Federal Government

Defenders of Wildlife Testimony before House Natural Resources Committee on Endangered Species Act rewrite

Submitted: May 09, 2007

What should be noted by the public living in the north San Joaquin Valley is that this region has been the focal point of one of the strongest drives to destroy the Endangered Species Act in the nation. This destruction was led by:

Julia McDonald, a Bush political appointee to the Fish and Wildlife Service who, among other things, concocted an "economic" study on the vernal pool critical habitat designation that was thrown out of court;

and the Pomboza: Former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, former chairman of the Resources Committee and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced;

Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation;

and a handful of regional developers led by a co-chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint for Progress, the latest veil of confusion cast over the public planning process in the region.

The Pomboza failed in three attempts legislatively to gut sections of the ESA that did not appeal to their developer contributors, so now the Bush administration is rewriting the Act behind closed doors. Democrats control Congress and Pombo was defeated for reelection because of his ties to Jack "The Singing Lobbyist" Abramoff and his assaults on the ESA. Another outstanding hater of the environment, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, and his wife are under investigation for ties to Abramoff.

Meanwhile, the area that the Pomboza and its paymasters wanted to strip of all environmental protection remains somewhat intact while nearby real estate development drowns in seas subprime mortgages, foreclosures and empty homes in the fourth least affordable housing market in the nation. The anchor tenant for Merced growth, UC Merced, cannot fill its seats, has been demoted to the status of a UC junior college (in a region already served by several community colleges and state universities) and has not yet received its Clean Water Act permit to build on vernal pool critical habitat land. Probably no single factor solidified hostility to local, state and federal environmental law in the north San Joaquin Valley more than the arrival of the University of California, its wealth, its prestige, its powerful propaganda machine and its army of lobbyists at all levels of government. UC crawled in bed with some of the most reactionary, anti-environmental politicians in the nation to build what former President of the state Senate John Burton called "nothing but a boondoggle."

As a member of the Badlands editorial board remarked the other day, the word to describe the speculative housing boom, bust and credit disaster befalling the region, coupled with the all out political assault of local, state and federal environmental regulation and law and laws of public process that have characterized the regional politics and economy since the late 1990s, is BOOMDOGGLE.

Badlands editorial staff
--------------------------------------

TESTIMONY OF JAMIE RAPPAPORT CLARK
EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
DEFENDERS OF WILDLIFE
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
MAY 9, 2007

Mister Chairman and members of the Committee, I am Jamie Rappaport Clark, Executive Vice President of Defenders of Wildlife. Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife has over 500,000 supporters across the nation and is dedicated to the protection and restoration of wild animals and plants in their natural communities.

As you know, prior to coming to Defenders of Wildlife, I worked for the federal government for almost 20 years, for both the Department of Defense and the Department of the Interior. I served as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1997 to 2001. Thus, I have seen the Endangered Species Act from different perspectives: that of an agency working to comply with the law; working for and then leading the agency charged, along with other federal agencies, states, and private landowners, with implementing the law; and now leading a conservation organization working to ensure that the law is fully implemented to conserve threatened and endangered plants and wildlife.

The common lesson I have drawn from all of these experiences is that the Endangered Species Act is one of our most farsighted and important conservation laws. For more than 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has helped rescue hundreds of species from the catastrophic permanence of extinction. But the even greater achievement of the Endangered Species Act has been the efforts it has prompted to recover species to the point at which they no longer need its protections.

Recovery is what the Endangered Species Act is all about. It is because of the act that we have wolves in Yellowstone, manatees in Florida, and sea otters in California. We can marvel at the sight of bald eagles in the lower 48 states and other magnificent creatures like the peregrine falcon, the American alligator, and California condors largely because of the act.

Recovery Efforts Hamstrung by Lack of Support and Political Interference

Mister Chairman, because I know the difficulties faced by the dedicated professionals in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal agencies implementing this law, I am reluctant to criticize those who are currently administering the Endangered Species Act. However, because I know how successful the act can be in recovering species and because of the deep regard I have for those dedicated professionals administering the act, I cannot ignore the damage that has been done to endangered species conservation under the current administration. Rather than enhancing recovery efforts to expand on existing successes, I firmly believe that this administration is actually hamstringing species recovery. It has undermined the scientific integrity of its Endangered Species Act programs with political interference and slowly starved the program of needed resources.

Those are serious charges, but look at the facts:

The top career professional position in charge of federal endangered species efforts has been vacant for more than a year, and the position has yet even to be advertised for filling.

The Fish and Wildlife Service programs involved in implementing the Endangered Species Act have lost at least 30 percent of the staff they once contained. In some areas, that rate may be close to 50 percent.

There has been a consistent and continuing failure by the administration to request adequate resources for endangered and threatened species conservation in the budgets presented to Congress. The fiscal year 2008 request is at least 20 percent ($40 million) below the minimum level needed.

Fewer listings of endangered and threatened species have occurred in this administration than in any previous one and 277 species remaining on the candidate species list still await initiation of the listing process. The 57 species brought under the protection of the Endangered Species Act in the last six years is just one quarter the number protected in the four years of the administration of President George Herbert Walker Bush. Listing is the crucial first step in catalyzing public and private recovery efforts.

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has confirmed that former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald was “ heavily involved with editing, commenting on, and reshaping the Endangered Species Program’s scientific reports from the field.” The scope and magnitude of political interference revealed by OIG interviews is unprecedented in my experience. In one example cited by the OIG, a listing decision required by law to be rooted in science was instead ruled by the personal views of Deputy Assistant Secretary MacDonald, only later to be overturned by a court that refused to ignore the science. This and numerous other examples of political interference detailed in the OIG report have seriously compromised the integrity and credibility of the endangered species program.

More recently, as Dr. DellaSala details in his testimony, the administration has interjected political considerations heavily into recovery planning for the northern spotted owl. A so-called “Washington oversight committee,” which initially consisted of Deputy Assistant Secretary MacDonald and other senior-level administration political appointees, instructed the spotted owl recovery team of scientists and other experts to stop work on development of their conservation approach and develop a second approach that would offer greater “flexibility.” The increased flexibility option would result in weakening owl habitat protections by (1) delegating authority to the Forest Service and BLM to decide where to place blocks of owl habitat without creating lines on a map, (2) providing no information on total habitat acreages to be managed for owls, and (3) no longer anchoring spotted owl recovery to the Late Successional Reserves established under the Northwest Forest Plan. Frankly, the extent of this political interference in recovery planning so far exceeds anything I have ever encountered that it is astonishing for its sheer audacity.

