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Precaution Reporter

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #129 "Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World" Wednesday, February 13, 2008printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Virginia Town Bans Chemical and Radioactive Bodily Trespass
A municipality takes precautionary action against chemical exposures without informed consent ("chemical trespass"): Halifax, Va. joins the growing list of communities recognizing the rights of nature.
Fluoridation's Evaporating Support
"Even if it's sixty years late, the precautionary principle remains a valid guide. Further damage will end with a moratorium on fluoride."
Modifying Crops a Risky Venture
"As things stand in Canada and the U.S., the precautionary principle has been abandoned and GM [genetically modified] crops can be marketed as long as the producing company asserts there is no harm. As scientists are not looking for harm, none is being found."
Nokia Pays Heed To Greenpeace
In the latest Greenpeace report Nokia has lost its leadership. But it has also been praised for it embrace of the precautionary principle, its chemicals management, its timeline for phaseout of vinyl and brominated flame retardants, and its individual producer responsibility.
Scientists, Politicians Aim To Tackle Drugs in the Water Supply
"This is where things get a little sticky," says Metcalfe. "A lot of research on risk assessment and levels in drinking water is just being done." However, the "precautionary principle suggests we must do everything we can to reduce these chemicals in drinking water."
Shark Tourists 'Are Putting Lives in Jeopardy'
Craig Bovim, who survived a great white attack five years ago, said that the precautionary principle should apply. "It's common sense that people shouldn't be baiting and teasing a very dangerous animal in proximity to humans," he said.
Endless Detention
Does a precautionary approach to terrorism mean we must abandon the principles of civilized behavior that were established in the year 1215 in the Magna Carta? A libertarian perspective on the United States of America's abandonment of habeas corpus.

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From: The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
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VIRGINIA TOWN BANS CHEMICAL AND RADIOACTIVE BODILY TRESPASS

On February 7, 2008, the Town Council of Halifax, Virginia, voted unanimously to adopt an ordinance banning corporate chemical and radioactive bodily trespass. Enacted to confront concerns about the proposed uranium mine in adjacent Pittsylvania County, the ordinance establishes strict liability and burden-of-proof standards for culpable corporations and government entities that permit and facilitate corporate bodily trespass.

The ordinance also strips corporations of constitutional protections within the town. The Town of Halifax thus becomes the 10th municipality in the nation to refuse to recognize corporate constitutional "rights," and to prohibit corporate rights from being used to override the rights of human and natural communities.

The ordinance adopted by the Halifax Town Council also recognizes the rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish within the town and provides for the enforcement and defense of those rights, and prohibits corporations from interfering with the civil rights of residents, including residents' right to self-government. The ordinance was drafted for the Halifax Town Council by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit law firm.

Ben Price, Projects Director for the Legal Defense Fund commented that "The people of the Town of Halifax have determined that they do not consent to be irradiated, nor to be trespassed upon, by toxic substances that would be released by Virginia Uranium, Inc., or any other state-chartered corporation. The people have asserted their right and their duty to protect their families, environment, and future generations. In enacting this law, the community has gone on record as rejecting the legal theory behind Dillon's Rule, which erroneously asserts that there is no inherent right to local self- government. The American Revolution was about nothing less than the fundamental right of the people to be the decision-makers on issues directly affecting the communities in which they live. They understood that a central government, at some distance removed from those affected, acts beyond its authority in empowering a few powerful men - privileged with chartered immunities and rights superior to the people in the community -- to deny citizens' rights, impose harm, and refuse local self-determination. The people of the Town of Halifax have acted in the best tradition of liberty and freedom, and confronted injustice in the form of a state-permitted corporate assault against the consent of the sovereign people."

Shireen Parsons, the Legal Defense Fund's Virginia Organizer, commended the action of the Halifax Town Council, stating that, "The council members demonstrated courage and solidarity in their commitment to justice and their duty to govern in the interest of protecting and preserving the health, safety and wellbeing of the people from whom they derive their power. This is the beginning of something wonderful in Virginia."

Halifax Town Council member Jack Dunavant said of the decision, "This is an historic vote. We, the people, intend to protect our health and environment from corporate assault. It's time to invoke the Constitution and acknowledge the power of the people to protect our own destiny and end this era of corporate greed and pollution."

