AmeriScan: November 27, 2006

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New Ship Routes Recommended to Avoid Endangered Whales

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - To lower the chance of ship strikes with endangered right whales, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, is urging ship captains to use new recommended routes when entering or leaving a number of east coast ports.

The new guidance applies to the Florida ports of Jacksonville and Fernandina, and Brunswick, Georgia, as well as in Cape Cod Bay off Massachusetts.

NOAA says the recommended routes take into account safety and economic impact to the mariner.

Although the routes are voluntary, they will appear on both electronic and paper NOAA nautical charts no later than November 30.

The new designations will help mariners decrease whale strikes by reducing vessel activity in areas frequented by ships and whales.

"This is an important part of our ship strike reduction strategy for critically endangered right whales," said Bill Hogarth, director of the NOAA Fisheries Service.

"Mariners need to be aware of these voluntary routes before the winter calving season when pregnant females and females with calves migrate to waters off of Florida and Georgia. With a population so low, even one whale death can set back recovery efforts dramatically."

North Atlantic right whales are among the most endangered marine mammal populations in the world and are highly vulnerable to ship collisions.

Pregnant females and females with calves are known to have been struck by ships along the East Coast in recent years. The right whale population is small, around 300, and many scientists believe recovery has stalled, making the few reproductively active females even more important to population recovery.

Right whales travel south from waters off Canada and New England to calving and nursery areas off Florida and Georgia in winter, traversing areas frequented by large ships. Females and their calves then return to more northerly feeding grounds.

During the spring, they gather in Cape Cod Bay, also an area with substantial ship traffic.

"One of NOAA's primary missions is to support the nation's commerce with information for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation," said John Dunnigan, assistant administrator for the NOAA Ocean Service.

"The integration of these recommended routes to our suite of chart products is part of our effort to provide up-to-date navigation information vital to our economy as well as to help protect the nation's living marine resources," Dunnigan said.

Mariners will be alerted to the routes in a U.S. Coast Guard Local Notice to Mariners.

The routes can be found on updated electronic versions of the Massachusetts Bay nautical charts that can be downloaded at http://www.noaa.gov/charts.html.

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San Gabriel Valley Superfund Polluters Fined $2.1 Million

LOS ANGELES, California, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has reached separate settlements requiring companies that allegedly contributed to groundwater contamination at the San Gabriel Valley Superfund site near Los Angeles.

The penalties will reimburse the EPA $2,136,320 and the State Department of Toxic Substances Control, $16,000 for past cleanup costs at the Puente Valley Operable Unit.

The EPA listed several sections of the San Gabriel Valley as Superfund sites in 1984, including multiple areas of groundwater contaminated by volatile organic compounds.

There are 45 water suppliers in the Valley that use the San Gabriel Basin groundwater aquifer to provide 90 percent of the drinking water for over one million residents.

The contaminated groundwater associated with all of the San Gabriel Valley sites lies under significant portions of Alhambra, Irwindale, La Puente, Rosemead, Azusa, Baldwin Park, City of Industry, El Monte, South El Monte, West Covina, and other areas of the San Gabriel Valley.

The settlements reached today apply to Rathon Corp. and Chemed Corporation, which must reimburse $1.76 million to the EPA and $14,000 to the State Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The Saint-Gobain Corporation, as successor in interest to Saint-Gobain Calmar Inc., must reimburse $376,320 to the EPA and $2,000 to the State Department of Toxic Substances Control.

The EPA has already received $10 million from prior settlements relating to the Puente Valley Operable Unit.

Other potentially responsible parties are implementing groundwater cleanup programs for the Puente Valley Operable Unit, estimated to cost over $50 million over the next 10 years.

A groundwater cleanup system is being designed that requires installing wells to pump out contaminated groundwater to prevent it from further spreading.

The EPA says the extracted groundwater will be treated to remove contaminants and may be provided to a local water supply distribution system or discharged to surface water.

The consent decrees were lodged in Federal District Court on November 2, 2006. On November 22, 2006, a 30-day public comment period regarding the decrees began through publication in the Federal Register.

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Melting Ice May Release Frozen Influenza Viruses

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - Long-dormant strains of influenza, packed in ice in remote global outposts, could be unleashed by melting and migratory birds, according to Professor Scott Rogers at Bowling Green State University.

Chair of the Department of Biological Science, Dr. Rogers is in the middle of a two-year, $139,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

“We've found viral RNA in the ice in Siberia, and it's along the major flight paths of migrating waterfowl,” whose pathways take them to North America, Asia and Australia, and interconnect with other migratory paths to Europe and Africa, explains Rogers.

The virus that Rogers and his collaborators have found is closest to a strain that circulated from 1933-38 and again in the 1960s.

Viruses, he says, can be preserved in ice over long periods of time, then released decades later when humans may no longer be immune to them.