An Administrative Rewrite of the Endangered Species Act Behind Closed Doors

Finally, the issues raised by the potential revisions to the administrative rules that guide implementation of the Endangered Species Act, some of which are dated as recently as March, are a source of great concern.

We appreciate the opportunities afforded some of us to discuss the very broad outlines of Endangered Species Act regulatory revisions with Deputy Secretary Scarlett, Director Hall, and Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries career staff. However, we have found neither our discussions nor the widely circulated, two-page fact sheet particularly illuminating.

In fact, the discussions and fact sheet have raised more questions and concerns than they have answered or allayed. Moreover, in addition to the very general descriptions provided by the administration, we have draft regulations dated as recently as two months ago that propose changes of such significance that they would seriously undermine the ability of the Endangered Species Act to protect and recover imperiled species.

Although the administration maintains that the leaked documents do not reflect its current intentions, the information they have provided so far contains scant information on which of these regulatory changes or portions of them remain on the table. Regardless, there are no guarantees that revisions off the table now will not find their way back to the table in any proposed or final rulemaking.

As we noted in our meetings with Deputy Secretary Scarlett and Director Hall, we believe that the interests of endangered and threatened species recovery would best be served by working together openly on matters for which there is support among a wide variety of interests. In the absence of any inclusive process like this, however, it is only prudent that the Congress and organizations like Defenders of Wildlife focus on existing examples of specific administrative rule changes because we already have seen several iterations of them and we may see still more. These changes are of deep concern for at least four reasons.

First, although early intervention to halt the decline of species is clearly advisable, the proposed changes would almost certainly have the effect of only allowing listing – and the conservation measures prompted by a listing – once species are in extreme peril. The effect of postponing corrective action will be to make recovery and eventual delisting of species even harder and more expensive than it already is and more unlikely to occur in any reasonable time frame.

Second, over the years, the Section 7 consultation process between the Service and other federal agencies has been one of the act’s most successful provisions in reconciling species conservation needs with other objectives. For example, progress towards the conservation of species such as the grizzly bear and piping plover would have been virtually inconceivable without the beneficial influence of Section 7. Yet, the proposed changes and fact sheet descriptions appear to reduce the scope of Section 7, reduce the role of the Fish and Wildlife Service in its implementation, and weaken the substantive standards that apply to federal agency actions. The net effect of these changes, like those described above with respect to listing, will almost certainly be to make species recovery less likely rather than more likely.

Third, the draft regulations would re-define the term “conservation” so that it no longer would be synonymous with recovery and remove the term “recovery” from many places in the regulations. Proposed rule changes, for example, would re-word the statutory language on recovery plan contents to remove statements that the goal of plan requirements is the conservation and survival of species and remove the term “recovery” and the language describing it as a goal from the reasons to delist a species. We find it difficult to reconcile these proposed changes with improving recovery of species under the Endangered Species Act.

Fourth, the proposed regulatory revisions of March 2007 construe the Endangered Species Act mandate for federal-state cooperation to mean delegation of current federal responsibilities to the states. The proposed changes would give the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce very broad discretion to grant states authority to assume responsibility for carrying out much of the endangered species program. The proposal would allow states to “request and be given the lead role in many aspects of the Act, including, but not limited to, Section 4, Section 7, and Section 10 of the Act.” The administration’s fact sheet on the regulation changes appears to describe a similar delegation of responsibility to the states, a fact acknowledged in meetings with the administration.

As stewards of the plants and animals within their borders, states are important partners in the conservation of threatened and endangered species. The Endangered Species Act gives states wide opportunities to create their own programs for protection and recovery, and to contribute to federal efforts as well. By increasing the legal protections given to imperiled plants and animals within their borders, state endangered species laws can complement the federal law, supplementing protection of species already listed so that recovery can be achieved. Strong state laws and state Wildlife Action Plans also can protect species not listed under the federal act, thereby lessening the need for federal listing.

As of 2005, however, most of the existing 45 state endangered species acts merely provide a mechanism for listing and prohibit the direct killing of listed species. The scope of state prohibitions on take generally is narrower than the ESA’s take prohibition. For instance, only nine states make it illegal to harm listed species. Massachusetts is the lone state to bar the “disruption of nesting, breeding, feeding or migratory activity.” Georgia is the only state to explicitly include destruction of habitat in its take prohibitions, and it doesn’t apply to private lands. No mechanisms exist in 32 state endangered species laws for recovery, consultation, or critical habitat designation. Just five states require recovery plans. And five states have no endangered species law at all, simply relying on the federal act or nongame programs.

In response to a nationwide survey conducted by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Wildlife Law on state endangered species protection in 1998, state agency staff identified a number of constraints to assumption of a greater role in conservation of endangered species. These included a general lack of funding and staff and a reluctance or lack of preparation to take on more responsibilities under the federal law.

Most significantly, however, state agency staff pointed to the difficulties created by a patchwork of inconsistent and sometimes ineffective state laws in protecting and recovering species that occur in multiple states. This situation remains unchanged in 2007. The administration’s draft regulations propose to resolve this dilemma by requiring that a state “provide for coordination with all other States within the current range of the species affected by such granted authority or delegated activities.” But this approach fails to address the concerns identified by state fish and wildlife agency staff. It also appears to place little value on the broad, interstate view and coordination that can be provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service or NOAA-Fisheries for species having multi-state distributions.

The administration’s proposed delegation of Endangered Species Act authority to the states is a change to the law of such significance that it should be brought to Congress for its consideration, not put in place by means of administrative fiat. There is no evidence in three decades of Endangered Species Act legislative history that Members of Congress or administration officials were sufficiently unhappy with the relative federal and state roles to even raise it as an issue on the six occasions in which Endangered Species Act amendments were discussed and adopted between 1976 and 1988.

A More Constructive Approach to Improving Conservation of Imperiled Species

The general theme of all the administrative rule changes we have seen from, or discussed with, the administration is a withdrawal of the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries from implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Having hamstrung the endangered species program by starving it of resources and injecting political considerations into its science, the administration’s rewrite of the ESA rules now would have the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA-Fisheries shed the responsibility entrusted to them by Congress on the basis that the agencies lack sufficient resources and expertise.

