AmeriScan: February 15, 2007

* * *

Gore Launches Live Earth Concerts to Fight Global Warming

LOS ANGELES, California, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - In an effort to engage billions of people across the globe to combat global warming, former Vice President Al Gore, Kevin Wall, Cameron Diaz and the MSN Network have launched Save Our Selves, SOS - The Campaign for a Climate in Crisis.

Its first event will be Live Earth, a 24-hour concert on 7/7/07 across all seven continents that will bring together more than 100 of the world’s top musical acts.

"In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to reach billions of people," Gore said. "We are launching SOS and Live Earth to begin a process of communication that will mobilize people all over the world to take action."

"The Climate Crisis will only be stopped by an unprecedented and sustained global movement," said Gore. "We hope to jump-start that movement right here, right now, and take it to a new level on July 7, 2007."

Live Earth is expected to engage an audience of more than two billion people through concert attendance and broadcasts.

The first 25 artists were announced Tuesday. They are: Pharrell, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg, Lenny Kravitz, Bon Jovi, Paolo Nutini, Sheryl Crow, AFI, Melissa Etheridge, John Mayer, Damien Rice, Corinne Bailey Rae, Duran Duran, Snow Patrol, John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Akon, Enrique Iglesias, Fall Out Boy, Maná, Keane, Kelly Clarkson, Korn, Faith Hill w/ Tim McGraw, and Bloc Party.

SOS was founded by Kevin Wall, who won an Emmy as worldwide executive producer of Live 8. Wall announced that Live Earth concerts will take place in Brazil, Shanghai, Japan, Johannesburg, London, Sydney, Antarctica, and the Eastern United States on July 7, 2007.

"We’ve been overwhelmed by the response from the artist community and are feverishly working out the logistics for all of the bands that want to be involved," said Wall.

"Our climate crisis is the paramount challenge facing humanity," Wall said. "SOS is more than a global distress call. SOS will give the world the tools we need to answer that call with meaningful action. The most important part of SOS is how individuals, corporations, and governments respond."

MSN has partnered with SOS to make the Live Earth concerts available across the globe. The Live Earth audience, and the proceeds from the concerts, will create the foundation for a new, multi-year global effort to combat the climate crisis to led by Gore, who chairs The Alliance for Climate Protection.

Joanne Bradford, corporate vice president and chief media officer of MSN said, "Anyone around the world with an Internet connection will be able to come to MSN to view not just the concert events, but also an extensive collection of interactive media that will entertain, educate, inspire and ultimately drive change."

Live Earth will implement a new Green Event Standard that will become the model for carbon neutral concerts and other live events in the future. The Green Event Standard is being developed in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Commission to create a way for venues to be LEED-approved.

The campaign’s identity is based on SOS, the international Morse code distress signal ...---... SOS is the most urgent, universal message we have, and SOS will use that signal as a continuous distress call to prompt individuals, corporations and governments around the world to respond to our climate crisis with action.

"SOS is creating an unmatched communications platform to take on an unparalleled crisis," Wall said. "Our message must saturate the globe if we’re to succeed, and we will.

In the U.S., we’re partnering with NBC-Universal and its networks. On satellite radio, we have SIRIUS and XM. In the UK, we’re partnering with the BBC. In Japan, we have a historic partnership with two broadcast partners. We have already secured television, Internet and wireless coverage in 120 countries, and the rest are soon to come."

* * *

Food and Drug Administration to Close Seven of Its 13 Labs

WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - Over congressional objections, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, is closing seven of its 13 laboratories across the country, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, a national association of employees in natural resources agencies.

The closures will be completed during the next few months, before the new Congress can act to block the shutdowns through the appropriations bill for the next fiscal year, PEER said.

According to briefings of agency staff, facilities in Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, Kansas City, San Francisco, Winchester, Massachusetts; and San Juan, Puerto Rico will be closed.

These laboratories are often the first line of defense in detecting and combating potential bio-terrorist attacks on foods.

In addition, they trace tampering with food and medicines and respond to public health threats, such as E. coli and listeria outbreaks, and support agency compliance inspections and enforcement actions.

FDA specialists have argued that eliminating laboratories will slow agency response time to outbreaks or attacks, as samples may have to be transported long distances.

