Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
We're All Infected
The second in EW's Q&A series on racism.
La "X" Gives Latinos a Voice
New radio station connects community.
La "X" - Una Voz Nueva
660 AM conecta la comunidad.
The Ever-More-Toxic Northwest
New research confirms a dire need for precaution.
Biodiesel gaining in status and availability.
A little history on the holidays.
SLOSHY SANTAS SING & SHWILL
'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through Eugene, the Santas were crawling across the pub scene.
And if you were at one of the 10 venues that the Santas crashed on the night of Friday, Dec. 17, rest assured, you did not hallucinate. There really were up to 65 jolly old elves tossing back tequila and singing naughty Christmas carols right next to you.
The 8th Annual Santa Claus Pub Crawl started at the McDonald Theatre and wound its way through Eugene pubs including Rogue Brewery, Jogger's, Diablo's and the Silver Dollar. And yes, the sloshy Santas had designated drivers (the reindeer were in short supply).
The leader, Santa Juke, was saintly in his velvet suit and luxurious white beard. Drinking only soda all night, he made the rules clear to his co-Santas: Pace yourself. Obey all local laws. And don't scare any kids.
Santa Juke was inspired to organize the pub crawl after attending the 1995 SantaCon in Portland, a three-day event sponsored by the Portland Cacophony Society. As the Santas sang Christmas carols, the Portland Police donned riot gear and braced themselves for elven anarchy. But the Santas weren't then, and still aren't, interested in making trouble. "We're not Santarchy," Santa Juke says. "It's a civil pub crawl. We're just some jolly elves spreading holiday cheer."
This year's crawl brought the biggest Santa turnout yet, and fellow pub-goers received them well. One man bought all the Santas a round of drinks for their caroling. "It's just one of those things that just happens when you're Santa," Santa Juke says. "You haven't lived until you've seen 65 Santas do a Santa conga at your establishment."
Santa Juke organizes the pub crawl through word-of-mouth and his website, www.santajuke.com "Everybody loves Santa," he says. "You walk down the street and cars honk, people wave, and a good time is had by all." — Kera Abraham
BIG BOOST FOR PRISONS
Gov. Kulongoski's proposed 2005/07 budget includes a "largely unnoticed" 32.2 percent increase in funding for state Department of Corrections (DOC) programs, according to Ron Chase, director of Sponsors, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides transition services for ex-offenders.
The budget hike raises spending on the DOC to $1.072 billion, just $6.7 million short of the governor's proposed budget for higher education and community colleges.
Chase, in his December Sponsors newsletter, says the corrections budget is growing due to the need to "backfill" the loss of federal funds from the last biennium, to fund an expected boost in inmate population, and to help pay for new and expanded prisons around the state. But he says the budget actually reduces existing programs for transition, along with drug and alcohol treatment in prisons.
"They have reduced the very programs which would make a successful transition a more likely income," says Chase. "Research based cognitive restructuring programs are the core of offender rehabilitation programs … which would reduce recidivism and consequently reduce incarceration costs."
Chase blames not only the governor, but also the DOC and the Legislature: "What this says about our priorities as a state and our hopes and dreams for the future is not encouraging," he says.
The DOC's mission statement is to is to "promote public safety by holding offenders accountable for their actions and reducing the risk of future criminal behavior." — TJT
PRETEXT FOR PROFILING
Cortez Jordan's allegation that police stopped and searched him while walking on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard because he is black has sparked a storm of criticism of Eugene Police and calls for reform.
The police investigated themselves and cleared themselves of wrongdoing. A summary of the police investigation of the complaint against police states that the stop was legal because officers may legally stop an individual who commits a traffic violation. What was Jordan's alleged "traffic violation?"
Hundreds of white people do it every day in Eugene without police stopping them. Jordan allegedly violated Eugene Municipal Code Section 5.425 which states, "A pedestrian shall cross a street at a right angle, unless crossing within a crosswalk."
Since most people don't walk with protractors, such a broadly worded ordinance in effect gives police a legal pretext to stop anyone they want.
But EPD hasn't used the ordinance to sweep up violators in North Eugene cul de sacs. Police, of course, have enforced this ordinance with a high degree of selectivity. Police reform protesters in the 1990s complained that the police had singled them out for "right angle probation" violations. Jordan now complains he was targeted because he's black.
Statistically, Eugene police stop blacks at a much higher rate. A Eugene police department study of 18,000 traffic stops in 2002 found that officers chose to stop black drivers at a rate 2.3 times higher than whites. Police officers then chose to search those black drivers at a 37 percent higher rate.
The rate at which police stopped young black males (like Jordan) was especially high. There are only about 280 black males aged 18 to 29 in Eugene, according to Census data. But Eugene police reported 151 traffic stops among this small group in 2002. That's an annual rate of more than one stop per two young black men in Eugene. — Alan Pittman
EVEN TORREY NOW BACKS IT
Sex abuse and racial profiling scandals at the Eugene Police Department have had an impact. No one now appears to openly oppose creating an independent citizen police review board for police complaints.
Mayor Jim Torrey opposed creating such a board in 1998, when a measure to create one failed by less than 1 percent. But at a Dec. 6 council meeting Torrey announced, "I'm convinced it is now time to move forward with a civilian review effort."
The Police Commission that Torrey has largely packed with uncritical police boosters for the past four years has also come around. At a Dec. 9 meeting, commissioners unanimously voiced support for creating a citizen review board.
But Police Commissioner Angie Sifuentez pointed out, "the question is not if we need an external review board, but what is the best external review board for the community."
Deciding that next year could be a tough political fight for advocates of meaningful police reform. Police Commissioner and City Councilor Bonny Bettman said she "wholeheartedly supports" external review, but warned, "I will not hesitate to oppose a body that lacks empowerment."
Police Commissioner Tim Laue also warned that real external review has to be open and transparent to the public and have real strength and teeth; "otherwise it's just a waste of time." — Alan Pittman
UNDERCOVERED VOTE FRAUD
Michigan Congressman John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee stated last week that he and others are "prepared" to formally challenge the Ohio electoral votes when U.S. presidential votes are counted in Congress on Jan. 6. However, Conyers has not yet decided to proceed. At least one senator willing to join a challenge is also necessary, and many grassroots groups are working to find a senator.
