April 28th, 2006
Did you know that water privatization was one of the reasons that the city of San Francisco was all but destroyed 100 years ago in the historic 1906 earthquake and fire?
“I’ve enjoyed all the historical stuff in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner about the 1906 earthquake, but everyone’s leaving out one of the best parts. It was the failure of the private Spring Valley Water Company to maintain its pipes that helped doom firefighting efforts ‚Äî and that was a big factor in the passage of the Raker Act, which gave the city a public water system.”
Editor Tim Redmond, San Francisco Bay Guardian, April 18.
“Ownership by a giant conglomerate has led to boil orders, fire hydrants which cannot be opened when our firefighters rush to a fire, and perhaps most frightening, a huge interference in our local governments.”
Laurel Prussing, Mayor of Urbana, Illinois, April 13 at the annual shareholder meeting of RWE, one of the largest private water corporations in the world.
Some things never change!
April 26th, 2006
On the 20th anniversary of the accident at the nuclear power plant Chernobyl, Slate Magazine features a devastating photo essay on the affected region. Decades and generations later, children are afflicted with major birth defects and cancer, and are raised in institutions because their parents cannot handle their substantial needs. As the narrator wisely notes, machines break. There is no foolproof nuclear facility, and so the risk we incur as a society by building one, is vast and indefinite.
For these reasons, and others, we oppose the construction of food irradiation facilities, which bring risk to communities for the dubious purpose of irradiating food. On this anniversary of Chernobyl, let us commit ourselves to ensuring that such an accident never happens again.
April 25th, 2006
Yesterday, hundreds gathered in Washington D.C.‚ Dupont Circle where fishermen and women from the Louisiana Shrimp Association were handing out bag after bulging bag of FREE Louisiana shrimp.
Sound too good to be true? Well, there is a bit of catch , no pun intended. The Louisiana Shrimp Association conducted the shrimp give-away in conjunction with Food & Water Watch as a means of highlighting the plight of small-scale Gulf Coast shrimpers.
Here in the United States, over 90% of the shrimp consumed is farm-raised in Southeast Asia or Latin America because it is sold on the U.S. market for less than wild-caught domestic shrimp. But as we all know, everything comes with a price.
Imported farm-raised shrimp are raised in cramped and antibiotic-laden ponds that must be constantly flushed with freshwater. Additionally, these ponds are often located in coastal areas where mangrove forests are chopped down to make room for the farms, preventing local fishing communities from access to the sea and their livelihoods.
As a result of these cheap, imported farm-raised shrimp, shrimpers like those from the Louisiana Shrimp Association are often forced to sell their shrimp at or below the cost of capture, thereby threatening their livelihood and our domestic food production.
Read our press release from the event.
April 19th, 2006
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that water utilities be allowed to provide drinking water with three times or more the current legal limit of toxics, and still label it ‚protective of health.” It appears that the current administration’s efforts to undermine federal funding for drinking water is heavily influencing the agency. Disguised as an attempt to provide affordable water, the Agency is gambling with the health of our community. We’re telling the Agency and President Bush to stop the backlash!
April 18th, 2006
What could be worse than going to a poorly funded school? Going to a poorly funded school that stinks. A report
from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that poor
and minority children in North Carolina were more likely to go to a
school that was close to a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO),
also known as a factory farm. The air pollution from these huge
factory farms not only smells bad, but can also cause a wide range of
health problems, by polluting the air with bacteria, fungi, and
endotoxins. This pollution can cause headaches, respiratory problems,
and asthma as well as increasing levels of tension, depression and
anger in adults. The report concluded that CAFOs are disproportionately
located in low income and minority areas, so it is little surprise that
it found schools reporting noticeable livestock odor had more poor
April 17th, 2006
As part of a larger initiative to greenwash the corporation‚ public image, Wall-Mart CEO H. Scott Lee has indicated that the company plans to stock only MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified fish. The company has set a tentative goal of 2011 to complete the phase-in during which time, it claims, its market power will be sufficient to spur non-certified providers to seek out an MSC certification.
While the company and proponents of the certification paint the label as a mechanism to help consumers distinguish healthy sustainable fish products, in reality, MSC certification may spell trouble for our seas.
The MSC often grants a seal of approval with the hope that a particular fishery will clean up its act. For example, the New Zealand Hoki fishery has experienced a high rate of seabird deaths due to the use of longlines. Although the fishery was instructed by the MSC to stem these incidental deaths, no significant changes have been made, yet its MSC certification remains. The MSC also certified the Alaskan groundfish fishery even after it ruled in court that its management practices were in direct violation of the National Environmental Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act.
Some standards are not quite what they are chalked up to be.
April 13th, 2006
Jurors in a class action trial against three of the largest multinational meat packers reached a unanimous verdict yesterday in Aberdeen, SD, finding that the meat packers ignored incorrect boxed-beef price reports from the USDA during a six-week period in 2001. The lawsuit claimed that the packers knew from their own records what they were receiving for boxed beef, but underreported the price anyway. Unfortunately for the cattle producers, such as those represented by R-CALF, those lower prices were accepted for their cattle because of the inaccurately reported USDA boxed-beef prices.
Said Herman Schumacher, co-fonder of R-CALF USA: “This verdict is a victory for struggling cattle producers nationwide against the unlawful practices of the big packing companies. For years, the packers have acted to crush competition and squeeze the small cattle producer to maximize packer profits. We are pleased that a jury of everyday citizens has held the packers accountable for the unlawful activities in this case.”
Defendants included: Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions, Swift & Co., and National Beef Packing Co. Combined, the defendants control about 80 percent of the market for beef products in the United States. Jurors recommended a $4 million fine against Tyson, a $3 million fine against Cargill, and a $2.25 million fine against Swift. The jurors found National Beef not liable. For more info on the suit, click here.
April 11th, 2006
According to Monterey FLOW, a community group promoting public acquisition of its water system and one of our allies in California, California American Water’s Monterey Peninsula water system is valued at $50 million. Monterey FLOW calculated that the town could buy its water utility at 6% interest, which translates to less than $8 a month per ratepayer over 30 years. Said Monterey FLOW member Ron Weitzman: “This is substantially less than the rate hikes of around $78 a month on a typical bill that Cal-Am has requested in perpetuity from the California Public Utilities Commission.”
The independent appraisal was conducted by Beacon Valuation Group of San Francisco.
April 6th, 2006
Congratulations to our allies in Illinois who this week passed state legislation that makes it easier for communities to purchase their local water utility when a private corporation has failed them. This is a great step for communities like Urbana, Champaign, Pekin, Homer Glen, Orland Hills, Bolingbrook and Plainfield who are considering local ownership of water!
April 5th, 2006
And Don’t Mind the Carbon Monoxide in the Meat
In a great boon to consumers, Chicago Alderwoman Leslie Hairston introduced a city ordinance to ban meat that has been treated with carbon monoxide from being sold in Chicago supermarkets. Why is this important? Because adding carbon monoxide to meat makes it look a healthy pink color, even if it‚ actually old and gray. Consumers who use color- and many of us do- to determine if meat is fresh are thus at-risk for eating spoiled meat.
At a March 23rd hearing on the ban, Hairston and Director of Cargill Meat Solutions Mark Klein had this fascinating exchange:
Hairston: My question to you , I want you to answer the question that I asked you previously. In other words, the consumer doesnt have a right to know?
Klein: I dont think they really would, you know, care to know.
Hairston: Okay. Thank you.
Klein: Does that answer your question?
Hairston: Yes, it does.
Answers our question about just how much nerve Cargill has, too. Apparently, a whole lot.