Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#866 -- Nuclear Pandemic, 03-Aug-2006


The Minneapolis precautionary action training (Sept. 8-10)
has been given a shot in the arm by an anonymous donor.
More scholarships are now available. Get details here.


Rachel's Democracy & Health News #866

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, August 3, 2006................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.

Featured stories in this issue...

President Bush Clears the Way for a Global Nuclear Expansion
  In recent months, President Bush has reversed long-standing U.S.
  policies, intending to expand nuclear power world-wide. This
  inevitably expands the threat from nuclear weapons.
Anxiety Rises as Paychecks Trail Inflation
  "Since peaking in 2003, the real hourly pay of the median worker
  has fallen about 2 percent. The decline has been closer to 4 percent
  for people in the upper-middle part of the wage distribution and for
  those toward the bottom. In essence, most Americans have not been
  receiving cost-of-living raises, and the national mood seems to be
  shifting as a result."
The Cancer Risk from Trichloroethylene (TCE) Is Rising, Study Finds
  Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is commonly found in drinking water,
  air, and soil. A new report from the National Research Council says
  evidence is growing that TCE causes cancer. What are the
Interview with Howard Zinn
  "A profound and fundamental change in the economic system of this
  country is a necessary, although not sufficient, requirement for
  seriously addressing and diminishing racism."
Editorial: Risk Assessment Is the Main Tool for Deregulation
  The White House is working overtime to roll-back, ignore, and grid-
  lock environmental regulation in the U.S. Risk assessment is the
  center piece of the plan.
Climate Change and Social Change
  The movement to avoid catastrophic climate change will include a
  clean energy revolution -- greatly improved energy efficiency and
  energy conservation. We need a new democracy movement to make it
  possible for governments, local and national, to take corrective
  action on climate change.
Protest and Rally Demanding Climate Justice -- Aug. 26
  A protest and rally demanding climate justice will occur Saturday
  August 26, 2006 in the Washington D.C area. Organized by the Climate
  Emergency Council and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #866, Aug. 3, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Peter Montague

President Bush has said many times that nuclear weapons are the
greatest threat to U.S. security, particularly nuclear weapons in the
hands of hostile groups, like Al Qaeda, or unstable governments.

The tight connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants
is well-understood, unmistakable and unavoidable. People who want to
build nuclear weapons almost always start by building a nuclear power
plant. Israel developed a nuclear arsenal starting with components and
know-how provided by a nuclear power plant. India did the same. So did
India's chief rival, Pakistan. So did India's other major rival,
China. So did North Korea, using reactors provided by China and by
Switzerland. Iraq was building the Osiraq nuclear power plant until
1981 when Israel blew it to smithereens to prevent the next logical
step, an Iraqi A-bomb. Iran is reportedly heading down this same path
now, starting with nuclear reactors provided by our ally, Russia.

Despite the clear, tight connection between nuclear power plants and
nuclear weapons, and despite the President's oft-repeated warning that
the greatest threat to our national security is an atomic bomb in the
wrong hands, the President is now taking very aggressive steps to
expand the number of nuclear power plants worldwide.

In February, Mr. Bush announced a major new U.S. program to sell
nuclear power plants all around the world. The President's program is
called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). An important
first step in the GNEP is to build many more nuclear power plants in
the U.S. -- a "nuclear renaissance," as it is being called in nuclear
industry puff pieces, such as this one from the New York Times.

To build more nuclear plants in the U.S., the problem of nuclear waste
disposal must be solved and the GNEP offers two ways to do this, a
long term solution and a short term solution.

The problem is highly-radioactive reactor fuel. To fuel a reactor,
slightly-enriched uranium is formed into pellets, which are then
packed into long rods. When these rods are placed close to each other
in the core of a reactor, the uranium in the rods undergoes a
controlled chain reaction, producing heat plus new "fission products"
that are intensely radioactive, including plutonium. Eventually these
unwanted fission products "poison" the chain reaction and the fuel
must be withdrawn from the reactor and replaced. The poisoned fuel
rods become "high level radioactive waste" and they must be held
securely for upwards of 240,000 years. Because our species, homo
sapiens, has only been on the planet for roughly 100,000 years, we
have no experience handling long-lived, highly-dangerous problems of
this nature. We are flying blind. Scientists have been working on the
nuclear waste problem since 1940; however, after 66 years of intense
effort, there is still no satisfactory solution in sight.

The current plan for handling these wastes is to bury them in a hole
in the ground beneath the Nevada desert at a place called Yucca
Mountain. Unfortunately, the Yucca Mountain waste dump has been mired
in problems, including falsification of data by scientists of the
U.S. Geological Survey. The Yucca Mountain dump was supposed to open
in 1998, but the government now says there is no way to estimate when
the site will be opened because of the many problems it has
encountered. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy now acknowledges
that by 2010 -- 4 years from now -- the existing nuclear power plants
in the U.S. will have produced enough high-level waste to fill the
Yucca Mountain dump completely. Yucca Mountain will need to be
expanded, or a second high-level waste dump will have to be built, and
the government has not announced any plans for a second waste dump.
Without some solution to this waste problem, nuclear power cannot
readily expand in the U.S.

A group of private utilities calling itself Private Fuel Storage (PFS)
has devised a solution to the high-level waste problem -- "temporary"
storage of up to 100 years on Goshute Indian land in Skull Valley,
Utah. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a license to PFS in
March, but the State of Utah is not enthusiastic about the project, to
put it mildly, and numerous stumbling blocks remain, preventing PFS
from accepting any wastes.

So how can the domestic U.S nuclear industry expand?