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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, has worked with communities resisting corporate assaults upon democratic self-governance since 1995. Among other programs, it has brought its unique Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools to communities in 26 states in which people seek to end destructive and rights-denying corporate acts routinely permitted by state and federal agencies. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 100 municipalities have enacted ordinances authored by the Legal Defense Fund.

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From: Alaska Report
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FLUORIDATION'S EVAPORATING SUPPORT

By Douglas Yates

First published by The Ester Republic, January 2008

In October, Alaska's third-largest city asked voters to consider using fluoride to medicate the town's water supply. The issue required a simple up or down vote, one that local water users were eminently qualified to make. The Chicago-based American Dental Association, an advocacy organization, didn't see it that way. The ADA shipped in consultants, hired gofers, and purchased ad space in all the media outlets.

The advertising barrage, however, had little sway with capital-city residents; they failed to see the virtues of fluoride. In a landslide fashion, Juneau voted to ban the chemical, keeping its water some of the purest in the state. Despite spending $167,000, the pro-fluoride forces garnered a feeble 38 percent. The clean water folks, polling 62 percent, spent only $7,000 in media, relying on word of mouth and the Internet to spread the word.

Juneau's vote demonstrates that fluoride has overstayed its welcome in many American municipalities. As a mandatory drug, fluoride is facing buyer's remorse and outright refusal in a growing list of cities.

For sixty years this reactive chemical and highly poisonous substance has been touted to communities, the publicity cloaked in good intentions. The message has been: "Poor folks' teeth need a quick fix to assure they enjoy the benefits of healthy teeth, just like rich folks. Fluoride is the ticket."

The fluoride campaign began in the late 1930s and continues to this day. It was hatched at the highest levels of Alcoa, the aluminum mining and smelting corporation. Fluoride is a waste product produced during aluminum processing and requires special handling and disposal. Treating it as a hazardous material is expensive and eroded Aloca's bottom line.

Today, Alcoa has been joined by US Steel, DuPont, Alcan, Reynolds Metals, Kaiser Aluminum, Allied Chemical, and the Florida phosphate fertilizer industry. Each contributes a share of the 155,000 tons of fluoride waste sold to municipal water systems nationwide. The operation is so sophisticated that its influence extends to academia, media, and government.

The net result is that three generations of Americans have been used as industrial waste filters. The vast majority of fluoride is then dumped into the environment via water treatment outfalls. In the case of Fairbanks, the chemical waste ends up in the Tanana River.

Fluoride's political history is recounted in a recent book, The Fluoride Deception, by Christopher Bryson (published 2004). A former BBC reporter, Bryson investigated the origins of fluoride's use in water systems and documents how an obscure finding purporting dental benefit was hijacked by major corporations to avoid the cost of doing business.

As reported by Bryson and others, the revolving door between industry and government, a research project faking fluoride's effectiveness, and the perception-management wizardry of Edward Bernays allowed Alcoa and other fluoride-producing industries to begin shunting the waste into water systems.

Bernays was Sigmund Freud's nephew and familiar with Freud's psychological research. Historians believe this understanding was a critical element in selling fluoride to the American people. With its reputation as a commercial rat poison and use in Nazi and Soviet prison camps (it makes inmates docile), Bernays had an uphill climb. However, using psychological hot buttons (fear, greed, envy, guilt), and a compliant media, Bernays engineered fluoride's social acceptance.

As it turns out, fluoride's use in Soviet-era prison camps has a local connection. During World War II, President Roosevelt supported the Soviet Union with tons of military and industrial material. Called the Lend-Lease program, it was aimed at helping defeat the German army at Russia's front door. Cargo airlifted from the Lower 48 was staged in Fairbanks at what is now Ft. Wainwright, where it was turned over to Russian pilots for flights over the Bering Strait. Among the cargo manifests are thousands of pounds of sodium fluoride.

It's not known what Bernays thought of using fluoride for prison control. However, it's clear from the following passage that he counted himself among the invisible elite:

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Sidebar

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. [Propaganda, reissued in 2004 by Ig Publishing]

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For his success with fluoride, and earlier work for pork producers ("bacon and eggs for breakfast") and cigarettes ("torches of liberty"), Bernays is considered the father of the public relations industry.

