News Briefs: WELC Wins Ruling on Pesticides | Swift Now a Civillian | Journalism’s ‘Appalling’ Condition | Logging for Education? | Chihuahuas From Hell! | Activist Alert | Corrections/Clarifications | War Dead |
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Wider I-5 span to boost global warming, hurt park
WELC WINS RULING ON PESTICIDES
The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) celebrated a legal victory earlier this month over a Bush administration policy that allowed the application of pesticides to waterways without a permit.
On Jan. 7, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio vacated a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule put in place in November 2007, which said that pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), were exempt from the permitting requirements of the Clean Water Act.
Under the court’s ruling, now nearly all commercial pesticide application to, over and around waterways will require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. NPDES permits allow for citizens to comment on the plan to apply pesticides and demand oversight by regulatory agencies. The agencies will have to evaluate the effects of individual pesticide applications on fish and wildlife, monitor the amount of pesticide that goes into U.S. waterways and monitor what the cumulative impact is on aquatic organisms, according to WELC.
The case began when WELC won a lawsuit (Headwaters v. Talent Irrigation District) in which Headwaters and Oregon Wild (then ONRC) alleged that an Oregon irrigation district had violated the Clean Water Act by applying aquatic herbicide to canals without a NPDES permit. WELC lost initially but won later when the case was later overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Charlie Tebbutt, the attorney on the case, says that after WELC’s 2001 victory, a representative of the pesticide industry dropped by his Eugene office and told him, “If you don’t withdraw your victory, we’re going to go to Congress and get this overturned.”
Tebbutt says, “I said, ‘Good luck; send me a postcard.’”
The pesticide industry eventually succeeded in getting the EPA to overturn the case through an EPA rule under the Bush administration that exempted the pesticide applications to waterways under FIFRA. In 2008 the issue returned to the courtroom, and Tebbutt argued against the EPA’s rule in the Republican-dominated 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The EPA defended its rule by arguing that the terms of the Clean Water Act are ambiguous, but the when the judges made their decision, they wrote, “We cannot agree. The Clean Water Act is not ambiguous,” and vacated the rule, which applies to aerial and truck-based applications of pesticides, but not farm ground.
Tebbutt says under the permit process there is more close monitoring and more careful application of pesticide, “just by paying attention, it reduces the amount of pesticides a lot. He says, “It will be nice to work with a new administration that will protect the waterways instead of the chemical industry.” — Camilla Mortensen
SWIFT NOW A CIVILIAN
The new year marks the end of Suzanne Swift’s active military duty. She sent her mother a text message after she finished handing in her discharge paperwork. “DONE,” it read.
Swift, 24, of Eugene, said she was sexually harassed and abused during her first tour of duty with the Army in Iraq, and suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. Her complaints were ignored, and she went AWOL when she got orders for a second tour in Iraq. She was arrested, accused of desertion, demoted and threatened with prison. Her story got its first media attention in EW March 30, 2006. Her mother, Sara Rich, spoke to the Take Back America rally, and Rich’s speech was printed as a commentary. The story was then picked up by other media nationally and worldwide and is the subject of a website (www.SuzanneSwift.org) that organizes support for women in the military and calls for an end to “command rape” and other abuses in all branches of the U.S. military.
Rich sent a message to her email list in early January. “I wanted to write one last email to you all to thank you for your care and support through the past few years,” she wrote. “It has been a long, long haul. Your emails and prayers have been crucial in helping Suzanne get through this.”
Swift was honorably discharged and had re-earned her rank of specialist. She has the GI Bill on her list of benefits and plans to come home to Lane County and continue her education. “We have had some meetings with the local VA people, and they are really helpful and kind,” Rich says. “She is going to get more involved with activism through counter-military recruitment and with Iraq Veterans Against the War.”
“She wants to put her life back together,” Rich says. “She is optimistic about her future and looking forward to becoming more active in ‘real’ life.” — Ted Taylor
JOURNALISM’S ‘APPALLING’ CONDITION
Just how bad is the state of journalism?
UO journalism school dean Tim Gleason described the economic “crisis” in mainstream newspapers as “severe and getting worse.” But then, raising an issue that has caused some to question whether mainstream journalism is worth saving, Gleason declared that journalism has a “symbiotic” relationship with public relations.
“What’s happening in newsrooms is appalling,” Gleason told the City Club of Eugene Jan. 16. He described the mass layoffs at papers losing ads to the Internet and the down economy. “Maybe information wants to be free, but the reporters who create it would like to be paid,” Gleason said.
Don Kahle, publisher of the now defunct Comic News, was chosen to ask the first question. Kahle said that about a third of UO Journalism School students major in public relations, that The Register-Guard has had reporters and editors leave for PR positions at EWEB and PeaceHealth and that 75 percent of news originates in press releases. To applause, he asked Gleason, if there was a “secret marriage” of journalism and public relations.
Gleason admitted he’s married to a PR person. The journalism school dean’s wife, Jenny Ulum, is one of the leading corporate PR people in town. But Gleason called Kahle’s question a “fallacy,” arguing that the “symbiotic, not adversarial” relationship between news and PR “benefits the public.”
