Thursday, December 02, 2004

 

Rocket fuel found in bottled water, produce, milk

You know, what with angry waiters spitting (or worse) in your food and now rocket fuel in your bottled water, it's enough to make a person go all Tom and Barbara Good, isn't it? (For those who aren't absolute fanatics of Britcoms, the Goods were a couple in the 70s show "Good Neighbours" who quit their day jobs and began farming and ranching in their suburban backyard.)

Rocket fuel chemical found in water, produce
Federal agencies detect traces of chemical across country
Wednesday, December 1, 2004 Posted: 10:26 AM EST

• FDA: Report on perchlorate

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government has found traces of a rocket fuel chemical in organic milk in Maryland, green leaf lettuce grown in Arizona and bottled spring water from Texas and California.

What's not clear is the significance of the data, collected by the Food and Drug Administration through August 19.

Sufficient amounts of perchlorate can affect the thyroid, potentially causing delayed development and other problems.

But Environmental Protection Agency official Kevin Mayer called for calm, saying in an interview Tuesday: "Alarm is not warranted. That is clear."

"I think that it is important that EPA and FDA and other agencies come to some resolution about the toxicity of this chemical," Mayer said. "That has been, frankly, a struggle for the last few years."

The FDA found that of the various food items it tested, iceberg lettuce grown in Belle Glade, Florida, had the highest concentrations of perchlorate. The greens had 71.6 parts per billion of the compound, the primary ingredient in solid rocket propellant. Red leaf lettuce grown in El Centro, California, had 52 ppb of perchlorate. Most of the purified, distilled and spring bottled water tested around the nation tested had no detectable amount of perchlorate.

Whole organic milk in Maryland, however, had 11.3 ppb of perchlorate.

Asked whether that level of chemical in milk was worrisome, Mayer, the EPA's regional perchlorate coordinator for Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada, said, "The answer is, we don't know yet."

The FDA said in a statement that consumers should not change their eating habits in response to the test results, posted on the agency's Web site Friday.

Perchlorate is introduced into the environment through a variety of ways including leakage from rocket fuel manufacturing facilities. The FDA has hypothesized that perchlorate may get into plants after they are irrigated with perchlorate-containing water or grown in soil that has been previously exposed to the chemical.

The testing comes as federal agencies try find how much perchlorate people are exposed to from food so they can determine whether action is needed to protect the public health. Federal agencies have been trying since the early 1990s to determine what level of perchlorate is safe.

The state of California, meanwhile, set a standard of no more than 10 ppb of perchlorate in drinking water. That was lowered to 6 ppb in drinking water to account for the chemical also lacing food, Mayer said.

A more conservative suggestion, in a draft from the EPA, would allow no more than 1 ppb of perchlorate in drinking water.

The FDA tested lettuce samples collected at farms and packing sheds and bottled water from retail stores. Raw milk samples came from a research facility in Maryland and other milk samples were obtained from retail stores.

"These data are exploratory and should not be understood to be a reflection of the distribution of perchlorate in the U.S. food supply," the agency said in a statement. "Until more is known about the health effects of perchlorate and its occurrence in foods, FDA continues to recommend that consumers eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in trans fat and saturated fat, and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables."

 

Global Day of Action for Bhopal is December 3, 2004

THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR JUSTICE IN BHOPAL

--DECEMBER 3, 2004

Registration
Statements
Media
Resources
Things you can do
Why Bhopal?
Action Updates
Contact

December 3, 2004The GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION FOR BHOPAL“When Governments and Corporations do not live up to their obligations, it is only solidarity among workers, trade unions and people’s groups that can carryus forward.”Rashida Bee, President, Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers Association

Join us in taking action against Dow's corporate crimes on the 20th anniversary of the world's worst corporate massacre

December 3rd, 2004, marks twenty years since the people of Bhopal awoke from their sleep, choking, near-blinded, to scenes of unimaginable horror and suffering. Overnight, a city of 800,000 people was turned into a gas chamber, with at least 8,000 dead.