For instance, survivors of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 had immunity to the responsible strain, called H1N1, but that immunity has died with them, meaning a recurrence "could take hold as an epidemic," said Rogers.

The research is being published in the December issue of the "Journal of Virology."

The researchers are looking to expand their examination to Canadian and Alaskan lakes, along with those in Greenland, Antarctica and Siberia that they've already tested.

"It's getting more and more difficult to ship water and ice on airplanes," even more so now than right after Sept. 11, 2001, Rogers complains. "There are more delays for customs just to look at the samples," which are packed in dry ice in plastic foam containers but nonetheless start melting after two or three days.

Rogers points out that it remains to be demonstrated that the frozen viruses are still alive. But "we think they can survive a long time" in ice, he reiterates, saying that tomato mosaic virus has been found in 140,000 year old ice in Greenland.

Dr. Rogers presented a poster on the research at the 11th International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Pacific Rim, held November 16-18 in Singapore.

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Securities and Exchange Commission Could Go Paperless

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - The Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, is proposing that publicly traded companies in the United States be able to provide annual reports and shareholder proxy information via the Internet rather than mailing printed material.

A final decision on the "Internet Availability of Proxy Materials" initiative is expected at an open meeting of the Commission on December 13, 2006.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said, "The Commission will consider a final rule for Internet proxy delivery, as well as proposals for revisions to our rule concerning shareholder proxy initiatives. This will permit discussion of how the Internet can advance the dissemination and exchange of information among shareholders and companies, and thereby improve the entire proxy process."

The move has attracted the support of America's oldest citizens' forest conservation organization.

American Forests is urging the SEC to approve this initiative "because of the tremendous environmental benefits that it promises," the organization said in a statement.

Based on figures provided by Paper Calculator.org, the conservation group calculates that for the estimated 300 million packages each year that are mailed to the SEC, the "Internet Availability of Proxy Materials" initiative would:

  1. Allow 800,000 trees to continue to grow each year, removing some 267,000 tons of greenhouse gas from the atmosphere annually;

  2. Reduce fossil fuel consumption by approximately 500,000 gallons annually by eliminating the need for three million truck miles to transport the mail;

  3. Prevent 100,000 tons of paper from going to the nation's landfills each year; and

  4. Eliminate 380 thousand tons of greenhouse gas emitted in the manufacturing process.

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Xerox Invents Erasable, Reusable Paper

PALO ALTO, California, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - Xerox Corporation scientists have invented a way to make prints whose images last only a day, so that the paper can be used again and again.

The fledgling technology blurs the line between paper documents and digital displays and could ultimately lead to a reduction in paper use by replacing printed pages that are used for just a brief time before being discarded.

Xerox estimates that as many as two out of every five pages printed in the office are for what it calls "daily” use, like e-mails, Web pages and reference materials that have been printed for a single viewing.

The experimental printing technology, a collaboration between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, XRCC, and the Palo Alto Research Center Inc., PARC.

Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s new materials design and synthesis lab acknowleges that people still like paper. "Self-erasing documents for short-term use offers the best of both worlds," he said.

"Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content," Smith said. "Of course, we’d all like to use less paper, but we know from talking with customers that many people still prefer to work with information on paper."

To develop erasable paper, researchers created compounds that change color when they absorb a certain wavelength of light but then will gradually disappear.

In its present version, the paper self-erases in about 16-24 hours and can be used multiple times.

Xerox has filed for patents on the technology, which it calls "erasable paper."

Temporary documents are part of Xerox’s ongoing investments in sustainable innovation, green products that deliver measurable benefits to the environment, such as solid ink printing technology, which generates 90 percent less waste than comparable laser printers.

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Williams-Sonoma Catalogs to Utilize Sustainable Paper

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 27, 2006 (ENS) - Williams-Sonoma, Inc., the retail and catalog home products provider, today announced it will begin sourcing at least 95 percent of the paper used in the company’s seven catalogs from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC.

The company's catalogs display the merchandise of Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Bed and Bath, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, West Elm, and Williams-Sonoma Home.

"Today's announcement takes Williams-Sonoma, Inc.'s existing environmental commitment a step further by becoming the first major catalog company to print all of its catalogs on Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainable paper,” said Todd Paglia, executive director of the nonprofit conservation organization ForestEthics.

Through independent third-party audits, FSC certification ensures that Williams-Sonoma, Inc.'s catalog paper comes from well-managed forests that adhere to strict environmental and socioeconomic standards.

"Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is committed to responsible catalog paper procurement practices that promote the sustainability of forests," said Pat Connolly, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

"We could not have achieved this certification without the support and determined efforts of our supply chain partner, NewPage Corporation. Securing FSC certification demonstrates their continued dedication to responsible forest management and long-term sustainability," Connolly said.

FSC promotes responsible forest management through a third-party certification program that is used as a marketplace tool for ensuring that the world's forests are protected for future generations.

There are currently more than 67 million acres of FSC certified forestland in North America and nearly 200 million acres globally.

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