Locally, members of truthinvoting.org are holding a Vigil for a Fair Vote in the Eugene offices of U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden, asking them to agree to join in a challenge if it is brought by Conyers and/or others (www.truthinvoting.org).
Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell delayed the beginning of his state's recount until Dec. 13 — just in time for Ohio's electors to cast all their votes for Bush. They did this despite a lawsuit asking for a court order to stop the electors' meeting, and a request by Conyers and others to delay or treat the electors' vote as provisional until the recount could be completed. The recount is now proceeding but so far shows little change in vote totals. The lawsuit, brought by a group of Ohio voters, demands an overturn of the state vote, alleging that Kerry won. Dismissed on a technicality Dec. 16, the suit was refiled the next day.
Reports of voting irregularities and recount sabotage surface on a daily basis, and major newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have begun to cover them. An employee of Triad Systems, which provides vote-counting software for almost half Ohio's 88 counties, allegedly arrived at a county elections office before the recount and dismantled a machine, apparently replacing parts, then suggested to elections employees that they post machine-count totals inconspicuously in their office so they could make hand-recount numbers match exactly. Conyers has asked the FBI to investigate. Elections officers in one Ohio county took polling books away from recounters, reportedly on Blackwell's orders, then left the books and ballots lying in an unlocked building all night.
John Kerry has now written a letter to election boards in all Ohio counties, asking a series of questions about the vote count. However, Blackwell has refused to answer any of Conyers' 36 questions about state election irregularities. "If these allegations are obviously baseless as you have claimed," responded Conyers, "it would seem you could perform a public service by dispelling them. The voters deserve no less."
BLUEPRINT FOR DIVERSITY
The UO's year-old Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED) is taking steps to create a diversity action plan for the university. OIED has formed a work group and an advisory group to lay out the plan, assist with consulting and incorporate feedback from a series of public "diversity conversations." The goal is to align diversity initiatives and resources "so we can get the best bang for our buck," says Vice Provost of Institutional Equity and Diversity Greg Vincent.
|Vice Provost Greg Vincent|
The diversity action plan has five prongs: developing cultural competency, building critical mass, expanding the "pipeline" (a metaphor describing the student's journey from high school through college and into the work force), strengthening community, and developing the diversity infrastructure.
John Shuford, director of the Center on Diversity and Community (CoDaC), is involved in the cultural competency aspect of the plan. "Cultural competency is basically the possession of the awarenesses, knowledges, skills, values, and beliefs that are necessary to effectively engage and serve a diverse population," he says. "Diversity demographics change constantly. There's an ongoing need for skill-building."
Vincent, who runs the OIED, is responsible for leading and coordinating the diversity action plan across campus. He says that community members as well as senior university officials have expressed a commitment to bolstering diversity at the UO.
Participants in the first two public diversity conversations offered suggestions such as improving the complaint-resolution process and holding supervisors responsible for diversity issues within their units. The family member of one student of color said that the student felt isolated on campus and was thinking about leaving the university. "Our goal is to keep that to an absolute minimum," Vincent says.
The numbers of underrepresented students at the UO is at a historic high of 13.3 percent, partly due to the university's diversity-building scholarships and minority recruitment programs, Vincent says. Although the proportion of minority students is lower than that at some other universities (UC Berkeley's student body is 65 percent non-white), Vincent says that the numbers are heartening given Oregon's racist history.
"I'm certainly aware of the unfortunate history of Oregon, and I think that did artificially keep the numbers [of underrepresented students at the UO] low, but then we have these other demographic realities of Oregon — a growing Latino population, for example," Vincent says. "All of the growth is in the minority populations."
The UO's diversity action plan will draw from similar programs at the University of Wisconsin and Ohio State, Vincent says. If the development process goes smoothly, the diversity action plan will be implemented by January 2005.
"People here are really excited about this," Shuford says. "It's an area that a lot of folks have wanted to work on in a more structured way, and I think that the creation of this new office [OIED] has created the conditions to do that."
The next public diversity conversation will take place Jan. 18 from 9:30 to 11:30 am in the Knight Library Browsing Room. —Kera Abraham
This issue of EW has our first bilingual news story in many years, and we hope to do more of them, depending on space and reader response. It seems appropriate in this case, since our story is about a local Spanish language radio station that's taking hold in the valley. La "X" is now broadcasting 24/7 with a strong signal at 660 AM, and includes a morning call-in show. Its sister station, Air America, is now broadcasting at 1450 AM with a weaker signal, but it can still be picked up most places in Eugene. Air America offers some great discussions and rants mixed in with irritating national ads regarding weight loss, hair loss and erection loss. KOPT 1450 joins public radio at 89.7 FM and 1280 AM to provide welcome relief from right-wing talk shows. Both the new Spanish-language and Air America stations are owned by developers Suzanne Arlie and John Musumeci, targets of our editorial barbs over the years. but this time they have our support.
Something's wrong with this picture. At the same time Oregon is putting money into an innovative gambling treatment program for prisoners whose crimes are gambling-related, Gov. Kulongoski is proposing expanding legal gambling options. The November American Correctional Association newsletter mentions a creative program at Oregon's women's prison, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, to help inmates deal with problem gambling. It's estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the inmates have histories of problem gambling, and that 86 percent of those who reported problem gambling admitted to committing crimes such as identity theft, theft, and shoplifting which are related to gambling. "Aside from a casino at 2 am, there's a higher proportion of problem gamblers in prison than almost anywhere else," says Jeffrey Marotta, manager of gambling treatment programs for the Oregon Department of Human Services. The governor proposes expansion of state-sponsored gambling to include on-line slots, which are far more addictive than video poker because they require less "skill." Is this the way to run a state?
