Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
A glimpse into the fires that fuel Betty Taylor
Undercovered #45. More stories not in the mainstream press.
Happening Person: Ethan Hughes
It's classic anarchy, organized chaos. Nobody's the leader, and there's no premeditated route. Nobody warns the cars driving down West 11th at rush hour that they are about to be slowed to a maddening 10 mph crawl by a posse of hooting, irreverent bikers spread across all four lanes. It just happens sometimes.
|May 27 Critical Mass|
Critical Mass bike rides started in San Francisco in 1992 as "the Commute Clot," a spontaneous reclaiming of the car-choked streets by bicyclists. The idea was simple: once you reach a critical mass of bikers, the cars have to cede to the bikes rather than the other way around. In the decade-plus since, Critical Mass has become a social movement of sorts, spreading to dozens of U.S. cities. The rides have been going on (and off) for years in Eugene, but they seem to be picking up steam in recent months. The past two rides have had close to 75 bikers at their peaks.
The May 27 Critical Mass ride wound through the busy streets of Eugene, careening down Amazon Parkway and West 11th Ave. Some car drivers waved, but others honked impatiently. One man driving a red pick-up truck drove into the mass of bikers, yelling obscenities. The bikers responded with chants: "Whose streets? Our streets!"
Eugene police finally intervened on 10th and Lawrence, where they asked bikers not to block the entire street. They cited one biker, Zane Taylor, twice: a $273 ticket for not obeying the stop sign and a $40 ticket for impeding traffic. Before the police left, a man handed Taylor $76 in cash and change, collected from the bikers on the spot.
Biker Sam Hediger participates in the rides to make a political statement. "I just think we're consuming far too much oil. People are driving everywhere," he says. "Bikes are just cleaner, they're cheaper, and they're better for a sustainable future than these meta-monstrosities."
Critical Mass rides meet on the last Friday of each month at 5:30 on 17th and Charnelton. — Kera Abraham
COP SHOP VOTE IGNORED
Eugene voters have rejected a big new police station three times, last Nov. by a 20 percent margin. But that hasn't stopped the city council and managers from moving ahead with plans for a big new cop shop anyway.
Last week the council voted 7-1 to proceed with a plan to spend $800,000 on planning a new police/city hall building, whether voters want it or not.
The plan for the plan will include some public input opportunities, but it's unclear if the city staff and council will be listening. City managers decided a decade ago that their top priority was tearing down the existing city hall and building a lavish new police station. So far, they've shown little interest in opinions or information to the contrary.
The majority of councilors said they should decide to tear down city hall rather than renovating it even before involving the public in the decision. "If seven of eight councilors think absolutely over their dead bodies this way, then why set up the public for failure?" councilor David Kelly said.
Councilors said they want new city buildings to get top certifications for sustainable design. But the environmental impact of a tear down would make top certifications impossible, said Mike Penwell, city facilities manager. Penwell cautioned the council against "rushing" the tear-down decision. He said the city may be able to expand the existing city hall by building into the courtyard and up on the North side.
Another issue that staff and the council appear intransigent about is what to do with the $30 million the city has squirreled away over the past decade for big new offices while cutting city services and raising citizen fees.
The November vote indicated citizens didn't agree that a new police station was the top priority for the money, and the city has big unmet needs for school, parks and pothole spending.
With city officials' minds already made up, much of the $800,000 appears headed for propaganda rather than any real citizen involvement. "It's important, if we are going out for a bond [vote] at some point, that we start that marketing," councilor Gary Papé said.
It's actually illegal for the city to spend public money on election propaganda, but that hasn't stopped them in the past.
Councilor Betty Taylor was the lone "no" vote on the city's building plans. Taylor said she wanted the city to really listen to public input and be open to reconsidering renovation and the use of the $30 million.
