Federal Government

Huh?

Submitted: Jun 05, 2007

Why are Merced taxpayers footing the bill for a study "to analyze the economic impact of a recent ruling by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that listed thousands of acres of both city and county land as 'critical habitat'"?

Isn't that basically an economic issue for developers and landowners?

How would somebody living in central or south Merced expect to benefit by the City of Merced spending $23,000 on the study and the Board of Supervisors presumably putting in $20,000?

Hasn't the economic impact from the critical habitat designation for vernal pools and their associated endangered species been studied, argued in court, and ruled on several times in the last decade?

Hasn't Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced spent his best years in Congress pushing bills to eliminate the critical habitat designation?

Hasn't the US Fish and Wildlife Service provided extensive economic analyses?

Isn't the "$10-million analysis" one of the reasons that Department of Interior official Julia MacDonald is under investigation right now? Will this city consultant produce MacDonald II?

If the study is focused on one development, why isn't the developer paying for it?

What is the involvement of the Old Shrimp Slayer in this expenditure of public funds for the benefit of his special interest contributors?

Is the study -- paid half by the city, maybe half by the county -- a part of some deal between the city, the county and the developer that one party is unhappy with, now that the speculative housing boom is over? Did somebody plan for something that did not happen?

Whatever the story is, the article raises more questions than it answers. Ordinarily, we'd blame the newspaper, but city department heads, like their county colleagues, know how to give a report that confuses the public, mystifies the reporter, and provides no answers for questions the public might ask, while leaving no problem the public doesn't care about unexplained. It looks like government, it sounds like communication, but the performance leaves a big hole.

Badlands editorial staff
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6-5-07
Merced Sun-Star
Council hires firm to analyze critical habitat ruling
Law that protects species in thousands of acres of both city and county land could stall or permanently halt developments like Bellevue Ranch, which could cost the city money
by Leslie Albrecht
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13655960p-14249106c.html

A consultant will aim to put a price tag on the impact of possible fairy shrimp habitat in North Merced, following a City Council vote Monday night.
The council approved a plan to enter a $43,000 contract with Berkeley-based Environmental & Planning Services. The city will pay for $23,000 of the proposed contract. The county Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote next week on whether the county will pay for the remainder.
The firm will analyze the economic impact of a recent ruling by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that listed thousands of acres of both city and county land as "critical habitat."
That means the land could be home to fairy shrimp and other protected species. If it is, development of the land could be stalled or permanently halted, which could cost both the city and county development-related revenue.
A 2005 report by the federal government found that the critical habitat listing could cost county landowners $10 million in lost development opportunities.
In the city, 260 acres of the critical habitat land is inside Bellevue Ranch, the largest development planned within the city limit. The community could one day hold as many as 6,600 houses and apartments, as well as shopping centers and schools.
In March, Bellevue Ranch master developer Crosswinds Communities asked the city for permission to skip over the critical habitat acreage during Bellevue Ranch's next phase of development.
Instead, Crosswinds wants to build its next 1,300 houses in two areas surrounding the critical habitat land just south of Old Lake Road.
The city is still negotiating the request with Crosswinds, said Director of Development Services Jack Lesch.

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FEMA floodplain maps redux

Submitted: Jun 02, 2007

On June 1, the Lathrop Sun-Post reported that Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced paid the Lathrop City Council a visit on May 29 to warn Lathropians that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "is in the process of redrawing flood-plain maps and casting more stringent levee requirements in a post-Hurricane Katrina, climate-changing world ..."

Alarming them with pictures of immanent catastrophe, Cardoza urged the council to participate in a "regional approach" to ensure flood protection.
The Sun-Post goes on to mention that former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy just signed a $100,000 contract with Stockton to lobby for state and federal flood-protection funds.

When we hear about the "regional approach," our minds instantly turn to the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. This "regional" commission, appointed two years ago by the governor, is co-chaired by Fritz Grupe, Stockton's premiere developer. Several months before Grupe was appointed to lead this regional planning effort, he hosted a fund-raising luncheon for Pombo and Cardoza. The two split about $50,000 in developer contributions and launched their next assault on the Endangered Species Act before the end of that year. They also earned the name "Pomboza" to connote their "aggressive
bipartisanship on the House Resources Committee. Since the Democratic Party took over Congress last year, the committee's earlier title, Natural Resources, has been restored.

However, another part of the mysterious political movements of the Pomboza and the regional Mr. Grupe was the successful July 2006 move by Pombo and Cardoza to block the new FEMA flood plain maps on the Delta area, at least until after the November 2006 election.

7-3-06
Sacramento Bee
Reality bites…Editorial…7-2-06
http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/v-print/story/14273956p-15083900c.html

Delaying release of FEMA maps would help politicians, not communities at risk. Egged onby developers and local politicians seeking re-election, several Central Valley congressmen are urging the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the release of updated maps that will provide homeowners and businesses a more accurate picture of flood risks. FEMA should resist this pressure. The government hasn’t updated most of these maps for 20 years, despite several damaging — and revealing — floods during that period. The
problem is that new maps frighten local officials… Given the money at stake, it’s highly suspicious that U.S. Reps. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, and Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and other lawmakers are urging FEMA to delay the release of preliminary maps. As Cardoza notes, these FEMA maps are preliminary. The reason for releasing them is so communities can review them, debate them and understand how they might affect insurance and land-use plans before any final versions are approved. FEMA recently bowed to pressure in remapping flood plains in New Orleans, putting thousands at risk. It shouldn’t do the
same here — especially not for a handful of politicians who would rather enhance their
re-election chances than face the realities of floods.

Lurching back to the present, Grupe Investments, AG Spanos Construction and the Delta Building Industry Association are suing the City of Stockton, claiming that the city is discriminating against developers by demanding they pay fees to preserve farm land at a 1:1 mitigation ratio. This reminds us that the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley is really simply a partnership between developers and politicians for more irresponsible urban development in the Valley.

To wrap it up, Cardoza, acting on behalf of Pombo, Grupe, Spanos and other developers in San Joaquin County, scares the bejeezuz out of the Lathrop City Council about those dreaded FEMA floodplain maps that cannot fail to discourage more development on the Delta. (At least Lathrop is in Cardoza's district, which we misreported as being in McNerney's yesterday.)Meanwhile, McNerney jumped to Rep. Ellen Tauscher's district to talk up a VA hospital in Livermore.

None of these Congress persons are saying a word in opposition to the biowarfare lab that UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory wants to build on Site 300, the bomb-testing range outside Tracy. Perhaps, when the proposal makes the short list this month, the Pomboza, McNerney and Tauscher can all join hands and declare a Valley War Pork Month.

Badlands editorial staff

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War pork: soft and hard

Submitted: May 31, 2007

The San Jose Mercury News, under its former Knight-Ridder ownership, distinguished itself above all the mainstream press by its healthy skepticism about the trumped up reasons for invading Iraq during the preliminary Bush-Blair propaganda campaign. Later, it was sold to the McClatchy Company, which peddled it to MediaNews Group. The rapid descent of the once-great paper through the media-corporation shuffle apparently extinguished healthy skepticism.

On this Memorial Day, the Merc intoned that the best way to honor veterans is to keep the Livermore VA Hospital open. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has been on about what an idyllic place the old hospital would be for treating head wounds and psychological trauma of vets returning from the Afghan and Iraq theaters. The hospital isn't in McNerney's district, but hey, its' such a nice, compassionate idea from such a nice fellow, who isn't Richard Pombo.

Incidently, it would add more military pork to the already stuffed barrel in the
Livermore Valley. UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is designing a new generation of nuclear weapons in Livermore. The lab also has a biosafety level-3 biowarfare lab in Livermore and many other war-pork projects besides. Over the hill near Tracy, the lab is increasing its testing of new generations of bombs and plans to double the amount of plutonium used. The site is already contaminated with depleted uranium. It is also proposing a new biowarfare lab on its bombing site, a biosafety level-4 lab containing the most deadly pathogens known to humanity.

Enter the genius of political propaganda and Presto! soft pork masks hard pork.

Will the Livermore VA be treating US military victims of depleted uranium, one wonders. It would make an interesting juxtaposition: returning soldiers suffering from the effects of depleted uranium a few miles away from the site of design and construction of new nuclear warheads and a few miles more away from a bomb-testing range where the UC/Bechtel et al lab is contaminating ground water with depleted uranium.

But, who cares. It's employment for physicians, nurses and other area healthcare workers in one of the nation's most affluent areas. Surely there are parts of the US where more volunteer soldiers for these doomed imperial adventures come from than the San Francisco Bay Area. And those are the places that need VA hospitals.

McNerney's campaign in Tauscher's district for the VA Livermore hospital is soft war pork for the top of the barrel to hide the rest of it, much of it generated from lies that started a war.

The new Democratic Party majority in Congress was elected to stop the war, but a majority within the party goes on voting with the president's party for it because there is not higher grade of pork than war pork. Both parties meanwhile compete to see how loudly they can sing the virtues of our soldiers and their compassion for the wounded and dead. The strategy, apparently, is to sing these hymns, from the official "Moral Clarity Hymnal," so loudly that the noise will drown out the screams of dying civilians in Iraq, not to mention the victims of Israeli violence. These hymns also drown out the conscience of a Congress that will not stop this war. War pork, soft and hard, has apparently corrupted this government to the point that it is nothing more than a rubber
stamp for defense contractors, whose wealth and political power grow with each day this war continues and Congress withers.

The nation sent a clear signal last November that it no longer wanted a one-party, authoritarian government losing an imperial war for oil. What they got was a bunch of hog butchers. Rep. Jerry "Not-Pombo" McNerney seems to have gone out of his district to fit into the crowd.

The sudden surge to medical pork, setting aside the question of how much of it will go to private corporations, doesn't begin to heal the failure of political will, which was what these Democratic Party bums were elected to have. As the patients flow in and the war goes on, we will hear more and more compassionate utterance from Congress because it feels so good when you aren't doing your job to open your hearts to your own victims.

Let's build a psychiatric clinic for all Americans, where all of us can get a pill that will still our inner dialogues so that we can conform to Reality -- perpetual war for perpetual pork. McNerney and his ilk should propose a bill to develop such medication. They could call it "the Rapture Pill."

Bill Hatch
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5-28-07
Editorial: Honor all veterans by providing best in medical care
Mercury News
http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_6004879

Memorial Day gives all of us the opportunity to do something we should do every day - honor those who have died in our nation's service.

Memorial Day 2007 is particularly poignant because so many have given their lives of late in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the best ways we can honor their memory is by embracing our obligations to care for veterans injured in the line of duty.

On that front, the Veterans Affairs Department has its work cut out for it. More than 1.4 million Americans have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is estimated that as many as 30 percent will develop post-traumatic stress disorder.

The open-ended nature of our two Middle East wars, not to mention the longer-term war on terror, means the VA must re-evaluate its needs for the next several decades, including a careful re-examination of the notion of closing Livermore's 115-acre VA hospital ...

But the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have gone on far longer and produced far more casualties than expected. The influx of 420,000 PTSD patients will put severe strains on the VA system without a corresponding increase in budget, staff and facilities to meet injured veterans' needs.

The Bay Area is fortunate that the Palo Alto VA Hospital is one of the best equipped in the nation for dealing with PTSD patients. The Livermore and Palo Alto hospitals merged operations in the past decade and now work in conjunction to help treat veterans living in the Bay Area.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, has opposed closing Livermore from the outset. Rep.

Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, has joined with Tauscher in asking VA Secretary James Nicholson to consider whether Livermore's hospital would be an ideal location to expand to meet the needs of PTSD patients...

To its credit, Congress last week approved the largest single increase in veterans health care funding in history, including increased funding to expand PTSD care and calling for mandatory testing of veterans for traumatic brain injury.

On Memorial Day, all Americans should insist that we live up to our responsibility to our nation's veterans by ensuring they have the health care they so richly deserve.

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UC Merced environmental permit retrospective

Submitted: May 29, 2007

Below is a list of articles reflecting the major milestones in the UC Merced Clean Water Act permitting process. Will our 800-Pound Scoflaw Blue-and Gold Goose Anchor Tenant pass the test? Will Merced achieve the greatness of Modesto, recently voted in one study the worst city to live in in the nation? Or will we become just another Fresno with UC and development from Highway 99 to the foothills? What kind of science will the research university be practicing, guided by its memorandum of understanding with UC/Bechtel et al/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, now building the next generation of nuclear warheads and proposing a biosafety level-4 biowarfare laboratory near Tracy, to go along with its slightly less lethally dangerous level-3 lab in Livermore?

Amid all the questions, there is one certainty: not one elected official from the city to the federal government will mutter a word in defense of the health and safety of the Merced public today against UC Merced tomorrow nor a word in defense of the natural resources that sustain what is left of health in the environment.

Badlands editorial staff
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5-27-07
Modesto Bee
UC Merced's expansion on hold as study continues...Michelle Hatfield
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13628224p-14223982c.html

UC Merced's expansion remains on hold while Army Corps of Engineers officials finish a study that could permit the school to build over protected vernal pools. More than five years after the application was submitted, and after an additional year of subsequent delays, the corps is still a few steps away from completing revisions to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. After the draft is released, the corps will take public comment for 60 days. A final decision will then be made, pushing the timeline well into 2008. If denied, UC Merced has three alternative sites — two spots near neighboring Lake Yosemite and one in Livingston, about 15miles northwest of the campus. Corps officials gave no specifics for the delay, but said the draft study is going through "a number of revisions," said Lt. Col. James Porter of the corps' Sacramento office. UC Merced officials will meet with representatives from the corps, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service early next month. There is no updated release date for the draft report, Porter said... Seasonally flooded depressions...UC Merced is home to thousands of vernal pools, according to watchdog Web site vernalpools.org. UC Merced officials set aside 25,000 acres of wetlands for preservation....proposed plans call for expansion of its 104-acre campus and the construction of a 2,000-acre university community of housing and shopping. "It's about balancing and minimizing the impacts to wetlands and ag land," Young said. The corps needs to decide whether the expansion is the "least environmentally damaging practicable alternative."... University completing its reports...While corps officials keep postponing the study's release, UC Merced officials are busy completing their environmental reports for expansion, Young said. UC Merced officials are optimistic about reaching the end of the permitting process. Even if the delays continue, they have enough room to grow on the current 104 acres,... "Although we are finishing out our housing project, we're not maximizing our use of the 104 acres (yet),"...Upcoming projects include a social sciences and management building, a second science and engineering building, more student housing, possibly a child care unit and an infrastructure plant, Young said. That will end Phase I of construction, which is meant to accommodate 5,000 students. Officials expect fewer than 2,000 this fall, the campus's third year.

3-5-07
Tiny shrimp could put big hitch in development plan...Leslie Albrecht, Merced Sun-Star...http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13349413p-13972980c.html

Builders in Merced might have to shuffle order of construction. Fairy shrimp, the tiny critters that derailed the University of California at Merced's original building plans, now are forcing developers to rethink the future of Bellevue Ranch, the largest development planned within Merced city limits.

12-30-06
Corps moves faster on UC growth plan...Victor A. Patton, Merced Sun-Star
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/13151177p-13796738c.html

A long-awaited report crucial to UC Merced's 900-acre expansion plans might be available by late February, university and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials say. UC Merced's expansion just east of Lake Yosemite would cover 93 acres, 72 of which contain vernal pools with endangered species.

7-30-06
Permit trouble ahead in Merced...Corinne Reilly, Merced Sun-Star...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/12517931p-13232296c.html

University's proposal to expand questioned by Corps of Engineers...the vision for expanding the University of California at Merced beyond 100 acres could be forced to change. A permit the university needs in order to build on federally protected wetlands likely will not be granted to allow the university to move forward with a 900-acre expansion plan, according to a senior manager at the Army Corps of Engineers... "We feel that the project they have proposed, at this point, isn't permittable," Kevin Roukey, a senior project manager in charge of UC Merced permitting, said Tuesday

3-31-05
Lawsuits challenge species protection...Bee Staff Reports and News Service
http://www.modbee.com/reports/ucmerced/story/11078634p-11038202c.html

A conservative legal foundation on Wednesday filed lawsuits challenging federal protection for 42 species — including two fairy shrimp that kept the University of California off the university's preferred building site near Merced... Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation asserts that the government's critical habitat designations drive up housing costs and taxes and harm private property rights without doing much to save species...filed its lawsuits simultaneously in Fresno and Sacramento federal courts... The foundation filed the lawsuits on behalf of the Home Builders Association of Northern California, the Building Industry Legal Defense Foundation, the California Building Industry Association and the California State Grange.

8-27-04
UC Merced needs permit to grow...Cheri Carlson, Merced Sun-Star...
http://www.modbee.com/local/story/9048940p-9946607c.html

University of California at Merced ...doesn't have a permit to put up more than the first several buildings needed to educate the first wave of students. To fully develop its 910-acre campus adjacent to Lake Yosemite, the university needs a permit to fill more than 80 acres of wetlands. In February 2002, UC Merced and Merced County applied to the corps for a permit. The university hoped to have it in by January 2004, a schedule the corps called optimistic. It will be three or four years before the university will need money -- and the permit -- for construction outside the golf course boundaries. Wetlands, vernal pools will be analyzed... Administrators are working closely with the corps and other government agencies to make sure they are doing what's required. Nancy Haley, the corps' UC Merced project manager...in general, more than 90 percent of projects receive permits. However, she said, most projects go out the door looking differently than they did coming in. The permit process is not behind schedule, according to the corps Haley said it's a huge project and it's hard to predict how long it will take.

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Case study of hypocrisy

Submitted: May 27, 2007

The level of hypocrisy around here has reached its gentle level of sufficiency for me. We know why Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Merced, of no known political affiliation, is in office. We know who pays to keep him there: a cabal of special interests, including but not limited to finance, insurance and real estate and the University of California.

Cardoza offends in ways that sound like wounded children's cries in a Baghdad hospital.

First, this is a politician who refuses to acknowledge his ordinary constituents in public except at carefully staged political events. His staff says it is because he cherishes his privacy at home away from Washington. One could almost believe it but for what he does. He passed a measure for national foster children awareness. Who could vote against that? Then he makes sure that through the media his entire district knows he and his wife adopted two foster children. Cardoza is exploiting his own adopted children to demonstrate his alleged compassion. I don't want to know about his family. His family genuinely is his private business. After the Condit disaster, we don't want to know about our congressman's family life. It offends me as a parent and as a voter. I want the newspaper to tell me how he voted on the issues, which it very rarely does.

However, this creep called a reporter at the Stockton Record after his vote for the Iraq supplemental appropriations bill last week. The reporter put the conversation out on his blog. Cardoza is shown nearly crying on the guy's shoulder. And the reporter buys it. And the blogosphere goes wild over the posting, So now we have another source of gigalo media, a Stockton blog--what else? Another reporter pimping his access to a politician so full of it we haven't seen the whites of his eyes since the levee break in his state Assembly District in early 1997.

Granted there is a lot of agricultural pork in the bill along with preponderant military pork, which gets to the jackasses who own this man and his little chunk of the US Congress.

Between 1990 and 2005, Iraq has had a 150-percent increase is child mortality. Iraq has the worst mortality rate for children 5 and under in the world. How many US soldiers' children will be missing a parent by the end of this? How dare this wretched, corrupt little no-account rub his children in the public's face. This is a man who is missing an essential part of human personality. I am tired of this political rotting sound.

In other events in the fabulous career of our political celebrity, Cardoza recently introduced a bill to increase the sentence of public officials caught in scandals of a financial kind. The congressman intoned in a press release that corruption lowers the people's faith in government.

What crap! This bum was 100-percent in the corrupt orbit of former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, until a year ago. And Jack "The Singing Lobbyist" Abramoff keeps staying out of jail on sheer musical ability. First Cunningham, then Pombo, now Doolittle. What's to say about Cardoza's junket to the Marianas? Perhaps, he's covered his ass with more junkets to Israel and Jack's turning cantor before the Almighty and federal judges. Cardoza and Pombo were so tight, local dairymen began calling them the Pomboza several years ago. It's not a nice word on some Azorean islands but how nice do you have to speak about a guy who ran lady mud-wrestling contests in his bowling alley?

Hypocrisy is the only vice that truly negates integrity. The lifelong psychological trauma of the killer - in war or in a knife fight in a hobo jungle by the railroad tracks- is that witness called conscience.

The hypocrite is so into his role it silences conscience. Cardoza is a man who is totally into being a political big shot. Anyone who has ever seen him operate in one of his staged events for the constituents knows this. Fine. Let him represent his special interests, take their money, drive wildlife species extinct, and just shut up about it. But Cardoza is too ambitious. He wants to appear virtuous at the same time. Whatever his true intentions are we doubt he, clever little Blue Dog Macchiavellian he thinks he is, has a clue about them. But his political deeds and speech smell like decayed fish bait.

We have a man representing us in Congress who is constantly lying to himself, which is to say a person who is rotten to the core, a defunct soul, nothing but another member of the empty suit mob. What the special interests of his district didn't take, Majority Leader and Pombo substitute, Steny Hoyer, got, because Cardoza always operates with a front guy more powerful than he is since Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg. He's only got one political tune. It's not that Cardoza politically disagrees with the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, D-SF. He probably doesn't understand her speech.

The Democratic Party has a history. No hypocrite Democrat can bear to grasp that history, mainly full of painful compromise and betrayal as well as better moments. Failing the integrity to confront the history of the Democratic Party, the hypocrite must betray the party over and over and over again, as if each betrayal were a baseball bat to the head of that history. The hypocrite must break the skull of conscience, which turns out to be his own skull. Incidently, he breaks the faces of the poor workers in his district. And how about them foreclosures on mortgages made while Cardoza was trying to gut the Endangered Species Act? In his ambitious quest for office and all that office implies, Cardoza has reduced himself to nothing at all -- suitable only for the handful of people who own him. The game is to keep the gigolo press and now its blog accessories from connecting the dots to make Zero.