We hear of some last-minute politicking by Mayor Torrey as the calendar runs out on his tenure. He's pushing a Dec. 30 emergency meeting of the Metropolitan Policy Committee, the secretive "shadow government" we wrote about last week. It appears Torrey has in mind pushing some of his pet projects, such as improvements to Chad Drive, through the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program. The MTIP has an adoption deadline six months out, so it seems the only emergency is Torrey's time running out. The lame duck mayor's request contradicts an earlier MPC decision not to hold a special meeting before the end of the year, and it has a lot of people scrambling to organize a meeting and hearing during a time when many people are out of town or are otherwise occupied. Meanwhile, the MPC's vote Dec. 9 to include the West Eugene Parkway in the Regional Transportation Plan has thrown a wrench in local transportation planning. The Eugene City Council needs time to rehash priorities and give direction to its two members on the MPC. Sound complicated? You bet. Is this an open and public process? Not very. The "emergency" hearing, if it happens, will be at 11:30 am Dec. 30 at the Springfield Library.
Apparently the U.S. can pre-empt war, but not the release of toxic chemicals into our environment and bodies (see this week's news story on the bio-accumulation of toxic flame retardants in the Pacific Northwest). The hypocrisy stinks like toxic sewage sludge. We need to write precaution into the law books, forcing companies and government agencies to prove the biological and environmental safety of new products before they are unleashed. If you're concerned about our government's too-little-too-late approach to toxins, call on your representatives to uphold the precautionary principle. For more information, visit www.takingprecaution.org
Lorri Goodman tells us that the non-profit Madison Meadow group has exercised its option and given earnest money Dec. 22 to buy the two-acre meadow and remnant orchard at 22nd and Madison. She says the group raised the required $220,000 and now has three years to raise the remaining $250,000. Nice job. We recognize the need to stop sprawl by increasing density, but some special places like Madison Meadow deserve to be saved.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, email@example.com
We're All Infected
The second in EW's Q&A series on racism.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
This week's interviewee is Mark Harris, an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at Lane Community College.
How are minorities represented in Eugene's media?
They're not, except as problems. Their voice is invisible except when there's a peg for it, like the Cortez Jordan thing [in which Eugene police stopped and searched Jordan, a young black man, who then accused the EPD of racial profiling]. Cortez gets ink because he and his aunt work for the city. What about the black kid who was pulled off an LTD bus because there was a warrant for somebody else? They find out that it's not him, and they still arrest him. Nobody talks about that. Local media ignored Black History Month, and that's an easy peg.
Does it have to take a peg?
No. Black people are interested in more than just race relations. And what's playing out in Eugene has played out before. I find it ironic that with the Cortez Jordan thing, a county sheriff named Lane is the prompter. I don't know if he's actually related to General Joseph Lane, who Lane County and Lane Community College are named after. But Joseph Lane was a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle, which was a precursor to the Ku Klux Klan. The Knights of the Golden Circle wanted to create a separate slave-owning state in southern Oregon called the State of Jefferson, in which they were going to import and enslave Chinese, Indians, Blacks and Hawaiians. There's a whole history that isn't being talked about. A very common African proverb is, "The hero is the teller of the tale." So if I'm telling the tale, I'm going to tell it in the way that makes me look the best and leave out the rest. If you are educated with a form of history that doesn't mention certain people, then you don't know about them.
How do you know when it's racial profiling?
There are actual standards you can use to determine if it's racial profiling or not. There's a saying: Assumed criminality is not the same as mistaken identity. If you assume that I'm a criminal, simple psychology is going to show you that everything I do is going to fit a criminal mode.
Is there an assumption among police that black people are criminals?
The reality of gang behavior in this town and in Oregon — and I was on the gang task force — is that 80 percent of the new gang recruits in Oregon are middle-class white kids. I was walking down 13th, and I heard "What's up nigga?" I turn around and it was two white kids talking to each other. So I ask them, "What's up with the 'What's up nigga'?" And they say they're 74 Hoover Crips. Gang identification is basically geographic streets, and 74th and Hoover is a neighborhood in south-central L.A. So I go, "Wait a minute. I'm from 48th and Denker; you've never been to 74th and Hoover. Where are you from for real?" They said Portland. And they said that they feel alienated from white culture — their words exactly — and what they find in rap culture is a level of truth-telling that they're not getting from mainstream white culture.
Do you think there has been an appropriation of black culture by, for the most part, suburban whites who think it's OK to use terms like the n-word?
The imitation and appropriation of African culture by Europeans is millennia old. So this is no new phenomenon, whether it's mimicking technology, terminology, or worldview. You see the same phenomenon in Omaha, Neb., and it becomes a Time magazine article. The cover features a white kid in a baseball cap holding a sawed-off shotgun. But the white kids who are drinking 40s, doing drive-by shootings and listening to rap music are described in the article as "gunslingers," not "gang members."
Is there sometimes a sense of ambiguity about what constitutes racism
I identify six forms of racism. Type 1 is overt individual. Type 2 is covert individual. Type 3 is institutional, where the institution is unconscious of the fact that individuals within it commit Type 1 and Type 2 acts of racism, so it makes no policy against it. Type 4 is institutional racism where it is legal and it is state policy to discriminate, like the state of Oregon at its founding, Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa. Type 5 is when it's covert institutional, and it's illegal, but it continues to happen is because it's profitable. Redlining, for example.
What is redlining?
Redlining is Type 5 institutional racism committed by financial institutions — insurance companies, banks, real estate. It's been illegal since '65, but it still happens because it's profitable. And for those people [victims of redlining], it costs twice as much to buy a house, insure property, insure a life. Redlining is also when they only allow certain people to live in a neighborhood that they literally draw a red line around the area on a map. For example, it was legal to forbid black people to live within the city limits in Eugene before 1965. So they lived in the Ferry Street Community in Alton Baker Park, Glenwood, and West 11th, which were all outside the city limits.
Would you consider voter fraud against people of color Type 5 discrimination?
Sure it would be. This is nothing new. This is what was done during the Reconstruction from 1865-1877. The exact same stuff happens now, where you throw out the votes of black voters, or you have a line of police in front of the polling places, or the polling place suddenly doesn't exist. So voter fraud, gerrymandering, re-routing of districts — this is not new.