But Friends of Eugene President Kevin Matthews said it doesn't look like that's what citizens will get. "It's as if the council is an unmovable rock." — Alan Pittman
COMMENT NOW ON GENDER ID
The Eugene Human Rights Commission (HRC) is currently accepting public comment regarding a proposal to add protections based on gender identity to the city's anti-discrimination code. Proposed code revisions including gender identity protections were developed and submitted to the HRC by the Gender Identity Work Group, an ad hoc committee of the commission.
The proposed code revisions can be found on line at www.ci.eugene.or.us/hrc-erac/hrcsite/code/codedraft1.htm
Community members are encouraged to submit comments by phone, letter, or email to the Eugene HRC, email@example.com; 777 Pearl St. Room 105, Eugene 97401, 682-5177. The public comment period closes June 20.
A public hearing is also coming up at the HRC meeting at 7 pm Tuesday, June 21 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.
Gender identity is defined in the proposed code revisions as "a person's actual or perceived sex, including a person's identity appearance, expression or behavior, whether or not that identity, appearance, expression or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's sex at birth." The code revisions would provide protections based on gender identity in places of employment, housing, and public accommodation. Similar code language has already been adopted in Portland, Salem, Beaverton, Bend, Lake Oswego, and Multnomah and Benton Counties, as well as in more than 70 other cities, counties and states across the country.
ECO-TOURISM HERE AT HOME
Eco-tourism usually conjures up visions of bird-watching in tropical rainforests, but a local non-profit group is saying Lane County could become a major destination for people wanting to learn how to live sustainably. A community gathering and dinner is coming up to talk about how to build the local economy through eco-tourism.
The public is invited to the Family and Community Town Supper (FACTS) from 6 to 8 pm Wednesday, June 15 at St. Mary's Episcopal Church parish hall, 13th and Pearl, Eugene. The event is presented by Helios Resource Network (www.heliosnetwork.org,284-7020).
Food (pozolé and flan) will be prepared by Juventud FACETA of the Amigos Multicultural Services Center. Tickets are $5 and children who are not eating can get in free.
Presenting will be County Commissioner Pete Sorenson, Mayor Kitty Piercy, Sue Gorham of the Convention and Visitors Association of Lane County, and others.
"Lane County is already seen as 'the sustainability county' by environmental groups around the country, with good reason," reads a statement from Helios. "However, in order to attract these organizations to hold conferences, retreats and meetings in Lane County, and environmentally conscious tourists who choose to travel green and see the sustainable sights, there are some gaps in the infrastructure to fill.
"These gaps in services and products could provide many living wage jobs in Lane County, while making Lane a veritable sustainability showcase, and an even greater place to live and work. There is no upper limit in sight for the kinds of clean, earth-friendly businesses and attractions that could be created and supported by tourists and locals alike."
What is terrorism? The FBI's official definition broadly includes any politically motivated crime. But the Bush administration appears to define it only as any politically motivated crime from the political left, not right.
Congressional Quarterly reported recently that a Department of Homeland Security domestic anti-terrorism planning document focuses on environmental and animal rights activist property destruction to the exclusion of right-wing terrorist groups who have killed or maimed hundreds of Americans. In 1995, 168 people died in the Oklahoma City bombing. In 2003, a Texan white supremacist and anti-government radical was caught with a weapon of mass destruction, enough cyanide bombs to kill hundreds of people, CQ reported. William Krar was also caught with machine guns, 60 pipe bombs and remote-controlled brief case bombs and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Five years ago, local environmental activist Jeff Luers got double that sentence after burning up a few SUVs. — Alan Pittman
EW TAKES SIX AWARDS
Eugene Weekly won six regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists' Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest. The awards were based on 2004 editorial content and design and were judged by journalists from out of state.
Art Director Kevin Dougherty won first place in the cover design category, based on a series of covers during the year.
