AmeriScan: December 20, 2000


NEW YORK, New York, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - The use of handheld cellular telephones does not appear to be associated with the risk of brain cancer, but further studies are needed to encompass longer use, says an article in today's issue of "The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)." The case control study of 891 people who regularly used a cellular phone showed no statistical association between the amount of cell phone usage and the likelihood of developing brain cancer. "We didn't find any correlation between cell phone usage and increased incidence of brain cancer," said Dr. Mark Malkin, a neuro-oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and study co-author. "Nor did we find any relationship between amount of cell phone use and brain cancer."

"Because 85 percent of people in the study reported extending the antenna during calls, we might have expected to find a disproportionate cluster of tumors behind the eye and the ear on the side the cell phone was used since radiation emission is highest at the antenna," said Malkin. "In fact we found no link between cell phone usage and temporal lobe tumors, nor was there any association between handedness and tumor location." Based on all available data, including studies by other groups, the researchers believe that extended use of cellular phones does not appear to cause brain cancer. But they caution that further research is needed, as this study covers people who have used analog cellular phones for a short period of time (two to three years). As people continue to use cell phones for extended durations, the long term health effects, if any, need to be monitored.

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TITUSVILLE, Florida, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Richard King Mellon Foundation has donated one of the world's most important sea turtle nesting beaches and other adjacent wildlife habitat to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida. The donation includes one half mile of ocean front used by nesting sea turtles in the refuge area. A total of 19,000 threatened loggerhead, 2,800 endangered green, and 13 endangered leatherback sea turtles nested at Archie Carr NWR this past summer. The donation also includes scrub habitat important for the threatened Florida scrub jay and eastern Indigo snake and three structures, including one used as a University of Central Florida research station. The donation, which totals about 35 acres, almost doubles the amount of land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Archie Carr NWR.

"This generous donation by the Richard King Mellon Foundation will assure the protection of this extremely important sea turtle nesting area for the future," said USFWS director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "In addition, it will enable the Service to care for the scrub habitat, which must be actively managed to provide good quality habitat for Florida scrub jays and other species." Seward Prosser Mellon, president of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, said, "The Foundation's American Land Conservation Program, under which this donation has been made, reflects our Foundation's - and family's - traditional and continuing interest in land conservation. We feel the private sector has an opportunity and an obligation to augment the conservation work of state and federal agencies. We are pleased that our program will help safeguard this critical nesting area for marine turtles and enlarge the resources of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge."

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - As one of its final acts, the 106th Congress passed a bill on Friday designating 757,000 acres of Nevada as wilderness, bringing the year's total of new wilderness to more than one million acres, the most since 1994. President Bill Clinton has said he will sign the bill. The two year total of 1,062,153 acres gives the 106th Congress the best record since the 103rd and ranks it tenth of the 19 Congresses that have served since passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. That law created the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), which now contains more than 105 million acres of public land. Other bills passed this year will protect lands in Colorado (18,000 acres at Spanish Peaks and 75,000 acres at Black Ridge Canyons), Virginia (11,000 acres in George Washington National Forest), and Oregon (172,000 acres at Steens Mountain).

During its first year, the 106th Congress approved wilderness legislation for Alabama (Dugger Mountain, 15,000 acres), Colorado (Black Canyon of the Gunnison, 22,000 acres), and California (Otay Mountain, 15,000 acres). Last year, the National Park Service added 1,752 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore in California to the Wilderness System. "It's a great feeling to see eight wilderness bills passed by one Congress and to know that all these special places will be left in their natural condition forever," said Wilderness Society president William Meadows. "We were also pleased by the bipartisan support these bills attracted. This is as it should be, and we hope this spirit of cooperation will carry over into the next Congress." Once land is added to the NWPS, no roads or structures may be constructed, and mechanical equipment may not be used. The 105 million acres consist of lands that are already part of the national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges and lands overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Those four systems contain 623 million acres.

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - In a dramatic improvement over the previous Congress, which designated zero wild and scenic rivers, the 106th Congress has used the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to protect 11 river segments in eight states. Each designation was a bipartisan decision providing permanent protection for the natural, cultural and recreational values of the rivers. The Wild and Scenic Rivers program - often associated with protecting whitewater canyons in the West - is now saving wildlife habitat amid growing suburban sprawl near major urban centers. Florida's Wekiva River, for instance, is located within the greater Orlando metropolitan area, the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation. Local and state governments have struggled in efforts to protect the river against the damaging effects of urban sprawl. The Wekiva River Basin supports numerous plant and animal species that are at risk, including the American alligator, bald eagle, wood stork, and the West Indian manatee.