And the sixth type of racism?
Socio-structural violence. Literally what that means is that normal structures and practices of society produce the greatest amount of disease and deaths. The key here is disproportionality. It's an intersection not only of race but of class as well. For example, the the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse said 80 percent of illegal drug users were white men who made in excess of $50,000 in the Reagan-Bush years. Collectively, minorities are 13 percent of illegal drug use, and blacks are near the bottom of that in terms of rates of abuse. Wealthy white men are driving the illegal drug trade in America. So who is going to jail? The people who sell to them.
So it's that assumption of black criminality again.
Here's a reality of treatment. Not just in Eugene, but it plays out in Eugene. If you're black and you have a drug problem, you get jailed. This is why the Governor's Task Force on Disproportionate Minority Confinement exists. This is the reason that the Justice System, starting with police, are socialized to see blacks as criminals and not as addicts. If they have drug or alcohol problems, those problems aren't dealt with as medical problems; they're dealt with criminally, if at all. So even when you have a black kid with white kids and they're all smoking dope, the white kids get treatment; the black kid gets jailed.
What can be done to make people more aware?
As a veteran diversity trainer, I've come to this conclusion: It's easier to strengthen the potential victims than to change the system.
So the system can't be changed?
I'm not saying it can't. I see racism as a co-occurring disorder. What that means is that it's both an addiction and a mental illness. Think of it as a toxic memetic infection. A toxic meme is spread by the English language, so if you speak English, you're infected. If you consume English media or English education, you're infected. And the degree to which you are addicted to various forms of discrimination or denial shows up in your behavior.
And that includes all English-speaking people of color.
Sure. One of the things that I've created for the students here is a 12-step program for recovery from racism. The idea is, if white people are the primary addicts of racism and people of color are co-dependents, then we don't have to wait for them to get it to recover. But we also have to understand that we've been infected too, and that we often play out the same things that they do against other groups. There has always been a "divide and conquer" strategy.
Do you think that Eugene is improving in regards to discrimination?
We're continuing to be good at talking about it and not so good at acting. Here in Eugene, there were barriers being placed on black police officers getting promotions. There's a certain reality where, within certain institutions, racist practices can be perpetrated against people of color. While it's nice that some of those people of color, the victims, have gotten cash settlements, the racists remain in place. Having a black county commissioner does not change anything. Having a black superintendent does not change anything.
It makes no difference that black people are in those powerful positions?
What socio-structural violence is about is that discrimination is built right into the system, and it has to be actively resisted or changed. And until it is, then it doesn't matter that you have a person of color at the head of an organization; that person doesn't necessarily change the structure of the organization.
Do you feel comfortable raising your daughters in this community?
They both have an activist streak. [Laughs.] Comfortable? Let's see. 4J is better than L.A. or San Francisco Unified [school districts]. But my advice for kids like them is to get out of here as soon as possible. I'm here just to raise them, and then I'm out of here. My advice to any youth of color raised in Eugene: Get out. See the world. And then if you want to come back here, do so. But you'll find out that the world isn't Eugene.
La "X" Gives Latinos a Voice
New radio station connects community.
BY MELISSA BEARNS
La "X" means more to Lane County's Latino community than having a 24-7, all-Spanish radio station. La "X" (pronounced "la equis" or "the X" in Spanish) means community. It means identity. It means having something that connects listeners to their culture and feels familiar.
|DJ Polo & Mary with Program Director Ruben Villalobos|
La "X" started broadcasting at 6 am Nov. 4 on 1450 AM but within a few weeks, the program switched to 660 AM because that frequency has more power. That first morning, they had been on the air for just seven minutes when they got their first phone call. Now, from 6 to 10 am, during the talk show hosted by DJ's Polo and Mary, callers flood the phone lines. Many of the calls are from children.
"Can you please play Las Mañanitas (the happy birthday song) for my brother/sister/mother?" they ask.
"We play it every single morning," said La "X" Sales Manager Rebeca Urhausen, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico City, Mexico. "People in the community are using the station as a way to communicate with each other. It's partially a cultural thing. Hispanics love to get up and listen to the radio. We're far away from home and it's like being home. They can listen to their music, they can listen to their friends. It helps us feel more connected."
Urhausen said that to handle the volume of phone calls from listeners, they've had to upgrade their phone systems. "They say 'It's our station,'" said DJ Polo Diaz. "It's part of them," he added, smiling and touching his heart with his hand.
From 1990 to 2000, the Latino population in Lane Country grew 117 percent to 14,874 (or 4.6% of the population of the county), according to 2000 U.S. Census data. Urhausen thinks those numbers are low because many people in the Latino community don't get counted in the census. "We estimate there are between 26,000 and 30,000 Hispanics in Lane County," she said.
That's still far fewer Latinos than in other counties in the state such as Washington County (49,735, or 7.5%) in 2000) or Multnomah County (49,607, or 11.1%) in 2000). But Urhausen said the community was ready for its own station. And with the stronger signal, La "X" reaches communities as far away as Portland. "People come visit the station all the time," Urhausen said. "And they come all the way from Albany, Corvallis, Salem, Junction City and Portland just to say 'Hi'."
The station prides itself on its family-friendly music selection, and DJs won't air music with violent, drug-related or sexual content. "We support the values and morals of the community," Urhausen said.
The DJs see what they do as a public service, helping people in the Latino community connect to social services and offering advice and guidance on everything from domestic violence to helping kids in school.
Recently they held a fund-raiser for a Latino family at the Relief Nursery in Eugene and raised about $300. Throughout the morning and for days afterwards, people stopped by the station in a steady stream, dropping off clothing, food, cash, dishes, blankets, toys and more.
"I listen to the morning show every day," said Atilano Robles, owner of Naya's Tacqueria in Springfield. "It's based on the needs of the Latino community. Not too many people know the services Latino people can get. They talk about things people don't know about: Where to get medical services and things like that. For example, I didn't know that there's a clinic you can go and get your teeth cleaned for almost free."