Alan Pittman won four awards in the Oregon non-daily newspaper category. He won a first place for environmental reporting for "Unraveling Measure 37," a Dec. 2 cover story about the legal tangles of an anti-land use regulation initiative. He won a second place for government reporting for "Squirrelly," a July 29 piece about the city squirreling away money for a new police station while neglecting other city services. He also won a second place in comprehensive coverage for the July 5 piece, "More Magañas?" (and follow-up stories), about police reform in the wake of an officer sex abuse scandal. Pittman won a third place for investigative reporting for the March 18 news piece, "Red Faced," about allegations of drunken fights, groping and nudity at a sheriff's deputy Christmas party.
Kera Abraham won an honorable mention in environmental reporting for "Restoration," a July 1 cover story about volunteers working to preserve and restore urban natural areas.
The Register-Guard, competing with other large dailies, won four SPJ awards, including a first place for its 2004 series on domestic violence.
The Gemini Festival listed in last week's Summer Guide is a private gathering and should not have appeared. Also, McMenamins Edgefield's 94th Birthday Celebration takes place June 2, not June 3 as listed.
With their approval ratings in the dumps, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and President George Bush both got a lot of Memorial Day publicity for mourning the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. We wonder if they feel some guilt when they go to the cemeteries. In the run-up to the unnecessary Iraq war, Kulongoski was a Democratic war monger. "I am very supportive of the president's efforts," Kulongoski told the Oregonian after dining at the White House just before the Iraq invasion. Now facing re-election next year with little to show for it, Kulongoski has shamelessly made flag-waving funerals one of his top gubernatorial priorities. Bush, for his part, defended the continued bloody occupation by quoting from a letter from a soldier later killed in Iraq, "My death will mean nothing if you stop now." Where's the logic in that? Someone else's child also has to die to justify this unjustifiable war? And then another, and another? The toll now is approaching 2,000, not to mention the countless tens of thousands of Iraqis. When does it end?
While ODOT is spending millions widening I-105, Eugene should be thinking about getting rid of the riverfront freeway. Outrageous? Portland jackhammered their riverfront freeway for a riverfront park; Eugene could do the same. Imagine all the land that would be freed up. How about a return to the river for north Eugene? Imagine Skinner Butte Park and the Whiteaker and Washington-Jefferson neighborhoods free from roaring traffic noise, congestion and light pollution. Sure it would take longer to drive to the mall, but maybe people would shop in a reborn downtown instead. Maybe we wouldn't need a $150 million new freeway interchange for Gateway Mall. If the idea spread, maybe the West Coast wouldn't need to spend the estimated $50 billion highway planners want to widen I-5 to subsidize urban sprawl congestion. What's more far fetched?
The Eugene City Council thankfully put the county's ill-conceived public safety district out of our collective misery last month. The controversial measure for a massive jail/prosecutor/deputy tax increase would have never passed a vote anyway. Because of property tax caps, the county taxes threatened to wring revenue out of Eugene's popular library and school levies. Now, rather than lashing out, the county would do well to listen closely to Eugene's progressive majority. With much of Springfield and the rural county hard core anti-tax, there's no way for the county to pass a tax measure without the support of progressive Eugene voters who actually believe in government.
We know western Lane County is a tad conservative, but it was always a mystery to us why voters there have chosen a county commissioner who's way out on the feather-tips of the right wing. Fortunately, a moderate, mainstream bird is coming along to try to boot Anna Morrison out of her nest. We've been following Bill Fleenor's political aspirations for a few years now and we see he has filed for the West Lane commission post in 2006. The feathers will fly in this race, assuming Morrison seeks re-election. "My campaign is active and growing everyday," says Fleenor in an e-mail to supporters, "as more and more disgruntled citizens realize how devastating our current commissioner's judgment and decisions are to the well-being of our community." His website is www.williamfleenor.com
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
Strength through Weakness
An Orwellian approach to pesticide tracking
BY KERA ABRAHAM
In 1999, the Oregon Legislature voted 88-2 to require the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) to collect information about rural and urban pesticide use. Under the law, a statewide Pesticide Use Reporting System (PURS) would provide information to researchers about the pesticides released into Oregon's environment by township and square-mile section. The public would have access to less detailed information in an annual report.
