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AmeriScan: June 6, 2005

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Supreme Court Rejects Alaska's Claim to Glacier Bay Submerged Lands

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that the United States and not the State of Alaska has ownership rights over the submerged lands and tidelands in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The ruling comes in response to a five year old case filed by the state of Alaska, which staked claim to all of the tidal lands and submerged marine lands within Glacier Bay, including the lands underlying waters in the Alexander Archipelago that are more than three nautical miles from the coast of the mainland or any individual island.

The court ruled that "Congress has made clear that one of the fundamental purposes of wildlife reservations" set apart pursuant to the Antiquities Act is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

"Because Glacier Bay National Monument serves as habitat for many forms of wildlife, it was set aside in part for its preservation. Any doubt as to this conclusion is dispelled by reference to the Presidential proclamations setting aside the monument, for the proclamations identify the study of flora and fauna as one of the express purposes of the reservation."

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge invoked the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create Glacier Bay National Monument. Then in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a proclamation expandingthe monument to include all of Glacier Bay’s waters and to extend the monument’s western boundary three nautical miles out to sea.

By the time Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, the Glacier Bay National Monument had already existed for 34 years as a federal reservation, the court pointed out.

The United States obligated itself to transfer to Alaska equipment used for fish and wildlife management responsibilities Alaska was to undertake upon acquiring statehood, the court explained, but noted that the United States expressed its intent to retain ownership over all federal refuges and reservations set aside for the protection of wildlife, regardless of the specific statutory authority enabling the set-aside.

This expression of intent encompassed Glacier Bay National Monument, the court ruled.

The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) applauded the decision. "With today's ruling, the Supreme Court has kept the 'Bay' in Glacier Bay," said NPCA's Alaska Regional Director Jim Stratton. "To think the park could function without the bay is a direct affront not only to its name, but also to the motivations of President Coolidge, who established the park in 1925."

Last year, NPCA filed an amicus brief in the case rebuking the state of Alaska's claim by detailing the impact that increased boat traffic and the reversal of a $24 million buy-out of commercial fishing permits would have on Glacier Bay, if the state were to win its case for ownership.

NPCA warned these actions would ahve a negative impact on the park's marine mammal populations, including its humpback whales.

"Given the world class marine resources alive and well in Glacier Bay, today's ruling by the Supreme Court settles once and for all who's clearly the most appropriate organization to manage and protect these resources into the future-the National Park Service, not the State of Alaska," Stratton said.

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Los Alamos Lab Whistleblower Hospitalized After Assault

SANTA FE, New Mexico, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - A whistleblower who was scheduled to testify about fraud at the Los Alamos National Laboratory before a Congressional committee is in hospital after he was assaulted late Saturday night in Santa Fe.

Auditor Tommy Hook was set to appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month to explain the pattern of financial irregularities in the Los Alamos Lab’ procurement division that he and colleague Chuck Montano found during their audits at the lab in 2002 through 2004. His testimony may have to be postponed.

His wife, Suzanne Hook, Montano, co-worker and fellow whistleblower, and attorney Bob Rothstein, who represents Hook and Montano, told reporters today that Hook had planned Saturday to meet an individual who claimed to have corroborating information about fraud at Los Alamos. That individual never attended the meeting.

Late Saturday, someone who might have been posing as that individual called Hook and asked to meet with him at a bar in Santa Fe. Hook went to the bar and waited but that person did not appear.

When Hook got into his car to leave, attackers pulled him out of the car, assaulted him, and warned him to keep silent. A bouncer at the bar intervened and broke up the attack.

Hook was hospitalized with severe trauma to his face and head, including a fractured jaw, and a herniated disk. He is heavily medicated today and is unable to speak to the media.

Congressional staff from the House Energy and Commerce Committee were scheduled to arrive Tuesday to investigate Hook’s allegations.

Also flying to Santa Fe is the Project On Government Oversight’s (POGO) Senior Investigator Peter Stockton, who investigated the 1974 murder of nuclear whistleblower Karen Silkwood in his previous position as a Congressional investigator.

Hook and whistleblower Chuck Montano appeared on CBS Evening News early this year. That segment can be viewed here: http://pogo.org/video/facethenation.rm.

In compliance with Department of Energy (DOE) requirements, Hook and Montano produced a report assessing the Lab’s contracting operations. Lab supervisors refused to allow the report to be submitted to DOE, instead submitting a report that glossed over the problems identified by Hook and Montano.

Hook and Montano filed a whistleblower retaliation suit against the University of California and supervisors at the Lab in March. A copy of the complaint has been posted on POGO’s Hook & Montano resource page at: http://www.pogo.org/p/homeland/HookMontano.asp

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories.

Los Alamos describes its mission as the enhancment of "global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to defense, energy, environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns."