The effort to protect the listed rivers took tremendous grassroots support by activists determined to protect their local rivers. "Particularly with this Congress, there had to be local support," said Kristen McDonald, associate director of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program for the conservation group American Rivers. "In many cases, local plans were already in place to protect the rivers. This is a totally new way of going about river conservation through wild and scenic river designation." Rivers protected during this Congress include portions of: - White Clay Creek, in Delaware and Pennsylvania - Lower Delaware River, in New Jersey and Pennsylvania - Wekiva River, in Florida - Whitehorse Creek and Kiger Creek, and the Donner und Blitzen River, in Oregon - Sudbury, Assebet and Concord Rivers, in Massachusetts - Wilson Creek, in North Carolina - Lamprey River, in New Hampshire

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - In the coming year, the new administration will find several longer term trade negotiations at a critical point and the new Congress will have at least six major trade bills to act on, said U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky. In remarks Tuesday before the Economic Strategy Institute, Barshefsky said the 2001 trade agenda will include the third Summit of the Americas, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations on agriculture and services, China's accession into the WTO, free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile, and Russia's bid to join the WTO.

The new Congress will have to act on the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Agreement, a similar agreement on normalized trade relations with Laos, free trade agreements with Jordan, Singapore and Chile, and the renewal and expansion of the Andean Trade Preferences Act. Barshefsky said critics of international trade agreements are concerned about "the global environment, as rapid industrialization in developing countries heightens strains on the world's natural heritage." She noted that the U.S. "cannot simply ignore these issues. A decent society is judged on its treatment of the vulnerable and the least fortunate; and we have no more important responsibility than care of the environment we hold in trust for future generations. We must begin, though, by recognizing that trade policy cannot be the sole or principal means of responding to these concerns. Trade tends not to be their cause, and isolation from trade is no solution."

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - Students from several of Alabama's historically Black colleges and universities are getting involved in a "Monumental Effort" by asking President Bill Clinton to designate portions of the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests as National Monuments. Campus leaders from Tuskegee, Alabama A&M, and Alabama State Universities, as well as Oakwood and Miles College experienced firsthand the lush greenery and deep canyons of the Bankhead National Forest. This wilderness experience has spurred many of them into becoming conservationists. They have launched campaigns on their campuses for the creation of two new national monuments within the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests. The students cite clean air and water, the protection of wildlife habitat, and a sense of spiritual renewal as key reasons to protect these unique treasures of Alabama.


Black leaders and students tour the proposed national monument in Alabama's Bankhead National Forest (Photo courtesy The Wilderness Society)

"It is wonderful knowing that Alabama has such incredible historical and natural resources," said Carlton Bell, student leader at Miles College. "The only word to describe the Bankhead National Forest is breathtaking. President Clinton has got to do the right thing to ensure the longevity of these forests." Parts of the Talladega and Bankhead include habitat for many endangered and threatened species, historic paths and roads formerly used by Native Americans and traders, and contain natural treasures such as streams, mountains, ancient rock shelters and designated wilderness areas that are home to unique ecological systems. "The designation will send a clear message to the world that the Clinton Administration cares about Alabama's natural treasures enough to protect them," said George Gay, The Wilderness Society's southeastern regional director. "National monument status will preserve these forests for future generations and ensure that wild Alabama will forever remain free from the threats that plague it."

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NEW YORK, New York, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has approved an order for 200 hybrid electric transit buses worth $77 million. The buses will be purchased from Orion Bus Industries in Oriskany, New York, and the propulsion units for the advanced design transit buses will be manufactured by BAE Systems in Johnson City, New York. "These buses will pay important health dividends by dramatically reducing bus emissions on the streets of New York, while helping provide good paying jobs upstate," said Governor George Pataki. "This order for 200 hybrid electric buses is the largest order of its kind in North America. As New York leads the way with clean buses, we are hopeful that other transit agencies will follow, creating additional bid opportunities for New York State suppliers. Built in New York, by New Yorkers, these state of the art vehicles will provide clean, efficient transportation for commuters who use the nation's largest transit system each day."

