AmeriScan: October 17, 2005

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Deadly Storms Buffet New England

TRENTON, New Jersey, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - After eight days of rain caused ponds, lakes and rivers to overflow, New Jersey Acting Governor Richard Codey Friday declared a State of Emergency due to heavy rains, high winds and flooding across the state.

More than 1,000 Massachusetts and Rhode Island residents evacuated flooded homes after a week the brought at least 12 inches of rain.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has lifted the state of emergency in the state, which he declared Saturday after touring flooded streets in Worcester. Romney said the Massachusetts National Guard would be on standby to help evacuate more residents.

Massachusetts officials said they were prepared to evacuate about 6,000 more residents from Southbridge if dams in the area do not hold, and they said that nearly every river in the state is at flood level.

"The western part of the state seems to be in a recovery mode now, but the eastern and central part of the state continues to receive rain, and waters will continue to rise over the next day or two," Romney said.

These latest emergencies follow a week of heavy rains that claimed at least 10 lives from Pennsylvania to Maine.

A 75 year old East Hartford, Connecticut man was swept away by rushing water at a campground and drowned. A 54 year old Hampton, Connecticut woman slipped and fell into the Natchaug River, and is still missing, police said.

In New Hampshire, four deaths from flooding were confirmed last week, and six people are missing after floods tore up highways, demolished houses and shifted boulders and cars. Power and phone poles are down across New England, and many customers are still without power.

About 1,000 people were evacuated. Calling the flooding the worst in 25 years, Governor John Lynch sent in the National Guard. "We are concerned that additional rains could cause further damage," said Lynch. "We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst."

Governor Lynch has asked for a federal disaster declaration, which would make the state eligible for federal reconstruction help, but to date President George W. Bush has not made such a declaration.

New Hampshire has established a 24-hour hotline for flood victims to obtain assistance and information on aid programs at: 1-800-852-3792.

The National Weather Service forecasts improving weather for New England this week, with high winds and high seas subsiding over the next several days.

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South Louisiana Sinking, NOAA Elevation Surveys Show

WASHINGTON, DC, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - Officials from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced Friday that new, lowered, elevations have been published for three south Louisiana parishes of St. Bernard, Cameron and Calcasieu. Subsidence, or land sinking, is one of the main causes of coastal erosion and land loss in Louisiana and the surrounding Gulf states.

The newly-published values will lower official elevations in these parishes and establish a new network of vertical controls to serve as benchmarks.

Use of the new elevations and vertical control network is important for hurricane recovery, repair and construction efforts, the agency said. Evacuation routes, restoration and hurricane protection levee projects also need to use the new elevations and control network.

"Using these new benchmarks, planners will be better able to determine road and bridge heights relative to water and ground levels from these data,” said Charlie Challstrom, acting assistant administrator of NOAA's National Ocean Service. “They will be able to ensure that evacuation routes and shipping lanes have appropriate clearance to avoid flooding and obstructions."

NOAA plans to explain the new data points in two parish meetings over the next week. The meetings are scheduled for Monday, October 17, in Houma, Louisiana, at 1:00 pm in the Houma-Terrebonne Parish Engineers Office, 1860 Grand Caillou Road; Phone: (985) 873-6841, and Wednesday, October 19, in Lake Charles, Louisiana, at 10:00 am, in the Lake Charles Office of Emergency Preparedness, 911 Hodges Street; Phone: (337) 721-3800.

NOAA has already met with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain the new benchmarks.

The meetings are the first in a series that will be conducted to educate users on how to use new technologies available such as the Global Positioning System and NOAA’s Continuously Operating Reference Stations to provide accurate elevation reference points as the region recovers.

The new elevations are part of an ongoing state-wide effort in Louisiana to improve the accuracy of survey benchmarks and insuring they will remain accurate for longer periods. This height modernization effort was originally made in July in a New Orleans press conference.

Due to subsidence, the state of Louisiana is becoming increasingly more vulnerable to destruction by coastal storms and erosion. The impacts of subsidence on wetlands, the population, and coastal roads and industries in Louisiana are of concern to residents and officials.

