AmeriScan: February 21, 2007

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Illinois Business, Labor, Enviros Shape Climate Strategies

CHICAGO, Illinois, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Climate Change Advisory Group on Thursday will begin developing comprehensive recommendations for greenhouse gas emissions reductions throughout the state.

Last week, the governor announced his statewide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Scientists maintain that global reductions of this magnitude are needed to minimize the impact of climate change.

The governor has asked the Climate Change Advisory Group to develop recommendations for strategies to achieve this goal.

Such strategies would aim to reduce the impact of global warming, boost the economy, protect the environment and maintain a good quality of life for all Illinois residents.

"The impact of global warming in Illinois and around the globe could be devastating, and we can’t wait for the federal government to act because scientists worldwide have warned that we must address climate change within the next decade to avoid serious and irreversible consequences," said Governor Blagojevich.

“The international community recognizes that rising temperatures, melting glaciers, and unusual weather patterns are warning signs telling us that climate change is a reality. Now, despite inaction by President Bush, we must deal with it," the governor said.

The Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group has broad representation from business, labor unions, energy and agricultural industries, scientists, utilities, environmental organizations, public health groups and other stakeholders.

Thursday's meeting will be the first of several to address the effects of climate change in Illinois.

"The goals the Governor has set will help the Climate Change Advisory Group identify the key strategies needed to make meaningful reductions in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases statewide while improving the competitiveness of Illinois’ economy,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott, who chairs the advisory group.

“From the Governor’s Energy Independence Plan that will create thousands of jobs in the renewable energy sector, to powering state facilities with wind power, to the Illinois Conservation and Climate Initiative that helps farmers earn money by trapping carbon dioxide in the soil, Illinois is making a strong commitment to minimize the impact of global warming," said Scott.

Earlier this month, the governor joined California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and executives from BP to launch the Energy Biosciences Institute to be based at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign and the University of California, Berkeley.

The $500 million facility funded by BP will invest in research next-generation homegrown biofuels made from crops to cut greenhouse gas emissions, boost U.S. energy independence and create new markets for Illinois farmers.

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FDA Asked to Place Cancer Labels on Hormone-Produced Milk

WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - Three advocacy organizations representing consumers, family farmers, and cancer prevention advocates Tuesday petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, asking the agency to withdraw its approval for Posilac - Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, rBGH.

The petition requests the immediate suspension of approval of Posilac based on "imminent hazard" and placement of cancer risk warning labels on all milk produced with the hormone.

The petitioners claim that scientific evidence shows increased risks of cancer, particularly breast, colon, and prostate cancer, from the consumption of milk from cows injected with Posilac.

The genetically modified recombinant bovine growth hormone, is also known as rBGH, or rbST. Posilac is the trademark for Monsanto's rBGH product, registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and is approved for marketing by the FDA.

Injection of this hormone forces cows to increase their milk production by about 10 percent. Monsanto has stated that about one third of U.S. dairy cows are in herds where the hormone is used.

The rBGH milk has high levels of a natural growth factor, IGF-1, which is readily absorbed when people drink milk. Excess levels of IGF-1 have been indicated as a cause of breast, colon, and prostate cancers.

The petition was submitted on behalf of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., chair; the Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins, executive director; and Family Farm Defenders, John Kinsman, president.

Dr. Epstein is the author of the new book "What's in Your Milk? An expose of Industry and Government Cover-Up on the Dangers of the Genetically Engineered (rBGH) Milk You're Drinking." For more information on this book, visit: http://www.world-wire.com/news/0701030001.html

To view the petition, click here.

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Bill to Allow Hemp Farming Introduced in Congress

WASHINGTON, DC, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - For the second time since the federal government outlawed hemp farming in the United States, a federal bill has been introduced that would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp.

The chief sponsor of H.R. 1009, the "Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007," is Congressman Ron Paul, a Texas Republican. A clutch of Democrat co-sponsors also back the measure.

"It is indefensible that the United States government prevents American farmers from growing this crop. The prohibition subsidizes farmers in countries from Canada to Romania by eliminating American competition and encourages jobs in industries such as food, auto parts and clothing that utilize industrial hemp to be located overseas instead of in the United States," said Dr. Paul.

"By passing the Industrial Hemp Farming Act the House of Representatives can help American farmers and reduce the trade deficit - all without spending a single taxpayer dollar," he said.

"Under the current national drug control policy, industrial hemp can be imported, but it can't be grown by American farmers," says Eric Steenstra, president of the advocacy group Vote Hemp.

He says the Drug Enforcement Administration has taken the Controlled Substances Act's "antiquated definition of marijuana" out of context and used it as an excuse to ban industrial hemp farming.

"The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2007 will bring us back to more rational times when the government regulated marijuana, but told farmers they could go ahead and continue raising hemp just as they always had," said Steenstra.

U.S. companies that manufacture or sell products made with hemp include Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California company that manufactures the number-one-selling natural soap, and FlexForm Technologies, an Indiana company whose natural fiber materials are used in over two million cars.

Hemp food manufacturers such as French Meadow Bakery, Hempzels, Living Harvest, Nature's Path and Nutiva now make their products from Canadian hemp.