The long-term solution to the problem of irradiated reactor fuel is
embodied in President Bush's GNEP plan -- to develop an entirely new
set of machines and processes called an "advanced fuel cycle" to
"reprocess" and "recycle" the irradiated reactor fuel, and reduce the
volume of waste produced by each nuclear power plant, using complex
machines ("fast reactors") and technologies that do not exist today.
At a Congressional hearing on the "advanced fuel cycle" in April,
members of Congress estimated that the GNEP could cost upwards of $200
billion. "This would put GNEP in the realm of the U.S. space program
in terms of long-term cost," said Representative Al Green (D-Tex.). It
seems clear that Mr. Bush and his friends at General Electric and
Westinghouse -- the only U.S. firms that still manufacture nuclear
power plants -- are serious about tapping the taxpayer in a major way
to make this global business venture work for them.

Obviously an expensive and experimental program of this nature can
expect to encounter significant delays (not to mention cost overruns).
Even optimistic estimates have the first test machines starting to
operate around 2014 to 2019, so this will not solve the growing high-
level waste problem, which is already preventing the U.S. nuclear
industry from expanding.

So some other short-term solution is needed.

As luck would have it, the President's GNEP provides the solution. As
a first step toward implementing GNEP, President Bush announced July 8
that he has decided to permit "extensive U.S. civilian nuclear
cooperation with Russia for the first time... reversing decades of
bipartisan policy," the Washington Post reported.

The Post noted that Mr. Bush had resisted such a move for years,
insisting that Russia first stop building a nuclear power station for
Iran near the Persian Gulf. But the administration has changed its
mind, now viewing Mr. Putin, Russia's leader, as a "more constructive
partner" in trying to pressure Iran to abandon plans for making A-

Now here's the important part: The Post pointed out that, a nuclear
cooperation agreement would clear the way for Russia to import and
store thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied
reactors around the world. The Post says this is a critical component
of Mr. Bush's plan to spread civilian nuclear energy to power-hungry
countries everywhere on earth because Russia would provide a place to
send the used radioactive material. Under this scenario, it doesn't
matter if the long-term solution ("fast reactors" and all the rest)
ever develops -- Russia will become the world's permanent waste dump.

The Post noted that some people have criticized Russia's plan to turn
itself into the world's nuclear waste dump because Russia has a
miserable record of nuclear accidents and horrendous widespread
contamination from nuclear wastes. Its transportation network is
antiquated and inadequate for moving vast quantities of radioactive
material. And the country has not fully secured the nuclear facilities
it already has against theft or accidents. Not to mention that it has
recently been supplying nuclear technology to Iran.

Never mind all that. The Post summarizes: Mr. Bush's new Global
Nuclear Energy Partnership envisions promoting civilian nuclear power
around the world and eventually finding a way to reprocess spent fuel
without the danger of leaving behind material that could be used for
bombs. Until such technology is developed, Mr. Bush needs someplace to
store the spent fuel from overseas, and Russia is the only volunteer.

So there you have it. Mr. Bush has a grand plan for placing nuclear
power plants around the globe in every country that wants one. There
used to be a major hurdle blocking such proliferation of A-plants,
called the Non-Proliferation Treaty. ("Proliferation" is the official
term for spreading A-bomb-making capabilities from country to
country.) Countries that want nuclear power plants used to have to
sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), promising not to make any
nuclear weapons. The NPT was standing in the way of Mr. Bush's grand
plan for a nuke in every country that wants one, so earlier this year
he quashed the NPT with great fanfare by announcing that he was
ignoring it. He signed a deal providing U.S. nuclear power technology
to India -- a nation that has pointedly never signed the NPT. As the
New York Times observed, the President has turned the NPT "into Swiss
cheese." In direct violation of the NPT, India will now receive
nuclear fuel from the U.S., freeing India's home-made nuclear fuel for
diversion into A-bombs -- the very situation the NPT was designed to

So the skids are now fully-greased for Mr. Bush's grand global plan
for a nuke plant in every garage. The non-proliferation treaty is
effectively dead, and the problem of high-level waste has been
"solved" by arranging for it all to be sent to Russia. To be sure,
some details remain to be worked out, but the outlines of the
President's Grand Nuclear Plan are now in place.

Only one major question remains. Why would President Bush want to
spread nuclear power plants -- and thus the very real threat of
nuclear weapons -- around the world?

As we search for an answer to this perplexing question, rational
thought fails us, so we turn instead to dark humor. On July 19, Mike
Peters, the Pulitzer prize winning cartoonist for the Dayton Daily
News ran a cartoon of three Presidential figures -- Eisenhower,
Nixon, and George W. Bush. The banner above the three reads,
"Republican Campaign Slogans." On his chest, Mr. Eisenhower has the
words, "I like Ike." Mr. Nixon's slogan is, "Four More Years." George
Bush's slogan is "WW III."

Return to Table of Contents


From: The New York Times (pg. C-1), Aug. 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By David Leonhardt.

Last week, as the Chicago City Council prepared to vote on a bill that
would impose a $10 minimum wage on the city's big-box retailers by
2010 and require them to pay health benefits as well, the big guns
came out to defeat it.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said the bill was tantamount to redlining,
because it would keep stores and jobs out of black neighborhoods.
Andrew Young, the 1960's civil rights leader, traveled to Chicago and
chided black leaders who supported the bill. Around the city,
Chicagoans could see a "Don't Box Us Out!" advertising campaign paid
for by Wal-Mart, and editorials in both Chicago newspapers denounced
the bill.

But it passed anyway: 35 votes in favor and just 14 against, meaning
that even if the mayor uses a veto -- something he's never done since
taking office in 1989 -- he may lose.

Meanwhile, in Colorado on Monday, Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill
requiring people to prove that they are legal residents of the United
States before they can receive government benefits or a professional
license. The debate over the law has dominated the news in Colorado
for weeks, a good indication that immigration will be a big issue in
this year's midterm elections and not just in border states.