In many parts of the world, Bernays' fluoride spin has been rejected. New science about how it alters body chemistry as well as a growing number of studies that show dental health in communities with fluoride fares no better than those without it, have canceled earlier support. Such was the justification offered by Zurich, Switzerland officials when fluoride was discontinued several years ago. Similar data has caused fluoride to be banned in Japan, China, India, and most of Europe. Fluoride's strongholds are the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

While fluoride proponents still have affiliates in national health organizations, many have withdrawn support. Among the health advocates opposing fluoride are: the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, the American Academy of Diabetes, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Kidney Foundation, and the Society of Toxicology.

Some of the most effective anti-fluoride campaigners are former supporters. Consider Hardy Limeback, BSc, PhD, DDS, head of the Department of Preventive Dentistry for the University of Toronto and president of the Canadian Association for Dental Research. In an April 1999 interview, Limeback, once a vocal advocate of the drug, stated, "Children under three should never use fluoridated toothpaste or drink fluoridated water. And baby formula must never be made up using Toronto tap water. Never."

Seven years later, in 2006, the ADA, followed by the CDC, issued advisories calling on mothers to stop using tap water to mix baby formula. The ADA has also recently acknowledged that fluoride has no value when used systemically, that its only effectiveness comes from topical applications. Nevertheless, the federal health bureaucracy calls fluoride a major advancement, apparently in denial about the schizophrenic nature of its policies.

Adding further momentum to calls to end fluoridation, a study released last year by the National Academies' National Research Council (NRC), sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency, found that the current maximum levels of fluoride allowed by the EPA in drinking water should be lowered due to concerns over adverse health effects. The current maximum contaminant level of fluoride is 4 mg/L. The NRC found that these levels are too high and "not protective" of the population.

Numerous studies reviewed by the NRC report that fluoride is linked to subclinical or malfunctioning thyroid glands. This is "associated with increased cholesterol concentrations, increased incidence of depression, diminished response to standard psychiatric treatment, cognitive dysfunction, and in pregnant women, decreased IQ of their offspring."

The NRC study says that sources for internal fluoride exposure include inhalation and dermal absorption. This means that when you bathe or shower fluoride is entering your body via breathing and contact. The NRC panel then examined numerous reports showing an association between fluoride ingestion and a range of physical complaints that included thyroid disorder, brittle bones, kidney failure, arthritis, and cancer.

Some of the most telling science of fluoride's effects comes from the work of Roger Masters, an emeritus researcher at Dartmouth College. Masters directed research that found an insidious connection between fluoride and lead. The study compared children's blood in communities using fluoride-treated water with communities using nonfluoridated water. Drawing from samples of more than 400,000 children, increased blood lead levels were always associated with fluoride-treated water. According to Masters, fluoride leaches lead from the water system's pipes and fixtures.

In light of this work and other new data, the justification for using fluoride in water systems evaporates. No one can rationally contend that its benefit exceeds its cost. Who disputes the fact that chronic lead poisoning lowers IQ and promotes criminal behavior? Yet in the presence of fluoridated water, small amounts of lead are are disabling generations of Americans.

The evidence continues to mount against fluoride. This month Scientific American magazine carries a major article that assembles much of the data in one place. "Scientific attitudes toward fluoridation may be starting to shift," writes author Dan Fagin.

Fagin, the Director of New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, says, "There is no universally accepted optimal level for daily intake of fluoride." Fagin reports that some researchers wonder whether the 1 mg/L (250 times more fluoride than breast milk) added to drinking water is too much.

Fagin's Scientific American article highlights total consumption because fluoride is also found in foods, beverages, medicines, and dental products. With fluoride coming from a variety of sources, experts fear we are overdosing ourselves. Fluoride overconsumption is visible first in children as dental fluorosis -- white-spotted, yellow, brown and/or pitted teeth. This is a sign of too much fluoride. Depending on location, estimates of childhood fluorosis in the US range between 30 to 80 percent.

Before class-action lawsuits are filed, before the weight of science crushes the bureaucracy, let's take heed of the accumulated facts and make the necessary adjustments. Even if it's sixty years late, the precautionary principle remains a valid guide. Further damage will end with a moratorium on fluoride.

Douglas Yates is a writer and photographer with a keen interest in water. He lives in Ester, Alaska.