For while probably no living man, in his capacity as an agent, can claim not only to be uncorrupted but to be incorruptible, the same may not be true with respect to this other watchful and testifying self before whose eyes not our motives and the darkness of our hearts but, at least, what we do and say must appear. -- Hannah Arendt, On Revolution, p. 103

Bill Hatch
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5-7-07
Reuters
Egypt lauded, Iraq faulted in child deaths report
By Will Dunham
http://www.boston.com/news/world/africa/articles/2007/05/08/egypt_lauded_iraq_faulted_in_child_deaths_report/

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egypt made the most progress among developing countries in cutting deaths of children under age 5 from 1990 to 2005 while Iraq deteriorated the most, a U.S.-based charity said in a report on Tuesday.
The humanitarian group Save the Children tracked child mortality trends in 60 developing countries during this period. Twenty either made no progress in reducing these deaths or had higher death rates.
These 60 countries accounted for 94 percent of child deaths worldwide, the report said. About 10.2 million children under age 5 die annually around the world -- 99 percent in developing nations amid poverty, disease and malnutrition -- with 28,000 deaths a day.
Nearly three-quarters of all such deaths were due to pneumonia, diarrhea and newborn disorders like premature birth, birth asphyxia and birth defects, the report said.
Deaths of children under 5 declined 68 percent in Egypt from 1990 to 2005, the report said. Iraq, gripped by war since a U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 and subjected to years of economic sanctions before that, had a 150 percent increase in child mortality, it added ...
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5-25-07
Stockton Record
Cardoza: 'Why I voted yes'...Hank Shaw's Blog
http://blogs.recordnet.com/n/blogs/blog.aspx?webtag=sr-hshaw&redirCnt=1

Today's vote on funding for the War in Iraq highlighted the range of political thought on the issue right here in our own region: For Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, it was an easy "no" vote because there was no timetable for withdrawa... That leaves Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. Cardoza was one of 82 Democrats to buck House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and push the green button. Cardoza says it wasn't easy. He called me after the vote to talk about it and sounded pretty down. "I've had better days,"...when I asked him how he was. Cardoza said he voted "aye" because he couldn't bear to leave the troops hanging, but said he felt like Congress had no other choice because it can't override a Bush veto and force a timetable on him. Yet. "We didn't have the votes in the Senate,"... I pointed out that the House (and the Senate) will often cast a vote knowing full well the other chamber won't play ball, so why not vote against the timetable-less bill? "Yeah, I know we've done that in the past,"..."But this is war. It's people's lives. It's a different deal. We could have cut off funding, but it would be chaos -- and I could not vote for chaos." Cardoza said he looks forward to another funding vote in September, another chance to judge for himself whether Bush's handling of the war is any different than chaos. "We're getting very close,"...Cardoza added that many of his Republican friends wanted to vote against the bill today but did not: Some out of loyalty to their president, others for similar reasons to Cardoza. He said that could change.
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5-24-07
Cardoza to talk about foster care on 'The View'
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13617276p-14214224c.html

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, will appear on the ABC television program "The View" at 8 a.m. today to observe National Foster Care Month and discuss the foster care system.
Cardoza, recognized as a congressional leader on foster care issues, adopted two foster children seven years ago, and has advocated on behalf of adoption and foster children in the California Assembly and in Congress...
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5-24-07
http://www.house.gov/list/press/ca18_cardoza/Sentencing_Amend.html
News From…
Congressman Dennis Cardoza
18th Congressional District of California
Rep. Cardoza Hails Passage of his Amendment to Strengthen Penalties for Ethics Violations by Public Officials
Amendment Passed with Unanimous Consent as part of Lobbying Reform Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2007 CONTACT: Jamie McInerney
(202) 225-6131

WASHINGTON – Today Congressman Dennis Cardoza introduced and passed an amendment that would double prison sentences, up to a two year increase, for elected and appointed public officials who violate the public trust. The amendment allows judges to increase the sentences when public officials are convicted of bribery, fraud, extortion, or theft in the course of their official duties.
“With public faith in government officials weakened by scandals from the Jack Abramhoff affair to the Duke Cunningham conviction, we need to ensure that those who break these laws are punished appropriately,” said Cardoza. “Beyond breaking the law, the perpetrators of these crimes violate the “public trust” by defying their fiduciary responsibility to the Constitution and to the people of America. I hope that this amendment will act as a deterrent to illegal behavior in the future and help rebuild public trust in government officials.”
The amendment passed unanimously as part of HR 2316, the Honest Leadership and Open Government of 2007, which contains landmark lobbying reforms that will cleanup the way business is done in Washington. Strengthening ethics rules and accountability of public officials is a longstanding interest of Congressman Cardoza. Cardoza introduced stand alone legislation similar to this amendment in the 109th and 110th sessions of Congress.

5-28-07
Merced Sun Star
Pork barrel spending...Maria Mendoza, Modesto...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13630182p-14225940c.html

I thought Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, was a fiscal conservative?...seriously disheartened to see how he is using his new position on the powerful House Rules Committee and as a chairman of an Agriculture Committee...disappointed to learn that the Iraq Accountability Act was stuffed with pork barrel spending -- mostly from agriculture...this was the Iraq spending bill to support our soldiers. Ironically, most of the members of the "Blue Dog" Democrats who are supposed to be fiscal conservatives voted for the "Iraq" spending bill. Most Democrats campaigned on fiscal responsibility and to cut the pork. Yet only seven of the 43 Blue Dogs that support a strong national security and fiscal responsibility voted against the bill. Some members of Congress have referred to this most recent use of pork barrel spending as political bribery; others call them "sweeteners." It appears that Congressman Cardoza, the communications director of the Blue Dog Coalition, representing the second largest dairy district in the nation, has reaped the benefits of delivering the votes of the Blue Dogs to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It truly appalls me that Cardoza has used his new position to be hypocritical to his fiscal conservative stand in exchange for power. I thought he was different. Welcome to Washington.

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Congressional acts of flakulence smog north Valley

Submitted: May 22, 2007

It could be because the breezy late May has brought relatively pleasant air to breathe in the north San Joaquin Valley. But, it's probably because of some flak offensive cooked up by Baltimore's top Democratic congressmen. Whatever the reason, we are currently under a full-scale attack of flakulence by representatives Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, and Jerry McNerney, the Pleasanton Wind Machine.

Cardoza today announced the introduction of a bill to add a few years to the sentences of officials convicted of corruption in office, because public faith in government officials has been weakened by various scandals, notably the relationship between Jack "The Singing Lobbyist" Abramoff and the front end of the Pomboza, former Rep. Richard Pombo, Buffalo Slayer-Tracy.

"Beyond breaking the law, the perpetrators of these crimes violate the public trust by defying their fiduciary responsibility to the Constitution," Cardoza said.

It's laughable and pathetic, but there it is. This bum takes big bucks from finance, insurance and real estate to do everything he can to gut the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of these special interests. This bum leans on resource agencies regularly to relax their enforcement. This bum was the ramrod behind the fast-tracking of UC Merced running roughshod over environmental law and public process. This bum sold out to special interests on the Westly tire fire. This bum has real estate interests of his own that directly benefitted from the UC Merced-induced speculative housing boom in Merced. No politician in our region is more responsible for the subsequent housing bust than this bum, except possibly his mentor, Pombo. If this bum's name doesn't pop up in the investigations of the House Committee of Natural Resources on Interior Department official Julie MacDonald's actionable offenses against the public trust, it will only be a miracle of partisan politics.

But, demonstrating the totally fallacy of the so-called two-party system, we have another example of flakulence in Pombo's old district, now inhabited, however briefly, by McNerney. This jerk is going on about saving a VA hospital in Livermore. He serves on the House Veterans Committee and so it makes a certain kind of sense. He believes this idylic VA nursing home would be a good place for head-trauma victims among the veterans of the Iraq War.

We are filled with sympathy for these unfortunates in the all-volunteer military serving in Iraq. And we know the tender sentiments the Iraq War veterans hold for those of us who criticize the war. In this, there is going to be a vast difference from Vietnam. The re-absorption of these veterans into society is going to be uglier than the 1970s. Harrowing times lie ahead. This McPomboza, trying on the self-righteous priggery of Cardoza, hasn't got an ounce of solidarity with these poor, abandoned souls that fought this wretched, UnAmerican imperial campaign. He merely uses them to avoid facing the terrible problem of toxic pork. The successful effort to unseat Pombo resulted in the creation of a politically spoiled little monster. People literate in Valley political history think in terms of Margaret Snyder, an assemblywoman from Modesto so stupid she could not fathom the direction of her speaker, the black man who brought her to the party.

The Livermore VA hospital isn't in McNerney's highly gerimandered district. As late as 2005, the VA was considering building a replacement facility in French Camp, which is in McNerney's district. Thanks to the out-reach capacity of the Palo Alto VA Hospital, San Joaquin General has a functioning VA clinic, also in McNerney's district. The congresswoman who represents Livermore has remained silent on the issue of the Livermore VA hospital.

What we are looking at is a Flakulence Campaign to distract us stupid Valley children from the real issue, dear to the heart of both McNerney and Cardoza: the siting of a biosafety level 4 biowarfare lab at Site 300, owned and operated by UC/Bechtel et al Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Department of Energy will decide on the short list of contestants for this fabulous project next month. Tri-Valley CAREs, a Livermore Lab watchdog, visited McNerney recently in Washington DC and presented their position on the project. It was negative. McNerney told CAREs he'd think about it. The next thing we know, he invites us to a mass compassion fest for head-trauma victims from the US invasion of Iraq.

See how he bleeds for the unfortunate victims of imperial foreign policy at the same time as he won't vote for a real schedule for withdrawing the troops.

Meanwhile, he remains silent, as does Cardoza (downwind from the proposed biowarfare facility), about the possibility of bringing foot-and-mouth, Avian flu, and other of the most dangerous toxic substances known to man into an area populated by many people and much poultry and livestock besides.

Once again we see the power of the University of California to stop all thought among our political leaders. What is to pathetic about this particular mental paralysis is that UC really doesn't have much control of Lawrence Livermore or Los Alamos anymore. That has passed to corporate hands, particularly to Bechtel, the heroes of rebuilding the electrical, water and sewer infrastructure of Iraq. After the Bush administration bombed Bagdhad, Bechtel got the contract to rebuild its public works. Bechtel failed, but got paid anyway, because that is the Imperial Way. There is some dispute about whether it is the American Way, however.

Was it by mere chance that UC Merced announced today that it has opened an animal lab to study infectious diseases, under the auspices of the Livermore lab? Badlands has been predicting for years now that UC Merced would be absorbed eventually into the warfare lab because it lacks any other legitimate means of academic support beyond its memorandum of understanding with the august purveyor of weapons of mass destruction.

The flakulence of the moment in the north Valley boils down to the confluence of Pentagon Pork and the University of California. What happened with the siting of UC Merced was that weapons of mass destruction could be moved out of the Bay Area into the Valley, dumping ground for the toxics of the universe.

These despicable congressmen are going along for the ride because of the pork possibilities, like we live in militarist Georgia instead of California.

We hold out no hope whatsoever that the witless local political leadership will wake up in time to even register some protest to the most dangerous project ever sited in the Valley, because we have a very bad habit here: we live by the deal. Unfortunately, in this instance, we are not selling tomatoes. We are selling our lives and the lives of our loved ones and off-spring into deep danger. The biowarfare facility the proposed Site 300 facility is said to replace is on an island off Long Island so secret the island itself appears on very few maps. There is a book about this island, Plum Island, called Lab 257. Everyone in the north San Joaquin Valley really ought to read this book, which includes vivid descriptions of how Lyme Disease, W. Nile Fever and probably Newcastle Disease escaped this biosafety level-4 biowarfare laboratory and its colonies of ticks.

This is an evil project. You should pay the most intense attention to it. You should not believe anything about the current flakulence, which is nothing but propaganda farts in the wind.