Although hemp grows wild across the United States, a vestige of centuries of hemp farming, the hemp for these products must be imported.

Health Canada statistics show that 48,060 acres of industrial hemp were produced in Canada in 2006. Farmers in Canada have reported that hemp is one of the most profitable crops that they can grow.

Hemp clothing is made around the world by well-known brands such as Patagonia, Bono's Edun and Giorgio Armani.

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Bacteria Can Stabilize Buildings Against Earthquakes

DAVIS, California, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - Soil bacteria could be used to help steady buildings against earthquakes, according to researchers at the University of California-Davis. The microbes can literally convert loose, sandy soil into rock, the scientists say.

Jason DeJong, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, says that when a major earthquake strikes, deep, sandy soils can turn to liquid, with disastrous consequences for buildings sitting on them.

Currently, civil engineers can inject chemicals into the soil to bind loose grains together. But these epoxy chemicals may have toxic effects on soil and water, DeJong said.

The new process, so far tested only at a laboratory scale, takes advantage of a natural soil bacterium, Bacillus pasteurii. The microbe causes calcite, or calcium carbonate, to be deposited around sand grains, cementing them together.

By injecting bacterial cultures, additional nutrients and oxygen, DeJong and his colleagues found that they could turn loose, liquefiable sand into a solid cylinder.

"Starting from a sand pile, you turn it back into sandstone," DeJong said. Similar techniques have been used on a smaller scale, for example, to repair cracks in statues, but not to reinforce soil.

The new method has several advantages, DeJong said. There are no toxicity problems, compared with chemical methods.

The treatment could be done after construction or on an existing building, and the structure of the soil is not changed - some of the void spaces between grains are just filled in.

DeJong and his team are working on scaling the method up to a practical size, and applying for funds to test the method in the earthquake-simulating centrifuge at UC Davis' Center for Geotechnical Modeling. The centrifuge is part of the national Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation, funded by the National Science Foundation.

A paper describing the work has been published in the "Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering."

The other authors are Michael Fritzges, a senior engineer at Langan Engineering, Philadelphia; and Klaus Nüsslein, associate professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

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Directory Lists E85, Biodiesel Fueling Stations Nationwide

WHEATON, Illinois, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - The first directory covering both E85 ethanol fuel and biodiesel fuel retail stations nationwide was published this week.

Designed to help owners of flex fuel and diesel-powered vehicles find local retail outlets for these fuels, the directory also features a buyers guide for 2007 and earlier model Flex Fuel vehicles.

It covers over 2,200 retail locations nationwide, listed by state and city. Each entry has the fuel station's address and phone, hours of operation, phone number and types of payment options available.

Updated quarterly, the directory is available as a single copy at $19.95 or as a subscription with discounts for yearly subscribers.

The directory is published by USA Energy Independence Publications. CEO Bill Wolski says the directory gives motorists a tool that they can use to find alternative fuels in their area.

Copies of the directory may be ordered from USA Energy Independence Publications. Email: bwolski@usaenergyindependence.com or call 630-221-1778.

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Two Manatees Released at Florida State Park

ORANGE CITY, Florida, February 21, 2007 (ENS) - Blue Spring State Park Tuesday released two Lowry Park Zoo manatees into the wild as a part of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership.

Wildlife experts returned the manatees, named Dundee and Gene, to their natural habitats after being rehabilitated in manatee holding facilities for several years.

“Manatees are a unique natural resource in the state of Florida,” said Florida State Parks Director Mike Bullock. “The Florida Park Service is honored to be a partner in the stabilization of this endangered species.”

Dundee is a male manatee that was born at SeaWorld of Florida in 1994. He has been housed at several manatee holding facilities, including the Cincinnati Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Lowry Park Zoo and SeaWorld of Florida.

Dundee was first released last year at Blue Spring State Park, but was brought back into captivity in November due to concerns for his overall body condition and lack of food intake. Currently, Dundee is 314 cm in length and weighs 1,300 lbs.

Gene is a male manatee that was rescued with boat injuries in Indian Harbor Beach, Brevard County in 1977. He was 218 cm in length and weighed only 460 lbs and was taken to SeaWorld of Florida to recover from his wounds. Now Gene is 314 cm in length and weighs 1,930 lbs.

Gene has also been housed at several manatee holding facilities including the Columbus Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, Lowry Park Zoo, SeaWorld of Florida and Walt Disney World Epcot: The Seas with Nemo and Friends.

Blue Spring is a designated manatee refuge where the water temperature remains a constant 72 degrees, creating a safe haven for the West Indian Manatee, a federally listed endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act of 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection act of 1973 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act.

As many as 250 manatees have been spotted in the spring. The best opportunity to view manatees at the park is in the morning of a cold winter day. During manatee season, the spring run is closed to canoes and kayaks, and swimming is only permitted in the head spring area.

Gentle, slow-moving mammals, West-Indian manatees spend the winter months in Florida’s warm waters.

The goal of the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership is to monitor the health and survival of rehabilitated and released manatees.

Partnership members include the Cincinnati Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, Lowry Park Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, Save the Manatee Club, SeaWorld of Florida, University of Florida, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey-Sirenia Project, Wildlife Trust, and Walt Disney World Epcot: The Seas with Nemo and Friends.