Good News/Bad News December 19, 2002

The numbers look good this week: heavily slanted toward the Good News. Unfortunately, some good news is actually just minor improvements of bad news. it's like "gray water:" water from showers, laundry, etc. (not toilets!) that's not drinkable, but is clean enough to water your plants with. There was a lot of this sort of OK News this week, and unsurprisingly enough, it mostly came from the federal government.

Good News

You know things are getting out of hand when you're the President of the United States and your crazy, irresponsible forest-thinning plan is drawing fire even from members of your own party.

And on top of that, the bastard stepchild in your judicial branch says that you can't make new logging roads in order to "thin" the national forests. First the pledge of allegiance, then the assault weapons ban, what's the Ninth Circuit Court going to shoot down next? The Bush's right to assassinate anyone he wants? Perish the thought!

The EPA this week announced some restrictions on pollution from "concentrated animal feeding operations" (aka factory farms). We welcome any new rules on these horrendously unhealthy, inhumane, and polluting farms, but the wording of the regulations leaves a fair amount to be desired. Environmental groups are accusing the EPA of whitewashing the issue with rules that don't regulate current farms, but only new farms, and using the announcement to portray profit.

And speaking of the EPA, Grist Magazine highlights some Beltway buzz hinting that EPA head Christine Todd Whitman may be planning to resign next month. Good news indeed, as she certainly has been no protector of the environment. However, we tremble in fear when we think of what holy terror Bush might replace her with...

So how about some actual good news, then? Australian scientists reported this week that the Great Barrier Reef has healed itself almost entirely, and that the same applies to all endangered reefs, if they are protected from overfishing and runoff from land-based development.

Washington state has announced a total ban on all genetically engineered salmon in its waters, thanks to some irresponsible fish-farming among biotech companies and threats to the already-endangered Pacific salmon.

The European Union took a couple of great ideas and made them law. The first, a law that makes electronics manufacturers pay for recycling their "electroscrap," was attempted but rebuffed in California this year. The second, a mandatory risk assessment for animal feed additives, including flavorings, vitamins and antibiotics, is the sort of thing the U.S. should have, but certainly won't see before 2004.

Some voices of reason came out of the U.S. Food Processors Association this week, as the group announced a zero-tolerance policy for pharmacrop contamination of food products, and will work for strong federal regulations to enforce the ban.

This one is last, because its status as Good News is in dispute. We say good, Southern California residents say bad. Regardless, Gale Norton got weird this week when she called herself the "river master" and said she must "obey the law of the river" by cutting SoCal's water supply, effective January first.

Bad News

Is Bush in the process of changing the U.S. Forest Service into the U.S. Forest Destruction Service? Why else would he ask them to study the effects of massive deforestation by cutting down half a million acres of forest in the name of science? The man has lost any will to hide his evil intentions, and we should all be afraid...

See what we mean? Bush decided to prime the pump for drilling in Alaska by opening up the Alaska coastline for some serious oil exploration. drilling in another part of alaska:

In biotech Bad News this week, U.S. officials started grumbling about their "impatience" with the E.U. biotech moratorium. Since the U.S. is officially "impatient," special interest groups and their political cronies are foaming at the mouth. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa and the American Farm Bureau, are goading Bush into filing a WTO suit against the E.U., claiming infringment of trade agreements. David Hegwood, a "special agriculture advisor," even went so far as to call the moratorium "the E.U.'s illegal biotech regime." Maybe war on the E.U. is next!

As a response to this petulant bitchiness, the EU trade commissioner urges the U.S. to "think twice before launching such a suit, and the French government thumbed its nose at U.S. impatience, saying they won't support importing GM crops until they can be labeled and traced, and not a moment sooner.

Facing a lawsuit charging them with contaminating groundwater with MTBE, Arco gas stations settled with Southern California's Orange County for the whopping sum of $8 million. An Arco spokesman called the settlement tough but fair, neither of which is technically true when you realize that Orange County originally estimated the cleanup costs at about $29 billion.

Finally this week, we've got a code-red Greenwash Alert: Citigroup began trumpeting its $25,000 donation for "green roofs" in poor communities. This is hopefully going to distract the masses from the boycotts of Citigroup because of little things like its predatory lending practices to those same poor communities, or its extensive funding of the logging and oil industries, as well as its helping to promote global warming. But shoot, $25K is a lot of money, right? Especially to a company with $14 billion in annual income...

Matt Wheeland is an AlterNet Fellow, and is deeply anticipating a nice little vacation.

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