DJ Mary Salvatierra, a graduate student at UO, said she's noticed that women in the Latino community are responding to having a female DJ on the air. "They are calling more often and seem more empowered," she said. "I think it's as simple as having a woman's voice on the air encouraging them to be independent."
Urhausen expects that at 10,000 watts, La "X" will just keep growing.
La "X" - Una Voz Nueva
660 AM conecta la comunidad.
TRANSLATED BY WENDI CARMAN
Para la comunidad latina de Lane County, La "X" significa más que tener una estación de radio en español a todas horas, todos los días. Significa identidad. Significa tener algo que identifica a los latinos/hispanos con su cultura, algo que se siente familiar.
La "X" hizo su debut el 4 de Noviembre a las 6 de la mañana, a través del 1450 AM. Pocas semanas después, se cambió a la 660 AM, una emisora con más potencia. Ese primer día en Noviembre, despues de siete minutos al aire, recibió su primera llamada. Ahora, el programa de Prendidísimo con Polo y Mary, de las 6 a las 10 de las mañana, recibe tantas llamadas de radioescuchas, incluyendo llamadas de niños, que mantiene todas las líneas de teléfono ocupadas.
"Pueden tocar las Mañanitas para mi hermano/hermana/madre, por favor?" piden los que escuchan. "Los complacemos con esta canción todas las mañanas," dijó Rebeca Urhausen, gerente de ventas, quien imigró a los Estados Unidos originaria de México, D.F. Ella nos explica, "La gente de la comunidad se comunica a través de nuestra estación. Mandar saludos por medio de la radio es parte de nuestra cultura. A los latinos les encanta levantarse y prender la radio. Estamos lejos de nuestros países y esto nos hace sentirnos en casa. El escuchar nuestra música, a nuestros amigos, nos ayuda a sentirnos más unidos."
La Sra. Urhausen dijó que para poder manejar el inmenso número de llamdas de los radioescuchas, fue necesario cambiar el sistema telefónica. Polo Díaz, el locutor del programa de la mañana, dijó que las personas que llaman dicen que La "X" es "su estación, que les pertenece a ellos." Esto nos lo explicó Polo con una sonrisa en su cara y colocando su mano en su corazón.
De acuerdo con el Censo del año 2000, la población latina de Lane County aumentó el 117 por ciento, a un número de 14,874 hispanos (o 4.6 por ciento de la población del condado), entre los años de 1990 y 2000. Sin embargo, la Sra. Urhausen cree que este número debe ser mayor de lo que se cree, pues piensa que muchos latinos no se reportaron en el último censo. Dijó que se calcula que existen entre 26,000 and 30,000 hispanos en este condado.
Ese número es menor que el número de hispanos que viven en otros condados del estado de Oregón, como lo es en Washington County (49,735, o 7.5%, en el año 2000) o Multnomah County (49,607, o 11.1%, en el año 2000). De acuerdo con la Sra. Urhausen, nuestra comunidad estaba lista para tener su propia estación de radio. Y con un señal con mas fuerza, La "X" tiene radioescuchas hasta en Portland. Vienen de Albany, Corvallis, Salem, Junction City, y Portland a saludar a los locutores y a conocer la estación, dijó la Sra. Urhausen.
La estación se enorgullece en su selección de música para familias, y sus locutores no trasmiten música con contenido violento, relacionado a drogas, o de índole sexual. "Apoyamos los valores y principos de nuestra comunidad" dijo la Sra. Urhausen.
Los locutores ven su trabajo como un servicio comunitario que ayuda a la gente a informarse de los servicios sociales disponibles localmente y ofrece sugerencias y consejos, incluyendo en su repertorio temas de violencia doméstica e información sobre la crianza de los niños.
Recientemente La "X" se unió a la campaña que efectuó Relief Nursery y por medio de un radiotón, los radioescuchas trajeron personalmente a la estación un gran número de obsequios como ropa, comida, vajillas, cobijas, juguetes y $300 dólares en efectivo para apoyar a una familia latina necesitada.
"Yo escucho el programa de la mañana todos los días," dijo Atilano Robles, propietario de Naya's Taquería en Springfield. "Este programa se basa en las necesidades de la comunidad latina. No todos están informados de los servicios disponibles, como adonde ir para obtener servicios médicos." Por ejemplo, Atilano dijo que no sabía que existía una clínica dental adonde hacen limpieza de dientes a precio reducido o gratis.
La locutora Mary Salvatierra, estudiante de la escuela de graduados de la Universidad de Oregón, dijo que ha observado que las mujeres de la comunidad latina han reaccionado positivamente a tener una locutora en la programación de La "X." Las mujeres llaman frecuentemente y Salvatierra dijo se sienten apoyadas. "Pienso que el tener una voz femenina les motiva a ser independientes," nos dijo.
La Sra. Urhausen espera que La "X" continuará creciendo gracias a los 10,000 watts de potencia que tiene y a la experiencia de sus locutores.
The Ever-More-Toxic Northwest
New research confirms a dire need for precaution.
BY KERA ABRAHAM
A laboratory develops a chemical that does something useful. Manufacturers put it into products that make their way into homes, yards, offices, and eventually landfills across the nation. After a few years, it's present in landscapes and bodies everywhere.
Then researchers find evidence that the chemical is dangerous. Public watchdog groups raise the alarm and draft legislation to ban it. The bill slogs through the state Legislature or federal Congress and, if it passes, takes effect years later. By the time the laboratory stops producing the chemical, it has already permeated the environment like something released from Pandora's Box.
|Data Source: "Flame Retardants in the Bodies of Pacific Northwest Residents." Northwest Environment Watch, Sept. 29, 2003|
This was the sequence with the pesticide DDT, with asbestos building materials, and with the plastic compound PCB. And it may be happening again with a toxic flame retardant called PBDE (polybrominated diphenyl ether).