The common ingredient in Chicago and Colorado isn't simply populist
anger. It's a particular anxiety that people have about their
paychecks. Whether the culprit seems to be Wal-Mart's drive for
profits or an illegal immigrant who takes someone's else job, many
families feel as if they're falling behind, and they're right. While
it can be dangerous to make too much of two isolated incidents, these
seem like a signal that the politics of the American economy may be
coming to a turning point.

Going back to the 1970's, the single best predictor of the nation's
mood has been its collective paycheck. For all the other things that
affect public opinion, like a war or a scandal, the power of wages
jumps out at you when you look at broad polling data over the last 30

When pay has been steadily increasing, as it was in the 1980's and
late 90's, optimism has surged. But when pay stagnates, pessimism
about the country's future inevitably takes over. As Andrew Kohut,
president of the Pew Research Center, says, "When their jobs aren't
going anywhere, many people lose their optimism about the country
making economic progress."

There have been only three periods since World War II when pay
increases have fallen behind inflation. The first came in the 1970's,
after decades of healthy raises. The public malaise became so severe
at the time that a sitting president was moved to say, "For the first
time in the history of our country, the majority of our people believe
that the next five years will be worse than the past five years." A
year later, that president -- Jimmy Carter -- was unseated by the
Reagan revolution.

The second period started at the very end of the 1980's, and it left
many Americans convinced that Europe and especially Japan had passed
this country by. The worries fueled the fleeting success of
presidential campaigns by H. Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan and Jerry Brown
and eventually forced the early retirement of the first President Bush
and the Democratic leadership in Congress.

The third period of wage stagnation is now. Since peaking in 2003, the
real hourly pay of the median worker has fallen about 2 percent. The
decline has been closer to 4 percent for people in the upper-middle
part of the wage distribution and for those toward the bottom,
according to Labor Department data analyzed by the Economic Policy
Institute. In essence, most Americans have not been receiving cost-of-
living raises, and the national mood seems to be shifting as a result.

In the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, conducted in late
July, people were asked how their children's living standards would
one day compare with their own. Only 18 percent said "much better,"
and 30 percent said "somewhat better." This is the first time in the
12 years that question has been asked that fewer than half of
respondents predicted that their children's lives would be better.

This fear, I think, explains a good bit of the desire to legislate
higher wages in Chicago and to keep out immigrant labor in Colorado.
Right now, Americans' view of the economy is nowhere near as negative
as it was in the early 1980's or early 90's, but there is a real
anxiety about its direction. Mr. Kohut said his polls showed a big
drop in the number of people reporting that they had made progress
over the last five years. According to the University of Michigan's
consumer poll, a stunning 57 percent of Americans say they expect the
next five years to bring periods of widespread unemployment up from 38
percent two years ago.

The obvious analysis is that this will help the Democrats, the party
out of power, and to some extent it probably will. Independent voters
are now nearly as pessimistic about the economy as Democrats are. But
the only solid historical conclusion is that falling wages will bring
some kind of political turmoil. Wage stagnation helped elect both
Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, after all.

Moreover, the complex reality of a growing economy that isn't
benefiting most workers will tempt both parties in some dangerous
ways. Many Democrats have taken to exaggerating the economy's problems
in recent years -- overlooking, say, the resurgence of cities, the
decline in interest rates and the benefits of technology -- and have
ended up out of step with the voting public. "This idea that people
are worse off than 20 or 30 years ago is so ludicrous," said Jason
Furman, an economist who advised John Kerry's 2004 campaign. "And
I've come to appreciate how damaging it is."

President Bush and his advisers, meanwhile, continue to talk about the
rise in average income, which is happening almost entirely because of
gains at the very top. Among their many attempts to talk up the
economy, my favorite was a chart released by the Treasury Department
showing that median household income had fallen since 2000 -- but not
by as much as it had in the early 90's. That's probably not going to
make people feel a lot better. So don't be surprised if the local
outbursts of anxiety in Chicago and Colorado soon go national.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Los Angeles Times, Jul. 27, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Ralph Vartabedian

After a detailed study of the most widespread industrial contaminant
in U.S. drinking water, the National Research Council will report
today that evidence is growing stronger that the chemical causes
cancer and other human health problems.

The 379-page report clears a path for federal regulators to formally
raise the risk assessment of trichloroethylene, known as TCE, a step
that has been tied up by infighting between scientists at the
Environmental Protection Agency and the Defense Department.

California has some of the nation's worst TCE contamination, including
vast tracts of groundwater in the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys
that are a drinking source for more than 1 million Southern
Californians. The state's 67 Superfund sites with TCE contamination
are clustered in Los Angeles and Santa Clara counties.

If the risk posed by TCE is significantly higher than previously
thought, it could prompt lower limits for TCE in water, as well as
stricter cleanups of hundreds of military bases and other polluted
facilities. The contamination occurred because TCE, a chemical
solvent, was widely dumped into the ground.

Already, some EPA offices are forcing tougher cleanups based on
evidence that the chemical poses a greater-than-expected cancer risk.

The EPA attempted to issue a risk assessment in 2001 that found TCE to
be two to 40 times more carcinogenic than previously thought, but that
action was opposed by the Defense Department, the Energy Department
and NASA. The Pentagon has 1,400 properties contaminated with TCE.

The Bush administration sent the matter to the National Research
Council for study, based on military assertions that the EPA had
overblown the risks. But the new report does not support that

"The committee found that the evidence on carcinogenic risk and other
health hazards from exposure to trichloroethylene has strengthened
since 2001," the report said.

The report urged federal agencies to complete their assessment of TCE
risks as soon as possible "with currently available data," meaning
they should not wait for additional basic research, as suggested by
the Defense Department.

