AmeriScan: November 7, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is seeking funds to purchase enough smallpox vaccine to innoculate every American citizen.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson told reporters on Tuesday that he expects to finalize a contract this week to buy 246 million doses of smallpox vaccine - at an estimated cost of up to $8 per dose. Thompson said he told the Office of Management and Budget that costs for the vaccination program could be four times the $509 million that the HHS first estimated.

Smallpox is one of the most feared biological agents that experts fear could be used in terrorist attacks against the U.S. The HHS's current budget for fighting bioterrorism is now $1.9 billion.

"There's no question the requests for proposal, the bids, came in higher than I had anticipated," Thompson said. "The proposals are all below $8 [per dose], but they are much higher than I had anticipated."

Thompson said the government had hoped to pay no more than $2 per dose.

Negotiations with three companies able to provide the smallpox vaccine are expected to conclude on Friday. Thompson said he hopes to negotiate a lower price in the final round of talks, as the government managed to do in purchasing mass quantities of the antibiotic Cipro, now the primary tool being used against anthrax.

The U.S. stopped routine vaccinations against anthrax in the late 1970s, after the disease was eradicated from the nation. But health experts now warn that scientists from the former USSR may have helped several other nations create a weapons ready form of the virus.

Smallpox could be far more dangerous than anthrax, as it is easily transmitted from person to person. The disease kills about 30 percent of those infected.

The U.S. now has about 15 million doses of smallpox vaccine in stock, and health experts think the vaccine could be diluted to allow the inoculation of about 50 to 60 million people.

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - The United States failed to meet the October 15 deadline for accepting a proposed international agreement on common environmental standards for Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), raising the hope that the U.S. will reject what environmental groups see as a weak agreement.

ECAs are the world's largest public financiers of big infrastructure projects in developing countries. But unlike other international entities like the World Bank, most ECAs are not required to adhere to specific environmental rules and have funded many controversial projects such as China's Three Gorges Dam.

Despite pressure from Environmental Defense and other conservation groups, and mandates from international rulemaking bodies to negotiate environmental standards for ECAs, meaningful reforms remain elusive.

Last July, the Bush administration rejected a proposed international agreement for ECAs because it did not require environmental standards at least as strong as the World Bank's, or public disclosure of environmental information prior to approval of financing. But in recent months there have been strong indications that some in the administration wanted to let the agreement go forward.

In early October, Environmental Defense executive director Fred Krupp and a number of other environmental group leaders sent a letter to high level officials within the Bush administration, as well as to the chair of the EXIM Bank, asking the U.S. to hold firm in rejecting a weak agreement.

"The Bush administration has taken a strong stand on an important international environmental issue in rejecting the proposed environmental agreement on export credit agencies," said Krupp. "The U.S. must now take the lead in working with other countries to develop a meaningful agreement and in further improving the environmental performance of its own export credit agencies."

Now that the October deadline for approving new ECA standards has passed, the U.S. will have to reevaluate its stance. The next meeting of ECAs is slated for November 29, but whether it will address the issue of common environmental standards is not known.

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EXTON, Pennsylvania, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - More land is being recycled, more people appear comfortable living near or on it and those involved are exercising a lot of creativity in property redevelopment to make it all happen, shows the second annual ECS Land Reuse Report.

The ECS Land Reuse Report provides a snapshot of national and regional trends in the reuse of contaminated land through a media coverage review about these activities. ECS, Inc., one of the nation's leading providers of environmental insurance and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), performed a media analysis of 317 newspaper and business journal articles published from July 2000 to May 2001 and collected from on-line sources.

The report finds that more than 112,000 acres or 175 square miles of land are in the process of being recycled. In comparison to last year's land reuse report, which showed 47,000 acres being redeveloped, this report analyzes the redevelopment activity on more than twice as much land.

"A land area larger than the size of major cities like Atlanta, Philadelphia or San Jose is being returned to use," said Bob Hallenbeck, senior vice president of government affairs for ECS. "Imagine the jobs, the living space and the other resources and contributions these cities offer. Scattered throughout the country, this amount of space could have been abandoned or forgotten."

Comfort levels with brownfields redevelopment continue to grow, the report shows. Developers, governments, and the general public seem to be more aware of the benefits of redevelopment, including reducing suburban sprawl and retaining open space.

California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin appear at the forefront of brownfield redevelopment activity. These states appeared at the top of both the 2001 and 2000 studies' lists of number of sites under planned or current redevelopment.

New uses for contaminated lands often include mixed office, residential and cultural or recreational complexes. Only 21 percent of the sites under review this year are to be redeveloped for industrial uses, a drop from the 38 percent of sites analyzed last year that were slated to be reused for industrial purposes.

The full report is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - A new bio-geographic map of the world depicts the complexity of life on Earth in more detail than ever before, giving scientists a new tool for better understanding the distribution of biodiversity.