Only one problem: Six years after the passage of the law, PURS has yet to be implemented. In response to pressure from the agriculture industry, the bill's proponents had agreed to split PURS's funding evenly between pesticide registration fees and the Oregon General Fund. The cost to the state is small by government standards — about $375,000 annually. But several key legislators with ties to the agriculture industry successfully fought to keep PURS funding out of three consecutive biennial budgets. Without taxpayer money, PURS remains dead in the water.
The Oregon PURS 2002 Annual Report — the only report to date — contains no data at all beyond the number of pesticide use reports submitted (about 235,000 in 2002). Instead, it states dismally, "Funding issues hampered these efforts and the overall success of the program during the first year of required reporting."
According to ODA spokesman Bruce Pokarney, PURS is the only agriculture-related program that has passed in the Legislature without getting funded. The governor's recommended budget has included funding for PURS since the 1999 passage of the law, but the Legislature, under pressure from industry lobbyists, has consistently gutted it from the final budget. "One would hope that they would pass something knowing that they would fund it," Pokarney says.
The agriculture industry objected to the original reporting method, which would have released pesticide use data by township and section to researchers who signed confidentiality agreements. Industry lobbyists argued that it violated farmers' privacy, a claim that rattled growers.
"The farming community has always been very careful about what they want to report to others," says cherry farmer Ken Bailey. "I think a lot of growers out there are concerned with who's gonna have access to the information and what they're gonna do with it. I'm not sure that fear is valid, but it's real."
In an effort to get the agriculture industry off the backs of legislators, the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) spearheaded a law to weaken PURS, and thus get it funded in the next state budget. The pesticide work group — a state-appointed committee of pesticide users, researchers and environmentalists — reached a concensus to address the privacy concern: amend the 1999 PURS law to direct the ODA to release agricultural pesticide data to the public by watershed, a much larger geographical unit than township and section. SB 290, which passed in the Senate on May 26, also removes the 2009 sunset clause from the original bill.
Contradicting the industry line that pesticide tracking hurts farmers, eight Oregon growers, including Bailey, stated their support for PURS at a May 31 press conference. They said that Oregon growers can gain an advantage in the marketplace by increasing their credibility with pesticide-conscious consumers. Tracking will lead to a better understanding of pesticide use in the state, they explained, which could shield growers from overly stiff regulations due to overestimates of pesticide use.
In California, a statewide pesticide use reporting system has been operating since 1990. All commercial pesticide applicators report their pesticide use to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, a division of the California EPA. The data allow researchers to identify trends in pesticide use, pinpoint sources of groundwater contamination and track toxic emissions associated with pesticide applications.
Oregon Environmental Council spokeswoman Laura Weiss doubts that pesticide manufacturers will support PURS even if SB 290 becomes law. "Bottom line is, they are better off when nobody knows what's out there," she says.
But, adds Weiss, SB 290 is a test of the pesticide industry and its friends in the Legislature. "If the real issue is the privacy concern, then this should pass," she says. "If it doesn't, then what's their real agenda?"
A glimpse into the fires that fuel Betty Taylor
by sara wachter-boettcher
One Sunday morning in the early 1930s, Betty Taylor sat in her family's rural Kentucky church, waiting for services to start. Perched in her pew, she watched as a black man entered the room, seated himself amongst the all-white congregation, and took part in the morning's sermon.
As the minister preached, he made no mention of the black man in the congregation's midst — that is, until he was about to leave the pulpit. "In the future, I think our colored friend would be more comfortable with his own kind," Taylor remembers him saying. This was the first time she had tasted injustice, and its bitter flavor stung her 7-year-old mouth.