The report is to be formally released today by the National Research
Council. An early copy was provided to The Times by the Natural
Resources News Service, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that
investigates environmental issues. The authors of the study also
briefed members of Congress on Wednesday.

"It is the strongest report on TCE that we have had," said Rep.
Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.), whose district includes hundreds of homes
that have air filtration systems to eliminate TCE vapors from the
ground. "The fact that we have this TCE-laden drinking water used by
millions of people is abominable."

Hinchey and others in Congress are demanding stronger cleanup
standards and lower limits for the chemical in drinking water.
Currently, the EPA allows 5 parts per billion; that could be lowered
to as little as 1 part per billion for drinking water if the risk
assessment sidetracked in 2001 is adopted, according to an analysis by
the Air Force.

It would drive up cleanup costs by billions of dollars but potentially
save thousands of lives, scientists say. The report's authors told
Congress on Wednesday that they did not think the EPA should throw out
its 2001 draft risk assessment and start over. Instead, they hope the
TCE analysis can be completed within six months to a year.

Dr. Gina Solomon, an environmental health expert who served on a
scientific advisory board that reviewed the original assessment, said
the new report could have a profound effect on the issue.

"That is a very strong statement, a ringing endorsement of the EPA's
2001 draft risk assessment," said Solomon, an associate clinical
professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and a staff scientist at the
Natural Resources Defense Council.

Solomon said the report also rejected a key position of the chemical
industry and Pentagon environmental experts that TCE was not dangerous
at low levels of exposure.

Federal regulators should stick with the current scientific model that
the cancer risk posed by TCE is proportional to the level of exposure,
the National Research Council said.

In its report, the council found the evidence of TCE risk was greatest
for kidney cancer, but not as high for liver cancer. It did not study
other diseases that could be connected, including leukemia.

The report found merit in the Pentagon's criticism of EPA methodology
on epidemiology, which is the study of how disease is distributed in
the population. It called for a new survey of prior research.

The report from the National Research Council has been awaited by
communities exposed to TCE across the country.

"We can't afford any more delays," said Jerry Ensminger, a former
Marine drill sergeant who served at Camp Lejuene, where drinking water
supplies were tainted. His daughter died at age 9 in 1976 from
leukemia, which Ensminger blamed on TCE exposure.

Ensminger said he was heartened by the report's conclusions, but
remained concerned about whether the government would move quickly to
deal with the chemical contamination.

"I want to know why the Bush administration does not err on the side
of life when it comes to the environment," he said.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

Return to Table of Contents


From: Liberty Tree (Vol. 1, Issue 1), Oct. 1, 2005
[Printer-friendly version]


Must we know when the revolution starts? Instead of looking, waiting,
observing, we should just act and it will gradually become obvious. As
John Dewey said: "Don't predict, so you'll know what to do. Do, so
you'll know what to predict." -- Howard Zinn

By David Cobb

David Cobb interviews Howard Zinn.

How did your upbringing in New York affect your view of the world?

I grew up in a working class family, in a working class neighborhood.
At the age of 18, I encountered young radicals, and worked at the
Brooklyn Navy Yard. I remember reading Upton Sinclair and Charles
Dickens as a young teenager, and Marx and Engels later. I went to my
first demonstration in Times Square when I was only 17, and I got
knocked unconscious by a plainclothes cop.

All those experiences certainly intensified my conviction that
something was wrong with this country! And it also intensified my
conviction that there was something fundamentally wrong with the
entire notion of capitalism. I also began to realize that the claim
that the United States was a democracy was -- at least to great extent
- a sham. That the rich dominated the country.

You were a decorated air force bombardier during World War II. Can you
talk about that experience?

I was an enthusiastic bombardier. I left the Navy Yard to volunteer
for the Army Air Corps. I wanted to fight against Fascism! I had read
about the totalitarianism of Mussolini and Hitler, and I had read
about the fight for liberty and freedom during the Spanish Civil War.

So you were a flag-waving American throughout the war?

Not exactly. There was a fellow I became pretty good friends with who
introduced the first jarring note into my certainty that this was a
just war. He was the first person I heard who described it as an
"Imperialist War." He argued that both sides were actually ruled by
powerful economic interests, and claimed that the governments of all
the countries were openly hostile to the working people in their own

But the truth is that it wasn't until after the war, when I was
reflecting on my own experience in bombing a small French village on
the Atlantic coast, that I began to put the pieces together. This was
only a few weeks before the end of the war, and a totally unnecessary
bombing from a military point of view. And the reality is that I
dropped napalm on a untold number of Germans and French, including
civilians. This lead me to ponder the very nature of war itself.

Reading John Hershey on Hiroshima made me think further. And as I
observed the post-war world, and watched the Cold War unfold as two
superpowers armed themselves to the teeth with nuclear weapons, it
made me wonder about the 50 million people that had "died for
democracy." I thought about the huge numbers of civilians that had
been killed in the bombings of Germany and Japan.

Don't get me wrong, I was and am still am convinced that Fascism had
to be stopped. But I began to wonder if a war with over 50 million
dead, leaving the world still in such a dangerous state, with
totalitarian states in so many countries in the world, was really the
best way to fight fascism.

And over time I simply became convinced that war itself is simply an
outmoded and unnecessary solution to whatever problems the world may
face. So I was an early and adamant opponent of the war in Vietnam,
and against every war since.

That leads me to my next question, Howard. You were an active
participant in both the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements.
What can we learn from those prior struggles?

Well, I learned that when ordinary people resist oppression it is
mostly ignored by the contemporary corporate media, and it is
definitely ignored by traditional history textbooks. So I think we
have a responsibility to future generations to document those

I also learned that important social change does not come from the
initiative of governments, but from the organization and agitation of
people's movements. And that lesson is repeatedly corroborated by
studying the history of this country.