Since the mid-1900s, petroleum-based plastic products have increasingly replaced less combustible natural materials. PBDE was developed in the early 1970s as an additive for combustible synthetic products to reduce their fire hazard. Manufacturers put it in polyurethane furniture foam, car dashboards, building materials, computers and televisions. The two largest manufacturers of PDBE — Albemarle Corp. of Richmond, Va., and Great Lakes Chemical Corp. of West Lafayette, Ind. — claim that there are no reliable data showing that the chemical is harmful to humans.
But confidence about PBDE's safety is crumbling like old couch foam. Recent studies show that even in minute doses, PBDE — similar in structure to PCB, which was banned for its toxicity in the 1970s — can impair memory, attention, motor skills, learning, behavior and sexual development in laboratory animals. And it's nearly impossible to clean up PBDE because it's bioaccumulative (builds up in bodies over a lifetime), lipicilic (absorbed by oils) and persistent (it doesn't break down in the environment). Yet another chemical designed to protect us actually seems to be poisoning us.
Now, PBDE is everywhere. Tests from Europe to the Arctic indicate the presence of the chemical in people, animals, food and the environment — just about every place scientists have looked. But the highest levels by far are in the U.S, which comprises almost half of the worldwide PBDE market. Over the past decade, manufacturers have added about a billion pounds of PBDE to consumer products. According to EPA scientist Myrto Petreas, levels in humans appear to be doubling every two to five years.
A 2003 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in Oakland, Calif., found an average PBDE concentration of 4,600 parts per billion (ppb) in house dust across the nation. The two samples with the highest levels were in the Pacific Northwest; a home in Portland had 16,366 ppb and a home in Missoula, Mont. had 41,203 ppb. A 2003 EWG study on PBDE in breastmilk from 20 mothers across the nation also yielded abnormally high levels of PBDE in the Northwest. While the study's median PBDE level was 58 ppb, the Oregon sample had 755 ppb and the Montana sample had 1,078 ppb. By comparison, analysis of the breastmilk of women from Japan and Sweden yielded median levels of 1.3 and 2.1 ppb, respectively.
In September 2004, Northwest Environment Watch (NEW) released a study on the levels of PBDE in the breastmilk of Pacific Northwest mothers. Every sample contained high levels of PBDE, with a median of 50 ppb. The highest levels of PBDE were found among the Oregon mothers, with a median of 99 ppb.
Why did the Oregon women have higher levels than other Northwest mothers? "The short answer is we don't know," says Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) Program Director Laura Weiss. "We're all exposed, but we don't exactly know how or in what proportion."
Clark Williams-Derry, research director for NEW (and a former analyst for EWG), warns against putting too much emphasis on Oregon's high median PBDE level because of the small sample size. Of the 40 Northwest mothers who participated in the study, 10 were from Oregon. "We can't guarantee that the sample is representative of the population at large," Williams-Derry says.
But for Laura Caples Mittelstadt, a Portland-area mother who participated in the study, the results were somewhat alarming. Mittelstadt, 37, an Oregon native, doesn't smoke, eats healthy foods and buys organic dairy products, but her PBDE concentration was higher than the average. "You always wonder, as a healthy person, how you're exposed to different chemicals," she says. "You buy a new sweater, and you think, 'Hmmm, what am I buying?' Or you go camping and you sleep on one of those foam mats, and you think, 'I'm out in nature, but am I breathing toxic chemicals?' It's an impure, toxic world."
NEW decided to test breastmilk because PBDE accumulates in body fat and breastmilk is an easy fluid to collect. But the presence of the chemical in 100 percent of the samples suggests that every Northwesterner — not just mothers and babies — harbors the chemical. "It's not to say that these chemicals aren't in men's bodies. They probably are," Weiss says. PBDE is so prevalent in household products that there appears to be no way to avoid exposure, the NEW report states.
The findings prompted a surge of proposed legislation to ban or limit PBDE. The two most toxic forms of PBDE, penta and octa, will be legally banned in the European Union this year and in California in 2008. Bills to ban or limit PBDE are being reviewed in six other U.S. states.
The OEC plans to introduce bill in January 2005 to require the state to phase out two forms of PBDE by 2008. But even a legal ban of PBDE may be too little, too late. "You can ban their use, but unfortunately you can't ban their persistence in the environment," Weiss says.
Under pressure from the EPA, Great Lakes Chemical Corporation voluntarily agreed to stop producing the penta and octa forms of PBDE by the end of 2004. However, the company will continue to produce deca PBDE, which is used mainly in electronics packaging and can break down into the more toxic penta and octa forms. EWG suggests that ceasing production of penta and octa PBDE will be of little help unless manufacturers also stop producing the deca form.
In anticipation of impending legislation limiting PBDE, Great Lakes Chemical has developed an alternative bromine phosphorous-based flame retardant that contractors say is neither toxic nor persistent. Great Lakes Chemical could not be reached for comment.
The best long-term solution to preventing persistent toxic chemicals such as PBDE from contaminating our environment is to change the market system that allows its release, NEW reports. State and federal governments can ban PBDE from commerce and monitor humans regularly to track toxic problems before they reach epidemic proportions. EWG recommends that the EPA label products containing PBDE and eventually phase out the compound entirely. It also suggests that the EPA rigorously test the chemicals that could potentially replace PBDE to prevent the release of other toxic chemicals into the environment. "It's better to be safe than sorry, and if we had used the precautionary principle we would not be in this situation," Weiss says.
A precautionary approach would require rigorous safety tests before chemicals are released into the market. The European Union has developed a precautionary program called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), which holds manufacturers responsible for proving the safety of their chemicals and helps prevent the distribution of dangerous compounds. If such a program had been in place in the U.S. in the 1970s, PBDE probably wouldn't have made it out of the laboratory — especially given its structural similarities to its toxic predecessor, PCB. But because U.S. laws regulating chemicals are not precautionary, an alternative flame retardant such as that being developed by Great Lakes Chemical might pose yet more risks to humans and the environment.
As for the common consumer, a few small measures can reduce the risk of PBDE contamination. People can avoid products that contain polyurethane furniture foam, cover or replace furniture with exposed foam, and ventilate when removing the foam padding beneath carpets. EWG suggests favoring products with naturally fire-resistant fibers such as cotton and wool. And because PBDE collects in animal fats, people can limit their exposure to the chemical by reducing their consumption of animal fats. NEW stresses that despite the presence of PBDE in breastmilk, breastfeeding is still the healthiest choice for children.