Bill Hatch
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5-22-07
Stockton Record
Cardoza bill targets corrupt politicians...The Record
http://recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070522/A_NEWS/705220321

Rep. Dennis Cardoza apparently doesn't think the eight years in the slammer his disgraced colleague Randy "Duke" Cunningham got for taking bribes was enough...
announced Monday he's sponsored legislation to add years to the sentences of public officials convicted of corruption...legislation would give federal judges discretion to double prison sentences for elected and appointed public officials convicted of bribery, fraud, extortion or theft in the course of their official duties. "With public faith in government officials weakened by scandals from the Jack Abramoff affair to the Duke Cunningham conviction, we need to ensure that those who break these laws are punished appropriately," Cardoza said. "Beyond breaking the law, the perpetrators of these crimes violate the public trust by defying their fiduciary responsibility to the Constitution." Details of the bill, HR875, are at thomas.loc.gov.
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3-30-05
Cardoza, Pombo raise money together
By Michael Doyle
SUN-STAR WASHINGTON BUREAU
Merced Sun-Star - March 30, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Political collaboration has a whole new meaning for Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza and Tracy Republican Richard Pombo.

In a unique exercise in bipartisanship, Cardoza and Pombo on Tuesday split the take from a joint $1,000-a-head fund-raiser. The lunchtime event near Lodi filled both incumbents' campaign treasuries with cash, and filled political observers with wonder.

"That's a fairly new one," Common Cause spokesman James Benton said with considerable understatement when informed of the event. "It might not be the only one of its kind, but it certainly is rare."

Cardoza acknowledged the two-hour event sponsored by prominent developer Greenlaw "Fritz" Grupe was unusual, not to mention politically delicate in some circles. Cardoza said he hadn't advised other House Democrats of his plans beforehand.

"Sometimes it's better to ask for forgiveness than for permission," Cardoza said with a laugh.

Speaking by telephone shortly before the luncheon began at Grupe's Shady Oaks Farm ranch, Cardoza said he wasn't sure how much money was likely to be raised. Individual tickets cost $1,000. The Stockton Record, which first reported the event, also reported that event sponsors were being charged $5,000, with upward of 40 individuals expected to attend.

"Fritz had said he appreciated the work we had done on a collaborative basis," Cardoza said, "and his comment was that he wanted to reward good behavior."

That is precisely what worries some activists, who oppose legislation authored by Pombo and Cardoza to rewrite the Endangered Species Act.

"The fact that Pombo and Cardoza are drinking from the same trough is surprising only in that they decided to drop the pretense and show up together at the same time at the same function," said Robert Stack, executive director of the Angels Camp-based Jumping Frog Research Institute. "Those seeking paybacks long ago figured out that giving cash to both parties is a good way to hedge their bets."

Ironically, Cardoza's own predecessor, Gary Condit, might have been the last House member to attempt something even remotely similar.

In 1997, Condit invited the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, then-Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, to join a Gary Condit Breakfast Club meeting in Modesto. The club was for people contributing $500 annually to Condit's campaign.

Republican activists voiced outrage that Kasich would lend his prestige to a Democratic gig.

"Choose your Party over the fuzzy headed 'bipartisanship' that is infecting all of Washington and has caused derailment of our agenda," wrote Michael Der Manouel, Jr. of Fresno, vice chairman of the California Republican Party, at the time.

Bombarded with similar complaints, Kasich subsequently backed out of the Condit event.

Pombo had likewise formed a close working relationship with Condit, and had refused to back any of the long-shot Republicans who ran against his colleague between 1990 and 2000. Since then, Pombo has risen to be chairman of the House Resources Committee, on which Cardoza now serves.

Beyond their common Portuguese heritage, Pombo and Cardoza share some common ideas about private property and environmental protection. The ideas, including some proposed rewrites of the Endangered Species Act, are generally favored more by developers like Grupe than by environmentalists like Stack.

"We have our fundamental disagreements," Cardoza said of Pombo, "but when we're at home, we focus on the things that bring us together instead of the things that drive us apart."
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9-20-05
Denny, Mr. Bipartisan
Badlandsjournal.com
http://www.badlandsjournal.com/old/getarch2.php?title=Denny,%20Mr.%20Bipartisan

Flanked by three Republicans, including his Chairman (of the House Resources Committee), Rep. Dennis Cardoza, Shrimp Slayer-Merced, today played Mr. Bipartisan in Pombo's latest attempt to gut the Endangered Species Act. And Pombo played it to the hilt, his flak leading with this evidence of unity across the aisles: "Bipartisan Coalition Introduce Bill to Improve the Endangered Species Act of 1973."
Thus, the UC Merced show goes on. If the UC weren't such an arrogant institution, so willing to believe at any point that it is omnipotent as well as omniscient, in fact, to be frank at least among the right sort of people, a god of sorts and not the smallest god in the heavens, it might have become clear even to its august regents, that UC got suckered big time by the real Valley coalition: agribusiness, land owners, developers and banks. And so, Merced's boy in Congress, the Shrimp Slayer, becomes the Principle of Bipartisanship on a bill to gut the ESA, written by Rep. Rich Pombo, "The Chairman," Buffalo Slayer-Tracy, and co-owner of Pombo Real Estate Farms.

Now, that's not enlightened! That's not what Californians ought to want to see in strong public-university academic leadership. It is neither moral nor intelligent for a handful of San Joaquin Valley congressmen, Pombo, Cardoza, Radanovich and Costa, to be determining national environmental policy for an exclusive club of agribusiness cashing out their land into real estate.

Perhaps nothing like the positioning of UC Merced as the political sanction for rolling back successful, 30-year-old environmental legislation shows more clearly the lost of vision and degeneration of the quality of education UC provides, at least to its regents and administration. The most pathetic aspect of the situation is that it is hard not to imagine UC lobbyists, at public expense, working the halls of Congress in favor of this bill -- only because it will make expansion of UC Merced easier. Edifice Over Education again.

As for Cardoza, what can be said? Ambition in a suit. Politicians don't make it up through the ranks in the 18th Congressional District until they've sold out to a few large special interests here. There have clearly defined roles here. From the shadows come the orders: "It's your job to sell our agenda to the boobs. If you don't, you lose your office."

In his ambition, is Cardoza making history or just casting his large, dark shadow on it? There is always that interesting question about the San Joaquin Valley. At times, when suitable to the political interests of the orator of the moment, it is presented at the richest, most productive agricultural land in the nation. This is supposed to be good. It conjures up images of happy farming families, cheap food policies, and cornucopia. Beneath this shining mythology lies the a small nest of big snakes that owns most of the land and all of the politicians. Every once in awhile, the public gets to see the political economic reality of the richest, most productive agricultural valley in the nation. Unused to examples of feudalism, they don't see it because they can't believe it. UC, blinded by its omniscience, missed it. Our favorite example is the endowed chair for the Tony "Honest Graft" Coelho School of Government.

Ignorance is bliss; UC-sanctioned ignorance is double-plus unbad bliss.

Rep. Joe Baca, from the other fastest growing part of California, Riverside-San Bernardino, is another Democrat bipartisan supporter. And now we know where freshman Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, stands, as we observe all the subdivisions with 499 units going in that don't have to prove they have a water supply, thanks to a loophole in an "environmental" law he wrote in the state Legislature.

In Cardoza's "town hall meeting" last weekend in Merced (see Badlands, The Denny Show), not a word was mentioned about the ESA, critical habitat, water contamination or supply -- not to mention the Iraq War. We boobs got a dose instead of "smart growth" and "regional cooperation" and how government is "working on it."

Bill Hatch
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9-20-05
Denny, Mr. Bipartisan
Bipartisan Coalition Introduce Bill to Improve the Endangered Species Act of 1973

Washington, DC - At a California news conference today Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA), Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Greg Walden (R-OR) and George Radanovich (R-CA) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 (TESRA).

TESRA fixes the long-outstanding problems of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by (1) focusing on species recovery (2) providing incentives (3) increasing openness and accountability (4) strengthening scientific standards (5) creating bigger roles for state and local governments (6) protecting private property owners and (7) eliminating dysfunctional critical habitat designations ...

"After three decades of implementation, the ESA has only recovered 10 of the roughly 1,300 species on its list," said Chairman Pombo. "What it has done instead is create conflict, bureaucracy and rampant litigation. It's time to do better. Without meaningful improvements, the ESA will remain a failed managed care program that checks species in but never checks them out. This bill will remove the impediments to cooperation that have prevented us from achieving real results for species recovery in the last 30 years."

"I am pleased to join my colleagues, Chairman Richard Pombo and Congressman Greg Walden to announce the introduction of the 'Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act'," said Rep. Cardoza. "Over the past 30 years since its introduction, the Endangered Species Act has gone far off course from its original intent. Today, lawsuits and court mandates dictate species recovery, not science. This new bill puts more resources towards recovering species while at the same time creating transparency for those landowners whose land may be needed for species conservation." Cardoza continued, "I believe this bill is an innovative approach to solving the problems with the Act that I have been working on for the last two and a half years and I look forward to moving this bill quickly though Congress" ...

Congressman George Miller, California's 7th District
Monday, May 21, 2007
Danny Weiss, 202-225-2095

Miller and Rahall Launch Inquiry into New Conflict of Interest at Interior Department
Senior lawmakers press Bush Administration on manipulation of science in a California endangered species decision

WASHINGTON, DC - Two senior House Democrats launched an inquiry today into reports that a Bush Administration political appointee may have improperly removed a California fish from a list of threatened species in order to protect her own financial interests.

According to an investigative report published Sunday by the Contra Costa Times, Julie MacDonald, who resigned this month as Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, was actively involved in removing the Sacramento Splittail fish from the federal threatened and endangered species list at the same time that she was profiting from her ownership of an 80-acre farm in Dixon, CA that lies within the habitat area of the threatened fish.

MacDonald's financial disclosure statement shows that she earns as much as $1 million per year from her ownership of the 80-acre active farm. Federal law bars federal employees from participating in decisions on matters in which they have a personal financial interest.

The Sacramento Splittail, a small fish found only in California's Central Valley, depends on floodplain habitat and has been described by the Fish and Wildlife Service as facing "potential threats from habitat loss."

Today, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, wrote to Interior Secretary Kempthorne requesting a full accounting of MacDonald's role in the Sacramento Splittail decision, an explanation of her apparent conflict of interest, and a thorough review of the science underlying the decision to remove the Sacramento Splittail from the threatened species list.

"It looks like another Bush Administration official was protecting her own bottom line instead of protecting the public interest," said Miller, a senior member and former chairman of the Natural Resources Committee and a long-time proponent of the Endangered Species Act and Bay-Delta fish and wildlife issues. "We are going to fully investigate this matter and determine whether public policy was improperly altered because of personal conflicts of interest.

"This news raises serious questions about the integrity of the Interior Department and its policy decisions," Miller added. "The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta has enough problems without political appointees at scientific agencies cooking the books. Who thought it was acceptable for a Deputy Assistant Secretary to change a major policy decision to exempt her own million-dollar enterprise from the Endangered Species Act even though federal law prohibits such conflicts?"

Rahall, who has served on the Natural Resources Committee since 1976 and became its chairman in January, called on the Department to fully explain what happened.

"Time and again, this Administration has demonstrated a complete disregard for scientists and their work," Rahall said. "Political appointees at the Interior Department have been allowed to overrule biologists and to work more closely with special interests than with their own staff. The Interior Department must explain its deputy assistant secretary's actions in this very troubling case, which is apparently the latest in a long line of efforts to undercut species recovery."

The letter from Miller and Rahall comes just two weeks after a May 9 Committee hearing at which Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett was questioned about recent controversies in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Her prepared testimony did not mention a report by the Department's Inspector General on an investigation into MacDonald, nor did her testimony indicate awareness of the serious consequences of MacDonald's actions. In the course of the hearing, Scarlett affirmed that "where there is scientific manipulation, we want to correct that," but no specifics were provided.