As much as 50 percent of the Louisiana’s population lives in coastal areas of elevations of three feet or less. As population increases in the region, vulnerability to coastal storms and hurricanes also grows.

NOAA has had the support and cooperation of institutions and organizations in the Gulf Coast region, especially the Harris/Galveston Coastal Subsidence District, in coordinating efforts to detect and measure subsidence. Many of the specifications and procedures designed for use in the Louisiana Coastal region were developed in conjunction with the district.

The Louisiana Spatial Reference Center was established in 2002 at Louisiana State University in response to users’ and public safety needs. The Center operates in conjunction with NOAA to develop and provide height modernization procedures in Louisiana and to share technology development with others. Congress specifically provided height modernization funding in fiscal year 2005 for the Gulf Coast states of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

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Common Foods Found to Stop Spread of Cancers

HOUSTON, Texas, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - Curcumin, the main ingredient of the spice turmeric and the compound that gives curry its yellow color, inhibits the spread of cancer to the lungs of mice with breast cancer, report researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The study, published in the October 15 issue of the journal "Clinical Cancer Research," reports that the spice appears to shut down a protein active in the spread of breast cancer to a major target for metastasis.

Though the study results are early, researchers found that the nontoxic natural substance not only repelled progression of the disease to the lungs, but also appeared to reverse the effects of paclitaxel, or Taxol, a commonly prescribed chemotherapy for breast cancer that may trigger spread of the disease with use over a long period of time.

Because Taxol is so toxic, it activates a protein that produces an inflammatory response that induces metastasis. Curcumin suppresses this response, making it impossible for the cancer to spread. In fact, researchers found that adding curcumin to Taxol actually enhances its effect. Curcumin breaks down the dose, making the therapy less toxic and just as powerful while delivering the same level of efficacy.

"We are excited about the results of the study and the possible implications for taking the findings into the clinic in the next several years," says Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor of cancer medicine in M. D. Anderson's Department of Experimental Therapeutics. "At this time, advanced breast cancer is a difficult foe to fight with few proven treatments available after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy."

Taxol is currently used as the front-line chemotherapeutic agent in breast cancers, but because the drug frequently induces drug resistance after prolonged use, it is not effective in treating metastatic breast cancer, says Aggarwal.

Extracted from the roots of the curcuma longa plant, curcumin is a member of the ginger family. While it is not used in conventional medicine, it is widely prescribed in Indian medicine as a potent remedy for liver disorders, rheumatism, diabetic wounds, runny nose, cough and sinusitis. Traditional Chinese medicine uses curcumin as a treatment for diseases associated with abdominal pain, and it is used in ancient Hindu medicine as a treatment for sprains and swelling.

In an unrelated study, scientists have discovered a new compound in cranberries that works in a completely new way to prevent metastasis, the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.

Catherine Neto from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth discovered the compound, which prevents cancer cells from breaking away from the primary site and spreading to other parts of the body, a process called metastasis. It inhibits the molecular scissors on the cell surface that snip away at the anchors holding cancer cells in place.

The cranberry compound inhibits the growth of human lung, colon and leukaemia cells in culture, but does not affect healthy cells. These findings are published in the "Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture."

Navindra Seeram, at the UCLA Centre for Human Nutrition, says that the effect of this compound is a new finding, and that the newly identified compound could form the basis of a new cancer drug. Related compounds in red wine are more active in alcohol, and Seeram thinks the same could be true for this compound.

According to the American Cancer Society, the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer sometime during her life is one in eight. About 211,240 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2005, and approximately 40,410 women will die from the disease this year.

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California Bans Experimental Chemicals on School Campuses

SACRAMENTO, California, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that halts the use of experimental pesticides on K-12 public school campuses. Pesticides contain toxic substances, including many that have a detrimental impact on human health, the environment and can have a developmental effect on children.

The measure was authored by California Assemblymember Cindy Montanez and sponsored by California Safe Schools, a nonprofit group.

