News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 7, No. 36

Important but overlooked news from around the world.


“So they’ll have the same amount of plastic to recycle.”

— Elizabeth Griswold of the Canadian Bottled Water Association says Toronto’s ban on plastic water bottles wouldn’t stem the tide of plastic soft-drink containers (see “Water,” below).


*The SF Truthiness Report*
Invasion of the policy pushers

*Top Stories*
The perils of pyrethins, and other pesticide problems
The British Army’s PTSD troubles
Forests saved by pollution problem?

Bottled water may be tapped out of Toronto
The state wants your raindrops

India: Farms or factories?
Mind the (wealth) gap in the U.K.
‘English only’ no longer par for the course


Invasion of the Policy Pushers / Interest Groups Spin SF Ballot Arguments
by Matthew Hirsch, Public Press

Paid ballot arguments in San Francisco’s voter-information guides are often bundled by professional campaigners to give the appearance of a groundswell of public support.

* The SFETR is co-produced by and The Public Press, and was funded via small donations using the Spot.Us “crowdfunding” Web site.

* For an audio archive of reporter Matthew Hirsch on KALW-FM, visit the Crosscurrents Web site.


* The Perils of Pyrethrins, and Other Pesticide Problems

A new class of pesticides is making a growing number of people sick — leading to death in some cases — according to a recent report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Pyrethrins, derived from chrysanthemums, and their synthetic equivalents, pyrethroids, first started showing up on the market in large quantities a little more than a decade ago, but they’re now in mosquito nets, flea collars, gardening products, lice shampoo and countless other products.

In some cases, they are sprayed by misters directly over fast-food restaurants.

The Center’s report found a 300 percent rise over the past decade in the number of reported cases of severe reactions to pyrethrins and pyrethroids.

Together, they accounted for 26 percent of all fatal and serious pesticide reactions in the United States in 2007. In 1998, they were implicated in just 15 percent.

And according to the report, the Environmental Protection Agency has been slow to respond — in fact, much of the report’s data came from classified EPA reports attained through the Freedom of Information Act.

In an editorial, the Hartford Courant newspaper praised the Washington, D.C., watchdog group’s report and chastised the EPA. A Chicago Tribune columnist also called the report “important.”

But meanwhile, agencies all over the United States are spraying pyrethroids to combat West Nile Virus.

Officials in India, concerned over mosquito repellents that no longer work, are telling families to sleep under pyrethroid-treated nets, reports The Hindu newspaper.

–Will Crain/


“Perils of the New Pesticides: ‘Safe’ Pesticides Now First in Poisonings”
The Center for Public Integrity, August 2008

“EPA’s Sluggish Response”
The Hartford Courant, August 27, 2008

“‘Beetle juice,’ pesticides and tough SEALs”
Chicago Tribune, August 17, 2008

“Spraying continues as West Nile threat subsides”
Clinton (Mass.) Times & Courier, September 4, 2008

“Mosquito repellents, no longer effective: official”
The Hindu (India), September 8, 2008

* The British Army’s PTSD Troubles

Roughly 24,000 British veterans returning from duty in Iraq or Afghanistan are now battling the UK’s criminal justice system and constituting nine percent of the prison population, according to reports.

The U.K.’s Telegraph reported the findings of three separate studies sponsored by the National Association of Probation Officers and other veteran support groups.

Research from 2001 to 2004 along with the case histories of 74 veterans showed that the majority of violent offenses committed by veterans is fueled by drug and alcohol abuse, the result of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder.

With 8,000 veterans currently in custody, concerned citizens argue that the Ministry of Defense is doing too little to screen recently discharged servicemen and women for early signs of mental illness.

The Ministry says it utilizes “robust systems” to treat and prevent PTSD with pre- and post-deployment screenings, and subsequent access to counseling.

However, NAPO cites the studies’ results as evidence that the Ministry’s efforts fall short of adequate support for transition to civilian life.

The Royal British Legion and ex-servicemen acknowledged a “real drinking culture” in the armed forces.

According to those interviewed, physical and psychological war wounds, continued heavy drinking and a loss of troop camaraderie often lead to loneliness, stress disorders, violence and imprisonment.

–Lauren Riggs/


“Thousands of war veterans locked in British prisons”
The Telegraph (U.K.), September 1, 2008

* Forests Saved by Pollution Problem?

Private forest owners in California are making green — in both the environmental and financial senses — by reducing their carbon footprint, according to a San Francisco Chronicle story.

The Garcia River and Van Eck forests are selling carbon offsets to support environmentally friendly initiatives after a state- sponsored nonprofit granted them permission to do so.

Carbon offsets are voluntary payments to invest in renewable energy programs and counter greenhouse gas-producing activities — and unlike other offset programs, participating forest owners must abide by rigorous standards by promising to preserve the land for permanent forest use.

They must also verify the amount of carbon stored in the trees and to store more than they are legally required.

Garcia Rivers offsets their largest customer, utility company PG&E, who in turn charge their ratepayers up to $10 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Van Eck charges Green Mountain Energy customers almost $20 per ton.

Critics claim offsets are just a way to buy absolution for bad environmental habits without attempting to reform them.

They also deem offsets as high-risk investments because the forests are prone to wildfires and other acts of nature.

David Hale, a college president from Maine, told The Chronicle he rejected a similar offset for his school because a fire would release stored carbon into the atmosphere.

Laurie Wayburn, who manages Van Eck for the Pacific Forest Trust, told the paper that nuclear and wind power pose bigger risks.