Oregonians can support the upcoming OEC bill banning penta and octa PBDE by contacting their state legislators in January. For more information, visit the OEC website at www.orcouncil.orgor the NEW website at www.northwestwatch.org
Biodiesel gaining in status and availability.
BY CAROLINE CUMMINS
You've heard about them: the all-electric cars, the solar-powered cars, the hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Those fantasy cars that almost no one drives. You've been startled by the eerily silent hybrids, those popular gas-electric combos that get killer mileage. But you'd prefer a car that doesn't need gas at all. And you've heard about them, too. Because the veggie-car movement relies almost entirely on word of mouth to spread its message: Get a diesel car, and you'll never have to burn petroleum again.
No blanket campaigns, no advertising blitz. In Eugene, Dan Gorman was listening to the National Public Radio show "Car Talk" when a woman called in to ask about biodiesel. He's since acquired two diesel cars, and shares his vegetable-based fuel with a friend. Eugene residents Amy Beller and Kate MacQueen saw their neighbor driving a Volkswagen Golf with "Powered by Biodiesel" stickers on it. They were thinking about buying a hybrid, but changed their minds and purchased a brand-new diesel Golf instead.
This is the slow, sneaky allure of the movement: If the neighbor down the street is doing it without much trouble, why not us? Running a car on vegetable oil used to mean tinkering with the car and fussing with the oil. But the growth of commercial biodiesel producers and retailers — national biodiesel production quadrupled between 2000 and 2001 alone — is taking the veggie-car movement out of garages and into gas stations. Biodiesel, a chemically refined form of vegetable oil, can be poured straight into any diesel tank and mixed with regular diesel in any proportion. It reduces a car's emissions by 50 to 100 percent, and makes exhaust smell like sizzling oil instead of smoking tires. Add in soaring gas prices, as well as increasing instability in the Middle East, and the result is a movement that has begun to leave word of mouth behind.
Building a biz on beans
For nearly three years, a local company named SeQuential Biofuels has sold biodiesel to customers ranging from dedicated environmentalists to commuters to farmers. By April, the company hopes to be producing its own biodiesel instead of trucking it in from the Midwest. By midsummer, it plans to have its own gas station open for business in Eugene. "And in three years, we'll have a candidate running for president," jokes Ian Hill, a SeQuential co-owner.
The company is small — it has a total of four co-owners, three employees and two interns — but sports a loyal clientele. (The yellow-and-blue "Powered by Biodiesel" stickers on cars around town are SeQuential's chief form of advertising.) Customers have three ways of getting the soybean-derived oil: delivery, pickup or self-service. None is as convenient as going to the corner gas station, which is why SeQuential wants a station of its own. But once the fuel tank is full, the car runs as usual.
Beller and McQueen, who bought their shiny silver Golf a year ago, signed up for SeQuential's delivery service in March. In their side yard, under a waterproof barbecue cover, sits a green, 55-gallon oil drum. SeQuential delivered the drum, full of pure biodiesel or B100, to their house in exchange for a $30 deposit on the drum and the cost of the biodiesel. Now they simply use a hand pump to fill their fuel tank.
"It's just so much easier to get in the car and not feel like I'm contributing as much to the horrible mess on this planet," says Beller. "The only problem is that I ride my bike less." Beller admits that the one-stop-shopping aspect of signing up for ready-made biodiesel helped convince her to try it. "There's no way I'd make the stuff," she agrees.
SeQuential has a partnership with Eugene-based Tyree Oil to ship its biodiesel and store it in Eugene. Every Saturday morning, Hill or another employee drives over to Tyree's headquarters at First and Blair and loads the back of the SeQuential company truck with an enormous tote full of biodiesel. From 10 am to 2 pm, customers can swing by, fill up their car, and write out a check.
On a cool spring Saturday, Gorman rattles up in his white Datsun pickup, loaded in the back with his own 55-gallon drum. Hill fills up the drum and helps Gorman secure it with ropes; weighed down in the back, Gorman slowly rumbles away. Katie O'Connor, a member of a local cooperative called Eugene BioCarShare, drives up in a black diesel Golf. The cooperative's car, she says, is actually a 1982 diesel Mercedes named Eva. But she needs to drive more these days than she'd expected, so she bought the Golf for herself. "I named this car Bob," she says proudly, waving a arm over the Golf. "But I'm not sure it'll stick. I'll have to wait and see."
Along with the fill-ups and the drum-delivery service, SeQuential has a cardlock pump at Tyree that dispenses a biodiesel-diesel blend (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent diesel) 24 hours a day to registered customers. The company has additional retail pumps in Portland and Medford, and supplies such groups as Grease Works!, a Corvallis-based biodiesel co-op. Between Portland and Eugene, says Hill, SeQuential serves about 500 customers.
Down the road
The company's long-term goal is to own a chain of fueling stations offering a variety of biofuels, from biodiesel blends to gasoline-ethanol blends. It's part of a national trend; according to the National Biodiesel Board, the number of retail biofueling stations nationwide doubled from 150 last year to more than 300 this year.
Hill and his co-owners — including Tyson Keever and Tomas Endicott — are negotiating a lease with Lane County on a former gas station site at the corner of McVay Highway and Bloomberg Road, near the intersection of Interstate 5 and East 30th Avenue. Together with the county and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, they've applied for grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to help clean up the site. They plan to construct an environmentally friendly station, with above-ground tanks and biosoils (a filtration system that keeps most of the station runoff from heading straight into the sewer). They intend to offer three biodiesel blends (B2, B20 and B100) as well as two gasoline-ethanol blends (E10 and E85).