MacDonald resigned from the Interior Department just one week before Scarlett testified.

The Endangered Species Act established a policy of protecting and recovering species in decline and their habitats. Fish, wildlife, and plants listed as "endangered" are in danger of extinction and the federal government is required to take action to recover them. Species are listed as "threatened" if it is determined that they may soon become endangered. Other threatened species in the Bay-Delta region include the green sturgeon and the delta smelt.

The full text of the letter to The Hon. Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, is below.

May 21, 2007

The Honorable Dirk Kempthorne

Secretary

Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Kempthorne:

We are writing to reiterate the request we made at the House Natural Resources Committee's hearing on May 9, 2007, and subsequently in writing by Chairman Nick J. Rahall, II, for a complete accounting of how the Department of the Interior is responding to the Inspector General's investigation of Julie MacDonald. Yesterday's newspaper report in the Contra Costa Times on Julie MacDonald and her role in the decision to remove the Sacramento Splittail from the list of threatened species demands an immediate response from the Department. This new information adds very serious charges to her record.

The Contra Costa Times reports ("Decision on splittail raises suspicions") that the Fish and Wildlife Service, at MacDonald's direction, may have improperly ignored scientific evidence when deciding to eliminate the Sacramento Splittail's threatened species designation, and that MacDonald, a non-scientist, was heavily involved in the decision. By statute, as you know, listing and de-listing decisions can only be made on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available.

More egregious still, the article demonstrates that MacDonald was profiting significantly from agricultural property in Sacramento Splittail habitat. It is our understanding that this is the first and only time that a fish species has been removed from the list of threatened species for reasons other than extinction. It is unacceptable that such an unprecedented policy decision may have been made because a Deputy Assistant Secretary had a direct and substantial personal financial interest.

In light of this highly troubling new report, please provide us with a full accounting of former Deputy Assistant Secretary MacDonald's role from 2002-2004 in the Sacramento Splittail decision, including but not limited to:
1 Details of her contacts with staff in the California and Nevada Operations Office and elsewhere within the Department regarding the Sacramento Splittail;
1 A complete accounting of the changes made by Julie MacDonald, and others, to the Sacramento Splittail listing documents after they were sent to Washington; and
1 Communications regarding the Sacramento Splittail, if any, between MacDonald and interests outside the Department, including the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, the State Water Contractors, or the California Farm Bureau.

In addition, please provide us with a full account of former Deputy Assistant Secretary MacDonald's apparent conflict of interest, including but not limited to:
1 Details of her participation in decisions affecting the management of fish and wildlife species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region, especially those on or near her property;
1 A description of Interior Department decisions, if any, from which she recused herself based on a conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict;
1 A list of officials at the Department who were aware that she continued to own and profit from agricultural property in California while serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary; and
1 All advice or ethics opinions provided to her by the Department regarding these matters.

In order to determine the Interior Department's role in overseeing MacDonald's activities, please provide a description of all formal or informal action taken by the Department in response to her 2004 decision to leak documents to the California Farm Bureau's lobbyist in an apparent attempt to undermine a scientific decision regarding the threatened Delta smelt.

Finally, in order to address the significant policy implications of MacDonald's actions, we request that you direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-evaluate whether its decision to de-list the Sacramento Splittail was based solely upon the best available scientific and commercial data, as required by law, and to report these findings to the Congress. In addition, please provide us with the results of each of the three statistical methods employed by the Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the health of the Sacramento Splittail's population. Endangered species decisions must be based on accurate and reliable scientific analysis, not the conflict of interest of a senior departmental official. This is especially true for significant and sensitive decisions such as this one, which could affect the management of California's Bay-Delta and water operations.

We appreciate your prompt attention to our request. Please contact Ben Miller with Rep. George Miller's staff at (202) 225-2095, or Lori Sonken with the Natural Resources Committee staff at (202) 225-6065, with any questions.

Sincerely,

GEORGE MILLER NICK J. RAHALL, II

Member of Congress Chairman, Committee on Natural Resources
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Official calls for new VA services
By Chris Metinko, MEDIANEWS STAFF
Article Last Updated: 05/18/2007 02:57:06 AM PDT

LIVERMORE— With the number of injured and traumatized veterans coming home from the Middle East increasing daily, Livermore's endangered veterans hospital could find new uses, including possibly as a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic.

An East Bay rookie congressman is pushing the idea of an expansion of services in the hospital's future rather than closure. Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who has had private conversations with VA Secretary James Nicholson on the subject, made a formal push for new uses at the 115-acre campus on Thursday with a letter to the secretary.

The future of the Veterans Affairs medical facility is still very much in the air. The VA is considering closing at least part of the campus, which includes a hospital and nursing home, or improving and expanding the facility. One option also would beto move outpatient, nursing home and other services to San Joaquin County. A decision by Nicholson is expected soon.

"I've been thinking of this before I was even elected," McNerney said of a new post-traumatic stress disorder clinic on Livermore's campus. "It's such a quiet, peaceful place, it would be perfect."

With the current fighting in the Middle East, renewed attention is being paid to PTSD: an anxiety disorder some people develop as a result of experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as military combat.

It was estimated earlier this year that 15 to 30 percent of the more than 1.4 million members of the U.S. military that have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will develop PTSD.

In his letter to Nicholson, McNerney said, "Livermore offers a peaceful and idyllic setting for veterans to rest and receive the unmatched health and rehabilitative care the VA provides."

McNerney admitted trying to expand the facility's services might offer it a reprieve from the chopping block as the VA tries to streamline its services. "Absolutely, it's such a wonderful facility, it shouldn't be closed," he said. "And there's such a great need for it right now."

McNerney's plan has sparked enthusiasm and optimism among some veterans. "It would make sense to have something like that out there for the soldiers coming home from the Middle East," said Les McDonald, a 74-year-old veteran from Livermore who has attended meetings on the future of the Livermore VA facility. "That is the prefect place for veterans suffering from that to go."

Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, another advocate of the Livermore VA hospital, reiterated her support of local care for veterans.

In a statement released Thursday, the congresswoman said, "At the heart of this issue is whether local veterans will continue to receive the best health care services available. We have made it clear to the VA from the secretary on down that the needs of those served must be considered before anything else.

"Any decision about care that's based on number-crunching in Washington and doesn't take into account our veterans in the Tri-Valley is never going to fly with me."

McNerney contends with so many soldiers fighting in the Middle East and the increasing numbers coming home injured, the VA should be looking at expanding services, especially those associated with PTSD, and not cutting back.

Along with the proposed Livermore enhancements, McNerney added he believes the French Camp Outpatient Clinic —the only VA health care facility in San Joaquin County — also should expand services to meet the need for PTSD-specific treatment.

McNerney said he hopes to sit down with Nicholson in the next few weeks — before any final decision on Livermore is rendered — to discuss keeping open the facility. The VA had originally forecast a decision on the future of the Livermore site would likely be made by late spring or early summer.

Kerri Childress, spokeswoman for the VA Palo Alto Health Care System which includes the Livermore campus, said there is no hard timeline when Nicholson may make a decision.

"Hopefully it is in the near future," Childress said.

In his letter, McNerney added "recent conversations with my constituents have led me to believe that closure of the Livermore hospital is imminent and that other services may soon be lost. This move would severely limit care and would be detrimental to veterans in the region."

McNerney said he believes the Livermore facility is being phased out even before the decision is announced because he has talked with patients who have been directed toward other VA clinics.

Nevertheless, McNerney said after a discussion with Nicholson at House Veterans' Affairs Committee meeting last week, he feels the secretary is willing to listen and find ways to better serve the needs of our nation's veterans.

"It's unacceptable to close this facility," McNerney said.

5-22-07
UC Merced to get first lab animals...Victor A. Patton
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/local/story/13610283p-14207825c.html

The first lab-test mice and rats that will be used for scientific research purposes at UC Merced will likely be kept at the university starting within the next 14 days, university officials said Monday...school is putting the finishing touches on its 5,000-square-foot vivarium... Sam Traina, UC Merced's vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, said the university is awaiting final approval from officials at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to begin keeping animals at the facility. Until UC Merced obtains its own operating license from a national oversight board, Lawrence Livermore researchers will be responsible for providing oversight and review of the vivarium, which should occur by September... Much of the research performed at the facility will involve study into infectious diseases and the immune system, as well as some stem cell research. Roy Hoglund, the vivarium's director, said the first set of animals at the facility will primarily be "sentinel animals"... Traina said most major construction on the building was completed by the end of April. The facility is located inside an existing wing of the school's Science and Engineering building and will contain about $2 million in lab equipment...officials have said they will seek to have the facility approved by Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Lab Animal Care, a private, nonprofit organization that promotes the humane treatment of lab animals through a voluntary accreditation and assessment program.

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Sonny Star: full of bull and applepie

Submitted: May 20, 2007
About 80 percent of our smog-causing pollutants come from mobile sources over which the air district has no jurisdiction. More than ever, we will need the state and federal government to do their fair share for the Valley by providing funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. -- Merced Sun-Star, May 19, 2007

This ration of the well-known substance was dished out via Sonny Star, McClatchy's local rent-a-rag, by Seyed Sadredin, executive director/air pollution control officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, who began his flak during a breezy week by saying:

Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is better than it has ever been in recorded history. With tough regulations, innovative measures and investment by businesses and residents, air pollution has been reduced significantly throughout the Valley. Despite this tremendous progress, the Valley's pollution-retaining geography and meteorology make meeting new, federal ozone and particulate standards a challenge that is unmatched by any other region in the nation.

Having already reduced Valley smog by 80 percent since the 1980s, virtually eliminating the remainder will not be cheap and cannot happen overnight. On April 30, the Air District's governing board adopted the first eight-hour ozone plan in California. This overarching and comprehensive plan is designed to help the Valley attain cleaner air, as measured by the federal smog standard, as expeditiously as practicable. The regulatory cost to businesses will be about $20 billion. The board members should be commended for their courage, resoluteness and commitment to clean air.

Sadredin is willfully confusing the public on behalf of the state regional air board, made up entirely of pro-growth Valley politicians. The board is asking the federal Environmental Protection Agency for the worst air pollution designation it has to offer, "extreme non-attainment," so that federal highway funds will not be pulled back until developers have all the roads they need for more growth, which will equal more pollution, not however the responsibility of the state board. Presumably, in 2023, Sadredin's two-bit flak successor will be saying our air is even cleaner, but that we must apply for the federal "catastrophic non-attainment" designation so that federal highway funds will not be withdrawn.

As long as the Valley keeps growing, it doesn't matter how many restrictions are placed on stationary-source emissions (mainly farm equipment). It is the cars of the new residents that do the damage. It is the destruction of natural resources to build subdivisions that does the damage.

Until a public coalition actually commits to suing both the federal and state governments simultaneously and is willing to endure the long haul such a suit would entail, nothing will improve and Sonny Star will be printing authoritative "expert" flak about how much cleaner our air is getting every breeze May.

Moving from bull to a related topic, apple pie, we note that righteous members of the local Applepiocracy are suggesting that the CEO of Riverside Motorsparts Pork is really not the proper sort of person we should include in our community. Therefore, the Applepiocrats suggest, the board of supervisors somehow renege on their approval of the RMP permits and zone changes. Because, you see, he is not a nice man. Sonny Star, with his unerring instinct for snobbery and with its contemptuous ignorance of law, is also slinging apple pies at John Condren.