The product of eight years of research by scientists at the World Wildlife Fund, the map paints a more intricate and complete portrait of terrestrial life on Earth than scientists have had to date. As such, it can aid in the understanding of biodiversity loss, the relationships between ecoregions and the complexity of the web of life that spans them, said Dr. David Olson, director of conservation science at World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

"Bio-geographic maps form the foundation for all conservation planning at the ecoregional scale, but the problem with existing versions is that they lack sufficient resolution to accurately reflect the complex distribution of natural communities," said Olson, who is the lead coauthor of the study along with Dr. Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist at WWF.

"The new map increases this resolution roughly four fold, allowing us to zoom in for a much closer and more detailed look at the distribution of life," Olson added. "For the first time, we have the equivalent of the Hubble telescope through which to look at life on Earth."

"Existing maps of global biodiversity have been ineffective planning tools because they divide the Earth into extremely coarse biodiversity units... well beyond the size of landscapes tractable for designing networks of conservation areas," the authors write in an article published in the November issue of "BioScience," the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Building on those previous efforts, and incorporating data collected by more than 1,500 experts around the world over the past several years, the new map divides the terrestrial world into 14 biomes and eight biogeographic realms containing 867 ecoregions. This is more than four times the 193 terrestrial ecoregions depicted on the most detailed global bio-geographic maps to date.

"It was not unlike assembling a fantastically complex jigsaw puzzle. Researchers around the world have provided us with the pieces and what the map does is to assemble them all into an overall picture," Dinerstein said. "The result is a data base that that will allow researchers to examine phenomena like species richness and endemism, biodiversity loss and global environmental threats in greater detail than before."

More information is available at:

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BOSTON, Massachusetts, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - Evidence from the muddy bottom of Florida Bay shows that some of the changes in the Bay's ecosystem are natural - and some are not.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have examined mud samples that show a rise over the past 20 to 40 years in the numbers of Brachidontes exustus, a mussel that is tolerant of poor water quality and a wide range of salinities, or salt concentrations in the water. Lynn Brewster-Wingard of USGS presented the study Tuesday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston.

"The same cores also show a dramatic decrease in molluscan diversity during the last forty years. These findings indicate a system under stress," said Wingard.

Ancient evidence, however, suggests that a massive die off of seagrass in 1987 and 1988 may have been part of a natural cycle.

"To restore ecosystems to their natural state, land managers must understand natural ecosystem variability prior to 20th century human disturbance," explains Wingard.

Changes to plant and animal communities in Florida Bay during the last few decades are driving ecosystem restoration efforts in the bay and in the Everglades.

Mud cores collected in Florida Bay show a natural variability in salinity and seagrass abundance, long before there was much human activity in the area. Scientists compare these data to that gathered from recent sediments to show how much of the bay's changes can be blamed on human activity rather than natural cycles.

Researchers are now looking at the information available in the growth layers of mussel and clam shells. These layers can reveal monthly, seasonal and annual changes in water chemistry that occurred before humans altered the natural flow of water into Florida Bay.

More information on this project - "Ecosystem History: Florida Bay and the Southwest Coast" - is available at:

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TRENTON, Missouri, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - A single wolf from Michigan found its way all the way from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to north-central Missouri - only to fall prey to a hunter.

A Missouri man was returning from a bowhunt on his land on October 23 when he said he saw the 80 pound wolf looking into his sheep pen. He shot the wolf, thinking it was a coyote, but realized his error when he discovered that the animal wore a numbered ear tag and a radio tracking collar.

The hunter took the carcass to the state conservation department, which verified that it was a gray wolf and traced it back to its original capture site near Ironwood, Michigan.

Records of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show that the wolf killed in Missouri was a juvenile weighing 22 pounds when it was caught in July 1999. It was captured in a single foot hold trap with a litter mate, and designated Wolf No. 18.

Michigan DNR officials followed the movements of Wolf No. 18 for nine months, then lost track of it. They had a hard time believing the news when informed of the animal's death so far away.

"One of our wolves?" asked Michigan DNR photographer Dave Kenyon. "No! How far is that?"

The distance from Wolf No. 18's capture site to Grundy County, Missouri is about 450 miles. By highway, or the way a wolf travels, crossing the Mississippi River and countless highways, it may have been more like 600 miles - among the longest wolf journeys ever documented by the Michigan DNR.

"You have to wonder how many people saw this animal along the way and either kept it to themselves or told people and weren't believed," said Michigan DNR biologist Dean Beyer.

Young wolves are prone to leave their birth places to carve out their own territories.

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - Rebecca Watson has been nominated as assistant secretary of the Interior for land and minerals management.

The assistant secretary of the Interior for land and minerals management has administrative and managerial responsibility for the Bureau of Land Management, the Minerals Management Service and the Office of Surface Mining.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton praised President George W. Bush's choice, which is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

"Rebecca is an outstanding attorney and public administration professional," Norton said. "She will bring vast experience in protecting natural resources and listening to all voices to find common ground in public land issues."