"With the governor's signature, he recognized what we've been saying all along - our students and school employees are not guinea pigs or test subjects for experimental pesticides and weed killers," said Montanez, a San Fernando Democrat. "Schools should be laboratories of learning, not test sites for chemical companies."

Los Angeles Unified School District officials have already committed to implementing the measures required by the measure and currently employ policies to protect students from chemical exposures.

"Aside from disrupting the immune and reproductive systems, kids can be impacted neurologically - ironically harming their ability to learn in the institution they are sent to be educated," said Robina Suwol, executive director of California Safe Schools, the bill's sponsor.

"The fact that threshold levels of pesticide exposure and health studies are currently based solely on an adult male of approximately 160 pounds underscore that children are counting on adults to protect them." The enactment of this bill is a step toward fulfilling that responsibility, she said.

Experts have confirmed in detail that the legislation does not financially impact school districts, the state of California, or industry and continues to allow the use of hundreds of products that might be necessary to respond to any health or safety emergency from pests in schools.

The bill's list of endorsers included the California Medical Association, California State PTA, California School Boards Association, California Teachers Association, Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Los Angeles Unified School District, Learning & Disabilities Association of America, Sierra Club, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Health and Environmental Justice Community.

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University of Colorado Wins 2005 Solar Decathlon

WASHINGTON, DC, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Friday announced that the University of Colorado took overall honors in the 2005 Solar Decathlon on the National Mall. Cornell University placed second, and California Polytechnic State University finished third.

The teams transport their solar houses to the National Mall, where they form a solar village. The solar houses built by each team remained open to the public on the Mall all weekend.

The University of Colorado (CU) residence is a single-chassis solar mobile home incorporating a patent-pending structural insulated panel system, called the BioSIP, which was invented by the CU Team specifically for their Solar Decathlon entry.

Materials used in the winning home's construction and furnishings read like a health food menu and include agricultural products and by-products such as soy, corn, coconut, wheat, canola oil, citrus oils, sugar and even chocolate.

Using "low to no petroleum" resources, the team said, means less energy was used in manufacturing the BioS(h)IP's materials and thus, the home itself. This feature combined with renewable energy systems for powering the residence enables the CU home to have an embodied energy dramatically lower than most U.S. homes.

Like a ship that fills its sails with renewable wind energy for travel, the BioSIP filled its tank with renewable biodiesel fuel during its trip between Boulder, Colorado and Washington, DC. The commitment to use fuel from waste oils and plants is based on the CU Team's low-to-no petroleum pledge for the Solar Decathlon and beyond.

“We should all be proud of what these students have accomplished,” Bodman said. “Through their ingenuity, their knowledge of design and engineering, and an incredible amount of determination and hard work, they have demonstrated that we can have it all - beautiful homes, comfortable homes, and homes that produce all the power they need.”

Using only energy from the sun, the teams generate enough electricity to run a modern household.

The University of Colorado ended up with 853 points of a possible 1,100. Cornell University earned 826 points, and California Polytechnic State University finished with 809 points.

The 2005 Solar Decathlon pitted 18 collegiate teams from the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada and Spain in a competition to design, build and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar powered home.

Students competed in 10 areas, ranging from architecture, livability and comfort to how well the homes provide energy for space heating and cooling, hot water, lighting, and appliances. Each house also had to produce enough additional power for an electric car.

The primary sponsor of the Solar Decathlon is the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Private sector sponsors include the American Institute of Architects, the National Association of Home Builders, BP Solar, the Do It Yourself Network, and Sprint Nextel.

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Utah County Sued to Keep ORVs Out of National Parks, Monument

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - Conservation groups Thursday filed suit against Kane County, Utah for enacting an law that would allow destructive off-road vehicle use on protected public lands, including Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

The suit also challenges the county’s 2003 removal of Bureau of Land Management’s ORV restriction signs in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the county’s recent posting of dozens of county off-road vehicle (ORV) signs in and around the monument in areas closed to ORV use.