More on fluoride:

www.fluoridealert.org

"Second Thoughts about Fluoride," by Dan Fagin. Scientific American, January 2008

"Water Fluoridation: A Review of Recent Research and Actions," by Joel M. Kauffman, PhD. Journal of Am. Physicians and Surgeons, Summer 2005 (10:2:38). Available on line as a pdf at www.jpands.org/vol10 no2/kauffman.pdf

"Fluoride water 'causes cancer'," by Bob Woffinden. The Observer, Sunday, June 12, 2005. Available on line at http://observ er.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,1504672,00.html

"Juneau, stop adding fluoride to water," guest opinion by David Ottoson, Juneau businessman. Juneau Empire, September 11, 2006. Available on line at www.juneauempire.com/stories/091106/op i_20060911097.shtml

City and Borough of Juneau public analysis of fluoride, available on line at www.juneau.org/clerk/boards/Fluoride/Fluoride_Stu dy_Commission.php

First published by The Ester Republic, January 2008

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From: BCLocalNews (Victoria, British Columbia)
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MODIFYING CROPS A RISKY VENTURE

By Roy Strang

Once upon a time (no, this is not a fairy tale!) the car manufacturer General Motors was happy to claim that "What is good for GM is good for U.S." Now that all of the big three North American car makers face strong competition from across the Pacific, that aphorism has lost its sting. A different GM has come into being and, just as that first assertion was flawed, the second, which means 'Genetically Modified', is far from being an unmixed blessing.

So long as GM scientists and practitioners use their sophisticated technologies to advance the time-honoured work of plant and animal breeders, it can be beneficial. Through careful observation, parent selection and crossing we've come a long way from the original low- yield barley and wheat of the Fertile Crescent some 20,000 years ago. Many of the garden flowers we nurture and cherish today are the result of careful and thoughtful crossings.

Farm food crops selected to withstand drought or grow in soils with high sodium content are undoubtedly beneficial. Similarly, selective and thoughtful breeding over decades -- if not centuries -- has given us today's pets and farm stock.

Sadly, dangerously, genetic scientists have gone far beyond emulating or hastening natural processes of development. Employed by major agro- chemical firms, they are developing sterile plants so that the historical practice of retaining seed from a harvest for next year's planting is useless, and farmers have to purchase new seeds each year from these companies which have cornered the market; remember prairie farmer Percy Schmeiser's losing battle with Monsanto? Herbicide- resistant crop plants facilitate chemical weeding, but they are genetically-uniform.

In other words, this is monoculture carried to an extreme with all its attendant risks, though it does create a market for the herbicides produced and promoted by agri-business.

It is well established that insects can, and do, develop resistance to artificial insecticides. Accordingly, the natural bacillus toxin, Bt, is being used more and more. Formerly it was applied as a spray, now it is being inserted into plant's genetic structure. It seems inevitable that, with its widespread use, insects will develop immunity or resistance to Bt and so we shall be deprived of what was once a safe, effective plant protection tool.

As plants become more closely bred and specialized with an increasingly narrow gene base, they will become increasingly vulnerable to disease and, should this happen as in the Irish potato blight, disastrous harvest losses will be inevitable.

Also, we are in real danger of losing genetic information stored in the variety of plant strains which are being discarded as low-yielding or otherwise unsuitable for modern mechanized farming.

Another area of concern is the absence of long-term examination of the health effects of 'artificial' plants. As things stand in Canada and the U.S., the precautionary principle has been abandoned and GM crops can be marketed as long as the producing company asserts there is no harm. As scientists are not looking for harm, none is being found.

Another problem is that it is becoming harder and harder for a grower to retain organic certification since, increasingly, crop plants are being genetically modified, so growers cannot easily claim to be GM free, which is essential for certification.

In moves suggestive of horror films or science fiction, genetic scientists are now trying to mix animal and plant genes.

Their rationale seems to be "let's try this new avenue," and the cautionary question "should we be doing this?" is muted, or even ignored.

While we must be wary of telling corporations how they spend their money, is there a point when the community should say "this has gone as far as it should?" Certainly shareholders are in a position to ask for answers, and the electorate can call a government to account if public funds are allocated to questionable research.

Dr. Roy Strang writes weekly on the environment for the Peace Arch News. westerlea@shaw.ca

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From: Efytimes
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NOKIA PAYS HEED TO GREENPEACE

By Prasoon Srivastava

Reacting to the news Nokia Caught Red-Handed In Green Fight -- which claimed Nokia representatives in the Philippines, Thailand, Argentina, Russia and India were not informed about their companies' own programmes and, in many cases, provided misleading information -- Nokia has sworn to make these corrections in the shortest possible time.