Throughout your career as a historian you have provided a scathing
indictment of many -- if not most -- of the traditional American
"heroes." Who are some of the folks you admire?

Granted, it is good to have historical figures we can admire and
emulate. And such people certainly exist. But it is just silly to hold
up as models the fifty-five rich, white men who drafted the
Constitution as a way of establishing a government that would protect
the interests of their class -- slaveholders, merchants, bondholders,
land speculators.

Our country is full of heroic people who are not presidents or
military leaders or Wall Street wizards, but who are doing something
to keep alive the spirit of resistance to injustice and war. Today I
think of Kathy Kelly and all those other people of Voices in the
Wilderness, who, in defiance of federal law, have traveled to Iraq
over a dozen times to bring food and medicine to people suffering
under the U.S.-imposed sanctions.

I think also of the thousands of students on over a hundred college
campuses across the country who are currently protesting the Iraq War
or their universities' connection with sweatshop produced apparel.
These are the people who give me hope and inspiration.

I've often heard you reference the famous George Orwell observation
that "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the
present controls the past." Could you talk about that.

It is more true today than when Orwell said it! Those in power quite
literally control the past because they actually control the writing
of the history books. Conscious decisions are made to omit the actions
of ordinary people.

Those in power own the media -- print, radio and television -- and
they intentionally fail to provide the public with the basic sense of
history that would equip the ordinary citizen to understand government
policies or how those polices are even made.

By omitting the struggles of people's movements from history, they
convey the idea that all we can do as citizens is to vote for a savior
in one of the major parties. In short, media is designed to reduce us
to passive recipients of whatever action the government wants to take.
And of course, that action is always taken at the behest of the rich
and powerful.

In light of the incredibly subtle but effective corporate media
propaganda machine in this country, what are the implications for
today's social change agents?

We must develop our own independent media that can provide news,
information and analysis without the corporate filter. And we did that
during the Vietnam War. Community newspapers and counter- cultural
papers sprang up in high schools and on college campuses. And we also
created the independent press associations like the Dispatch News
Service, which actually broke the story of the My Lai massacre.

And today we have the Pacific news network, and perhaps 200 truly
independent community radio stations. We have Democracy Now! with Amy
Goodman. We have David Barsamian and Alternative Radio. We have
community cable stations and alternative newspapers. We even have a
few radical columnists at mainstream papers.

Howard, this first issue of the Journal raises the question of reform
and revolution. What do you see as the tensions and possible synergy
between these two approaches to social change?

Putting off revolutionary change to some infinitely distant future and
only dealing with "achievable" reforms consigns us to the absolute
slowest pace of incremental change. Indeed, the pace can seem so slow
that it seems like nothing is changing at all, which drives people
into either apathy or cynicism.

On the other hand, disdaining reform and arguing that only radical
revolutionary change is meaningful is to alienate the vast majority of
our fellow citizens, and to miss the opportunity to help leverage
incremental reform into something deeper.

It is a serious question you are raising. How can we make immediate
and important reforms -- ending a war, stop racial profiling -- but at
the same time to move towards more profound change. How can we work
not just to end a war, but to educate people about the real nature of
U.S. foreign policy, the history of U.S. expansionism, and the
inherent and inescapable connection between capitalism and

We must not only oppose racial prejudice, but to point out and remedy
the underlying roots of racism. And we have to be willing to point out
that any system based on corporate profit will always have an
underclass. In fact, such a system requires an underclass.

So the reality is that a profound and fundamental change in the
economic system of this country is a necessary, although not
sufficient, requirement for seriously addressing and diminishing

Is it possible to pursue both reform and revolution simultaneously, or
are they mutually exclusive?

Not only is it possible to pursue reform and revolution
simultaneously, as difficult as it is, they must be pursued

Can you expand on this? How does one pursue them simultaneously?

I always encourage people to look around themselves in their community
and find an organization that is doing something that they believe in,
even if that organization has only five people, or ten people, or
twenty people, or a hundred people. And then get involved, especially
with those groups that are committed to systemic change. This is an
admittedly "reformist" approach.

But if we are not educating people regarding the underlying
connections, if we don't create a consciousness of how power operates,
we won't be able to create the conditions necessary to help nurture a
non-violent revolution.

Is one or the other more appropriate to this particular historical

Clearly we must concentrate on the movement to withdraw U.S. military
forces from Iraq. But at the same time we must force our fellow
citizens to dig deeper, and confront the reality of the U.S. as a war-
making state.

To prepare to stop the next war before it starts, we need to be
talking about alternative ways of resolving disputes, and we need to
talk about creating a global justice movement so the underlying causes
of war are greatly decreased.

We need to be building the global movement that will demand the end to
empire, and a commitment that the wealth of the world will be shared
fairly and be used to meet human needs.

Howard, is it possible for you to envision a successful and peaceful
democratic revolution in the United States? If so, what does that path
look like, and what would it take to move down that path?

It's possible to envision that future, although it does take some
straining of the imagination and eyesight! I see it as winning
victories step-by-step. Stopping a war, reducing the military budget,
universal health care, re-creating a more fair and progressive tax
system. I imagine us concentrating on each of these until they are
won. And when enough victories are won, and if we have been strategic
and smart about educating and organizing while we work on these
reforms, there will be a sudden realization that systemic change is
taking place, and that a democratic revolution is underway.

You have been clear that you do not consider yourself a pacifist, yet
you have spent your entire life working for peace. Can you talk about

To me, the term "pacifist" suggests being passive -- rather than
active -- resistance. This is a profound difference. For example,
think of South Africa, where a decision to engage in out-and-out armed
struggle would have led to a bloody civil war with huge casualties,
most of them black. Instead, the African National Congress decided to
put up with apartheid longer, but to wage a strategic and long-term
campaign of attrition. That was a very active but non-violent
resistance movement that used an incredible array of tactics --
strikes, worker sabotage, economic sanctions, and international
pressure. And most importantly for me, it worked.