In addition, closing laboratories located near ports or large food distribution centers may reduce the agency’s ability to uncover contamination before the effects ripple through the country’s food chain.

Congressional committee chairs, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and Congressman John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee have raised concerns about FDA lab closure plans, PEER said.

The FDA has informed agency staff that no money has been set aside for buy-outs of employees who lose their positions or relocation costs for specialists whose jobs have been moved to one of the six remaining labs.

"FDA has yet to explain why slashing its network of laboratories will make it more capable of protecting the American people," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that a previous review by the Government Accountability Office failed to confirm any fiscal savings from a similar laboratory consolidation plan a decade ago.

Both President George W. Bush and Congress have proposed more funds to increase FDA laboratory capacity to respond to bio-terrorist attacks. But due to the collapse of the FY 07 budget process, none of those funds were actually delivered to the FDA.

* * *

Cape Cod Bay Cleared of Marine Debris for Whales' Sake

PROVINCETOWN, Massachusetts, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - NOAA Fisheries Service is partnering with the Massachusetts division of marine fisheries, the Massachusetts environmental police, and the nonprofit Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies to locate and remove lost or illegal fishing gear in the Cape Cod Bay and adjacent waters.

Northern right whales use these waters for feeding until the late spring and could become entangled in this gear. Operations started in January and will continue through May.

The effort is funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, through a grant administered by NOAA Fisheries Service.

Patricia Kurkul, NOAA Fisheries Service northeast regional administrator, said, "Northern right whales can be seriously injured or die because of entanglements and this joint effort can reduce risks to these rare animals."

The Provincetown Center regularly conducts sighting surveys for the whales in the Cape Cod Bay critical habitat area. This year, they also will report sightings of lost gear that they encounter.

A gear removal project team will then use a vessel operated by the Massachusetts environmental police to haul the lost gear out of the water. State marine fisheries biologists, including one former lobsterman, will be onboard to provide advice on how to safely haul the gear.

This team also will remove any other gear found to be illegally set, stored, or abandoned in the area. For example, floating groundline is prohibited in Massachusetts waters because it is more likely to entangle large whales.

The vessel is equipped with a multi-beam sonar array that can acoustically see the groundlines used to connect lobster traps. Any gear found with floating groundline will be hauled.

Entanglement can be deadly to whales. In Hawaii last week, rescuers freed a humpback whale from more than 300 feet of line that left it weak and dangerously thin. Experts say the whale may have been dragging the gear around for several months until NOAA crews moved in last Wednesday, finding the whale off the northern tip of Hawaii Island.

It took the rescuers three and a half hours to cut the humpback free although weather and whale both cooperated.

* * *

New Jersey Waters Fall Short of State Standards

TRENTON, New Jersey, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - Many waters in New Jersey are not meeting state water quality standards for aquatic life, fish consumption and freshwater recreational uses, according to a new comprehensive report issued today. Still, most waters in the state are healthy enough to support drinking water supply, shellfish harvesting, and ocean beach recreational uses, the report concluded.

The primary pollutants affecting New Jersey's water quality include toxic contaminants mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs, in fish tissue; the nutrient phosphorus in freshwater, and disease causing microbes in rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

"There is tremendous competition for water resources in New Jersey, and everyone relies on government to protect the quality of our supplies," said Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, Commissioner Lisa Jackson. "This report identifies waterways that need improvement and provides a framework for clean up strategies."

The 2006 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring Assessment Report is the most complete assessment of the state's water quality, providing detailed information obtained from expanded DEP monitoring.

For the report, DEP evaluated waters based on their ability to support seven categories of designated uses - aquatic life, recreation, drinking water supply, fish consumption, shellfish harvest, industrial water supply and agricultural water supply.

Waters that do not meet current water quality standards for these specific uses are considered impaired, or are impacted by some level of pollution. Factors that impact one water use do not necessarily impair other uses.

The report also evaluates impacts from stormwater runoff, spills, improperly treated wastewater, and atmospheric deposition of pollutants from local, regional and national sources.

Non-point source pollution, such as contamination from a wide variety of sources including pets, livestock, stormwater discharges, and fertilizers, is responsible for "a significant portion" of the water quality problems identified in the report, Jackson said.

On the positive side, monitoring data show that between 1985 and 2004, nutrient concentrations and dissolved oxygen levels in freshwaters have improved or remained stable throughout the state. The levels of these water quality indicators are particularly important in sustaining healthy aquatic life.