Orion Bus Industries is owned by Freightliner, LLC, a unit of Daimler Chrysler. BAE Systems has purchased the former Lockheed Martin facility in Johnson City. Rick Solon, president of Orion Bus, said, "The Orion VII hybrid electric transit bus is one of the most important new products to be introduced by our company. We appreciate Governor Pataki's support by placing this key order with Orion. We are committed to New York as a leading customer for our products and as the home for our U.S. manufacturing plant. We are working very hard to book additional orders for our Oriskany plant so that we can utilize our workforce in Oneida County to produce the finest and the cleanest transit vehicles in the world."

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - The effects of selenium entering the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary (Bay-Delta) are forecast in a model released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Forecasting accurate environmental concentrations of selenium in the estuary is crucial because of the element's effect on reproduction in aquatic birds and fish. In the past, selenium discharges into California waters have caused deformities in ducks, grebes and coots. "The model allows us to consider many different drainage options. Most options that meet existing demands appear to pose strong risks to the reproduction and survival of sensitive birds and fish," said USGS scientist Sam Luoma. "Threats to reproduction and survival of birds and fish are particularly severe during periods of low river flow. Vulnerable species include diving ducks, white sturgeon and Sacramento splittail."

The USGS model is being released as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency re-evaluates selenium standards for the protection of aquatic life. Both federal and state regulatory agencies are preparing to evaluate proposals and permits that may include decisions concerning drainage of saline subsurface waters that are having negative effects on agriculture in California's western San Joaquin Valley. Proposals include plans to release agricultural drainage to the Bay-Delta via the San Joaquin River and/or an extension of the San Luis Drain. "Determining a selenium budget through the estuary is crucial because internal and external sources of selenium are changing as a result of water management," said Theresa Presser of USGS. "The forecasts obtained from our model allow us to advance discussions by using the fundamentals of ecology, selenium biogeochemistry and the hydrodynamics of the Bay-Delta, in addition to traditional considerations of water supply and drainage demand."

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RENO, Nevada, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - In a recent hearing before the U.S. District Court in Reno, Judge Howard McKibben told the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that it is not working hard enough to implement "very simple steps" to prevent adopted wild horses from ending up at slaughterhouses. Judge McKibben asked the BLM to submit more information within 60 days on the number of horses slaughtered in the last two years and whether it has prosecuted those cases. BLM was also ordered to state for the record that it will no longer title horses unless the adopter signs a sworn attestation not to use the horse for slaughter. Three years ago, The Fund for Animals and the BLM reached a settlement intended to stem the tide of wild horses going to slaughter soon after being removed from public lands. The agreement states that the application for title of an adopted horse will include a signed attestation, under penalty of perjury, that the adopter has no intent to sell the horse for slaughter, for bucking stock or for commercial processing.

The Fund for Animals, an animal rights group, returned to court this year after reports that the BLM continued to permit adopters to take title to wild horses without signing this attestation, resulting in the slaughter of hundreds of wild horses. In September 1999, BLM officials reported that over the past year more than 575 wild horses were killed in U.S. slaughterhouses. Of these, more than 185 had been slaughtered within three months of the adopter obtaining title, and more than 30 were slaughtered within one month following the transfer. Judge McKibben suggested during the hearing, "If BLM really wants to stop what's going on out there . . . they would take these very simple steps of asking a question and having somebody respond to it under conditions where they can be prosecuted if they don't tell the truth."

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NEW YORK, New York, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Fund for Animals, a national animal protection organization, is asking churches across the U.S. to show compassion for the suffering of animals by not staging so called "live nativities" over the Christmas holidays. Live nativities are life sized crèches, or manger scenes, in which living animals, such as sheep, goats, and cows, are confined in small spaces for as long as two weeks as part of a tableau depicting the birth of Christ. "These animals are being used as living scenery," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals. "In many parts of the country, they are exposed to extremes of weather with no way to shelter themselves. They are forced to interact with people who don't know how to approach them. They get little or no exercise. They're bored and they're frightened. Live nativities are cruelty for Christmas."

Heidi Prescott, The Fund's national director and the daughter of a Methodist minister, pointed out, "Social scientists have established a strong link between cruelty to animals and violence against humans, and at a time when violence in our schools is a national epidemic, our churches should be teaching kindness and compassion toward animals, not callousness and indifference to their needs." Norm Phelps, The Fund's spiritual outreach director, asked that church leaders remember the 23rd Psalm. "The good shepherd leads his flock to green pastures and still waters. He does not tether them in a stage set for days on end. No animals should be made to suffer because their ancestors were blessed to be witnesses at the first Christmas."