Is violence ever justified?

I am not an absolute pacifist, because I can't rule out the
possibility that under some, carefully defined circumstances, some
degree of violence may be justified. For example, if it is focused
directly at a great evil. I certainly believe slave revolts are
justified. And, if John Brown had really succeeded in arousing such
revolts throughout the South, it would have been much preferable to
losing 600,000 lives in the Civil War. And it is important to note
that the makers of the U.S. Civil War -- unlike slave rebels -- did
not have as their first priority the plight of the black slaves. This
is sadly proven by the shameful betrayal of black interests after that
war. And the Zapatista uprising that has been underway in Chiapas for
a decade seems justified to me. But some armed struggles that start
for a good cause get out of hand and the ensuing violence becomes

Each situation has to be evaluated separately, because each one is
different. In general, I believe in non-violent direct action, which
involves organizing large numbers of people. Far too often, violent
uprisings are the product of a small group. If enough people are
organized, violence can be minimized in bringing about social change.

What historical revolutionary movements inspire your political vision
and practice?

I am inspired by the Paris Commune, by the anarchists of Catalonia
during the Spanish Civil War. I am inspired by the workers councils in
the Soviet Union before the Bolsheviks seized power. I am inspired by
the Hungarian uprising of 1956. I am inspired by the Cuban revolution
in part -- deeply opposing the concentration of power, the jailing of
dissidents -- but honoring the profound systemic improvements in
education, health and culture.

What historical reformist movements inspire your political vision and

Well, there is the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the
women's movement, the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War

Howard, the reality is that U.S. elections have never been very
democratic. What changes would it take to make U.S elections really
meaningful and democratic?

We need to change the rules in the various states so that third
parties have a chance to compete. Third parties must have access to
the ballot and to debates. We need to change our voting system away
from the "winner-take-all" system and move to proportional
representation. We need to equalize campaign expenditures. A system of
publicly funded elections would be a start.

Were the 2000 and 2004 elections merely "business as usual" or
something more?

I agree with you that every U.S. election is flawed as a result of the
monopolization of the electoral process by the two major parties. But
the last two elections definitely introduced a special corruption
because of the position of the United States in the world.

Thank you for speaking with us, Howard.

About Howard Zinn

From www.HowardZinn.org:

Howard Zinn was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew
bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience
he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. In 1956, he became
a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women,
where he soon became involved in the Civil rights movement, which he
participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC) and chronicled, in his book SNCC: The New
Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and
mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963
for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston
University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War. He is
perhaps best known for A People's History of the United States, which
presents American history through the eyes of those he feels are
outside of the political and economic establishment.

About David Cobb

From www.LibertyTreeFDR.org

David Cobb was the 2004 Green Party nominee for President of the
United States. He served as General Counsel for the national Green
Party until declaring his candidacy in 2003. His legal career is
dedicated to challenging illegitimate corporate power and to creating
democracy. In addition to his service as a Democratizing Elections
Fellow with Liberty Tree, David is a member of the Democracy
Unlimited of Humboldt County Steering Committee, a co-founder and
member of the Board of Directors for the Green Institute, and a
member of the Sierra Club's national Corporate Accountability

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From: Nature, Jul. 20, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


A bulletin issued earlier this year by the White House Office of
Management and Budget contains a number of recommendations on how the
different parts of the US federal government should go about assessing
risk. (See related story.) The document, when it is finalized, will
have an important bearing on how regulatory decisions such as
environmental rules are made.

The topic of risk assessment sounds arcane but is of vital importance,
especially to the United States' poorest communities. The poor have no
say in setting the rules but bear the brunt of most environmental
threats, including dirty water, polluted air and chemicals left behind
on industrial sites.They will suffer the consequences if the balance
of risk assessment is shifted in favour of the polluter. And if the
current draft is implemented, that's exactly what will happen.

The United States has pioneered the use of quantitative risk
assessments, which are now widely used around the world. The National
Academies has played a central role in setting the agenda for how such
assessments should be conducted and their outcomes incorporated into
the related sphere of 'risk management', whereby regulators and other
agencies take action in response to an identified risk.

The proposed bulletin would increase the range of circumstances in
which formal risk assessment would be required before government
agencies could take action or set regulations. It would also put in
place firm guidelines on how these assessments are conducted.

This effort echoes the legislation on risk assessment and cost-benefit
analysis that the Republican-led Congress attempted to pass in the
late 1990s. That legislation failed, opposed by moderate Republicans
such as Sherwood Boehlert, now chair of the House science committee,
who rightly saw it as an attempt to stifle the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration and other

That legislation was, at least, a relatively transparent attempt to
roll back regulation, which at the time was an important element in
the Republicans' political agenda. The call for government to get off
the backs of companies and individuals had considerable resonance
then, and indeed it still has. But it is an argument that has lost
some of its political appeal, and it is certainly not being made in
public to support the White House's proposed risk-assessment bulletin.

Some risk assessments done by government agencies do fall short of
reasonable standards. Only last week, a National Academies panel
criticized an assessment by the EPA into the chemical dioxin. But
these shortfalls could be addressed without tying up the whole
government in a set of rules to be administered from the centre by a
small, heavily politicized office with few technical staff -- the
OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

It is not the first time the OMB has sought to reform the regulatory
environment through this office, whose recently departed director,
John Graham, was a former head of the Harvard Center for Risk
Analysis. When it proposed a strict definition of how the science
behind regulatory decisions should be peer-reviewed, the National
Academies cried foul, and the definition was relaxed.