Defenders of Wildlife is committed to improving protection and recovery of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and we have worked with you, Mr. Chairman, and others toward that end. But all indications ranging from leaked documents to discussions with administration officials are that the administration is considering policy changes of such scope and magnitude that they should be brought to Congress for its consideration as amendments to the Endangered Species Act.

Major changes to the Endangered Species Act are on a fast track behind closed doors. A spokesperson for the Interior Department was quoted in an April 26 Washington Times article as saying, "When we put out proposed regulations, we will hold a press conference and tell everyone what we are doing."

We have asked the administration to adopt a different, more constructive approach. We have asked that they work with a broad array of stakeholders to find common ground on ways to improve conservation of imperiled species prior to going forward with any proposal. The success of the common endeavor we seek hinges on openness and transparency. A key first step in that direction is for the administration to share the text of any changes in the Endangered Species Act regulations currently are under consideration in a collaborative manner, not by holding a press conference and publishing proposed regulations.

Mister Chairman, the absence of meaningful congressional oversight of the Administration’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act for the past six years has contributed to each of the problems I have described today. As you are well aware, under previous leadership of this Committee, hearings were devoted more to undermining the Endangered Species Act, rather than making sure that those charged with implementing the law were doing so in a manner that would achieve successful conservation of endangered species. I am pleased that, under your leadership Mister Chairman, and as today’s hearing demonstrates, Congress is reasserting its rightful place in conducting oversight.

I urge you to continue to make full use of this Committee’s oversight authority in the weeks and months ahead to insist that the administration work cooperatively with Congress and stakeholders rather than hurriedly pursuing unilateral amendments to the Endangered Species Act via administrative rulemaking. Preventing the extinction of important plants and wildlife is of such critical importance that close oversight is essential to assure the appropriate protection of our natural resources and responsible stewardship by this administration.

Thank you for considering my testimony. I’ll be happy to answer questions.

| »

Real nice

Submitted: May 08, 2007

The cities and counties of the San Joaquin Valley have been promoting rampant growth at the expense of the common air quality and asthma for children and elders for 30 years. Part of the reason they get away with it is because their officials control the regional air pollution control district. Within a week of his virtual sponsorship of a proposed 1,200-acre auto-racing facility, including eight tracks designed to draw visitors from a 100-mile radius of central Merced County, former Chairman of the Merced County Board of Supervisors Mike Nelson was appointed to the regional air board.

Last night, before a city council that will shortly decide on a WalMart distribution center that will draw at least 1,000 diesel truck trips a day, the air district executive director had the gall to describe Merced air as "virtually clean." While even the council members would have had trouble choking that down, his real argument was that he estimated that $2 billion in federal highway funds were at stake if the air district did not accept the worst air quality standard the Environmental Protection Agency until 2023 bestows rather than rush to clean up the air quality by 2013.

When it was suggested that, via the politicians on the board, Valley air quality policy was really controlled by business interests (finance, insurance and real estate [FIRE]), the executive director righteously defended business, saying it stood to lose $20 billion under new air pollution laws.

We just love to hear those rhetorical billions thrown all around City Hall.

A representative for Moms Clean Air Network led the attack against FIRE propaganda, quoting the American Lung Association's 2007 report, ranking Merced the sixth highest city in the nation for ozone. By chance, this is about the ranking Merced has for mortgage foreclosures and sub-prime loans in jeopardy.

This fight is going to take more than testimony before bought-and-sold local politicians, or even apple-pie tossing parents of asthmatic children. The Moms are going to have to learn that if you can't break bread with the politicians and sue them the next morning, asthma rates for their children and for their parents will just keep rising. The Mother's Milk in this game is the same-old, same-old cash, courtesy of finance, insurance and real estate interests.

We can understand the desire nice people have to believe nice visions. We want to believe that our Valley towns and cities still hold out some care for the common good and that we can still bury our differences and speak with One Voice to the real enemies (according to our leaders) in state and federal government, enemies who plot 24/7 to steal from the Valley, impoverish our people, lower our quality of life, deny our children opportunity, etc. Of course, THEY have always been after our water.

The problem is that nice is not always the same thing as true.

Top finger pointer of the City Hall event was Councilman Bill Spriggs, chairman of the unsuccessful Measure G campaign to hike sales taxes to develop funds to match federal highway funds to build more highways and expressways in Merced, to encourage more growth as well as service the growth Merced city and county permitted on the come, hoping for those highway funds despite air quality that is a national scandal. Spriggs blamed our dangerous air quality on the Bay Area's failure to build affordable housing, thus causing massive commuter traffic, for our air pollution problem. Last year the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo Bank ranked Merced and Modesto the fourth and fifth least affordable housing markets in the nation. There were no Bay Area cities in the top 10 least affordable US housing markets. Salinas ranked third. This pathetic apologist for local development interests with national and international ties is peddling a line of the well known substance. This line is intended to make the local citizen feel better -- maybe even nice -- about our poor, overwhelmed but nice city council that so valiantly looks out for our interests. Neither city council members more county supervisors can be held responsible for permitting all the growth. It is a nice belief. It is nice to believe that we can come together and reason with our elected officials and their staff about issues that threaten our common health and safety.

It's not true, but it's real nice.

But, lest the ordinary citizen become dismayed, that nice new UC Merced campus is planning a nice medical school to do some real nice research on respiratory disease. And that's why so many people want to move to Merced to live. And, if that isn't nice enough, UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to put a real nice biosafety-4 biowarfare lab in the hills behind Tracy to do nice studies on the most deadly disease known to man and beast. Real nice.

Badlands editorial staff
-------------------

5-8-07
Merced Sun-Star
Some want polluted Valley air cleaned up sooner...Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13562018p-14163799c.html

Valley's polluted air drew sharp criticism at Monday night's City Council meeting...Air District Executive Director Seyed Sadredin presented the new cleanup timeline to the council as part of a 58-city tour he's making to promote the plan...told the council that Merced's air is "virtually clean," and that a child born today breathes air that is 50 percent cleaner than 15 years ago. But the region is still plagued by dirty air...conditions that we have no control over," such as the Valley's bowl-like geography. Lisa Kayser Grant, a member of the Moms Clean Air Network, noted that the American Lung Association's 2007 State of the Air Report ranked Merced as the sixth most ozone-polluted city in the nation.

| »

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

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.

| »

"A day that took too long in coming"

Submitted: May 01, 2007

That's what environmentalists are saying. But, at last, Julie MacDonald, corrupt political appointee to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is gone. She will long be remembered for her energetic assistance to the ESA-gutting Pomboza, composed of former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and the still seated Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced.

