's Inspector General, in a routine personnel announcement. Rather than face near-certain rejection from Boxer's committee, the White House withdrew the nominations.

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The barn-door problem

Submitted: Apr 10, 2007

News that the national foreclosure rate is higher than at any time since the Great Depression is obviously not good. But, it has one positive side. It reveals the driving force of the whole finance, insurance and real estate sector of the economy, the "lending industry," as the Fresno Bee put it in the editorial below.

In the growing subprime-load debacle, in which Merced has the dubious distinction of leading all other jurisdictions in California with 22-percent subprime loans (nearly twice as high as the national average), the press sets aside the environmental damage done to Merced and the San Joaquin region by the building boom -- air quality, water quality and quantity, endangered species taken -- the amount of farm land paved over, the failure of elected local land-use authorities to in any way compel development to pay for itself, and the general scoff-law attitude of elected officials and city and county staff toward any laws that stand in the way of development.

Almost every lawsuit filed on these issues in the last seven years has had a provision asking for a county General Plan update. Last year, Merced County agreed to one, guided by a secret steering committee, and the process lumbers along with hand-picked "members of the public" to validate the deal. Meanwhile, the existing General Plan, the document that was supposed to have guided development in the county, was never updated even to account for UC Merced, much less for the development boom the campus caused. It was, instead, constantly "amended," which by statute it must be to accommodate major development projects. The present General Plan is a shapeless mass of amendments documenting chaotic growth.

Even those who have not followed the development process in Merced during the past seven years must see that the present General Plan update process is no more than a pretense of pushing an open barn door toward a closed position long after the horses have left the barn, the corral and the ranch.

Among the many public lies the Merced development boom entailed was that UC Merced was immediately necessary to accommodate the "Tidal Wave II" of UC students. That deception has also been revealed.

A cabal of politicians, developers (some of them UC regents), UC administrators, large local landowners, local insurance interests, the UC/Great Valley Center, and enabled by the "lending industry," local realtors and planning staff, created this unfortunate situation, unprecidented since the Great Depression.

We cannot predict how it will all come out except to say, based on past experience, that the situation will not be faced honestly in Merced. The consequence of the growing need for "leadership" to conceal what it has done. If the past is any guide to the future, this political need will result in a combination of rewriting history, choosing distracting targets and that old favorite, arrogant posturing. It looks like local public discourse will consist of the "haves" blaming the "have-nots" for not having, while the haves await the next speculative boom to get more.

Bill Hatch
-------------

Notes:

4-6-07
Subprime meltdown...Editorial
http://www.fresnobee.com/274/story/40173.html

California should provide stronger mortage protections. What seemed an impending home foreclosure crisis when the Legislature held hearings in January is now a full-blown meltdown.A big part of the problem is the widespread use of subprime loans -- high-cost loans to people with weak credit. The Valley is especially thick with such loans. Almost 22% of home loans in Merced were subprime, highest in the state. Bakersfield, Modesto, Visalia and Fresno were close behind, all with rates above the national average of 14.7%. The result is costly: Three of the five U.S. regions with the highest projected foreclosure rates for subprime loans made last year are in the Valley, including Fresno. California should lead in providing solutions. But it's not... Most borrowers once got their loans directly from a lender; today a majority go through a mortgage broker. Too often, these brokers steer buyers to a higher-rate loan because they get rebates from lenders. So the broker gets a perfectly legal kickback and the lender gets a more profitable loan. But the borrower gets stuck with a higher interest rate.
California should fix this. Legislators also should look at the strong laws in North Carolina, New Mexico, New York, West Virginia, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey, emulate them and improve upon them.Legislators must have the courage to stand up to the lending industry, which continues to oppose stronger California laws, and protect consumers from reckless, abusive loans. The home mortgage crisis in California is not going to be self-correcting.

Fresno Bee
UC Merced tops in diversity...Farin Montanez
http://www.fresnobee.com/263/story/40214.html

UC Merced is leading all UC campuses for minority admission rates, university officials said Thursday. Thirty-one percent of students admitted to the freshman class this fall at the University of California at Merced are Hispanic, black or American Indian -- groups considered "underrepresented" by the University of California system. UC Merced may be leading the way in diversity, but it has been struggling to enroll enough students. Officials hope this is the year that the Merced campus, which opened in 2005, hits its enrollment goal of 2,000 students after missing the target for its first two years. Nineteen percent of UC Merced's applicants are from the San Joaquin Valley, Ruiz said, bearing out a major argument for establishment of the campus. University of California total admissions hit a record high...But UC Merced -- now with an enrollment of 1,286 -- has failed to grow as expected. Still, the campus is not a first choice for many...than 12,000 freshmen were offered fall 2006 admission to UC Merced last year, only about 4% -- slightly more than 450 students -- signaled their intent to enroll.

Boston Globe
The Housing Squeeze ... Robert Kuttner
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/04/07/369/
...the latest financial scandal, the meltdown in sub prime mortgages. This is the private sector’s “solution” to high-priced housing. Offer loans to borrowers who would not ordinarily qualify, based on their incomes and credit histories. Make the mortgages seem affordable by giving low, temporary “teaser” terms — very low interest for the first two years and much higher costs afterward . Not surprisingly, as the teaser period expires and people face the real costs, defaults increase — about 15 percent of all sub prime mortgages at latest count, and rising. Many lenders and borrowers gambled that housing prices would keep rising, allowing borrowers to refinance. But with housing values now in a temporary pause, upwards of a million sub-prime borrowers are likely to lose their homes before this latest financial debacle unwinds...There’s no real money to subsidize new construction, either of rental housing or owner housing. Nor is there federal money to underwrite low-interest mortgages for first-time home buyers, leaving them to the tender mercies of the sub prime loan sharks...And, as Amy Anthony, former Massachusetts secretary of communities and development, testified, upwards of $60 billion of federal money spent between 1965 and 1990 to subsidize private developers to build affordable housing for the elderly, the poor, and the disabled, is now being squandered. Thanks to a loophole in these programs demanded by for-profit developers as a condition of participating, once the initial loan is paid off, they are free to sell or rent the housing to the highest bidder. An entire sector of affordable housing built at taxpayer expense served only one generation of renters and is now being irrevocably lost. There is a common thread here. Affordable housing requires social investment, plus public-minded regulation. The profit motive can sometimes serve public purposes, but most mortgage bankers and most developers are in it to make a buck and will achieve social goals only with careful government rules and monitoring. In many cases, it’s more efficient for government to provide subsidies directly, not through tax gimmicks, not through bribing private developers or expecting private bankers to be do-gooders. This is not just about housing “the poor.” The default of housing and mortgage lending policy makes life harder for much of the working middle class and for the economy...

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