The present public commentary in Merced is filled with bull and apple pie. If this keeps up too much longer, the whole county will be buried by flaky crusted compost (which might be a smoother driving surface than our present streets and roads). And that's just dandy, as long as no one imagines it will stop the increase in air pollution coming to the Valley through "planning" promoted by the University of California, the Merced Association of Governments, the Merced Board of Supervisors, the Merced City Council, the finance, insurance and real estate special interests, the air board and the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint. And, of course, by Sonny Star, who knows which side he's buttered on.

The only black box on the horizon is $5 fuel.

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

5-19-07
Merced Sun-Star
Breathe easier knowing air is cleaner...Seyed Sadredin, executive director/air pollution control officer of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13602031p-14199952c.html

Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is better than it has ever been in recorded history. With tough regulations, innovative measures and investment by businesses and residents, air pollution has been reduced significantly throughout the Valley. Despite this tremendous progress, the Valley's pollution-retaining geography and meteorology make meeting new, federal ozone and particulate standards a challenge that is unmatched by any other region in the nation. Having already reduced Valley smog by 80 percent since the 1980s, virtually eliminating the remainder will not be cheap and cannot happen overnight. The board members should be commended for their courage, resoluteness and commitment to clean air. About 80 percent of our smog-causing pollutants come from mobile sources over which the air district has no jurisdiction...we will need the state and federal government to do their fair share for the Valley by providing funding and regulatory assistance to reduce emissions from cars, trucks and locomotives. By any objective measure, the plan adopted by the air district is a comprehensive effort that leaves no stone unturned...
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5-19-07
Merced Sun-Star
RMP an embarrassment...Marc Medefind, Merced...Letters to the editor
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13602033p-14199862c.html

Five months ago, the Merced County Board of Supervisors made a decision that rocked the world of citizens who think that clean air, noise restrictions, ag preservation, and traffic concerns should be pre-eminent in the hearts and minds of those they elected to serve. Since then, the "house of cards" known as Riverside Motorsports Park has taken quite a tumble...Sun-Star has published exposés about the background and character of CEO John Condren...documents the seemingly nefarious ways in which he treated both employees and directors. Other articles have exposed the way the RMP Corp. deceived those who were once strong supporters and flouted the laws in Alameda County...paint a picture of an arrogant, egomaniac who apparently did anything to get what he wanted, regardless of statute or ethics. Sun-Star Sports Editor Steve Cameron...Where's the money coming from to build this gargantuan track? We still have no answers. Kenny Shepherd ("Advocate to Adversary") once again raised huge questions about character and trust where RMP is concerned...far from rolling in the bucks -- RMP can hardly pay its electric bills. After bamboozling most of Merced County's Supervisors into supporting this farce...milked dry and its directors sent packing...filling local racing fans with dreams of grandeur...overturning common sense ordinances... it doesn't seem too unrealistic that the rezoned land will be sold to investors...Mr. Condren will sail off into the sunset... But maybe that was the plan from day one. Still, it's not too late. Our Supervisors have only to revisit and rescind their unfortunate December decision to prevent this embarrassment from staining our county any further.

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A McPomboza?

Submitted: May 16, 2007

"Now the Cold War is over, and our excuse for this behavior is gone. We need a new and better vision. I'm exploring ways to define that vision. I would be satisfied with small but definite steps in a new direction, but what direction? Neither technology nor economics can answer questions of values. Is our path into the future to be defined by the literally mindless process of technological evolution and economic expansion or by a conscious adoption of guiding moral precepts? Progress is meaningless if we don't know where we're going. Unless we try to visualize what is beyond the horizon, we will always occupy the same shore." Rep. George E. Brown, Jr., D-CA, 1993

I met Jerry McNerney once, at an event in Stockton to protest the Pomboza Gut-the-ESA, featuring Pete McCloskey. McCloskey had not yet announced that he would run against Pombo. It was a press conference of serious environmentalists and a number of regional reporters. After their statements, the environmentalists marched to Pombo's office. It was a mild, polite environmental action. It was an awkward event for McNerney, but at least he was there. The awkwardness was in the fact that he was surrounded by the people who would eventually put him in office. For a political candidate who had been campaigning already for four years without the help of most of those luminaries, that is not an easy place to be.

The next year a helluva campaign took place in the 11th Congressional District. McCloskey, who stood against the Vietnam War in the New Hampshire primary in 1970 against his own party's incumbent president, did run against Pombo. His campaign's well-documented research about Pombo's relationship with Jack "The Singing Lobbyist" Abramoff, bloodied Pombo severely in the primary. National environmental groups finished him off in the general and McNerney became the congressman from the 11th.

Fifty-nine Democrats voted recently against a measure to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within nine months, supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, opposed by House Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer, D-MD. Predictably, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, one of Hoyer's special friends, voted against it. One of Hoyer's Maryland boys, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the new Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has apparently taken McNerney under an Oriole wing. Will the Maryland boys, with a little help from Cardoza, turn McNerney into McPomboza?

Bay Area Democrats report McNerney is a good man. That's good. McNerney also proved himself to be scrappy in two elections, losing the first against Pombo. But was he scrapping for principle or for office?

McNerney is meeting with San Joaquin County growers during this Farm Bill year. Well, that's important. They'll want less pesticide regulation, an end to the Endangered Species Act, more federal money, and imperial marketing plan that allows them to sell their fruits and vegetables anywhere with no fruits and vegetables to come to the US, easy, continued access to cheap undocumented farm labor, and their congressman to take a radical rightwing stance on private property rights -- for starters. But, if you don't know that, you have to listen. Pombo, now a lobbyist and big shot in the newest anti-ESA/private-property-rights fanatics coalition, and Cardoza do listen, most carefully.

McNerney says he wants more highways for San Joaquin County, where significant portions of the superb prime farmland are already paved over with highways. In other words, he wants more growth although he may think all he wants is less traffic congestion. How long will it be before he's calling for a new freeway through a canyon to Silicon Valley, like Pombo did?

Being a science type, we wonder how he stands on the Bio Safety Level-4 biowarfare lab UC-Bechtel-Etc./Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory want to put in just outside of Tracy. Tri-Valley CAREs, the Livermore-based environmental group that has been working for 30 years to make LLNL a responsible institution, reports today that they recently asked McNerney to oppose the project.

His position on this biowarfare lab will be the most important statement of McNerney's convictions his constituents will have. And to resist the forces of darkness on that one will take strong, clear conviction, unlike his excuses for voting against the McGovern bill. It will cost him money and the good opinion of the University of California, some powerful agribusiness organizations, the largest developers in Northern California, and a significant portion of LLNL workers in his district. It will show his constituents what kind of man he is.

This is what he says:

National Security
...We need to change the provision that guarantees homeland security funding for every state. This only leads to wasted spending on pet projects that have little to nothing to do with homeland security...

Environment
...Taking care of our environment is part of taking care of ourselves. Nothing is more important to our health than clean air and pure water. These are not problems we face in some distant future or far off place. San Joaquin County, right here in District 11, has some of the worst air pollution in the country. As a result, our people suffer rates of respiratory illnesses – asthma, emphysema, etc. – that are off the charts. Our District also faces serious water problems – ground water contamination and shortages in a number of high growth areas... -- Jerry McNerney for Congress, http://www.jerrymcnerney.org/issues

What will he do about the Bio Safety Level-4 proposal for Site 300 near Tracy? Does he have the fortitude to stand up against an awesome array of special interests? He's not going to get any support for a stand of conviction from either Cardoza or the Maryland boys.

If he came out against it, alongside the City of Tracy, and LLNL did not as a result make the short list for the facility, he would have done an enormous service to his district, regardless of what kind of hell Republicans bring him in 2008 and of how much money finance, insurance, real estate and military contractors put on the nose of a talking dog running against him.

In the vote on the McGovern bill to end the war, McNerney voted against the people that brought him to the party, which didn't include Cardoza or the boys from Maryland. McNerney voted against McCloskey and the environmentalists, who are not known for pro-war inclinations. He voted against his speaker and all the rest of the Bay Area members of Congress, including both California's senators.

In the recent SF Chronicle feature on him, he appeared to tout his expertise in science and his PhD in mathematics. Wunnerful. The late, great California Congressman, George E. Brown, Jr., D-Riverside, long-time chairman and ranking minority member of the House Science Committee, was also scientifically inclined. In fact, there are people who still regard Brown as one of the most intelligent congressmen we ever had. He was a wise man always asking important questions. Brown or his colleague McCloskey would be better models to pattern oneself after in Congress than the party hacks McNerney seems to be keeping company with now.

Dumping Pombo remains important. But a tough rightwing candidate in that district, like Dean Andal for example, could eat up this "good man" and spit him out on the side of the highway like used chewing tobacco. McNerney's problem is complex. How many votes does he need to sell to the Hoyer Bunch and the military contractors behind them to get the money to outspend Rove Republican boodle. It might come down to people working the streets, shopping centers and the Internet. How many grassroots progressive Democrats did he alienate by voting against the McGovern bill? If McNerney doesn't establish himself as a progressive, a man who will listen to all views, ask honest questions and give honest answers and vote on open, intelligible convictions, the not-so-good men will drag him down into their pit and eat him alive. Pombo left a legacy liberals deny. His convictions were clear and he acted on them. Some of them were illegal but that's another question. He's a strong act to follow. Regardless of whether you agreed with him, you knew where he stood.

Many people who worked for McNerney will be less inclined to do so if he begins to sound like a McPomboza.

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

5-16-07
Los Angeles Times
Senate Defeats Iraq Withdrawal Measure
by Noam Levey
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/05/16/1242/

WASHINGTON — The Senate today handily defeated a measure to effectively end most U.S. combat operations in Iraq by next April, but the 29 senators who voted for the amendment represented the highest number yet that have united behind a proposal to force President Bush to bring home American troops.
The plan by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not garner nearly enough votes to pass. Sixty-seven senators — 47 Republicans, and 20 Democrats — opposed the proposal.
Their amendment won the votes of 28 Democrats and one independent. But support for the Feingold-Reid measure — which followed a similar House vote last week — provided another indication of how public pressure to end the war has pushed congressional Democrats to embrace once politically taboo plans to challenge Bush’s management of the war.
“It is clear that change is in the air ,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the vote. “Our resolutions have not passed, but they will pass.”
Among the measure’s supporters were all four Democratic Senate leaders, as well as the four Democratic senators running for president: Delaware’s Joseph Biden, New York’s Hillary Rodham Clinton, Connecticut’s Christopher Dodd and Illinois’ Barack Obama.
California’s two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, also backed the plan.