The damning report of MacDonald's behavior included complaints by career Fish & Wildlife staff that she yelled and cursed at them. My! My! Could that be the reason career Fish & Wildlife staff occasionally yell and curse at the public?
-------------

5-1-07
Endangered Species and Wetlands Report
MacDonald resigns as deputy asst. secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Julie MacDonald, the DOI deputy assistant secretary who shared internal Fish
and Wildlife Service documents with the California Farm Bureau Federation,
the Pacific Legal Foundation, and an online gaming friend, has resigned,
Endangered Species & Wetlands Report has learned.

MacDonald submitted her resignation last night, sources told ESWR. The
department has not responded to a request made today for a copy of the
letter.

MacDonald also cursed and yelled at FWS career employees, the report said.
One FWS assistant director said MacDonald had been "abusive to her and had
become a liability to FWS," according to the IG report.

MacDonald was the subject of a recent Inspector General report that found
she broke federal regulations by sharing non-public information outside the
agency, and also by appearing to show preferential treatment. The report
also provided details on a number of instances where MacDonald, an engineer
by trade, overruled Fish and Wildlife Service scientists.

The Interior Department said it would respond to the IG report by April 30.
ESWR has not been able to obtain the reply.

Copyright Poplar Publishing/Endangered Species & Wetlands Report 2007
Steve Davies, editor (stevedavies@eswr.com)
http://www.eswr.com/aaeswr.htm

| »

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

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" ...

| »

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.

| »

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…

| »

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.

| »

La famille du porc

Submitted: Apr 04, 2007

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Chairman of the UC Regents Richard Blum

And, just think, neither of these articles below touched on the Level-4 Biowarfare lab in Tracy under the authority of the UC/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, or the future of UC Merced, a developer boondoggle from which, one imagines, Richard, Marquis du Porc, managed to make a bit of money, somehow – just because he is that kind of guy. And being that kind of guy, of course, we owe it to him, at least through one or another of his investment interests, right? That would be because he has class. Or is it only style?

Lest the reader accuse the writer of tedious repetition of the details of government of pork, by pork and for pork, and the reader wants to go on to new visions of the amazing political abilities and managerial excellence of Big Shot Americans, the reader ought – we think – to consider, when questions arise about how the nation operates, that the principle of Pork will often provide a key to understanding contemporary events that no other key offers. Without the key of Big Shot Pork, the reader, the writer and the rest of us – we think – wander in error on the problem of cause and effect in local, regional, state and national issues.

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

Notes:

4-4-07
Counterpunch.com
Senator Feinstein's War Profiteering
Democratic Blood Money
By JOSHUA FRANK
http://www.counterpunch.com/frank04042007.html

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California silently resigned from her post on the Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee (MILCON) late last week as her ethical limbo with war contracts began to surface in the media, including an excellent investigative report written by Peter Byrne for Metro in January. MILCON has supervised the appropriations of billions of dollars in reconstruction contracts since the Bush wars began.

Feinstein, who served as chairperson for the committee from 2001-2005, came under fire early last year in these pages for profiting by way of her husband Richard Blum who holds large stakes in two defense contracting companies. Both businesses, URS and Perini, have scored lucrative contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last four years, and Blum has personally pocketed tens of millions of dollars off the deals his wife, along with her colleagues, so graciously approved.

Here's a brief rundown of the Feinstein family's blatant war profiteering. In April 2003, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave $500 million to Perini to provide services for Iraq's Central Command. A month earlier in March 2003, Perini was awarded $25 million to design and construct a facility to support the Afghan National Army near Kabul. And in March 2004, Perini was awarded a hefty contract worth up to $500 million for "electrical power distribution and transmission" in southern Iraq.

But it is not just Perini that has made Feinstein and Blum wealthy. Blum also holds over 111,000 shares of stock in URS Corporation, which is now one of the top defense contractors in the United States. Blum is an acting director of URS, which bought EG&G, a leading provider of technical services and management to the U.S. military, from the neocon packed Carlyle Group back in 2002.

"As part of EG&G's sale price," reports the San Francisco Chronicle, "Carlyle acquired a 21.74 percent stake in URS -- second only to the 23.7 percent of shares controlled by Blum Capital."

URS and Blum have since banked on the war in Iraq, attaining a $600 million contract through EG&G, which Sen. Feinstein permitted. As a result, URS has seen its stock price more than triple since the war began in March of 2003. Blum has cashed in over $2 million on this venture alone and another $100 million for his investment firm.

And it is not just the Feinstein family that has benefited from the war -- so too has the Democratic Party. Since 2000, the Democrats' Daddy Warbucks has donated over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Committee including leading Democrats including John Kerry, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, and even Barbara Boxer.

Feinstein's resignation from MILCON was the least the senator could do to atone for profiting off the spoils of war. But Feinstein wasn't trying to atone, she was trying to cover her tracks. If the Democratic Party had any foresight whatsoever it would return all the Blood Money donated by Blum. From there the Senate ought to hold hearings and examine Feinstein's tenure as the chair and ranking member of MILCON and analyze every single contract she approved which benefited her husband's respective companies.

There is absolutely no question -- Sen. Dianne Feinstein has a plethora of ethics violations she needs to account for at once.

Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush and edits www.BrickBurner.org
------------------

4-4-07
Washington Post
Fox-in-the-Henhouse Government...Ruth Marcus
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/03/AR2007040301576.html

The Bush administration's House of Straw seems to be blowing apart, buffeted by alternating gusts of scandal and incompetence. The tornado of disastrous headlines -- a Pentagon that can't take proper care of its wounded, a Justice Department that can't be trusted to follow the law or tell the truth to Congress, a top White House aide who lied to a grand jury-- has been so overpowering that the day-to-day outrages of life in the Bush administration tend get overlooked. So it's worth pausing to pay attention to some recent events that similarly underscore the failings of this administration and illuminate one of their root causes: a contemptuous attitude toward government itself. These episodes illustrate the administration's fox-guarding-the-henhouse personnel plan, the disdain of its appointees for the laws they are sworn to enforce and their spoils-of-war attitude toward the government they are entrusted with overseeing...Eric Keroack, Michael Baroody, Julie MacDonald, the official who oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service but who has no academic background in biology, overrode the recommendations of agency scientists about how to protect endangered species. MacDonald also shared internal documents with industry officials and groups that lobby for weakened environmental protections, not to mention an online gaming buddy, the IG found. An Interior lawyer called MacDonald's involvement in one endangered species matter "the most brazen case of political meddling" he had seen in more than 20 years in government. Nor, it seems, is such politicization limited to MacDonald. "Policy trumps science within the Assistant Secretary's corridor on many occasions," another department lawyer told the IG, J. Steven Griles, Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Lurita Doan

| »

The MacDonald Affair

Submitted: Mar 31, 2007

Having observed and commented on the corruption of local, state and federal environmental law in this region for nearly a decade, the recent hoopla surrounding Julia MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks in the Department of Interior, is not news. We met MacDonald shortly after her appointment as aide to Judge Craig Manson, the assistant secretary of fish, wildlife and parks, in 2002. She urged us to get in touch. We think we have her card somewhere.

Locally, we see it as being within the general context of another spring offensive by finance, insurance, real estate and the Bush regime against the San Joaquin Valley. We are going into a drought, Bush is losing his war, and the local speculative housing boom is collapsing, generating skyrocketing foreclosure rates and some class-action suits on building defects. However, as we have said since they stole the Florida election in 2000, these people crossed their Rubicon and have had nowhere to go since but straight into the public's face.
The Badlands editorial staff honestly admits that MacDonald's corruptions would be quite beyond our scope if any of Interior's Inspector General's report were news to us. But we've covered most of it when her meddling and bullying first appeared. It's all back there in the archives somewhere and we will dig it out at the appropriate times. Meanwhile, she's a certifiable California "waterperson." She went after Klamath Bull Trout to help Rove do his stunt in the Klamath basin before the 2004 election; she went after the San Joaquin Delta Smelt, when heavy pumping caused by Interior's brokered Colorado River Agreement meant Southern California would have to get more water from the Delta; she went after seasonal wetlands and vernal pools and California Tiger Salamanders, all local issues here in the Pombozastan. We reported it all as it was happening.

However, that said, we were titillated by MacDonald's intimate relations with the California Farm Bureau and Pacific Legal Foundation, on the same ideological page: private property's right to public water.

On the other hand, the changes proposed by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to the Endangered Species Act, a story that appeared a day earlier, is news. A story of human sacrifice, particularly of a woman, is cool, but the dry, bureaucratic language of the proposed ESA changes are meanwhile concealed. Yet, these proposals capture the worst aspects of the Pomboza bill to gut the ESA in the last session, which aroused so much anger in the environmental community that, with help from former Rep. Pete McCloskey, they defeated Pombo at the polls. Furthermore, they would turn over many key ESA decisions to governors. In California, where the governor and the Legislature is actually owned by finance, insurance and real estate special interests, you could kiss some species goodbye if this proposal passes judicial review. As a recently retired Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species specialist put it, the reason we have federal protections for endangered species is because the states will not protect them.

The Bush regime is consistent, if nothing else, and that consistency has fallen heavily on the San Joaquin Valley. The other federal proposal-of-the-month of special impact is the idea of privatizing the heavy-metal laden water of the San Joaquin Valley west side, including giving the water districts partial ownership of the San Luis Reservoir. This is the Bush regime solution to upcoming review of the selenium situation around Kesterson.

Of course, there is a connection between this story and the MacDonald Affair. She's a genuine California water girl.

But, our question is: was she any worse than the Cowgirl Chancellor of UC Merced, who built the first phase of the beloved boondoggle without the required federal permits, quit her job (along with a number of other of her starting team), and dropped a regulatory mess in her successors' laps and a bigger mess in the community's lap. If MacDonald was in the air in Washington, the Cowgirl was right here on the ground, building that anchor tenant for one of the greatest, most destructive speculative real estate booms in the nation. Nor has the attempt by UC to corrupt environmental law and regulation at every level of government by its lobbyists, administrators, lawyers, politicians like Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced and the regional finance, insurance and real estate special interests stopped. These interests will destroy California's fragile water-delivery system in order to save their profits. A key step in that is to get public attention off endangered species that in any way appear to interfere with delivery of paper water through the Delta pumps via crumbling levees. The collapsing housing bubble only encourages them.

There is a rough equivalence between the endangered species menaced by MacDonald's policies and the misery of students at UC Merced, which is today a sort of developer's model home of a university, with decorative students in residence (not all of them expiring in the shrubbery). However, like the endangered species, about which the Cowgirl's rhetoric was just fine, the students are not there for display; they want a life, too.

Nope. We admit the corruption of the federal government and the University of California, in full color, is too much for our humble descriptive abilities. We'll leave the job to the mainstream press. Its reporters are well-rested after seven years on a vacation from reality. Let them "investigate" and give each other prizes.

Meanwhile we will ask why Judge Manson was rewarded for his crimes against Nature with an appointment to McGeorge Law School. McGeorge needs some looking into, actually. Its dean is a former general counsel for the CIA. What's going on there? Why did UC Boalt Hall hire John Yoo, author of the torture-justifying memo during his years as counsel to the president?

And, isn't the timing of the MacDonald story and the ESA changes interesting? How much do top Fish and Wildlife Service officials support the Bush proposals? FWS Director Dale Hale appears, in the Inspector General's report, to be the epitome of a guardian of pure biology in the MacDonald Affair stories, while simultaneously trying to squelch any news about the new ESA rules. Are we headed for a "show hearing" at the House Natural Resources Committee in May on MacDonald, while the ESA changes wend their unnoticed way through the Bush regime "process"?

Will the next proposal for rule changes coming from the Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service be to privatize all the wildlife refuges in the nation?