Union Carbide's gas cloud was just the beginning. The ongoing efforts of both Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemical to evade their pending liabilities in Bhopal represent a classic case of corporate crime gone unpunished. As in Bhopal, corporations around the world are today getting away with crimes against humanity and the environment, and dictating policies that affect all life on earth. Communities everywhere have learnt that the only way they will regain control of their lives and health is by fighting corporate crime directly.Over twenty years, the survivors of Union Carbide's massacre, beset by extreme poverty, debilitated by illness and loss, starved of justice, have refused to accept defeat. Instead, against almost insuperable odds, they have carried on an unrelenting fight for justice and a disease-free, dignified life.

Its a fight they can still win. The twenty-year-long struggle for justice in Bhopal, and numerous other people's struggles around the world, demonstrate an extraordinary resilience and carry the indomitable hope that corporate globalisation can be reversed by the solidarity of public interest groups, individuals and people's organisations.

We will never forget

"We never want to see another Bhopal." Bhopal's survivors have said this from the beginning.

To ensure this, it is vital that Dow Chemical, and other corporate offenders, are not allowed to get away with their crimes. On Dec 3rd, 2004 the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal invites you to help make sure that they don't.

LAST YEAR over 65 groups and individuals responded to our invitation to take part in the first Global Day of Action.

A CALL TO ACT

Besides coordinating protests against Dow-Union Carbide facilities worldwide, the ICJB invites all groups fighting corporate crime to take action on December 3 against the human, environmental, consumer and labour rights violations by private or public corporations.

A CALL TO ORGANIZE

Actions against criminal corporations and against Dow Chemical facilities and offices worldwide; teach-ins; vigils; phone-ins; petition drives; celebrations and media events. A list of Dow/Carbide facilities worldwide can be located here.

A CALL TO UNITE

Thousands of people from around the world will be participating in the Global Day of Action. Cities in India, including Bhopal, will host protests, events and actions; trade unions and community organizations internationally will also be participating.

We ask that all participants include a short statement of solidarity with Bhopal within press statements and public declarations on Dec 3rd.

HOW

Coordinate with activists worldwide by filling in a short registration form and providing details about your group/organization. Issue a resolution (you can adapt a model resolution) declaring the 20th Bhopal Anniversary (Dec 3) as a Global Day of Action For Bhopal.

YOUR ACTION

Will be reported on the 'Action Updates' page. Please email us with your story at: globalaction@studentsforbhopal.org

Please use this address for all other communication regarding the Day of Action

 

Amazing website--Bhopal

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is a website devoted entirely to the Bhopal tragedy. You'll be amazed at the amount of things you can do to try to bring justice to this shattered community. Of course, $$$ always helps, but this site lists many, many options, and has tons of brainstorming ideas. We tend to think huge companies like Dow are basically unstoppable and untouchable--let's change our way of thinking, and reach out and touch them anyway ;) I've also posted the link above on my link bar on the left.

 

A cool way to help Greenpeace

Go to http://act.greenpeace.org/1101755322/index_html and read the article there--this is a cool and fun way to spread the Greenpeace message!

 

Speaking of Bhopal

This is the 20th anniversary (today and tomorrow) of this tragedy, and it is becoming increasingly visible in the media. Below is the Greenpeace press release regarding Bhopal.

20 years are more than enough: justice must be served in Bhopal

Bhopal, India, 2 December 2004 - Greenpeace activists around the world are remembering the world's worst industrial disaster, twenty years after a toxic gas leak killed and maimed thousands in the Indian city of Bhopal (1). Bearing candles and photos of people stricken by the poisonous gas leak, the activists are calling on DOW Chemical to take full responsibility for Bhopal.

"Twenty years on, people in Bhopal are still suffering because DOW Chemical refuses to take responsibility for their welfare or for the toxic waste that is still poisoning their land and water (2). Thousands around the world are remembering Bhopal and what its stands for today - the danger of the chemical age, double standards and lack of accountability of multi-national corporations," said Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace campaigner in Bhopal.

