Monthly Archives: May 2012

Radioactive bluefin tuna crossed the Pacific to US

By ALICIA CHANG | Associated Press – Mon, May 28, 2012 – at

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.

“We were frankly kind of startled,” said Nicholas Fisher, one of the researchers reporting the findings online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The levels of radioactive cesium were 10 times higher than the amount measured in tuna off the California coast in previous years. But even so, that’s still far below safe-to-eat limits set by the U.S. and Japanese governments.

Previously, smaller fish and plankton were found with elevated levels of radiation in Japanese waters after a magnitude-9 earthquake in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors.

But scientists did not expect the nuclear fallout to linger in huge fish that sail the world because such fish can metabolize and shed radioactive substances….

The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

Now that scientists know that bluefin tuna can transport radiation, they also want to track the movements of other migratory species including sea turtles, sharks and seabirds….

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A Last (Chemical) Gasp for Bees?

By Shannan Stoll, YES! Magazine, at Reader Supported News, 5/27/12

Colony collapse disorder threatens food crops valued at $15 billion a year. New research says farm chemicals put our food system at risk.

Newly published scientific evidence is bolstering calls for greater regulation of some of the world’s most widely used pesticides and genetically modified crops.

Earlier this year, three independent studies linked agricultural insecticides to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads honeybees to abandon their hives.

Beekeepers have reported alarming losses in their hives over the last six years. The USDA reports the loss in the United States was about 30 percent in the winter of 2010-2011.

Bees are crucial pollinators in the ecosystem. Their loss also impacts the estimated $15 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops that are pollinated by bees in the United States.

The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder. The findings challenged the EPA’s position – based on studies by Bayer CropScience, a major producer of the neonicotinoid clothianidin – that bees are only exposed to small, benign amounts of these insecticides.

The new studies found that bees are exposed to potentially lethal amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and in dust churned up by farm equipment. They also found that exposure to neonicotinoids can reduce the number of queen bees and disorient worker bees.

An alliance of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a petition on March 21 asking the EPA to block the use of clothianidin in agricultural fields until the EPA conducts a sound scientific review of the chemicals….

continue reading at Reader Supported News

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Fracking spurs a municipal mutiny in Pennsylvania

By Ben Price, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/23

Not content to leave Pennsylvania communities with any control over gas drilling within their borders, state legislators have stripped municipalities of their zoning authority under Act 13, choosing energy corporations over the people who elected them. This isn’t exactly new ground for the legislature; indeed, taking away communities’ authority to govern themselves is a decades-old pastime in Harrisburg, one that has shifted into high gear over the past 20 years.

The legislature made logging a guaranteed right in all zoning districts back in 1992, giving in to timber interests and eliminating municipalities’ authority to provide for conservation zones.

Shortly thereafter, lawmakers stripped municipalities of their authority to regulate corporate water extraction, the use of genetically modified seeds, and the dumping of urban sewage sludge on farmland. They also required all communities to allow “reasonable” extraction of minerals.

Until recently, however, corporations still had to go to the trouble of suing municipalities if they wanted to overturn local laws. That changed in 2005, when, responding to the growing number of municipalities banning factory farms, the legislature adopted Act 38, the Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environment Act, known as ACRE. It not only preempted municipal regulation of factory farming; it also gave private agribusiness a public lawyer: the state attorney general.

Under ACRE, instead of bothering to sue municipalities themselves, factory farmers could ask the attorney general to do so for them. Taxpayer-funded state attorneys were thus required to act at the behest of private corporations and against our communities to overturn democratically enacted laws. The state became not only an enactor of corporate-written law, but also a direct enforcer of it.

Using this as a model, Act 13 once again positions the state as corporate enforcer, this time through the Public Utility Commission. Under the law, the PUC can move to nullify any local laws that regulate gas extraction….

continue reading at Philadelphia Inquirer

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What Really Lies Behind the ‘War on Women’

By Naomi Wolf, Guardian UK, 25 May 12, at Reader Supported News

Are women suddenly running rampant in the streets by the millions, threatening society in unexpected ways?

You would surely think so by looking at the pattern that is visible across the nation: state by state, a well-funded legislative war on women is being unleashed. Many of these new proposed bills, or recently passed state laws, attack in novel ways women’s rights to ownership of their bodies and their basic life choices, which second-wave feminists thought long won.

Planned Parenthood appears to be target No 1: Maine, Texas, Arizona, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas have all either had bills to defund Planned Parenthood successfully passed or else bills introduced to begin the process of defunding.

Target No 2 is abortion rights. Since 2011, 92 new laws against abortion took effect, in 11 states: some states, such as Tennessee, are passing creative new restrictions on abortion rights. On 12 April, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed a new law banning abortions later than 18 weeks after fertilization, and imposing new regulations making abortion more difficult to obtain.

Other bills impose waiting periods for women after they have sought medical help – so that they are forced to “think it over” in a manner, and for a period, mandated by the state. A law in Utah requires women to wait 72 hours after receiving medical counselling, for instance, before having an abortion. A similar law is passed in South Dakota.

Finally, some bills – in a way that defies the US constitution – limit or criminalize certain kinds of speech to pregnant women: a law in Kansas would allow medical professionals to refuse giving abortion-seeking women information about clinics and doctors.

But women who want abortions aren’t just facing a closing window of time to get the procedure done, or a mandated wait to extend an already agonizing decision period, or a longer journey to find an abortion provider. They and their medical teams are also increasingly likely to risk facing criminal charges – or even violence. A bill that was under consideration in South Dakota last year would have recast killing an abortion provider as “justifiable homicide”. It was later shelved.

What is this flurry of legislation about?…

continue reading (and see many links) at Reader Supported News

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