In its comment sent to EFY News, the company highlighted its achievement in the Greenpeace ranking guide as responsible producer but also accepted the gap detected by Greenpeace in its takeback and recycling programme.

"Nokia takes environmental issues seriously and in today's rankings, Greenpeace gives us top marks for acknowledging our responsibility as a producer. However, they have also identified some gaps in our takeback and recycling programme, and we plan to take immediate action in these areas," said an official spokesperson from Nokia.

Nokia in the last issue of Greenpeace International 'Guide to Greener Electronics' achieved top position in the list of green companies. In the latest Greenpeace report, however, Nokia has lost its leadership. But it has also been praised for it precautionary principle, chemicals management, timeline for PVC (Poly vinyl chloride) and BFR phaseout and individual producer responsibility.

Nokia said the company has collection points for used mobiles and accessories in 85 countries across the world. The spokesperson acknowledged that Greenpeace contacted some of these collection points and identified gaps in the service and information available.

"This is valuable feedback, and we will conduct our own audit to assess standards. We are committed to ensuring that our staff in Nokia service centres is properly trained on this issue and that information is easily available for consumers," said Nokia spokesperson.

Greenpeace has welcomed the response from Nokia and demanded that it implements its policy in a user-friendly manner.

"Nokia should not only improve their policy but also implement their programme in easy and practical manner for users. We also expect Nokia to support extended producer responsibility in India," said Ramapati Kumar, toxics campaigner, Greenpeace India.

Copyright 2007

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From: Epoch Times (New York City)
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SCIENTISTS, POLITICIANS AIM TO TACKLE DRUGS IN THE WATER SUPPLY

By Sharda Vaidyanath, Epoch Times Parliament Hill

A partnership between politics and science in an effort to clean up Canadian waters is gaining momentum in the new session of Parliament.

Chris Metcalfe, a professor in Environmental and Resource Studies at Trent University, brought cutting edge science to explain the effects of "subtle contaminants" such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) to Parliament Hill on Tuesday.

PPCPs include prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, cosmetics, sun-screen products, diagnostic agents and nutraceuticals such as vitamins.

PPCPs find their way into water and soil through excretion residues from pharmaceutical manufacturing and hospitals, illicit drug use and veterinary drugs used in agribusiness, especially antibiotics and steroids.

"The source is us," says Metcalfe.

Just back from a workshop in the United Kingdom, Metcalfe says his European colleagues "are quite shocked at how little of the advanced waste water management technology is used in Canada."

Advanced scientific technology to identify these toxins began in Europe about a dozen years ago but in Canada it has only been in existence since 2001.

Because of under-funding, many municipalities still have only basic or primary water treatment facilities, and the latest technology to detect PPCPs doesn't come cheap.

Metcalfe leads Trent University's state-of-the-art microenvironment laboratory that will use new technology to develop more effective environmental management plans related to energy development, water protection, transportation and community health.

It is the most sophisticated scientific equipment in North America with a price tag of about half a million dollars, says Metcalfe, who has done testing for municipalities in Alberta and Waterloo.

"We're certainly at an advantage because our source water, the Ottawa River, has a huge watershed upstream of us with very, very little population or discharges in it. From that point of view, this isn't one of the rivers that is expected to have significant compounds in it," said Dixon Weir, director of Water and Waste Water Service for the City of Ottawa.

However, Weir adds, "we're in a fact-finding, fact-gathering exercise," and in 2008, the city will be going forward with a sampling program to test for PPCPs at a cost of $20,000 for eight water samples.

Politicians have been talking about the plight of Canada's waters for a long time and last week Liberal MP Paul Steckle reminded the House that the health of the Great Lakes, a source of fresh water for industry, residents, commercial fishery and tourist trade, has been neglected.

"Water levels are down and bacteria levels are up. Beaches are closed during summer and invasive species are ravaging the ecosystem," said Steckle.

Bloc Quebecois MP Guy Andre told the House about a private member's bill which aims to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act "to prohibit the manufacturing, sale or import into Canada of dishwashing or laundry detergents that contain phosphorous."

Andre said the presence of phosphorus has caused widespread cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, which poses a public health risk "as potential irritants, allergens and toxins."

In Quebec, the situation is worsening with each passing year, said Andre. "This phenomenon affected 50 lakes in 2005, 107 in 2006, and nearly 200 in 2007."

Synthetic hormones such as estrogen, thyroid replacement pills, blood lipid regulators and anti-depressants have all been detected in surface and ground water.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website says PPCPs are bioactive chemicals or substances that have an effect on living tissue.