We might also ask -- from the ground here in UC/Great Valley Center/Pombozastan, home of a state "blueprint" for growth along the lines indicated by Pombo Family Real Estate Farms -- how soon will UC give up on UC Merced and move it to Tracy, which wants a college, where it can be absorbed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Level-4 Biowarfare Lab and the Tsakopoulos family's Hellenic studies programs? Our nation needs genetic technologists who can create the biological weapons of the future (and, of course, their antidotes) while simultaneously learning to conjugate irregular Greek verbs and reading a bit of Jaeger's Paideia. Don't it? Ain't that the kind of "shared experience" we need?

How long will it be before the next Peripheral Canal proposal surfaces to convey paper water in a drought to Southern California? Before or after the next levee break?

It is the very bravest of new worlds possible, my dear Calaban. How's the asthma?

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

3-28-07
New York Times
Proposed changes would shift duties in protecting species...Felicity Barringer
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/28/washington/28habitat.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering limiting the ability of federal wildlife protection agencies to intervene on behalf of endangered species that may be harmed by federal actions...would also increase the role of state governments in administering some of the species protections that are now the responsibility of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. H. Dale Hall...said Tuesday that the draft proposal detailing the changes was “really a beginning of a process.” "It had all options on the table,” Mr. Hall said. “It really doesn’t represent anything that we support or don’t support.” Jan Hasselman, a lawyer with the Seattle office of Earthjustice, an environmental group, said that he had obtained a copy of the draft proposal from a federal official, and that it was created in June but had been edited as recently as a month ago. “I certainly don’t think that anyone ever contemplated a wholesale delegation of fundamental duties” to the states, Mr. Hasselman said. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne proposed legislation amending the act when he was a senator from Idaho, and more drastic changes were proposed in the last Congress in an unsuccessful bill.

3-27-07
Salon
Inside the secretive plan to gut the Endangered Species Act
Proposed regulatory changes, obtained by Salon, would destroy the "safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction," say environmentalists.
By Rebecca Clarren

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

"The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act," says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. "This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction."

In recent months, the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary efforts to keep drafts of regulatory changes from the public. All copies of the working document were given a number corresponding to a person, so that leaked copies could be traced to that individual. An e-mail sent in March from an assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service to agency staff, asking for comments on and corrections to the first draft, underscored the concern with secrecy: "Please Keep close hold for now. Dale [Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] does not want this stuff leaking out to stir up discontent based on speculation."

Many Fish and Wildlife Service employees believe the draft is not based on "defensible science," says a federal employee who asked to remain anonymous. Yet "there is genuine fear of retaliation for communicating that to the media. People are afraid for their jobs."

Chris Tollefson, a spokesperson for the service, says that while it's accurate to
characterize the agency as trying to keep the draft under wraps, the agency has every intention of communicating with the public about the proposed changes; the draft just hasn't been ready. And, he adds, it could still be changed as part of a forthcoming formal review process.

Administration critics characterize the secrecy as a way to maintain spin control, says Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group. "This administration will often release a 300-page-long document at a press conference for a newspaper story that will go to press in two hours, giving the media or public no opportunity to digest it and figure out what's going on," Suckling says. "[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne will give a feel-good quote about how the new regulations are good for the environment, and they can win the public relations war."

In some ways, the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act should come as no surprise. President Bush has hardly been one of its fans. Under his reign, the administration has granted 57 species endangered status, the action in each case being prompted by a lawsuit. That's fewer than in any other administration in history -- and far fewer than were listed during the administrations of Reagan (253), Clinton (521) or Bush I (234). Furthermore, during this administration, nearly half of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees who work with endangered species reported that they had been directed by their superiors to ignore scientific evidence that would result in recommendations for the protection of species, according to a 2005 survey of more than 1,400 service biologists, ecologists and botanists conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit organization.

"We are not allowed to be honest and forthright, we are expected to rubber stamp
everything," wrote a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist as part of the survey. "I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been."

The agency has long seen a need to improve the act, says Tollefson. "This is a look at what's possible," he says. "Too much of our time as an agency is spent responding to litigation rather than working on recovering the species that are most in need. The current way the act is run creates disincentives for people to get involved with recovering species."

Kempthorne, boss of the Fish and Wildlife Service, has been an outspoken critic of the act. When he was a U.S. senator from Idaho in the late 1990s, he championed legislation that would have allowed government agencies to exempt their actions from Endangered Species Act regulations, and would have required federal agents to conduct cost-benefit analyses when considering whether to list a species as endangered. (The legislation failed.) Last June, in his early days as interior secretary, Kempthorne told reporters, "I really believe that we can make improvements to the act itself."

Kempthorne is keeping good on his promise. The proposed draft is littered with language lifted directly from both Kempthorne's 1998 legislation as well as from a contentious bill by former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. (which was also shot down by Congress). It's "a wish list of regulations that the administration and its industry allies have been talking about for years," says Suckling.

Written in terse, dry legal language, the proposed draft doesn't make for easy reading.

However, the changes, often seemingly subtle, generally serve to strip the Fish and Wildlife Service of the power to do its stated job: to protect wildlife. Some verge on the biologically ridiculous, say critics, while others are a clear concession to industry and conservative Western governors who have long complained that the act degrades the economies of their states by preventing natural-resource extraction.

One change would significantly limit the number of species eligible for endangered status. Currently, if a species is likely to become extinct in "the foreseeable future" -- a species-specific timeframe that can stretch up to 300 years -- it's a candidate for act protections. However, the new rules scale back that timeline to mean either 20 years or 10 generations (the agency can choose which timeline). For certain species with long life spans, such as killer whales, grizzly bears or wolves, two decades isn't even one generation. So even if they might be in danger of extinction, they would not make the endangered species list because they'd be unlikely to die out in two decades.

"It makes absolutely no sense biologically," wrote Hasselman in an e-mail. "One of the Act's weaknesses is that species aren't protected until they're already in trouble and this proposal puts that flaw on steroids."

Perhaps the most significant proposed change gives state governors the opportunity and funding to take over virtually every aspect of the act from the federal government. This includes not only the right to create species-recovery plans and the power to veto the reintroduction of endangered species within state boundaries, but even the authority to determine what plants and animals get protection. For plants and animals in Western states, that's bad news: State politicians throughout the region howled in opposition to the reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf into Arizona and the Northern Rockies wolf into Yellowstone National Park.

"If states are involved, the act would only get minimally enforced," says Bob Hallock, a recently retired 34-year veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service who, as an endangered species specialist, worked with state agencies in Idaho, Washington and Montana. "States are, if anything, closer to special economic interests. They're more manipulated. The states have not demonstrated the will or interest in upholding the act. It's why we created a federal law in the first place."