San Francisco Chronicle
Rookie in Congress touts science...Zachary Coile
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/05/14/MNGGGPQDMM1.DTL

McNerney -- who stunned the political world by defeating House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo in November -- is cutting a much quieter path through Congress than his cowboy-boot-wearing Republican predecessor from Tracy, who sought to use his clout to rewrite many of the nation's environmental laws...focusing on the little things: He's requesting highway money to ease traffic congestion back home from his seat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee... holding regular "Congress at your corner" coffee klatches to get to know his constituents...formed an agriculture advisory panel to hear what fruit and vegetable growers in San Joaquin County want out of the forthcoming farm bill. But he's also keeping a wary eye on the active Republican effort to unseat him. Like other freshmen, he's raising money by the bushel and carefully calculating his votes. On Thursday, he was the only Bay Area member and one of just 59 Democrats to join with most Republicans in voting against a measure to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq within nine months. Anti-war activists immediately assailed the vote. The influential liberal blog, Daily Kos, posted a statement venting their frustration: This "was a vote of conscious (sic) today, and McNerney failed that test. I think all those who walked those precincts, threw Jerry fundraisers and made calls on his behalf deserve an explanation for his vote today." The outcry was loud enough that McNerney penned a reply: "I want an end to the war in Iraq. But ending the war must be done in the most responsible way." He said he voted instead for a Democratic war funding bill calling for increased diplomacy, "which experts from across the political spectrum recognize is the only way to end the war responsibly." The vote shows the challenge for McNerney in trying to satisfy Bay Area liberals and online activists -- who were the backbone of his campaign -- while keeping a voting record in line with his slightly Republican-tilting district. (His neighbor and political ally, Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, also voted against the withdrawal bill.) A secret political memo by an aide to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove -- exposed by House Democrats -- shows that the White House picked McNerney as their No. 3 target among 20 top House races in 2008. "Karl Rove and the White House have him in their crosshairs -- there's no doubt about it," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.... Republicans may be underestimating how difficult it will be to unseat McNerney next year, Van Hollen said. "The most important thing a member can do is No. 1, establish a strong constituent outreach and relations effort at home -- and he's doing that -- and No. 2, to get to work on issues that are important to people in his district, and he's doing that," Van Hollen said. "He's making his mark on a range of issues." Since his election in November, McNerney has often been compared to the Jimmy Stewart character in the 1939 Frank Capra movie, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" -- an earnest but naive political neophyte who's suddenly thrust onto the Washington scene. In some ways, the description is apt. Pombo is now running a corporate-funded property rights group, Partnership for America. In an interview last week, he said he won't run again because "it's time to move on." Amy Walter, a nonpartisan analyst for the Cook Political Report, said the district is changing and becoming more suburban, but still tilts toward the GOP because most of the electorate is still in the more conservative San Joaquin County. "McNerney has a lot to prove in this next election -- that he was not simply a fluke,"..."The race in '06 was all about Pombo, but this race is going to be all about him."

5-11-07
Blowing Up The Buddhas [top]
by babaloo
http://www.theprogressiveconnection.com/mobile/

How easily something that seemed solid, important, historic, if you will, can disappear. All it takes is one careless moment, and the painstaking work of many people over a long period of time can be wantonly destroyed — just like that.
I refer, of course, to Rep. Jerry McNerney's vote yesterday against ending the war in Iraq. He has his rationale; I don't buy it for a second. But let's put that aside for now.
What are the real repercussions that I see from McNerney's vote? Well, they're myriad, and they're not pretty, unless you're from the Rahm Emanuel/DLC (or Republican) school of politics.
A lot of us, myself and many of the readers of this blog, got involved in politics relatively recently, inspired by the people-powered movement of Howard Dean. We believed fervently that if we did the hard work to support our ideals, we could effect change in our country. And right up until yesterday, Jerry McNerney was the shining example of what we could accomplish as an organized political body. I think it's fair to say that for a lot of us, that dream ended yesterday afternoon, with Rep. McNerney's vote against bringing our troops home.

7-15-1999
National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure
Scientific Community Mourns Passing of Rep. George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA)
Elder Statesman was Ranking Minority Member of the House Science Committee and a Long-time Advocate for Investment in Research
http://www.npaci.edu/online/v3.15/brown.html

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- On July 15, 1999, the scientific community lost a powerful voice in the Congress with the death of Representative George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA). Brown, who represented a district in Riverside, California, was a long-time champion of the sciences, former chair of the Science Committee, and a leader in the debate regarding appropriate funding levels for scientific research. He was also an advocate for better education in the sciences and technology, seeing these fields as integral to Americans' ability to succeed in the next millennium.
The Congressman died from an infection developed following heart valve replacement surgery in May. He was 79.
"Mr. Brown was more than a friend of science. In 34 years on the Committee on Science, he became a fount of wisdom about how science and technology was transforming our lives. As an advocate for space exploration and environmental protection, George Brown challenged scientists and policymakers alike to consider the unanticipated consequences that future generations would face. As a champion of basic research and science education, Mr. Brown reminded us that all citizens of all ages expected, and deserved, a return on government investments.
"In an interview earlier this year when asked to reflect on his career in public service, Brown said, 'What I've always wanted to do is help shape ideas about the emerging human culture.' He did that and so much more.
"All policy advisory bodies and students of government have lost a role modeland a colleague. The legacy of Congressman George Brown will light the way to a science and technology policy for the next millennium."
During his years in Congress, Rep. Brown was a force behind the establishment of OSTP, OTA, and EPA, advocated peaceful space exploration and international scientific collaboration, opposed earmarking of federal science funds, and promoted a host of environmental, energy, and technology issues. Although most prominently known in the science community for his work on S&T, Brown was an advocate of civil rights as far back as the 1930s, and opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He was a tireless champion of social equity and challenged the science establishment to consider how technology could diminish, rather than increase, the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Below is an excerpt from a 1993 speech he gave to the AAAS Science and Technology Colloquium:

"For the past fifty years, this nation has focused its resources on building weapons of inconceivable destructive power, and we have viewed the rest of the world as a chessboard designed to play out our own ideological struggle. We propped up governments that murdered nuns, priests, nurses, and children, and we provided high-technology weaponry to dictatorships. We destabilized governments that were democratically elected, in some instances to protect the profits of U.S. companies. We turned a blind eye while our tactical allies acquired the components necessary to build nuclear weapons, and we condoned authoritarian governments in the name of the free flow of oil. Our vision during the Cold War was cynical in the extreme. 'Mutual assured destruction' was a U.S. philosophy of international relations; the 'Peacekeeper' was a ballistic missile that carried nuclear warheads.
"Now the Cold War is over, and our excuse for this behavior is gone. We need a new and better vision. I'm exploring ways to define that vision. I would be satisfied with small but definite steps in a new direction, but what direction? Neither technology nor economics can answer questions of values. Is our path into the future to be defined by the literally mindless process of technological evolution and economic expansion or by a conscious adoption of guiding moral precepts? Progress is meaningless if we don't know where we're going. Unless we try to visualize what is beyond the horizon, we will always occupy the same shore."

5-16-07
Modesto Bee
Foreclosures rise...J.N. Sbranti
http://www.modbee.com/business/story/13589271p-14188648c.html

San Joaquin County had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last month, and Stanislaus and Merced counties weren't much better. One of every 131 homeowners in San Joaquin County were in default on their mortgages and being foreclosed this April, according to RealtyTrac's U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. One of every 180 homes faced foreclosure in Stanislaus County, and one of every 210 homes in Merced County.

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US dairy industry running off the rails again?

Submitted: May 16, 2007
The latest milk production figures for March 2007 show that 13 out of 23 top dairy states produced less milk in 2007 than they did in March of 2006. Most of the states producing additional milk are Western states. That additional milk from Western states is not the result of efficiency or market forces. Milk production in Western states is driven by California real estate values and the IRS tax code 1031.

The 1031 tax provision enables people selling their land to forgo paying any capital gains taxes if they reinvest in a like business. With land values in California ranging from $400,000 to $500,000 per acre, these dairy farmers can sell out to developers, then relocate and build new cow factories 5,10, or 20 times their original size with the money they save on taxes. Small to medium sized family farms in other parts of the country are forced to compete with the outcomes of this expansion.

The reality we face today tells us that milk is now located where the International Panel on Climate Change predicts will soon become a permanent dustbowl. Two dairy plants, one located in Clovis, New Mexico and the other in the Texas Panhandle, about 100 miles away, will soon be producing 40% of the nation’s Cheddar cheese. Both the plants and the farms supplying those plants draw irreplaceable water from the Ogallala aquifer.

Testimony of Randy Jasper, National Family Farm Coalition, before US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee
April 24, 2007

Tom Harkin (D-IA) is chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Foresty Committee. Neither senators Diane Feinstein or Barbara Boxer serve on the committee, although California is the largest agricultural producing state in the nation and, by this report at least, is playing a major role in distorting the national milk market. -- Bill

TESTIMONY PRESENTED BY RANDY JASPER Wisconsin Farmer National Family Farm Coalition Senate Agriculture Committee Hearing on: Economic Challenges and Opportunities Facing American Agriculture Producers Today
106 Dirksen Senate Office Building April 24, 2007

My name is Randy Jasper. Along with my son Kevin, I milk 100 cows and raise 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans along with 200 acres of hay in Muscoda, Wisconsin.

We are members of the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association, who is a member of the National Family Farm Coalition. I am pleased to submit this statement for consideration by the Senate Agriculture Committee on behalf of the Dairy Subcommittee of the National Family Farm Coalition.

As the 2007 Farm Bill is being written, please keep in mind dairy farmers are not looking to Washington for handouts. We simply want to be paid, from the market, a price which yields a return on our investment greater than our cost of producing raw milk.

The policy recommendations I present today have been crafted over the years by real dairy farmers, the voice rarely heard on Capitol Hill. We do not have the lobbying money of corporate agribusiness or the dairy industry which contributed over $3 million in campaign contributions in 2006.

Our nation needs a fair and effective system that will ensure a regional, dispersed, safe and resilient milk supply serving as the backbone of our nation’s food security and rural economy.

Dairy producers throughout the country need:

• Public policy that results in dairy farmers receiving cost of production plus a return on investment; • Access to affordable credit with fair terms; • Competition restored to a non-competitive dairy market; • Protection from predatory practices of the largest corporations including the largest co-ops; • Protection of the integrity of dairy products meaning no support for domestic Milk Protein Concentrate (MPC) or for any MPC used in our food supply; • Prohibition on forward contracting; • Promotion of smaller co-ops and increase oversight of co-op management to ensure interests of producers are met.

My milk goes to a co-op, Scenic Central Milk Producers. There are 250 farmers in the co-op that market 19 million pounds of milk a month with a 98% return to farmers on gross sales of milk. ARMPPA gets one penny per cwt for services rendered. This co-op is independent and it works.

A crisis has befallen dairy farmers, large and small, throughout America in the past year as dairy farmers saw a steep rise in fuel and fuel surcharges, feed grain prices and costs to produce our own feeds. When these rising costs of production are combined with weather related disasters and continued low milk prices, how do you expect us to stay in business? I literally can not work any longer hours.

In real dollars, it was the worst year ever for dairy farmers, including the years encompassing the Great Depression. We sit on conference calls late into the night after 16 hour work days, talking with fellow dairy farmers across 20 plus states, sorting out what changes we need in dairy policy.

We have developed a milk pricing proposal entitled the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2007 that includes:

1) All milk produced in the United States will be priced based on the national average cost of production.

2) All milk used for manufacturing purposes will be classified as Class II milk.

3) The value of Class I milk will be the same across the United States.

4) The Class II price will be the Basic Formula Price for all markets in the United States.

5) Dairy farmers’ prices will be adjusted four (4) times a year.

6) All federal and state orders will determine the amount of adjustments for pricing butterfat, etc.

7) The proposal allows the USDA to implement a supply management program. This can be implemented only when the value of exported dairy products equals the value of imported dairy products.

8) This proposal does not allow any hauling costs to be charged to dairy farmers

9) This proposal does not allow any make allowance cost to be charged to dairy farmers.

The proposal, if in place today, would provide a Blend Price of $18.65 in Federal Order 1. (see Appendix I)

The National Family Farm Coalition has also proposed changes to the Class III and IV pricing system through recent Federal Order Hearings. We were disappointed to learn the U.S. Department of Agriculture had decided to remove our proposal from consideration along with many others that raised the issue of cost of production.