Find out more at the Los Alamos Lab at: http://www.lanl.gov/news/media.shtml

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House to Vote on Slaughtering American Horses for Meat

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - Animal protection groups are lobbying their Congressional Representatives hard this week to support a bill that will help prevent the slaughter of horses for human consumption in foreign markets.

About 65,000 American horses die each year in one of the three foreign-owned horse slaughter plants that operate in the United States. The plants ship the horsemeat overseas to upscale meat markets and high-end restaurants.

s "It is unconscionable that for decades, we have been using federal taxpayer dollars to support a practice that the American public is overwhelmingly opposed to," said Representative John Sweeney, a New York Republican. Sweeney will introduce an amendment to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill that he says will "prohibit federal taxpayer dollars from being spent on facilitating the export of horsemeat from the United States for sale to countries abroad."

Cosponsors include Congressmen Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, and Democrats Nick Rahall of West Virginia and John Spratt of South Carolina.

The budget bill is scheduled for consideration on the House Floor this week.

Despite overwhelming public support and 228 bipartisan cosponsors, last year's legislative efforts to protect American horses failed to move when the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act was refused a hearing before the Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives.

"The vast majority of Americans are appalled that our horses continue to suffer such horrible cruelty during both long grueling journeys to slaughter plants and at the plants themselves," said Chris Heyde, policy analyst for the Society of Protective Animal Legislation.

"Horses can be hauled without food, water, rest or medical care for over 24 hours," said Heyde. "Often the easily frightened animals are not properly rendered unconscious, so many horses are fully aware and sensitive to pain while proceeding through the slaughter process."

"Not only are there clearly humane concerns, but very real human safety concerns, too. Because Americans don't raise horses for their meat, these horses are being dosed up with all sorts of medicines that are dangerous for humans," said Liz Ross of the Doris Day Animal League.

Sweeney said, "It makes good fiscal sense to prohibit any further waste of the American people's hard earned money for an industry that offers absolutely no economic value to the United States. Even more importantly, it is our moral responsibility as a humane nation to protect our equine pets, companions and athletes from the cruelty of horse slaughter."

A diverse coalition of equine industry professionals, humane groups and veterinarians support this amendment.

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Pennsylvania Facilitates Cleanup, Sale of Old TV Glass Factory

COLLEGE TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - The state of Pennsylvania's top environmental official has forged an agreement with two private corporations that will ensure completion of environmental cleanup at the former Corning television glass manufacturing facility. The deal clears the way for a redevelopment project that will bring new jobs to the site in College Township, Centre County.

Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty Friday joined officials from Dale Summit Acquisitions and Corning Asahi Video Products Co. in announcing the buyer and seller agreement between Corning and Dale Summit.

Officials from Dale Summit Acquisitions announced they have closed on purchase of the site and are moving forward with plans to redevelop the former television glass manufacturing facility.

“The commitment of this administration is to work with community-minded business leaders, such as Dale Summit Acquisitions, to bring good jobs to former industrial sites like the former Corning Asahi plant, while at the same time making sure the necessary work is done to protect the health and safety of area residents,” McGinty said.

Under Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program, the agreement requires the seller to complete environmental cleanup to strict state standards before applying for liability relief, which is then passed to the new owner, assuring that the purchaser faces no cleanup liability. This removes a major hurdle that has impeded redevelopment projects.

“The buyer/seller agreement is a great facilitator for what we are doing here,” said Daniel Hawbaker, a member of Dale Summit Acquisitions. “The availability of liability relief through the state’s industrial sites reuse law and the ability of a buyer/seller agreement to speed the land sale process along are playing a major role in making this all possible.”

Hawbaker said Dale Summit Acquisitions continues to talk with companies about locating on the site, which can house office, commercial and light industrial businesses. The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County is helping to market the former Corning Asahi site.

Prior to its closure in 2003, Corning Asahi employed nearly 1,100 workers, making it Centre County’s largest manufacturer and one of the county’s largest employers. The plant, which made glass components used in television picture tubes, had been in Centre County since 1966.

Corning currently is cleaning up site contamination under a consent order and agreement signed with the state Department of Environmental Protection in August 2004. The cleanup is expected to finish by the end of next year.

“Centre County is known for its beautiful rural scenery and excellent farmland. By helping Dale Summit redevelop an existing industrial site, we also are helping to preserve these valuable assets,” McGinty said.

s Funding for the state’s Land Recycling Program comes from a number of sources, including the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund, which currently faces funding shortages. Governor Edward Rendell had proposed a new, dedicated source of funding for the program as part of his Growing Greener II initiative, but this aspect of the plan was not approved by the Legislature. McGinty says it is now essential that an alternative funding source be identified and agreed.

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Fresh Basil Source of Florida's Cyclospora Infection

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - Contaminated fresh basil is considered to be the most likely cause of an outbreak of the gastrointestinal illness cyclospora, which sickened nearly 300 Floridians in March and April, state health officials said Friday.