In the 72 years since that eye-opening day, Taylor has devoted much of her time to fighting injustice — most recently as a Eugene city councilor representing Ward 2, which covers the area south of 29th Avenue between Chambers Street and Spring Boulevard, since 1997. Now in her third consecutive four-year term, which began in January, Taylor recalls the incident at the church as the spark that ignited her passion for politics and her dedication to equality.
When Taylor was a student at Illinois State University, this desire manifested into her work for civil rights and desegregated housing. When she was a young mother, it became a part of her dedication to the women's movement and to equal education. "I was pushing a baby carriage and collecting signatures," she says. "I didn't want to just stay home and stagnate."
While teaching English in Springfield, Ill., Taylor served on the board of the League of Women Voters, campaigned for local mayoral candidates and worked on George McGovern's failed 1972 Democratic bid for the presidency. Taylor, who holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon, settled into her current south Eugene home in 1983. Busy as she was, she knew she'd get involved here, too. In 1996, when no one to her liking ran for the Ward 2 city councilor position, Taylor, who had retired from teaching, decided to file as a candidate. The south Eugene community responded approvingly, and Taylor's first term began the following January.
Since then, Taylor has run her re-election campaigns on a relative shoestring. In the 2000 election, Mike Sherlock, backed by business and timber interests, outspent Taylor more than two-to-one. In 2004, Maurie Denner, a developer-backed school principal, once again nearly doubled Taylor's expenditures. But despite her opponents' deep pockets, voters opted for Taylor both times. "I think voters respond to honesty and consistency, and a lack of fear," she says.
After more than eight years on the council, Taylor's fearlessness — the gusto with which she fights for justice — has earned her respect from local politicians like Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, who calls her "refreshing" and "authentic." Unlike many politicians, Piercy says, Taylor makes her motivations clear to the community.
"She is absolutely real about who she is and what she stands for," Piercy says. "She is not one to change her mind or to move toward a middle ground, but I never see her intentionally try to hurt anyone in a way that disregards their humanity. I must say I like that about her."
But Taylor's stances have also earned her some critics, including her former opponent Denner. He and Taylor disagree on what he calls "managed growth" — bringing businesses to Eugene and creating jobs, a strategy he supports. In contrast, he says, Taylor's politics often put too much emphasis on the environment. Denner supports the proposed West Eugene Parkway; Taylor does not. Denner pushes for increased public safety funding and a new police building; Taylor would rather see city money funneled toward parks and quality-of-life programs. "She has a lot of respect and love for the city, and I do too," Denner says. "We just see the solutions as being different."
For Taylor, this love for the city means putting in 20 or 30 hours per week (and sometimes much more) working on council activities and serving on various committees. In fact, she spends so little time at home that she was reluctant to get a dog until a couple of years ago, when a neighbor offered to come over each afternoon to feed and play with it. Now she makes time to spend with her golden retriever, Toby, wandering the paths at Mt. Pisgah and working in her yard.
But there's more on Taylor's plate than attending city council meetings and walking with Toby. She also serves on the city's Budget Committee, the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, the No Child Left Behind Task Force, the Public Safety Coordinating Council and the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) board of directors.
Outside of the city council, the LRAPA board is perhaps the best known of Taylor's assignments — and, recently, the most politically tense. Responsible for maintaining the county's compliance with state and federal air quality regulations, the organization has spent the past six months dealing with infighting, budget problems and a string of dismissals. Between November 2004 and January 2005, five of 19 staff members were laid off or fired, including former LRAPA director Brian Jennison.
At the same time, the agency's board membership shifted. In past years, County Commissioner Pete Sorenson and other pro-environment officials on the board often supported Taylor's public health-minded stance. This is no longer the case. Since the start of 2005, she's been on the losing end of more than a couple 6-1 votes.
"LRAPA is a mess just now," she says. "Since the board membership changed dramatically, I am frequently in the minority. I protested the firing of the previous director. I think it was unfair treatment, and I strongly objected to the board's participation in laying off three people with a few hours' notice."