Greenpeace activists in fifteen countries, and seven Indian cities, including Bhopal, will hold candlelight vigils and form human chains. In Switzerland, they will deliver an exact replica of the memorial statue in Bhopal to the DOW European headquarters in Zurich. Photo exhibitions showing people impacted by the poisoned gas and the contamination of the site are being held in Belgium, France, Australia, India, Slovakia and China, among others.

"In an increasingly globalised world, there is a need for corporations like DOW to use consistent standards around the world and take responsibility for their operations. If this disaster had happened in Europe or the US, the site would have been cleaned and the people fully compensated. We demand that DOW takes full responsibility for the horrendous disaster in Bhopal", Gerd Leipold, Greenpeace International Executive Director will say at a seminar on Bhopal and corporate accountability in Brussels on December 3rd.

Greenpeace and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) (3) are demanding that DOW, the multinational chemical leader, pays for the health treatment of the survivors, cleans up the large stockpiles of dangerous poisons left behind at the factory site since the disaster and cleans up the contaminated underground water. They are also calling for international corporate accountability legislation to make sure disasters like Bhopal never happen again.

See: http://www.greenpeace.org/Bhopal

Notes to Editor:(1). On the night of December 2-3rd 1984, forty tons of lethal gases leaked from a pesticide factory in Bhopal, owned by Union Carbide, now DOW Chemicals. The disaster has killed up to 20,000 people and left at least 150,000 chronically ill to date. Survivors and their children continue to suffer long-term health effects ranging from cancer and tuberculosis to birth defects and chronic fevers.(2). A further 20,000 people remain at risk of being poisoned by toxic waste that has been abandoned at the site since the disaster. The toxic chemicals include carbon tetrachloride and other persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals such as mercury, according to the scientific findings of Greenpeace in 1999, 2002 and 2004.(3). http://www.bhopal.net

Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems, and to force the solutions which are essential to a green and peaceful future.

 

Forgotten hero of Bhopal

This is from the BBC:

Forgotten hero of Bhopal's tragedy
By Faisal Mohammad Ali BBC Hindi service, in Bhopal

Mr Dastagir's actions may have saved hundreds of lives

Twenty years after the toxic gas leak at Bhopal in central India, BBC News reports on how casualties could have been much worse.

The daily express had been seen off from Bhopal and deputy station superintendent Ghulam Dastagir took charge of the night shift.

He settled down to a routine evening's work. It was 3 December, 1984.

Paperwork kept Mr Dastagir tied to his office until 0100 when he emerged to check the train running from Mumbai (Bombay) to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

As he stepped on to the platform, he felt an itch in his throat and a burning sensation in his eyes.

Toxic fumes leaking from the nearby Union Carbide factory were settling on the railway station.

Nearly 3,000 people died on the night of the disaster. There have been at least 15,000 related deaths since, according to official estimates.

Full responsibility

Mr Dastagir did not fully fathom the situation but years of training on the busy railways told him something was clearly wrong.

Moving quickly, he summoned his staff and told them to clear the Gorakhpur train for departure.

It was filling with Bhopal passengers already fleeing the fumes.

The scheduled departure of the train was still 20 minutes away and he was advised to check with his superiors.

But Mr Dastagir said he could not risk even a minute's delay.

He said he would take full responsibility for the early departure. His action may have saved hundreds of lives.

Manzoor Ahmed Khan - Mr Dastagir's colleague - says the station officer's next task was to ensure that no other train came into the station.

Even though thousands of people were descending on the station desperate to leave the city, passengers on incoming trains would be contaminated.

Mr Dastagir rushed to the control room and alerted senior railway officers. They immediately suspended services.

Instead of an escape route the station became a scene of "misery and death all around", says Mr Khan.

"No other mode of transport was available," he says.

"There was no bus, taxi or rickshaw. Panic-stricken people were coming in hordes to the railway station."

SOS call

Mr Khan had never seen such a scene.

"People were throwing up, some were down with diarrhoea, relieving themselves wherever they could. Many were choking," Mr Khan says.

He says he reached the station with his elderly parents, wife, sons and daughters around three in the morning.

They "just wanted to go anywhere out of the city".

He says he saw Mr Dastagir running from one platform to another, attending and consoling victims.