Watson served in the administration of the current president's father, George H.W. Bush, where she was appointed assistant general counsel for energy policy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

She now serves as a managing partner of Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman law firm located in Helena, Montana. Her responsibilities include working on a wide variety of natural resources and environmental issues.

From 1993-1995, Watson worked as an attorney for Crowell & Moring, a Washington, DC based law firm, where she worked on issues involving public lands, endangered species, and natural resources.

Watson helped to establish Wyoming's first statewide historic preservation organization and served as its president for five years. She is a member of the Nature Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Audubon Society, and a past member of the Alliance Francaise de Denver.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted $454,200 to fund nine agricultural projects throughout California that will develop ways to lessen pesticide use and support environmentally responsible farming practices.

The grant program is part of the agency's efforts to implement the Food Quality Protection Act, passed by Congress in 1996, which establishes stricter health standards for pesticide residues in food. Under the Act, the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture support efforts by growers to develop new, more protective pest management strategies.

The new projects will reduce the use and risks of pesticides, particularly organophosphate, carbamate and other carcinogenic compounds, and encourage farmers to adopt integrated pest management practices.

"This funding represents the EPA's continuing commitment to work with the farming community, academia, other government agencies and nonprofits to lessen pesticide use and risk in California," said Enrique Manzanilla, director of the cross media division in the EPA's Pacific Southwest office in San Francisco. "Ultimately these projects will result in improved environmental and health conditions for everyone from the field workers who apply pesticides to the consumers who enjoy the produce."

The University of California Sustainable Agriculture research and education program will receive $200,000 to promote biologically based pest management and reduced pesticide use on several crops, including prunes, almonds, apples grapes, dairies, strawberries.

The Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz will use an $84,000 grant to support research and development of organic farming methods for pest and disease management.

The Center for Agricultural Partnerships will receive $30,000 to perform field trials on the use of pheremones to reduce crop pest damage on walnut farms in the Central Valley. The Sonoma County Grape Growers will get $30,000 for field trials, educational activities, and demonstrations on pest management alternatives for wine grapes in Sonoma.

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CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - Monitoring uranium contamination by drilling wells costs a lot, but a new study suggests it may be possible to do the same monitoring far more cheaply by coring trees on potentially radioactive sites.

Dr. Drew Coleman, assistant professor of geologic sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his graduate student Michael Bulleri conducted the study. They presented their results Monday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston.

"Based on work I did earlier, we set out to determine if we could monitor near surface water contamination around a depleted uranium weapons manufacturing site outside Concord, Massachusetts, by measuring uranium concentrations in the living parts of trees growing nearby," Coleman said.

Bulleri took all their samples on public and private lands surrounding the facility, which used to be owned by Nuclear Metals Inc. and has been owned by the Starmet Corp. since 1997.

Trees suck up water beneath the ground and store the radioactivity it contains for many years, said Bulleri. Comparing isotopes allows researchers to pinpoint the radioactive contamination's source and level.

"We found there's not much contamination outside the Concord site, and there's never been very much, which we know from looking at earlier water samples," Bulleri said. "What's interesting and potentially very important is that we don't have to drill wells, which are extremely expensive, to determine what the uranium concentrations are in the ground."

"Mike's results have been fantastic," added Coleman. "By testing the sapwood - the living parts of oak trees he cored close to the site - he has found a definite bull's eye pattern around the site where the concentration goes up the closer one gets to it."

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 7, 2001 (ENS) - "My Story as Told by Water," one of five nominees for the 2001 National Book Award for nonfiction, exposes the threats to America's rivers and celebrates the relationship between rivers and fly fishers.

"I feel like the salmon and the rivers are receiving this honor," said author David James Duncan in a recent interview. "It's great that the literary community is recognizing this effort to remind us of the importance of water to our lives - that our bodies are more than 70 percent water, that our language is moist with the water in our breath, that our imaginations eddy - and, therefore, of how vital and relevant a clean, living, water supply is to everyone."

In 22 essays, Duncan examines America's federal mining policy, the devastation caused by cyanide leach mining, and the gauntlet of concrete dams, fish grinding turbines, and slackwater reservoirs that are pushing wild salmon stocks to the brink of extinction. Duncan, an avid fly fisher who makes his home on a Montana trout stream, also tells of the joy and wonder that walking rivers, rod in hand, provides him.

"My writing is a desperate defense of hope. Even when I'm confronting a horrible absurdity like the 1872 mining act, I try to approach it in a satirical way, to keep the idea of hope alive," said Duncan. "Just as the salmon does not give up as he fights desperately against the dams that prevent him from reaching home, we cannot stop hoping to save these waters and wildlife."

"My Story as told by Water" was published in July by Sierra Club Books, the publishing arm of the nation's largest grassroots environmental organization.

"We are gratified that one of our authors has received this great honor," said Danny Moses, editor in chief of Sierra Club Books. "We are also gratified to see that the concerns about saving the natural world that David expresses so eloquently in his book resonate far beyond the environmental community."

The winners of the 2001 National Book Awards will be announced on November 14 in New York City.