The report identifies management strategies for improving the state's overall water quality.

To view the full 2006 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, click here.

* * *

Puget Sound Coastal Wetlands to Be Restored

OLYMPIA, Washington, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - The Washington state Department of Ecology will use $1.47 million in federal grants to help local partners return nearly 500 acres of coastal wetland habitat in Jefferson and Whatcom counties back to their natural conditions.

About 70 percent of the land near the mouths of rivers throughout the Puget Sound region has been converted to residential, commercial and industrial uses. Yet, these near-shore estuary areas also provide vital nurseries for salmon and other marine life.

"It will take time, money, teamwork and dedication, but partnerships like this will lead to results for the Puget Sound and Hood Canal," said Governor Chris Gregoire. "Every cent we invest now will bring us closer to my goal of making sure the Sound is swimmable, fishable and diggable for future generations of Washingtonians."

The Lummi Indian Nation in partnership with the Department of Ecology will invest $705,355 to restore and conserve 250 acres of Smuggler’s Slough wetlands in the Nooksack River estuary. The project will restore tidal hydrology and fish access to 7.35 miles of slough and 38 acres of palustrine wetland habitats on and adjacent to the land.

The Nooksack estuary is one of the most pristine and undeveloped estuaries in Puget Sound and presents a high potential for protection and restoration.

Merle Jefferson, natural resource director of the Lummi Indian Business Council, said, "The project will restore important habitat for fish and wildlife. We also want the project to help address nearshore water quality challenges that threaten treaty protected shellfish harvest rights."

Ecology is working in partnership with the Jefferson Land Trust and the Northwest Watershed Institute to invest $770,000 to acquire 124 acres of Lower Tarboo Creek in the Tarboo-Dabob Bay watershed.

Historically, the Tarboo flood plain was one of the most productive salmon habitats in the watershed. The partnership will restore 74 acres of wetlands, a half-mile of Tarboo Creek and a half mile of tributary channels to improve salmon spawning and rearing areas, increase wildlife habitat, plant native vegetation and control non-native species.

Peter Bahls, director of the nonprofit Northwest Watershed Institute, said, "This project will help provide long-term protection for the water quality entering Tarboo-Dabob Bay, one of the state’s most important shellfish growing areas and a nursery ground for salmon, crab, and Hood Canal shrimp."

The $1.47 million funding is provided by the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program. Established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1990, the program has provided about $165 million in grants to 25 coastal states and one U.S. territory that have accomplished the restoration of 200,000 acres of coastal wetland ecosystems.

* * *

Indoor Air Pollution Databases Help Plan Healthy Homes

WASHINGTON, DC, February 15, 2007 (ENS) - Air pollution sources are everywhere in the home, from the bacon and eggs frying in the kitchen, to the woodburning stove in the family room, the newly painted hallway, and even the carpet in the living room, according to a little known federal agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST.

To help estimate the seriousness of these and other indoor pollutant sources as well as to devise ways to reduce possible health impacts, NIST has developed searchable databases of product emission studies.

The databases include emission rates for consumer products, cooking and combustion appliances such as gas stoves. Also available is data on contaminant transport mechanisms, including particle deposition, contaminant sorption and different ventilation systems filters.

NIST researchers also have created a software tool called ContamLink that can transfer selected information from the databases into CONTAM, an indoor air quality modeling software program that predicts airflows and contaminant concentrations in multizone building systems.

Together, the electronic databases, ContamLink, and the CONTAM program are exptect to accelerate understanding of indoor air pollution.

The new databases allow investigators to access immediately information that previously was available in scientific literature, but required significant time to locate.

Two of the five databases are from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Research Council of Canada.

Researchers can download the databases, and with ContamLink, selectively obtain relevant information for inclusion in CONTAM or other indoor air quality models.

Database entries are not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather representative of the literature. Database users are encouraged to expand the databases with their own data using the data entry format provided.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Healthy Homes Initiative supported NIST's development of the databases and software tool.

More information available in "NISTIR 7364, Database Tools for Modeling Emissions and Control of Air Pollutants from Consumer Products, Cooking and Combustion," available on the CONTAM website: www.bfrl.nist.gov/IAQanalysis/software.

* * *