Once again, Taylor's goals for the crumbling agency — public health protection, environmental conservation and fair employment — hearken back to her original motivation: justice. In her thinking, justice isn't just about creating equality here and now; it's also about nurturing healthy communities for future generations.
Taylor brings that tenacity to the city council. On April 20, she cast the lone opposing vote in a 7-1 decision that the city apply for a state enterprise zone designation in west Eugene. The limited zone provides up to 100-percent tax breaks for manufacturing companies meeting job creation and investment standards in a designated area. But Taylor says that the enterprise zone would create incentives for businesses without giving the city adequate control over workers' living wages or sustainable practices. "If it's ever worth giving a tax break, we should have control over what they're doing to our environment," she says. Without this guarantee, she felt the proposition was too risky to take. And although she stood alone in her dissent, Taylor felt compelled to voice her opinion. "I think it's important to say it for the people who can't say it in public," she says.
Coupled with Taylor's work toward sustainability is her dedication to preserving Eugene's high standard of living through low-cost arts and recreation programs, such as the recently renovated Amazon Pool and Eugene's former adult recreation program, which was slashed back in the budget cuts of the mid-1990s. "It contributed to a feeling of community," she says of the lost recreation program. "Those things eventually contribute more to safety than police."
But when budgets are cut, these programs are often the first to go — or, in the case of Amazon Pool, where a summer family membership now costs nearly $200, fees are raised so high that many families can no longer afford to participate. And when working families are priced out of community services, when all members of the community can't access or benefit from services, Taylor once again feels the sting of injustice.
Although the issues have changed since her Kentucky youth, Taylor's first priority — the glue that binds her political views together — hasn't changed a bit. "Even though it's a small thing, it's important to people's lives," she says. "I care about justice for everyone.
Undercovered #45. More stories not in the mainstream press.
BY BROOKE ROBERTSHAW & KATE ROGERS GESSERT
The Earth Charter is the best blueprint we know of for a future. Launched in 2000, it outlines "principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society" — a Universal Declaration of Human Rights that includes nature as well as people. Thousands of NGOs and cities throughout the world have endorsed the charter and work to implement its principles. Two succinct, lyrical pages are divided into four sections: respect and care for the community of life; ecological integrity; social and economic justice; democracy, nonviolence, and peace (earthcharter.org).
• Though the U.S. has refused to sign the Kyoto Treaty, mayors of 136 U.S. cities, including Eugene, Corvallis, Portland, Seattle, L.A., and New York, have pledged their cities will meet or exceed Kyoto's seven percent reduction from 1990 greenhouse-gas emission levels by 2012 (kyotousa.org).
• Following passage of the repressive Real I.D. Act, senators and representatives introduced a compassionate, comprehensive immigration bill, strongly supported by both parties in Congress and by immigrant rights groups. The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act would allow people who have been living and working in the U.S. and their families to earn permanent legal status over time, and it would create fair legal channels for foreign workers to come to the U.S. It would also help foreign relatives trapped in visa backlogs to be united with their U.S. families (La Raza).
• This spring the pioneer sea otter has returned to Simpson Reef; Elakha Alliance is supporting DNA studies of otter bones in Oregon middens, searching for a genetic match to reintroduce to our coast. Since 1907, when the last Oregon sea otter was killed for its $900 pelt, kelp forests along our coast have been gobbled by sea urchins, otters' favorite food. Without the kelp, beaches have eroded and fisheries declined (ecotrust.org).
• In northern Iraq, 800 families are learning construction skills by rebuilding their destroyed homes, schools, and water systems with technical support from Counterpart International (goodnewsexchange.org).
• Working with courageous Iraqi doctors and volunteers, International Peace Angels delivers humanitarian aid and medical supplies to women and children in war-torn areas of Iraq (internationalpeaceangels.org).