Mr Dastagir sent an SOS to all the nearby stations. Four ambulances arrived with paramedics and railway doctors soon joined them.

The station resembled the emergency room of a large hospital.

The burning and itching Mr Dastagir had felt became worse, but he ignored it.

He also had no time to think of his own family - his wife and four sons - who were living in the old city which was severely exposed to the gas.

"I knew him always being like that," says Fehmida, his wife.

"Once there was an accident and he didn't come home for three days," she said.

'Unrecognised'

Ghulam Dastagir died a year ago.

His last 19 years were spent mostly in hospitals. He developed a painful growth in the throat due to exposure to toxic fumes.

One of his sons died soon after the fumes were released. Another suffers a severe skin infection.

Mr Dastagir's wife says his actions have gone unrecognised. The railways did not reward him for his sense of duty and commitment to helping suffering victims, she says.

The railways installed a plaque in memory of those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty on the fateful night of 3 December, 1984. Ghulam Dastagir is not on the list.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

 

IFAW Animal Action Award

If only more kids were as unafraid to step up to the plate as Katie and Emma Harvey...

Animal Action Week 2004
2004 Animal Action Award Winners

IFAW's Animal Action Awards were launched in Canada in 2003 and provide an opportunity to recognize and celebrate those special individuals who do outstanding work for animals.

From wildlife researchers to grass roots animal rescue shelters, the awards reach out to animal heroes of all kinds. Among the 2003 IFAW Animal Action Award recipients were York North MP Karen Kraft-Sloan for her work on the Species at Risk Act, Rene Chartrand for taking care of the feral cats on Parliament Hill, and Katie and Emma Harvey, two girls who helped rescue over 100 Alberta horses.

This year, the award recipients are as equally diverse and heroic. Please click on the links below to read about these amazing people and their achievements.

Dr. Jane Goodall:2004 Lifetime Achievment Award Recipient

Buddy Bear Rescue Award

Dawn Brodie: Acting for Species Survival

Diana Charlton: Community Animal Action Hero

Chris Darimont and Chester Starr (Lone Wolf): Compassion in Science Award

Mackie Green: Campobello Whale Rescue Team

Barry Jones: Individual Commitment Award

Barbara Yaffe: Animal Welfare in Journalism Award

Alexandra Morton: Education and Activism Award

Lesli Bisgould: Protecting animals through law

 

The environment as compulsory class

This is cool, and I wish every country would do something like this. This is from Sri Lanka.

Environment to be compulsory subject for O/Ls
by Florence Wickramage

A Cabinet paper with a proposal to include Environment as a subject in the school curriculum from Grade 6 onwards and to make it a compulsory subject for the General Certificate of Education will be submitted to Government shortly by Environment and Natural Resources Minister A.H.M.Fowzie.

Addressing the media at Haputale, the Minister said that wanton damage to the environment was posing threats to human life and the health of the nation. Most of the wilful damage was caused by certain politicians, certain members of the police force and public institutions and businessmen who are after a quick buck at the expense of the environment.

Existing environmental laws would be revised and strengthened and those found guilty of contravening environmental laws would be severely punished.

Stressing that his mission was to create an environment-friendly healthy nation, the Minister added that school children were the best equipped to carry the message of Environmental Protection to the elders.

As such it is important that Environment should become part of the school curriculum. Minister Fowzie also said that in filling vacancies in his Ministry preference would be given to those who are actively engaged in environmental protection such as qualified young men and women who functioned as school animators during their school career.

Minister Fowzie was on an official visit to Horton Plains, Nuwara-Eliya, Haputale, Badulla and Welimada over the weekend. The Minister visited Horton Plains on Saturday to inspect the development work being carried out. Development of Horton Plains includes the establishment of a visitor centre and visitor facilities, new entrance to the park, new parking space for vehicles, viewing decks over the little and greater World's-End, establishment of new park trails etc.

At Haputale, Nuwara-Eliya, Badulla and Welimada Minister Fowzie commissioned drinking water facilities for remote villages in the Upper Watershed Project areas, reviewed progress of project work, handed over cattle to cultivators as an added income generator, visited several schools in the area and addressed school children. The Minister also had discussions with officials and communities coming under the project areas.