Additional tweaks in the law would have a major impact. For instance, the proposal would narrow the definition of a species' geographic range from the landscape it inhabited historically to the land it currently occupies. Since the main reason most plants and animals head toward extinction is due to limited habitat, the change would strongly hamper the government's ability to protect chunks of land and allow for a healthy recovery in the wild.

The proposal would also allow both ongoing and planned projects by such federal agencies as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Forest Service to go forward, even when scientific evidence indicates that the projects may drive a species to extinction. Under the new regulations, as long as the dam or logging isn't hastening the previous rate of extinction, it's approved. "This makes recovery of species impossible," says Suckling.

Gutting the Endangered Species Act will only thicken the pall that has hung over the Fish and Wildlife Service for the past six years, Hallock says. "They [the Bush
administration] don't want the regulations to be effective. People in the agency are like a bunch of whipped dogs," he says. "I think it's just unacceptable to go around squashing other species; they're of incalculable benefit to us. The optimism we had when this agency started has absolutely been dashed."

3-27-07
Endangered Species Act changes in the works...Janet Wilson and Julie Cart
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-na-endangered28mar28,1,7044899.story

Bush administration officials said Tuesday that they were reviewing proposed changes to the way the 34-year-old Endangered Species Act is enforced, a move that critics say would weaken the law in ways that a Republican majority in Congress was unable to do...draft of suggested changes, which was leaked Tuesday, would reduce protection for wildlife habitat and transfer some authority over vulnerable species to states. Acting under orders from Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who has long fought for changes in the law, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall said he had asked his senior field staff to evaluate proposals in the draft by policy advisors in the Departments of Interior and Commerce, which oversee almost 1,300 imperiled species. Hall made his comments after environmental groups and the online journal Salon.com published a draft version of the proposals Tuesday. The draft contains language from Kempthorne's proposed 1998 legislation and from a controversial bill by former Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), both of which died in Congress.

3-27-07
Washington Post
Govt. eyes changes in Species Protection...H. Josef Hebert, AP
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/27/AR2007032701623_pf.html

Details of some of the proposed changes surfaced Tuesday in a number of draft department documents released by environmentalists, who said the changes would amount to a gutting of the federal Endangered Species Act. Department spokesmen said the drafts were still under review and that no decision had been made by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on whether to proceed. "The focus is how we can do a better job of recovering more species," department spokesman Hugh Vickery said in an interview. He called the documents that have surfaced preliminary and in some cases out of date. Some of the proposed changes are outlined in a 117-page draft regulation and in a half-dozen separate memorandums, some dating back to last summer and others as recent as mid-February. The proposed changes "touch on every key program under the Endangered Species Act. It is a rewrite from top to bottom," said Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group based in Tucson, Ariz. The draft was the subject of a story Tuesday on Salon.com. Vickery said the 117-page document, which includes many of the proposed changes, is old. "It does not represent the latest thinking by the Fish and Wildlife Service," he said. "Recommendations are still being floated." But Daniel Patterson of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which put the documents on its Web site Tuesday, said the memos have been circulated among agencies outside the Interior Department, suggesting that the proposals are in the late stage of consideration.

3-30-07
Stockton Record
GOP launches early attack on McNerney...Hank Shaw
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070329/A_NEWS/703290337

National Republicans have begun their attempt to unseat Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, a full 20 months before Election Day 2008. The Republican National Campaign Committee, which spent tens of thousands of dollars in an unsuccessful effort to save former Tracy Rep. Richard Pombo last fall, has included McNerney in its first round of targets posted on www.therealdemocratstory.com. NRCC will also send about 100,000 e-mails into McNerney's 11th District highlighting their criticism of the freshman Democrat's voting record. McNerney has voted with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time so far this year.

3-31-07
Center for Biological Diversity
Interior Department Official Distorted Agency's Own Science to Avoid Protecting Endangered Species...Press Release...3-29-07

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/press/macdonald-03-29-2007.html
Report from Inspector General Department of Interior Blasts Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks Julie MacDonald
3-23-07...A copy of the Inspector General’s report is available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/esa/pdfs/DOI-IG-Report_JM.pdf.

3-31--07
San Francisco Chronicle
Judge tosses new forest rules...Henry K. Lee
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/31/BAGE5OVFUT1.DTL&hw=endangered+species&sn=003&sc=374

A federal judge in San Francisco threw out the Bush administration's new rules Friday for managing the country's 155 national forests, saying the government had failed to consider the environmental effects that could result from the changes...administration also failed to give the public a chance to review the new regulations before they went into effect in 2005, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton said in a ruling on two consolidated lawsuits filed by environmental groups and the state of California. Hamilton said the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act and couldn't institute the new rules until environmental reviews are conducted. More than a dozen environmental groups had filed suit, including Citizens for Better Forestry, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club.

3-32-07
San Francisco Chronicle
UC faculty to join talks on big BP biofuels deal...Rick DelVecchio
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/31/BAGE5OV6G61.DTL&hw=uc&sn=001&sc=921

UC Berkeley's administration has invited faculty members to join the contract talks on the $500 million BP biofuels deal amid pressure to ensure that campus traditions and values are safeguarded in the partnership. Journalism Professor Bill Drummond, chairman of the campus Academic Senate, said the administration will allow four professors who chair Senate committees -- Calvin Moore, Patrick Kirch, Christopher Kutz and J. Miguel Villas-Boas -- to participate in the negotiations... The university's administration is being sharply challenged by faculty members who fear the BP deal is so big that it threatens to upset the tradition of shared governance on campus between the Academic Senate and the administration. A petition signed by 130 faculty members, including some of the campus' most widely respected academics, calls for the immediate convening of a blue-ribbon committee to look into aspects of the BP deal that impinge on the Academic Senate's mandate. The petitioners argue that decisions on hiring faculty and allocating resources to the BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute, to be staffed by 50 BP-appointed researchers and 100 from academia, are going forward without proper campus review. A second petition by a different group of faculty members seeks to cancel the BP deal on the grounds that it constitutes the "greenwashing" of the oil company's environmental record through its association with the university. Robert Dudley, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology and a member of the Academic Senate's academic freedom committee, said the lack of disclosure of the BP deal's details is "potentially suspicious."...cited a 1998-2003 research deal under which the Swiss biotech firm Novartis provided $25 million in funding to the university's Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Faculty members were upset that a funding deal that large wasn't discussed universitywide before it was implemented. Ironically, the Novartis controversy prompted Cornell's faculty to develop standards that could be put into action in a similar partnership. Cornell faculty's 26-page document was finished in 2005 after two years of debate...document coined a new term for large-scale research sponsorships: "strategic corporate alliances."