And while certain drugs and chemicals can cause ecological harm, the EPA says there's no evidence of adverse human health effects from PPCPs in the environment.

However, the Health Canada website says "Complex mixtures of chemicals in drinking water and recycled water could have additive, synergistic or even antagonistic effects, even when concentrations of the individual chemicals are very low or comply with water quality guideline values."

"This is where things get a little sticky," says Metcalfe. "A lot of research on risk assessment and levels in drinking water is just being done." However, the "precautionary principle suggests we must do everything we can to reduce these chemicals in drinking water."

Metcalfe says 60 percent of waste water sludge is dumped onto agricultural lands. "I get a lot of phone calls about that from concerned citizens."

Buying bottled water isn't the solution and in many cases the water quality may be worse than tap water, he says, adding that paying more taxes to upgrade water treatment facilities is a greater return on investment.

Protecting water quality at the source rather than at the distribution end would avoid incidents such as the E. coli outbreak in Walkerton in 2000 when nearly half the city's population fell ill and several people died, says Metcalfe.

As for the cosmetic industry, thanks author Paula Begoun's pioneering work in the 1990s, organic cosmetics using less harmful ingredients are becoming increasingly popular. In Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, Begoun exposed the chemicals used in cosmetics and their inflated claims and prices.

Metcalfe recommends using "green label" household products and returning unused or outdated drugs to pharmacists as part of the solution to cleaning up our water.

Ontario passed its Clean Water Act last year and currently the Canadian Council of Environmental Ministers is in the consultation process and will be producing a report to help both federal and provincial governments with better legislation.

Canada's regulatory approach is moving in lockstep with the U.S. says Metcalfe.

Copyright (c) 2000 -- 2008 The Epoch USA, Inc.

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From: The Telegraph (London, U.K.)
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SHARK TOURISTS 'ARE PUTTING LIVES IN JEOPARDY'

By Sebastien Berger in Gansbaai, South Africa

Tourists who flock in their thousands to watch sharks off South Africa's Cape have been warned that they might be cost lives by attracting the predators closer to the shore.

Some believe that the tourist trips are altering the nature of the sharks' attitude to humans

Every year about 50,000 people travel to Gansbaai for a close encounter with the area's great whites, drawn in by the presence of a huge colony of Cape fur seals, and each day boats set out to sea to give tourists a closer look.Dangling bags of "chum" -- usually mashed fish -- a scent trail is created, and pieces of tuna on a line are used to draw the sharks towards divers in a cage on the side of the boat.

When a great white shark rams the cage, inches away from a diver's face, the adrenaline immediately blots out the cold of the southern seas. But while the visitors are safe, others believe the practice is inherently risky.

In recent years six people have been attacked by sharks in the waters off the Cape annually, with on average one person killed.

Craig Bovim, who survived a great white attack five years ago, said that the precautionary principle should apply. "It's common sense that people shouldn't be baiting and teasing a very dangerous animal in proximity to humans," he said. "If there's any doubt that we're influencing the behaviour of the apex predator of our oceans then we should not interfere with it at all."

advertisementMr Bovim, 40, was diving for lobster off Scarborough, near Cape Town, when he was "surprised by a very large animal". He said: "It bit me on both my forearms and was swimming slowly out to sea with me being held under water. I was drowning at the same time."

With death imminent, he headbutted and kneed the shark until it released him, and he struggled back to shore. "There was no fear, it was very calm," he said. But he added: "It was a very close call. I lost a lot of blood."

Shark spotters have since been employed at a number of beaches. Yvonne Kamp, who co-ordinates the spotters, said that while anecdotal evidence of sharks coming close to shore was increasing, that could be due to more people in the water and greater awareness.

There was no evidence that shark-spotting was responsible, she said.

The boat operators themselves insist there is no way their practices can train sharks to see people as food. Brian McFarlane, 59, who owns Great White Shark Tours, said: "Any time a surfer or diver has been attacked they like to point a finger at us. Yes, somebody will get bitten in the next month or two months or six months, possibly even today.

"The shark is hunting for a seal or a turtle or dolphin and attacks this moving object which may happen to be a human.

"More than likely he will spit him out because he will realise he's made a mistake because humans are not in his food chain."

Great whites are solitary creatures that can swim vast distances. There are no reliable estimates of their numbers, but it is listed as vulnerable on the World Conservation Union Red List of endangered species.