Director General, Department of Wildlife Conservation Dayananda Kariyawasam, Director Upper Watershed Management Project D.P.Munaweera and Ministry officials accompanied Minister Fowzie on the inspection tours.

http://www.dailynews.lk/2004/12/01/new24.html

Monday, November 29, 2004

 

World AIDS day in Ethiopia

AIDSETI and its Partner Mekdim Will Celebrate the World AIDS Day in Ethiopia by Recognizing the Key Role of Associations of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Scaling up Care and Treatment in Resource-Deprived Communities

AIDSETI and Mekdim, in partnership with the government of Ethiopia through its national HIV/AIDS Council, have organized various activities that will take place in Addis Ababa on December 5, 2004. Some of the highlights include dedication of a monument to frontline HIV/AIDS fighters, an international symposium on “Partnerships and Innovative Appraoches to Scaling - up Access to ARV treatment in Deprived Settings: The Example of the AIDSETI Association-Driven Care and Treatment Model (ADCT).”

(PRWEB) November 28, 2004 -- Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest and poorest countries. Approximately 10% of Ethiopia’s 60 million people are HIV positive but less then 3 % know they are infected. Nonetheless, community responses have been early and strong. Mekdim, which means « pioneer » in Amharic, has been the first, largest and one of the most successful national NGO involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Mekdim’s membership is over 10,000, and medical services are provided through community clinics to thousands of patients each year. Among these patients, only 102 have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) made possible through the AIDSETI Network of associations of people living with HIV/AIDS (or APLWHAs), of which Mekdim is one member.

AIDSETI (AIDS Empowerment and Treatment International) is an international organization registered in the USA and Burkina Faso. AIDSETI began five years ago through the creation of a network of 22 APLWHA in 14 countries of Africa and the Caribbean.

In many countries, these member associations are the main source for ART. The experience to date indicates that this unique community based approach to scaling up ART is both feasible and replicable. In spite of this experience, many institutional providers of health care in the private and public sectors, whether national or foreign, are reluctant to test the association driven care and treatment (ADCT). Burkina Faso, Burundi and Ethiopia are notable exceptions. The ADCT model fosters decentralization and flexibility, integrates best clinical practices, and engages national health care policy.

The ADCT model targets support to primary stakeholders by empowering those persons in the community who have a substantial interest in the wise and ethical management of limited resources. Through careful management of their own health care resources, APLWHAs offer a feasible, replicable approach to the delivery of HIV/AIDS care and treatment in resource-poor settings. This is why AIDSETI has fought tirelessly for the recognition of APLWHAs as integral to any national attempt to successfully scale up quality cost effective HIV/AIDS healthcare in resource-deprived communities. In this regard, Mekdim leadership has been universally acknowledged throughout Ethiopia by government, NGOs, and relevant stakeholders as a key driver in the national response to HIV/AIDS. Mekdim’s success demonstrates why AIDSETI advocates energetically that the ADCT model be implemented with affected communities taking a central role in the production of healthcare.

To highlight this positive African success story, and to get the importance of our model discussed openly, AIDSETI and Mekdim, in partnership with the government of Ethiopia through its national HIV/AIDS Council, have organized various activities that will take place in Addis Ababa on December 5, 2004. Some of the highlights include dedication of a monument to frontline HIV/AIDS fighters, an international symposium on “Partnerships and Innovative Approaches to Scaling - up Access to ARV treatment in Deprived Settings: The Example of the AIDSETI Association-Driven Care and Treatment Model (ADCT)” ; a public and national TV live broadcasted musical concert ; and an award (first edition of the APLWHA Appreciation Award) ceremony to recognize governments, private companies, foundations, and outstanding individuals who have distinguished themselves by their significant contribution to empower APLWHAs in the fight against HIV/AIDS. All these events will be presided over by his Excellency, the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, accompanied by ministers of health and by representatives of key international institutions and public and private organizations involved in the fight against AIDS in Ethiopia and all over Africa.