“There are risks, but the risk profile is less than other technologies,” she said.

–T.J. Johnston/


“Forests break green ground by selling offsets”
San Francisco Chronicle, September 7, 2008


* Bottled Water May Be Tapped out in Toronto

Toronto, Canada, is considering a ban on the sale of bottled water in city-run buildings, community centers and arenas in order to reduce the amount of garbage in local landfills.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Toronto Mayor David Miller said the city’s water is just as safe as bottled water, and tap water is far more economical.

At the center of the issue are environmental concerns about the fossil fuels used to produce and transport plastic bottles, and the overall impact on local landfills.

But many companies in the refreshment industry argue that such a ban could be a step backwards in terms of recycling, and would lead consumers to buy other beverages other than water.

“So they’ll have the same amount of plastic to recycle,” Elizabeth Griswold, spokeswoman for the Canadian Bottled Water Association, told the news service.

If Toronto enacts the ban, it will follow the footsteps of London, Ontario — the first Canadian city to ban bottled water.

London will phase bottles out over a number of months, but only in municipal buildings with water fountains.

Several other cities and provinces in Canada are considering similar bans.

–Julia Hengst/


“Toronto may copy London, Ont.’s ban on bottled water”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, August 20, 2008

* The State Wants Your Raindrops

Rainwater harvesting for domestic use or irrigation is a sustainable practice that may be against the law in the state of Washington.

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, rainwater is a “resource of the state, which regulates the use of public waters through an allocation process that can take years to navigate.”

So far Washington allows individuals and small farms to harvest modest amounts of rainwater permit-free, but the Department of Ecology’s water resource section are concerned people will collect too much if clear limits aren’t set.

City developers harvest rainwater for irrigation and to flush toilets, and use greywater diverted from sinks to conserve drinking water in urban areas.

These are practices that can prevent sewer overflows, and have inspired Seattle to legalize rainwater harvesting for most of the city.

Yet harvesting too much stormwater can affect overall groundwater levels.

According to the article, the state’s ecology department is trying to create clear regulations to govern both urban and rural areas, but attempts at consensus have been unsuccessful thus far.

–Julia Hengst/


“Saving rain: How much is too much?”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 21, 2008


* India: Farms or Factories?

Tata Motors Ltd., which plans to build the world’s cheapest car, said work on a new factory in India’s West Bengal state would not resume even though long-term protests that halted construction recently ended.

As reported in the Christian Science Monitor, the state government finally reached a compromise over farmland that protesters say was taken forcibly from local farmers to make way for the factory.

While some farmers agreed to sell their land, the communist-led state of West Bengal forcibly removed others as a way to lure new business to the state.

Under the compromise, the government agreed to give farmers more compensation and to return some of the land that was forcibly taken.

Tata planned to begin construction of the $2,500 Nano car in October, but company officials said they would not reopen the plant because of “limited clarity on the outcome of the discussions between the state government of West Bengal and the representatives of the agitators.”

The article said that while industrialization is lauded as a way to get millions of Indians out of poverty, in several cases land taken for factories has become battlefields where industries fight farmers who say they didn’t get fair compensation.

–Julia Hengst/


“Nano stalled as India juggles factory vs. farm”
The Christian Science Monitor, September 9, 2008

* Mind the (Wealth) Gap in the U.K.

A Cambridge University professor said economic disparity between London and the rest of Great Britain is at its widest since World War II, the Telegraph reports.

Citing a recent study, Prof. Ron Martin announced at the Royal Geographic Society that household income levels in the London area are 25 percent greater than the rest of the country.

This contrasts with the rest of Europe, where he wealth gap has been narrowing.

Martin indicts the ruling Labour Party for not living up to its promise to correct these inequalities.

He also said the north lagged far behind in boom times and is doing worse since the housing market failed.

–T.J. Johnston/

“North-south wealth divide is widest in 60 years”
U.K. Telegraph, August 29, 2008

* ‘English Only’ No Longer Par for the Course

The leading women’s golf association is backtracking on a policy mandating that foreign golfers must speak English at tour events.

The California-based newspaper AsianWeek reports that the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association is rescinding a policy after two California lawmakers threatened legal action.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Ted Liu (D-Los Angeles) decried the English-only policy as discriminating against Korean golfers, 45 of whom play on the circuit.

They vowed to challenge the legality if the policy were found to violate state or federal anti-discrimination laws.

Initially, the LPGA announced that effective next year, English would be required for media interviews, pro-am events and acceptance speeches, and players would be fined or suspended if they fail an oral English exam.

“The penalty [if the minimum requirements are not met] is meant to underscore the importance of this issue to the LPGA’s long-term business success,” Commissioner Carolyn Bivens said in a statement.

Three days later after a public outcry, the suspension portion of the policy was nullified, although fines may still be imposed.

The American Pacific American Legal Center wants the fines to be abolished, too.

“The LPGA has gone about this totally the wrong way,” the center’s senior staff attorney Gerald Kim said in an Associated Press interview.

–T.J. Johnston/


“LPGA Requires English for International Golfers”
AsianWeek, August 26, 2008

“Lieu and Yee Help Rescind LPGA English Language Policy Penalty”
AsianWeek, September 5, 2008

“LPGA backs down on English requirement”
The Associated Press, September 6, 2008

Editors: Josh Wilson, Will Crain

Interns: T.J. Johnston, Julia Hengst, Lauren Riggs

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