Officials do not know where the basil originated or where it is being sold, said State Health Secretary Dr. John Agwunobi.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is initiating an investigation to determine the source of several clusters of cyclosporiasis associated with fresh basil served in Florida during mid-March through mid-April.

Known as a traceback, the investigation will work to locate the source of the contaminated produce.

The Florida Department of Health asked the FDA on Thursday to begin the traceback after results of an epidemiological investigation implicated fresh basil as the source of illness in Florida.

The Florida Department of Health has 293 laboratory-confirmed cases in 32 Florida counties during March and April.

"FDA is aggressively working with our federal and state partners to determine the source of the contaminated product and taking appropriate action to protect the public," said Dr. Robert Brackett, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Doc Kokol, a spokesman for the Florida Health Department, said, "With their experts, they'll be able to trace this tainted or contaminated fresh basil all the way back, hopefully to the fields, and they'll be able to tell us where it came from," said Kokol.

Cyclospora are microscopic, one-celled organisms that can contaminate fresh produce and burrow in the small intestine. The illness can be treated with antibiotics or could pass naturally within a period of a few days up to a month.

In order to help reduce the chances of infection from consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, federal and state officials reminded consumers to wash all fresh fruit and vegetables, including fresh herbs, under running tap water before eating them.

But Kokol said that washing may not prevent cyclospora infection. "As always, we're recommending to people that they wash their fruits and vegetables, and, while it may not eliminate cyclospora infection, it's just good common sense."

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Nevada Bird Lovers Must Stop Feeding Winged Friends

RENO, Nevada, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - Nevadans who feed wild birds might be killing them, wildlife officials warned this week. An illness birds pass to one another through their saliva makes bird feeders and birdbaths prime sources for the illness to spread, a state animal disease expert said.

Residents are urged to wash their feeders and birdbaths with a weak bleach solution and store them until next winter.

A one-celled parasite, Trichomonas gallinae, causes sores that constrict a bird's trachea and esophagus until it dies of hunger or chokes, said Anette Rink, director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture's animal disease laboratory.

Mourning doves and pigeons are at greatest risk of contracting the disease, but raptors who prey on the birds also get it, she said. Turkeys, chickens, quail and songbirds can catch the disease too.

Rink said she began getting calls about doves and pigeons dying in residents' yards in Reno and Sparks about three weeks ago.

The sickness occurs among birds periodically, but is not transmitted to humans or other animals, Rink said.

"This one is a virulent strain," she said. "Doves and pigeons are most susceptible, but I don't think we have enough data to say how a really virulent strain will affect other birds. We know songbirds and waterfowl are not as susceptible, but that could be because pigeons and doves are more conspicuous."

Jacque Lowery, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Reno's Shoppers Square, said hummingbird feeders are safe because they are not used by pigeons and doves.

"My recommendation is don't scatter feed on the ground until this outbreak runs its course, which is usually late winter to spring," Lowery said.

Lowery also recommends cleaning feeders weekly with a solution that is nine parts water to one part bleach and using a bottle brush to get inside tube feeders. She said rinse feeders thoroughly, and let them dry before refilling them. The same bleach solution should be used to clean birdbaths daily.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife still urges the removal of bird feeders and birdbaths entirely, sanitizing them and storing them away until winter to stop the spread of the avian disease.

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NOAA Storm Tracker Site Follows Hurricanes in Real Time

WASHINGTON, DC, June 6, 2005 (ENS) - The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is starting, and in response to public demand for information, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has introduced a new way to follow specific tropical storms or hurricanes.

NOAA Storm Tracker will contain live links to advisories, tracking maps and satellite images of a particular storm that is projected to strike the United States and other nations in a storm’s path.

NOAA Storm Tracker will include links to data from ocean buoys, affected airports and the latest high resolution satellite imagery of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Storm Tracker is designed to open a new and smaller browser window, which can be resized and placed anywhere on a computer desktop so the user can continue surfing the Internet while keeping track of a storm. The live links in NOAA Storm Tracker will update automatically without having to “refresh” or “reload” the browser window.

NOAA says its websites were bombarded by millions of people during the intense 2004 hurricane season, when four hurricanes struck the state of Florida within two months.

The NOAA home page received 1.2 billion hits for all of 2004, with nearly half of that traffic in September alone.

The websites of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service received more than eight billion hits during the months of August, September and October when the Atlantic storm season was at its peak.

“NOAA websites have proven to be enormously popular with citizens in the United States and worldwide,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. “Saving life and protecting property is one of the primary missions of NOAA, and one way we communicate vital information is through our websites.”

Find the NOAA Storm Tracker at: http://www.stormtracker.noaa.gov/

NOAA Hurricanes Page is at: http://hurricanes.noaa.gov/

NOAA National Hurricane Center is found at: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

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