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From: Reason Magazine
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ENDLESS DETENTION

By Julian Sanchez

In a meadow near Windsor one fine day in 1215, King John, under pressure from disgruntled nobles, affixed his royal seal to the Magna Carta, clause 39 of which provided:

"No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."

The War on Terror is often framed as a clash between western champions of modernity and the medieval mindset of Salafis. Yet these days our own commitment to even medieval guarantees of due process often seems, at best, half-hearted. As The Washington Post reported on Sunday [Jan. 2, 2005], the Pentagon and CIA are developing "long term solutions" for terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay and various CIA facilities whom the government intends neither to release nor, due to lack of evidence, to try in court. Proposals include the construction of "Camp 6" (a belated sequel, perhaps, to Slaughterhouse Five), a $25 million prison to house 200 people. Indefinitely.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, has already distanced himself from the idea, agreeing with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that "some modicum of due process" is required before even foreigners are imprisoned for life. Yet with details still maddeningly vague at this stage, nobody seems entirely sure yet just what makes a modicum.

The Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush this summer established that detainees at Guantanamo's Camp X-Ray have a right to some sort of review of their designation as enemy combatants. Most of the 550 prisoners (a term the administration continues to reject -- "detainees," please) still held at Guantanamo have since been affording such a hearing. Two have been recommended for release. This indicates either that the military did a remarkably good job of filtering when, prior to the Court's decision, it released some 200 prisoners deemed of little intelligence value, or that these "combatant status review tribunals" have a distinctly marsupial character. In November, Washington, D.C., Disctrict Court Judge James Robertson ordered a halt to the trial by tribunal of Salim Ahmed Hamdn, alleged to be Osama bin Laden's chauffeur, repudiating "the government's argument that the President has untrammeled power to establish military tribunals," and some 50 other detainees have filed challenges to the review process, alleging that it fails to provide due process.

Civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate, who writes about the rights of detainees in a January reason cover story, suspects the government may attempt to sidestep the controversy by "plunging into one of the glaring loopholes in the Supreme Court's decision. The Court's ruling in Rasul turned on its finding that, despite being located on Cuban soil, Camp X-Ray is de facto under the "complete jurisdiction and control" of the United States. That leaves open the possibility, says Silverglate, that a U.S.-sponsored prison on foreign soil, over which another government exercised greater nominal control, might escape such scrutiny. And if the 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act, passed by the House of Representatives this fall, is any indication, legislators are eager to make it easier for the Director of Homeland Security to render aliens into the hands of foreign governments, whether or not they have any connection to the country to which they're being sent.

As the debate over the fate of the detainees -- or as much of the debate is allowed to be aired in public -- heats up, many will doubtless be impatient with such dainty regard for the civil rights of a group which surely contains very many vicious thugs, none of whom had the good sense to be born American. We are, as the saying goes, at war -- grappling with monsters. And sometimes mercy drops not like a gentle rain but a hailstorm: As of late December, a dozen of the roughly 200 Guantanamo detainees released were known to have returned -- or at least turned -- to the fight against the U.S.

Lives are at stake in the War on Terror, of course. But lives are always at stake. When we release murder suspects whose guilt cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, we implicitly commit ourselves to living among people we imagine are quite likely killers. If all that mattered were minimizing the risk to life, why not adopt for murder trials the "preponderance of the evidence" standard used in civil cases, or even the "precautionary principle" urged by environmentalists?

We decided long ago, at least when it comes to domestic justice, that there are abysses into which a free society will not stare, even at the cost of assuming significant risk. But when those same risks come clothed in the words war and terror, we become suddenly timorous, fearful of holding ourselves to even dramatically watered down evidentiary standards lest we release one guilty man along with 10 innocents.

We are at war. But even wars have rules, and even prisoners of war are supposed to be tried for war crimes or, at war's end, released. The rules are trickier now: Absent the prospect of signing a treaty for cessation of hostilities with a denationalized radical ummah, the war isn't over until we say so. For practical purposes, if the government has its way, that will mean we assume the power to watch men, so long as they're foreigners, grow old and die in a cage, either here or abroad, without affording them even the mildest presumption of innocence. If we genuinely believe that freedom is "God Almighty's gift to each and every person in the world," we must step back from that abyss.

Copyright 2008 Reason Magazine.

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
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