To learn more about AIDSETI and Mekdim, please visit their websites at www.aidseti.org and www.mekdim.org.
Press Release Contacts: USA 202-518-0402 Ethiopia (251-1)22-88-45

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2004/11/prwebxml183042.php

 

Bhopal 20 years on

This is from Amnesty, of course, and reminds us that, even though most people tend to quickly forget crises like this after 20 years, the effects linger...

India: Bhopal - human rights in toxic shock
©Maude Dorr
Related documents

Interview with Michael Meacher, Member of the British Parliament 11/26/2004
India: Clouds of Injustice: Bhopal 20 years on 29/11/2004
Press release, 11/29/2004

Twenty years on, the Bhopal plant continues to ruin the lives of the surrounding communities. The effects of the leak and the contaminated environment continue seriously to affect people's basic human rights. A report by Amnesty International shows how companies and governments are evading their human rights responsibilities, and underlines the need for universal human rights standards for businesses.

"A generation on, survivors are still waiting for just compensation and adequate medical care," said Benedict Southworth, Campaigns Director at Amnesty International. "UCC -- and Dow who merged with UCC in 2001 -- have still not cleaned up the site or stopped pollution that started when the plant opened in the 1970s, meaning local residents are continuing to fall ill from drinking contaminated water."

The effects of the ongoing pollution can be seen on newcomers to Bhopal who were not exposed to the original gas leak. Shehesta Kureishi, 35, moved to the area after her marriage 12 years ago. She told Amnesty International, "Two and a half years ago I stopped menstruating entirely". She also has pain from her lower back to her groin. Her seven-year-old son Ateeb complains of pain in his joints. Both have been drinking contaminated water.

Even today there is little medical research on the effects of the gas leak and the pollution, meaning their full impact is unknown. The Indian government must prevent further damage to people's health, by ensuring Dow cleans up the site and fully compensates the victims, and by making a full assessment of the health and environmental impacts.

Astonishingly, no-one has been held to account for the toxic leak and its appalling consequences -- over 20,000 people have died and 100,000 people are living with chronic illnesses. Dow and UCC both deny legal responsibility, with UCC refusing to appear before Indian courts to face trial.

UCC has tried to shift responsibility onto Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), claiming it had no control over its Indian subsidiary. In fact, UCC owned 50.9% of UCIL and maintained a high degree of corporate, managerial, technical and operational control over it, and was in a position to prevent the disaster.

"UCC was responsible for a litany of failures in the period leading up to the gas leak. Bhopal shows how readily some companies can evade their human rights responsibilities," said Mr Southworth. "There is a real need for global human rights standards for corporations. The UN Norms for Business are an important step in this direction, but to hold companies accountable and prevent disasters like Bhopal happening again, it is imperative to have enforceable standards that guarantee redress for victims."

The report explains how:

UCC stored ultra-hazardous chemicals in bulk; failed to set up an emergency plan to warn local residents; ignored warnings about the possibility of a chemical reaction similar to that which caused the leak and withheld information critical to the medical treatment of the victims.

The Indian authorities failed to adequately protect their citizens both before and after the disaster. Officials were aware that the plant used hazardous materials but Amnesty International has been unable to find any evidence that either the state or central government took adequate steps to assess the risks to the local community. Without consulting the victims, the Indian government agreed a modest financial settlement with UCC and cleared the company from legal liability.

Human rights have been violated on a massive scale, including people's rights to life and health. A framework based on the UN Norms for Business could be used to hold companies accountable for their human rights impact.

The effects of the leak and the insufficient compensation -- along with other government failings -- are felt every day by the survivors. Many are unable to earn a living, have families, or even get hold of medicine to treat their conditions. Parvati Bai, 70, is ill and far too weak to work. Her husband died a few months after the gas leak. Her only source of income is the 150 Rupees (US$3.30) she receives each month as a pension. "That is not enough even to buy myself some food," she said. "Some day I will die and the Municipal Corporation will just take my body away. That will be the end."

Amnesty International is urging people around the world to write to Dow demanding it cleans up the site.

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