The lawsuit, which was filed by Earthjustice for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society, charges that Kane County has violated the U.S Constitution’s Supremacy Clause by opening up scores of routes within the national parks and monument to ORVs after federal agencies closed the routes to protect the environment and cultural artifacts.

“We’re filing this lawsuit because Kane County is attempting to seize control of the management of some of America’s most spectacular public lands,” said Ted Zukoski of Earthjustice, one of the attorneys representing conservation groups.

“The Constitution and federal law require that these lands be managed for all Americans, not by local counties for the benefit of a few ORV enthusiasts. Kane County's bluster and bullying don't give it the right to trash national parks and other lands by turning them into dirt bike and ATV playgrounds,” Zukoski said.

In 2003, Kane County officials removed signs that the Bureau of Land Management had installed to identify routes and limit certain types of ORV use that had damaged the land. Although the BLM objected, the agency took no action against the county.

In 2005, county officials began posting on public lands hundreds of their own signs which indicated that other routes the BLM had closed to off-road vehicles were actually open. This time, the BLM threatened legal action and the Department of the Interior referred the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has not taken action.

Then in August, the county adopted an ordinance that would open to off-road vehicles scores of trails on lands where such use is prohibited under federal rules, including hiking trails and stream beds inside Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks, routes within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and trails and stream beds closed to off-road vehicle use in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

“We had to step in before some of America’s most unique and popular parks and wild areas were seriously damaged,” said Kristen Brengel of The Wilderness Society. “Kane County is pushing the envelope with outlandish actions that pose threats to the region’s streams, wildlife, canyons, and archaeological treasures.”

Kane County asserts that the routes in question are actually county “highways” under an1866 federal statute known as R.S. 2477, although the county has not attempted to substantiate any of its claims.

“There are reasonable solutions to the R.S. 2477 problem, but taking the law into your own hands is not one of them,” said Heidi McIntosh of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “These vast, natural landscapes are some of the most spectacular in the nation. They belong to all Americans who want to see them protected, not turned into ATV playgrounds and road networks.”

County residents and conservationists assert that the county is using a legal loophole in an attempt to control public lands, and that these efforts will inevitably damage the land and put visitors at risk by sending them down remote, unmaintained dirt tracks. The top Bureau of Land Management official in Utah agreed. An April 2005 letter from then-Utah BLM State Director Sally Wisely stated, “I am very concerned that such actions…may likely present serious safety issues to members of the public…and cause resource damage.”

The county’s actions jeopardize some of the nation’s most famous and best loved sites, Earthjustice claims, such as the Dry Fork of Coyote Canyon along the Hole in the Rock Road in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, where the County claims that hundreds of miles of canyons, streambeds, cow paths and hiking trails should be open to off-road vehicle use.

In Zion National Park, Utah's oldest national park, the county claims the eastern five miles of the East Rim foot and equestrian trail as a “constructed highway” that should be open to dirt bike and off-road vehicle use. The National Park Service bans such vehicle use on this trail, as it has for decades.

“The county and state deny that their campaign is about removing public lands from protection, but their actions certainly tell a different story,” said SUWA’s McIntosh. “They are trying to eliminate existing or potential protection for thousands if not millions of acres of southern Utah's public lands."

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Port of Los Angeles Seeks Biofuel Providers

SAN PEDRO, California, October 17, 2005 (ENS) - The Port of Los Angeles is considering ways to use biofuels as an alternative to diesel-fueled engines in order to reduce air emissions from its operations. The Port said Friday it is accepting statements of interest from qualified biofuel technology and provider companies through November 14, 2005.

Information is being sought on types of products appropriate for equipment and vessel use, various product blends, product benefits, limitations and costs.

The Port is interested in developing a biofuels infrastructure, the Port's Director of Environmental Management Dr. Ralph Appy, said in his letter soliciting interest from suppliers.

Targeted types of equipment are those traditionally diesel-fueled including cargo handling equipment, harbor craft, railroad locomotives, auxiliary engines, on-road heavy-duty vehicles.

For more information, and for the address of where to send statements of interest, please see the Port's website home page under "new postings" at: www.portoflosangeles.org.

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