This time, the OMB has asked the National Academies to review the
proposed bulletin, confident that such a review will endorse its
technical content. But the bulletin's technical content is not being
disputed: what is at issue is its scope, suitability for purpose, cost
and the effort that might be wasted in enforcing compliance.

The motivation of Graham, his mooted successor Susan Dudley of George
Mason University in Virginia, and indeed of President Bush himself, is
not really in doubt. What they want is not better regulation, but less
regulation. They should admit as much, instead of hiding their agenda
behind the mantra of 'sound science'.

Copyright 2006 Nature Publishing Group

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From: Liberty Tree (Vol. 1, Issue 2), May 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


By Ted Glick

Forward Thinking

Since about the time that the worldwide Kyoto Protocol officially went
into effect on Feb. 16th, 2005, there has been a marked upsurge in
activism on the climate crisis. This is a very positive development,
given that global warming is real, it is having destructive impacts
now, as in Hurricane Katrina, and it is accelerating.

A January 29th article on the front page of the Washington Post put it
this way:

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to
warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is
progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to
slow or reverse the trend.

Others, like Stephen Byers, a top aide to Tony Blair, think it is not
decades but years. In early 2005, a task force he co-chaired concluded
that we could reach "the point of no return in a decade." Leading
scientists, journalists and others in the USA and worldwide agree. As
author Bill McKibben recently wrote in an article for the Boston
Globe, referring to the works and views of NASA's Goddard Space
Institute Director James Hansen:

... so we go on burning ever more fossil fuel, and the earth keeps
getting warmer--as Hansen's monthly monitoring of 10,000 temperature
gauges around the planet makes depressingly clear. But the new high
temperature record isn't the real reason Hansen is so agitated right
now, nor the reason the Bush administration would like to silence him.
Instead, it's the messages about future change that his computer
climate models keep spitting out. Those models reveal a miserable
situation at present, but a dire one in the years ahead. In his
December speech to the Geophysical Union, [Hansen] noted that carbon
dioxide emissions are 'now surging well above' the point where damage
to the planet might be limited. Speaking to a reporter from The
Washington Post, he put it bluntly: Having raised the earth's
temperature 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last three decades, we're
facing another increase of 4 degrees over the next century. That would
'imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.' The
technical terms for those changes include drought, famine, pestilence,
and flood. 'It's not something we can adapt to,' he continued. 'We
can't let it go on another 10 years like this.' And that's what makes
him so dangerous now. He's not just saying that the world is warming.
He's not just saying we're the cause. He's saying: We have to stop it
now. Not wait a few decades while Exxon Mobil keeps making record
profits. Not wait a few decades until there's some painless new
technology like hydrogen cars that lets us drive blithely into the
future. Not even wait a few years until the current administration can
cut and run from Washington. We are literally in a race against time.
It is the responsibility of all conscious people living today to take
up this issue with all the energy and determination that we can
gather. Present and future generations of not just the human race but
all life forms on this planet are depending on us.

What To Do

Climate activists are pretty much in agreement that there are three
primary tasks which must continue to be supported and much more
seriously undertaken if we are to have a chance of avoiding this truly
apocalyptic future.

One is energy conservation: the insulation of homes and buildings;
switching to compact fluorescent (CFC) light bulbs; using low-energy
appliances; setting thermostat temperatures low in the winter and,
where air conditioning is used, high in the summer; using hybrid,
electric or other high mpg vehicles; recycling; and other actions.

A second is energy efficiency: Tightening up the way energy is
produced, distributed and used in industry, business and other
institutions. Estimates for how much energy could be saved in this way
range from 30 to 70 percent.

The third is a clean energy revolution: The substitution of wind,
solar, clean biomass, tides, geo-thermal and hydrogen for the oil,
coal and natural gas that are now being used.


There are differences, however, among environmentalists on certain
major issues. One point is over the question of nuclear energy. Some
of the more compromise-oriented environmental groups are willing to
accept nuclear power, even if unenthusiastically. Most groups reject
nuclear power as a viable alternative.

A second point of divergence has to do with the Kyoto Protocol.
Although most US environmental groups are supportive in general, very
few actively promote it. Many seem intimidated by one Senate vote in
1997. In the words of Wikipedia:

On July 25th of that year, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be
negotiated, the US Senate unanimously passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-
Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate
was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol
that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as
well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the
economy of the United States."

This bi-partisan dismissal of Kyoto was reflected more recently during
the 2004 Presidential campaign when Bush campaigned against it and the
Democrats consciously left it off of their platform. Other, more
radical environmental groups are critical of the Kyoto Protocol
because "carbon trading" is a main element of the agreement. Carbon
trading is distinct from "carbon reduction" in that the latter focuses
on penalizing those countries that do not meet their emission
reduction targets. These groups are also critical of carbon trading
from an environmental justice perspective because implementation in
the South has sometimes exacerbated economic injustice while gaining
only questionable positive impacts as far as greenhouse gas

The year 2005 witnessed the emergence of a new group, the Climate
Crisis Coalition (CCC), which openly organized support for the Kyoto
Protocol even as they articulated in their Kyoto and Beyond petition
(www.kyotoandbeyond.org) that "we recognize the current goals of the
Protocol are too low -- and its timetable too long -- to effectively
halt the escalating instability of the global climate." It went on to
say, however, that "the Kyoto Protocol is the only existing diplomatic
framework through which the entire global community can address this
unprecedented challenge."

Over the course of 2005, particularly in relationship to organizing
toward the December United Nations Climate Conference in Montreal,
there was a growing number of primarily local, grassroots
organizations that adopted the CCC position and circulated its

Corporate Power

There is a much larger issue, of course, that is not just for the
organized environmental groups, but for everyone within the
progressive movement. That is the issue of corporate power.