• On May 26, Rep. Woolsey introduced an amendment to the $491-billion Pentagon budget, calling on President Bush to make a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Although Woolsey's amendment lost 300 to 128, five Republican representatives and two-thirds of Democrats, including Rep. DeFazio, voted for it. Woolsey's separate House bill also calling for withdrawal has 30 co-sponsors, not yet including Rep. DeFazio (Pacifica Radio).
• Volunteers near Big Sur counted 338 mother-calf pairs of gray whales swimming north from Mexico, down from last year's impressive 455 pairs but far better than the 87 pairs counted in 2001. Scientists theorize that fluctuations in Bering Sea food supplies impact whale pregnancies (learner.org).
• Researchers in Singapore have invented a system to allow people to stroke chickens over the Internet, a breakthrough that may lead to long-distance hugs and dance lessons, allergic owners caressing furry pets remotely, and zoo visitors patting lions (Wired News).
• Women employees of a New Jersey sex-toy store sent three dozen vibrators to Iraqi women. One of the Americans wrote, "The sisterhood of women is stronger than politics ... stronger than any doctrine or rhetoric. It unites us all, and through this bond we can find peace. Enjoy this gift, my faraway sister" (harpersweekly.org).
• The Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, recently re-introduced in the U.S. Senate, would cap greenhouse gas emissions and increase funding for renewable energy and energy-efficient vehicle research. Although the bill also includes funding for nuclear power, it is the best current legislative path to fight global warming (Environmental Defense).
• Millions of painted lady butterflies have arrived in Oregon from California deserts, where record rains and lush growth have led to what could be the biggest butterfly migration of modern times (U.C. Davis).
• A Hunan restaurant has introduced abalone dishes simmered in human breast milk, so customers can "experience maternal love" while dining (BBC).
• Berkeley recently adopted a Zero Waste Goal for 2020, joining San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand in coupling resource recovery with industrial redesign to end waste (ecologycenter.org).
• Ethiopia held its third-ever national election May 15. Despite reports of fraud and harassment, and long lines at polling sites, it was peaceful. Election officials estimated turnout at 90 percent of registered voters (AllAfrica.com).
• China has ended the use of naked women as sushi platters in restaurants (BBC).
• The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network celebrated its tenth anniversary of working to make schools safe for LGBTQ students. Today 3,000 U.S. schools have Gay-Straight Alliances (tolerance.org).
• Elephant-human conflicts in Africa and Asia have been soothed by the efforts of the Elephant Pepper Development Trust. Chili peppers, a new cash crop, keep elephants out of farmers' crops (elephantpepper.org).
• Scottish scientists have developed a new fuel cell that uses sunlight to break down pollutants in water while simultaneously producing electricity (Scotsman).
Having seen the fishing industry crash as a kid in Gloucester, Mass., Ethan Hughes got into environmental science at the University of Vermont and spent six months at a pipeline spill in the Ecuadoran rainforest. "I lived with the Siona tribe," he says. "That's where the superhero was born."
Equally inspired by comic books and tribal animal costumes, Hughes became "Yuccaman" to address a group focused on "Forests for Justice" in Quito. Later, as a roving environmental educator during the '90s, he adopted other superhero identities. After a year on staff at Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon (www.aprovecho.net),Hughes settled on a homestead near Cottage Grove in 2000.
In his current guise as the "Blazing Echidna," an endangered burrowing mammal in New Guinea, he maintains the Heroes Alliance Hotline at 942-3118. "We have around 50 superheroes in Eugene and Cottage Grove," he says. "Each has a costume and an identity. Anyone can call for help — carpentry, planting trees, whatever. It's all volunteer, no pay."
As the Blazing Echidan, Hughes also leads the superhero bike tour, where hordes of costumed riders arrive unannounced in small towns to offer help at any task. The sixth annual tour leaves for Canada on June 5. -by Paul Neevel