3-30-07
San Francisco Chronicle
UC-Merced hopes to lure large-campus rejects...San Jose Mercury News
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/03/30/state/n125253D42.DTL&hw=uc&sn=009&sc=878

The University of California, Merced has a new strategy to attract students:...The "Shared Experience" program will allow about 1,000 students who narrowly miss admission to UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Irvine or UC San Diego to attend the Merced campus for two years, and then finish their studies at a more established school. Growth has been slower than expected at UC Merced, where freshman enrollment dropped 38 percent last fall in the school's second year. The Shared Experience program was also used to increase attendance at UC Santa Cruz in the 1980s, when some students were guaranteed subsequent entry to the Berkeley campus.

3-31-07
Los Angeles Times
Southland's dry spell could get worse...Betinna Boxall
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-dry31mar31,1,7683947

Nature is pulling a triple whammy on Southern California this year. Whether it's the Sierra, the Southland or the Colorado River Basin, every place that provides water to the region is dry. It's a rare and troubling pattern, and if it persists it could thrust the region into what researchers have dubbed the perfect Southern California drought: when nature shortchanges every major branch of the far-flung water network that sustains 18 million people. The mountain snowpack vital to water imports from Northern California is at the lowest level in nearly two decades. The Los Angeles area has received record low rainfall this winter... And the Colorado River system remains in the grip of one of the worst basin droughts in centuries. Thanks to a bountiful Sierra snowpack in the spring of 2006, the state's reservoirs are in good shape. Twice during the 20th century — in the late 1950s and the early 1980s — drought strained all three regions that supply Southern California, said Scripps Institution of Oceanography hydrologist Hugo Hidalgo. UCLA geography professor Glen MacDonald, warned, "if you went into a decade or longer of persistent drought that affected the Sacramento [River Basin], the Los Angeles area and the Colorado, you would end up basically taxing all of the those water storage facilities, from the dams on the Colorado to what we have here, to beyond the breaking point." As a result of this spring's skimpy Sierra snowpack — it's at 46% of the normal statewide average — the State Water Project will reduce deliveries of Northern California water to the central and southern parts of the state, but not dramatically.

Washington Post
Extinct sense...Editorial
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/30/AR2007033001998.html
IT LOOKS LIKE another story of endangered ethics on the Bush administration's environmental staff. Last week the Interior Department's inspector general submitted the results of an investigation of Julie A. MacDonald, the deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, to congressional overseers. According to numerous accounts collected in the inquiry, Ms. MacDonald has terrorized low-level biologists and other employees for years, often yelling and even swearing at them. One official characterized her as an "attack dog." Much of this bullying, the report suggests, was aimed at diluting the scientific conclusions and recommendations of government biologists and at favoring industry and land interests. Ms. MacDonald's subordinates said she has trenchantly resisted both designating new species as endangered and protecting imperiled animals' habitats. She defended her interventions in an interview with the inspector general's staff, saying that she kept Interior's scientists accountable, according to the report. But the evidence available suggests she was at the least too aggressive. H. Dale Hall, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, recounted a battle he had with Ms. MacDonald over the Southwest willow flycatcher, an endangered bird. claims that Ms. MacDonald insisted on lowering that to 1.8 miles so that the nesting range would not extend into California, where her husband maintained a family ranch. The inspector general noted that she has no formal training in biology. The inspector general's review of Ms. MacDonald's e-mail account also showed that she had close ties to lobbying organizations that have challenged endangered-species listings and that she had "misused her position" to give them information not available to the public on Interior Department policy. Reports of Ms. MacDonald's alleged sins have emerged soon after revelations of other ethical lapses by Bush environmental appointees. J. Steven Griles, the former second in command at Interior, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the Jack Abramoff scandal. And Sue Ellen Wooldridge, formerly the government's top environmental lawyer, jointly purchased a vacation home with Mr. Griles and a lobbyist for ConocoPhillips. These are troubling incidents. Ms. MacDonald works for an agency tasked with making determinations based on scientific fact, not on her, or her lobbyist friends', inclinations. She appears to have betrayed that vital principle. The inspector general has sent his report to top officials at the Interior Department. They should investigate for themselves the document's troubling descriptions and take action to ensure that Ms. MacDonald and other managers at Interior make policy fit the science, not the other way around.

4-1-07
Sacramento Bee
Canal still best Delta water fix...Dan Walters
http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/147490.html

One of Brown's better initiatives was closing a gap in the water system that had been started under his father, Pat Brown...the "Peripheral Canal" enjoyed support from both environmentalists and municipal and agricultural water agencies... After a highly misleading, farmer-financed campaign, voters rejected the Peripheral Canal in 1982. Had the Peripheral Canal been built as Jerry Brown urged, the fish being chewed up in the pumps would have been alive and more numerous. Had the Peripheral Canal been built, we wouldn't have to worry so much about Delta levees collapsing due to an earthquake or being breached by rising ocean levels from global warming, either of which would threaten water deliveries. But the canal wasn't built. Schwarzenegger described the fish-kill decision as "one more indication of how our system doesn't really work, and that we have to upgrade it. We have to fix our levees. There are a lot of things that need to be done. We need to have more above-the-ground water storage. We have to start thinking about our Delta; it's very, very vulnerable. As I said, one earthquake and one big storm, and it could wipe out this whole system, and 25 million people will suffer because of it." Arnold Schwarzenegger is the first governor since Brown to truly confront the water policy gridlock. Schwarzenegger described the fish-kill decision as "one more indication of how our system doesn't really work, and that we have to upgrade it. We have to fix our levees. There are a lot of things that need to be done. We need to have more above-the-ground water storage. We have to start thinking about our Delta; it's very, very vulnerable. As I said, one earthquake and one big storm, and it could wipe out this whole system, and 25 million people will suffer because of it." He's right.

| »


To manage site Login