On February 20, 2007, NFFC delivered a letter to USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong identifying problems with inaccurate price reporting in the NASS Survey. This situation is costing dairy farmers millions of dollars a month. Our understanding is that the Inspector General is currently involved in an investigation of the situation.

America’s dairy farmers are suffering a perfect storm. However, no action has been taken to alleviate their dire straits, despite the fact they are the ones who lack the ability to achieve any recourse from the marketplace. The root cause of the problem is not the increased grain prices, but the inability of the current dairy pricing system to reflect the cost of production and receive market signals from producer to consumer and vice versa.

We will continue to demand a pricing system that allows family dairy farmers the dignity of a fair price through the current Class III and IV hearings and with our legislative proposals for the 2007 Farm Bill, the Food from Family Farms Act. The solution is a fair price; a fair price for dairy farmers and for farmers who raise program crops based on a non-recourse loan program with a price floor that reflects a farmers’ cost of production, farmer-owned, humanitarian and strategic reserves, incentives for participation in conservation programs, and international cooperation on supply management. Years of depressed grain prices have fueled the expansion of mega-dairies and forced thousands of dairy farmers and other diversified family farm operations out of business.

The problems associated with achieving a price for raw milk that dairy farmers can function with are threefold:

• Pricing system • Production expansion • Imports

Problem #1 Pricing:

Congress, cooperatives, producers and private firms share the blame on this one, as massive consolidations of milk cooperatives and private enterprises have left the dairy industry’s marketing and pricing strategies in the hands of a few entities. Larger co-ops have vested interests with private firms causing collusion, corruption and manipulation of our pricing system, beginning at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Farmer members are so removed from the inner workings of the management of our co-ops that they do not have the means or the will to demand accountability of their co-ops’ leaders. With market consolidation and antitrust violations gone way too far, competition has been nearly eliminated. Near-monopoly structures leave farmers in many parts of the country without an alternative place to sell their milk.

The price of milk that farmers receive and the cash trading for cheese at the CME has had an almost perfect correlation. (See Chart 1). Daily trading of cheese at the CME happens most of the time with only two traders, one buyer and one seller, while butter trading lasts only a few minutes each day. Often there is no actual trade involved to change the price. All of this occurs with virtually no government oversight—that is not a functioning marketplace!

Farm milk price bears no relationship to U.S. milk production. Arguments about the market sorting out supply and demand are pure fiction. (See Chart 2).

It’s not that federal policy can’t have an effect on those structural changes that force out smaller farmers. It’s not a given that the federal government has to stand by while agribusiness consolidates and consume larger and larger shares of the dairy market, by destroying competition. Under this administration, policy won’t have a proper effect unless Congress demands enforcement of antitrust regulations that the USDA and the Department of Justice have failed to enforce. Without antitrust action we will continue to wonder why programs like MILC aren’t working while ignoring the structural impacts of market consolidation. The status quo ultimately costs tax payers and farmers money because of lack of political will to address the problem.

Problem #2 Production Expansion:

Milk production has doubled since 1975. However, it is not an overproduction. For the last ten years, milk production in the US has not kept pace with consumption in the US. (See Chart 3).

The latest milk production figures for March 2007 show that 13 out of 23 top dairy states produced less milk in 2007 than they did in March of 2006. Most of the states producing additional milk are Western states. That additional milk from Western states is not the result of efficiency or market forces. Milk production in Western states is driven by California real estate values and the IRS tax code 1031.

The 1031 tax provision enables people selling their land to forgo paying any capital gains taxes if they reinvest in a like business. With land values in California ranging from $400,000 to $500,000 per acre, these dairy farmers can sell out to developers, then relocate and build new cow factories 5,10, or 20 times their original size with the money they save on taxes. Small to medium sized family farms in other parts of the country are forced to compete with the outcomes of this expansion.

The reality we face today tells us that milk is now located where the International Panel on Climate Change predicts will soon become a permanent dustbowl. Two dairy plants, one located in Clovis, New Mexico and the other in the Texas Panhandle, about 100 miles away, will soon be producing 40% of the nation’s Cheddar cheese. Both the plants and the farms supplying those plants draw irreplaceable water from the Ogallala aquifer.

NFFC believes that the low price of milk tends to increase expansion more than a high price for milk. Farm milk price that is below the cost of production forces a decision by the farmer to change one’s farming practice (a switch to organics or grazing for example), sell out, or expand to achieve the multiplier effect.

Family farmers are constantly told by processors, bankers, government, suppliers, and retailers, “If you want to make more money, you have to get bigger,” or “Get bigger or get out.” The truth is, getting bigger does not mean being more efficient. Smaller family farms are far more efficient in the long run than larger factory farms when factors such as culling percentage, death loss rates, breeding efficiencies, number of lactations and number of purchased replacements are weighed, as they must be.

Problem #3 Imports:

America imports dairy products from well over 100 countries, many of which have questionable sanitation. Most dairy imports drive the farm milk price down without any savings passed on to the public. Imports of milk protein concentrates should also be of great concern to Congress. MPCs are still untested and illegal by law to be used as a food ingredient in any capacity in the United States. Since when does a free market rule apply to illegal food ingredients with no scientific, safety, or nutritional tests? Virtually no other country in the world feeds this garbage to its people. The use of MPCs in cheese products creates poor quality and possibly unsafe products with short shelf life. These items are sold to unsuspecting consumers who think they are buying real dairy products, but they are really victims of uninformed consent. When this happens, we cheat the citizens of this country and insult American dairy farmers who strive to produce the highest quality milk in the world. (See Chart 4).

In conclusion, we ask the Senate Agriculture Committee to keep in mind that the original intent of the farm bill is to provide the nation with a safe and resilient food supply. We are not greedy people; we only want to provide a living for our families and a chance to improve our farming practices so that we can pass our farms down to the next generation. The MILC payment program has helped to supplement the loss of family income but is insignificant in paying monthly operating bills.

Agribusiness marketing and processing giants want to monopolize all the profits from every sector, wholesale and retail. Even government payments are merely subsidies passed to agribusiness through farmers. Of course, the dairy farmer has absolutely no means by which he can provide an income other than taking whatever milk procurers decide to pay. Today’s price support at $9.90 is of little benefit to dairy farmers given the fact that the average cost of production (according to the USDA Economic Research Service) for 100 lbs. of milk for Wisconsin in February 2007 was $23.68. We need a realistic price support or floor price that reflects the true cost of production. Today we are receiving $14 to $15/cwt, which can keep no dairy farmer in business.

I appreciate this opportunity to submit a prepared statement. Dairy farmers need a fair price for their production. Our country deserves a program that will work for all family dairy farmers regardless of region and one that works for all of us in our role as farmers, consumers, and taxpayers.
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Hilmar Cheese Co. website
http://www.hilmarcheese.com/dalhartfacility.cms
Dalhart, Texas Facility

Construction of Hilmar Cheese Company’s new cheese and whey protein plant in Dalhart, Texas is proceeding on schedule. The facility will be able to process an additional 5 million pounds of milk each day... Dalhart was selected for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to:

• Proximity to existing and new East Coast and Midwest customers;
• Access to a growing and reliable local milk supply;
• Excellent local infrastructure, including ground and rail transportation;
• Positive local business climate including state support for economic development; and
• A stable regulatory environment.

The new processing facility is being constructed in two phases. Phase I is well underway and expected to be completed on time and on budget in the Fall of 2007. The new plant will initially employ 120 people.

We will begin hiring for the new facility 2007. Please check the Hilmar Cheese Company employment page for updates. Visit Work in Texas to learn more.
Articles about the new facility:

Hoard's Dairyman West February 2007

Amarillo Newschannel 10 February 2007

Hoard's Dairyman West April 26, 2006

Amarillo Economic Development Corporation

Learn more about Dalhart, Texas with these links:
High Plains Dairy Council
“Official” Home Page for Dalhart
Texas High Ground

For information about supplying milk for the new facility, please contact David Ahlem 806-244-8801.

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Bioterror pork in Bean Town

Submitted: May 16, 2007

The north San Joaquin Valley public might benefit from considering a few remarks made by Boston University professors regarding the Bio Safety Level-4 laboratory under construction in Boston now. Although the National Emerging Infectius Diseases Laboratory is sited in a densely populated lower income neighborhood, while the proposed site for the UC/Bechtel, Etc./Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory BSL-4 is in the middle of a bomb-testing range east of Tracy, what the BU professors said pertains. Rather than considering BSL-4 labs as vital elements of national security, it might be useful to consider then military pork projects potentially quite dangerous to nearly human and animal residents.

“The funding for the lab was based on the assessment that the U.S. needed more BSL-4 capacity to defend against the ‘GWOT’ (global war on terrorism),” George Annas, BU health and law professor and one of the voices of opposition from within the university, told a conference on May 5.

“I think this is incorrect, and the building of more labs devoted to ‘bioterrorism’ both overstates the need and creates at least as much, if not more, dangers” for the community, said Annas, author of “American Bioethics: Crossing Human Rights and Health Law Boundaries“...

“The problem with labs like this is they concentrate on agents that are extremely unlikely to afflict humans (for example, inhalational anthrax) and use scarce resources that could be applied to real threats from national and emerging infectious diseases,” BU environmental health professor David Ozonoff said in an interview for this report.

Karen Slater, who works in the BU department of anatomy and neurobiology, where the relationship between problems involving the brain and arterial pressure are studied, said that “money that has been for basic research is now directed to the Homeland Security Department.”

Furthermore, the proliferation of BSL-4 labs could have other repercussions for security.

“In research on next-generation (pathogenic) agents, we will be engaging in an arms race with ourselves,” says microbiology chief Ebright.

Because no other country has the capacity to develop these agents, “we potentially will be arming our adversaries,” warned the scientist. -- May 15, 2007, Inter Press Service

Bill Hatch
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5-15-07
Inter Press Service
Boston Residents Face to Face with Bio-War
by Zilia Castrillón
www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=37737

BOSTON, United States - The U.S. government and Boston University are facing protests and lawsuits for building a laboratory to research potential biological weapons in a neighborhood whose residents are mostly African-American and Latinos.Approved by the federal government in February 2006, the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory is better known locally as the BSL-4, for biosafety level 4, the highest risk, determined by the type of material the scientists are working with. Construction began in March and the lab is scheduled for completion in 2008.
“They sell us the idea of the laboratory in our neighborhood because it would provide jobs for the families. The work in reality is not for us, but for the high-level researchers that will move here,” says social worker Carmen Nazario, of Puerto Rican origin, and a resident of Villa Victoria, a community of predominantly Latin American immigrants in Boston’s South End.
Within about a one-kilometer radius of the site live some 50,000 people. Boston, in the north-eastern U.S. state of Massachusetts, is home to more than 600,000 people...
Nazario is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the federal government and Boston University, accused of violating national environmental law in failing to study the laboratory’s possible risks and effects on the communities’ health.
The original lawsuit was filed in May 2005. As a result, the court called for new environmental and health impact studies, which were to be presented last month for public review, but have been delayed.
The case will be taken up by the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, of which Boston is the capital, to determine whether construction of the lab will continue or not.
According to Boston University (BU), which received 128 million dollars from the National Institutes of Health and is to pay its share of 50 million dollars to complete construction, it is imperative to begin medical research about pathogenic agents and the human immune response to them...

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