"Any vehicle on the road today will be able to fuel at our station," says Hill. "Well, actually, that's not true — electric vehicles won't be able to fuel there. But everybody else will." Any gasoline-powered car, Hill explains, can fill up on emissions-reducing E10, or a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. (Minnesota, in fact, has mandated that all gasoline sold in the state be E10.) "And if you got a flex-fuel model — an option on all American-made vehicles since 2000, more or less — you can use E85," says Hill.
Because of production costs (and recent soybean shortages), biodiesel is pricey: SeQuential's B100 generally sells for more than $3 a gallon. (Given the greater fuel efficiency of diesels, however, that higher price averages out; most diesels get up to about 45 miles per gallon, compared to about half that for most gasoline-powered cars.) Selling their own fuel, says Hill, should be a better deal for customers. And down the road, he adds, prices could drop even further if Oregon farmers start growing crops just for biodiesel, such as rapeseed.
The pace of change
Many of SeQuential's customers buy only the pure B100, shunning the petroleum blends the company also offers. But not everybody is ready to give up black gold entirely. Most government fleets, for example, use only B5, B20 or E10. They have to comply with governmental regulations mandating cleaner fuels, but they also want to save money, and the straight stuff simply costs more. (SeQuential's B20, at the Tyree pump, costs almost a dollar less per gallon than B100.) The city of Eugene uses B20 in its fleet, while the UO's diesel vehicles use a variety of blends. Lane County Transit has more than 100 diesel buses, none of which use biodiesel.
On Wednesday, March 2, the Oregon Environmental Council will host Biofuels Lobby Day, a statewide conference in Salem for the biofuels community.
"Biodiesel is unique," says Carol Burdick, the manager of SeQuential's Portland office. "People of different backgrounds, conservatives, liberals, can come together and agree that having biofuels produced locally and used locally benefits the economy, the environment, national security — everything."
There's more than one way to run a car on vegetable oil. Do-it-yourselfers like the SVO (straight vegetable oil) method, in which the car has a tank of vegetable oil and a tank of diesel. The car runs on the oil, but warms up and cools down on the diesel. And frugal souls prefer the WVO (waste vegetable oil) method, in which the car has been modified to use the free leftover fryer oil from restaurants.
A little history on the holidays.
BY LAIRD GOODMAN
Evergreen trees sparkle with decorations and candy. Smiling people are out and about, visiting friends and relatives, exchanging presents. You wave at your neighbors in their bright togas as they pass in front of bold Corinthian columns supported by graceful statues. Yes, it's Christmas time again.
Well, this is Christmas as it was a thousand years before Jesus was born. Our present celebrations, complete with trees, food and gift giving, are an exact replica of the great Roman festival of Saturnalia. This festival honored the god Saturn, the god of agriculture. In fact, they bundled up the birthdays of a whole crowd of gods and called the season Dies Natalis Invicto Solis (the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun).
The Romans weren't the first people to want a few days off of work around Christmas-time. The ancient Egyptians got into the act, too. They ate, drank and made merry to celebrate the birth of the son of Isis and Osiris. Have you noticed how the word "son" and "sun" keep cropping up? The Egyptians believed that King Osiris, who had been chopped to pieces, turned into a tree overnight, and so their celebrations even included a Christmas tree (well, palm).
In northern Europe, this solstice was commemorated by the ancient Celtic fire festival of Alban Arthuan (the Light of Arthur). This is also known as the yule season, from the Anglo-Saxon word hweol meaning wheel, which was the symbol of the sun-god. To help bring on the sun, giant yule fires were lit on the hills at night, and the young men would show their prowess by jumping over them. Evergreens were revered in most cultures because they didn't appear to die in the winter. People would cut sprigs and branches and place them in their homes for good luck. The Druids even hung golden apples (Christmas tree ornaments) from the boughs of live trees.
So what has all this got to do with Jesus and holy lights? Nothing much, really. Dec. 24th wasn't a Christian holiday until the year 350, when Pope Julius I (or Emperor Constantine) finally thought that if you can't beat them, join them, and tacked Christ's birthday onto the date that everyone was celebrating anyway.
What about the other Man of the Hour? The man with the plan with the presents in his hand? Kriss Kringle, Santa Claus, Father Christmas — Saint Nick! St. Nikolaus was a real person, a fourth century bishop in Asia Minor. He's most famous for helping out the daughters of a local man, who, through bad investments, lost his money. In those days, no money meant no marriage, and probably having to go into the world's oldest profession for a living. And so the kindly saint tossed money down their chimney when the family was sleeping to help them out, which landed in the stockings they had hanging by the fire.
Aside from helping unmarried women, Nikolaus was also the patron saint of all sea-faring men, and Belgium happened to have a lot of them. Legend has it that they were the first northerners to bring the story of Saint Nikolaus (or Sinter Klass in Dutch) back to their homelands. Their Father Christmas developed European characteristics — rather well-fed, wearing short breeches and smoking a pipe.
He didn't exhibit all of his familiar features until he was described in 1822 by Clement Clarke Moore in A Visit from St. Nicholas, and it wasn't until the 1850s that an illustration of the Santa we know today first appeared in print, drawn by Thomas Nast, and another century after that when the Coca Cola company commissioned the thoroughly American Santa we all recognize now. Notice how his color themes of red and white match those of Coke?
Other Christmas traditions with ancient pasts include mistletoe, which was revered by the Celts for its supposed power to heal, render poison harmless, bring protection from witchcraft and give fertility.
Holly has long been associated with religious practices, going back once again to ancient Rome (where it was associated with Saturn) and also the Druids, who revered it because it remained green all winter. In some pagan households, it was considered a kindly gesture to place leaves and branches from the plant around the home so that fairies and other magical beings would be enticed to enter the dwellings and use the holly as shelter.
Much of the entire Christmas tradition (along with Easter) comes from the ancient past. The traditions resurfaced in the 18th and 19th centuries, when families longed to recapture the innocence of bygone times, just as we try to today.
So, this Christmas, look around. See the sparkling lights, the trees, the gifts and food. Feel the spirit of celebration. This winter festival is just one thread in a string that goes back thousands of years to when the first farmers looked up at the sun and knew that the days would start to get longer. This was a day to feast, and be merry.
This was Christmas.