The heating up of the earth began with the industrial revolution and
the burning of fossil fuels--coal and, later in history, oil and
natural gas. As economies have developed around the world, all of them
have relied upon one or more of these energy sources to fuel that
development. This has been true whether a country's economic structure
is capitalist or socialist.

At the same time, there is no question that the growing dominance of
transnational corporate power, backed up by military force over the
course of the last century, has led to the enshrining of corporate
profit as a societal objective irrespective of the impact upon
increasingly fragile ecosystems. Powerful energy corporations like
ExxonMobil and Chevron have used their wealth and power to buy
politicians who do their bidding, mainly, but not only, Republicans.

Is it possible to slow, stop and reverse global warming as long as
corporate power persists in its present form?

From a strategic perspective, should the global survival movement, the
movement for a clean energy revolution, become more explicitly an
anti-corporate movement?

Prior to my active involvement on this issue over the last couple of
years, I would have been quick to say yes, without question. However,
I have learned that, as with many other things in life, it is not so
simple. The fact is that there are a growing number of corporations
who are not just speaking out about the need to curb greenhouse gas
emissions but are actually taking action to reduce their own. The
entire insurance industry is very concerned, for understandable
reasons, about the long-term threat to their profitability and even
their existence as global warming leads to more Category 4 and 5
hurricanes, major droughts and storms. Magazines like Fortune and
Business Week are carrying stories sympathetic to those calling for
government action to reduce emissions.

Of course, it is difficult to envision the overall corporate world --
the super-rich of the United States and the world -- being willing to
participate in the kind of fundamental social and economic
transformation necessary, and urgently necessary, if we are to halt
before that "point of no return." Corporate globalization is a highly
energy intensive process with the transportation costs involved in
shipping goods around the world. There is no question that we need to
move as rapidly as possible to decentralize and localize economic and
social life to reduce our need for oil and gas. Besides their clean
and renewable nature, an additional advantage to wind and solar power
is that their use allows people to get off the energy grid of utility
corporations and be more self-sufficient. This is absolutely necessary
for survival, an essential direction.

It is completely on target for climate activists to be explicit about
these issues, and to call into question the corporate system itself.
To the extent that this helps to build a stronger independent
progressive movement operating outside of the corporate-dominated,
two-party system, that is a good thing. But it is also consistent to
demand immediate action on climate change by individual corporations
and banks. There have to be many approaches to succeeding in the life-
and-death struggle to stabilize our climate.

Urgent Action, Grassroots Organizing

It seems to me that the urgency of our situation calls for two
approaches right now.

One is the organization of a visible political movement. This means
demonstrations in the streets. It means hunger strikes, nonviolent
civil disobedience, actions that underline the urgency of our

Sooner or later it has to mean a massive march on Washington, perhaps
combined with a mass nonviolent direct action.

The other approach is widespread and ongoing local grassroots
organizing, educating our communities about this crisis, linking it to
the need for more democracy, pointing out, for example, that a clean
energy revolution can create millions of jobs. We should be doing this
in 2006 in relationship to the upcoming Congressional elections,
demanding that candidates for office support a strong platform of
action to address this crisis and supporting those who already have
the right positions. We need to get more local governments to make
energy conservation, efficiency and a clean energy transition central
to how they govern. And we need a new democracy movement to make it
possible for governments -- local and national -- to take corrective
action on climate change.

No single issue is more important than this one.

Ted Glick is a co-founder and leader of the Climate Crisis Coalition:

He is also acting coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics
Network: http://www.ippn.org

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From: U.S. Climate Emergency Council, Jul. 27, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]


WHAT: Protest and Rally Demanding Climate Justice and Truth Telling
from the NOAA Leadership

WHERE: 1305 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910

WHEN: Noon -- 3pm, Saturday August 26

WHO: U.S. Climate Emergency Council and the Chesapeake Climate Action


Below and attached is information about an important action a month
from now in the Washington, D.C. area. The climate action movement
cannot let the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina pass without
visible action in solidarity with Katrina survivors and for action on
global warming!

We are looking for many more groups to endorse this action and help to
build it in whatever ways you can. Please let us hear from you!

One year after Hurricane Katrina

Demonstrate August 26 in the D.C. Area at NOAA's National Headquarters

Join Us As We Demand:

** Justice for Katrina Survivors!

** NOAA Leadership, Stop the Global Warming Cover-Up!

Katrina survivors and noted national leaders will speak. Activists
will read aloud the names of hundreds of people still missing from

Hurricane Katrina caused over 1500 deaths. On Saturday, August 26, at
12 noon, outside the headquarters of the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Md., let's join
together to remember and mourn for those who died while we demand
action on the greatest source of future Katrina-like disasters: global
warming. We will call for jobs, housing, health care, environmental
cleanup and justice for Katrina survivors. We will demand that our
government get serious about cutting the global warming pollution that
is creating stronger and more frequent Category 4 and 5 hurricanes,
according to scientists

Instead of protecting Americans, NOAA's leadership, in direct
violation of the agency's mission to warn the nation about "dangerous
weather" and "improve our understanding and stewardship of the
environment," is steadfastly ignoring or distorting the growing number
of scientific studies linking major hurricanes to global warming.
Their actions are placing tens of millions of coastal Americans at
greater risk of experiencing, over the coming years and decades, the
kind of catastrophic impacts we saw in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina
killed over 1500 people, displaced two million others and inflicted
$200 billion in damages.

If NOAA's leadership continues to violate NOAA's mission, it's time
for new leadership.

It's Time to Stand Up for Justice and Truth-Telling!

Initiated by the U.S. Climate Emergency Council,

www.climateemergency.org, 973-338-5398, 301-891-6844,

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
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  often considered separately or not at all.

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  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

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