Many media ethicists condemn public relations as propaganda. The “church and state” separation of journalism and advertising and public relations is a key ethical tenant of journalism. But the UO “journalism” school has twice as many courses dedicated to advertising and/or public relations as it has dedicated to news-editorial.
Gleason said people aren’t reading less news; they’re just reading it online where newspapers haven’t been able to sell much advertising. “The challenge isn’t there’s a lack of demand for news; the problem is how we pay for it.”
An iTunes for news, where readers pay a small amount for each story they read online, could be a solution, Gleason said.
But under that news model, the future of serious journalism remains in doubt. The most popular, widely read article online of any newspaper in the Northwest in recent years was a story about a man who died after having sex with a horse, according to Steve Smith, former editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. —Alan Pittman
LOGGING FOR EDUCATION?
The Jan. 8 town hall meeting with Oregon State Sen. Vicki Walker and Reps. Chris Edwards and Nancy Nathanson at North Eugene High School kicked off controversy when Walker discussed logging state forests to raise money for Oregon schools.
The Elliott State Forest is part of the public lands designated for Oregon’s Common School Fund. When Oregon became a state, the federal government designated about 6 percent of state’s land to support K-12 public schools. Profits from mineral, timber, grazing and other resources go to fund schools, according to our state constitution. The Elliott State Forest is currently managed and logged by the Oregon Department of Forestry.
According to Jan Nelson, who attended the town hall, Walker talked about trees in the Elliott and said she wants to, “cut them, plant them, and then cut them again.”
Nelson says, “I think this is something that is an unfortunate decision, and not very creative.”
“Nobody’s buying wood right now,” Nelson says, so “it’s a poor idea to pour more wood into the market.” Nelson says there are other options, such as using the forest for carbon sequestration.
Nelson has sent out an appeal for concerned citizens to email Walker and “let her know she has a bad idea.”
“If one cares about children and their future, would one so carelessly desecrate their environment?” Nelson writes.
Walker, who received a copy of Nelson’s letter (see this week’s Letters page), wrote in response to the accusation that she intends to log the state forests, “Of course I do. That is the purpose of our state forests.”
Walker says that the 93,000 acre forest is already being logged, and she’s interested in finding out if it and other Common School Fund lands are being managed to maximize revenues. According to the senator, the forest made a profit of $34 million for the fund several years ago. As a member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Walker says she will be reviewing the way those lands are managed.
“Oregon is rich in natural resources, and I made that point at that town hall,” she says. “There certainly has to be a balance. It doesn’t mean I’m going to log every tree; it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave every tree standing. I’m going to look at it,” Walker says.
She says that she encourages citizens to attend upcoming meetings about the lands and their management. As for her comment at the town hall that the only tree left standing would be the one in her colleague’s backyard, Walker responded to Nelson via email, “You knew as well as everyone else in that room that when I made the comment that I would only leave the tree standing in Sen. President Courtney’s backyard that I was telling a joke. Your attempt to paint it otherwise is disingenuous and not appreciated.”
The Elliott State Forest is currently the subject of a lawsuit by the Cascadia Wildlands Project, Umpqua Watersheds and other conservation groups. The groups’ suit says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to reconsider the impacts of logging the forest’s old-growth trees on the northern spotted owl in light of new information showing the owl is facing increased threats. The groups say that the Elliott could be managed to preserve the old forests and protect the spotted owl while fulfilling the need to provide funds for Oregon’s schools. — Camilla Mortensen
CHIHUAHUAS FROM HELL!
Since EW published an exclusive interview with Cesar Millan (the Dog Whisper), Aug. 28, 2008, people have been asking: So what happened with El Diablo, the most vicious Chihuahua to darken a doorstep in Lane County?
|The one known as El Diablo|
As blog readers learned last week, according to the National Geographic channel you can see the “world premiere” of the “Chihuahuas from Hell” Dog Whisperer episode at 8 pm Friday, Jan. 30, (if you have cable, that is; if not, check EW’s blog for an update). You can check out your fellow Eugeneans that made it into the episode, like EW’s “Ask the Dogcatcher” Kylie Belachaikovsky, who was the LCAS employee who first sent El Diablo to Luv-A-Bull after he was found feral and starving in a Walmart parking lot.
The episode blurb from National Geographic calls El Diablo one of Millan’s “toughest cases yet” and says of the problem pup: “At the Luv-A-Bull rescue organization, El Diablo acts like a dictator, ruling the 50-acre facility and scaring the much larger pit bulls that live there.”
Last time EW checked in with Luv-A-Bull, the news was that El Diablo was living with Millan at his Dog Psychology Center in Los Angeles and was being adopted by one of Millan’s employees. So stay tuned to find out if Diablo can ever be fully tamed and stop biting the hands that feed him — and beating up on pit bulls. — Camilla Mortensen
• A public meeting on a management plan for the Fern Ridge Wildlife Area will be held by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at 7 pm Friday, Jan. 23 at the EWEB building, room 500. ODFW manages the 5,200-acre area as part of a license agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Comments can also be emailed to ODFW.Comments@state.or.us
In last week’s Weddings special section, Ron Bullard’s name was spelled incorrectly.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,228 U.S. troops killed* (4,225)
• 30,960 U.S. troops injured* (30,934)
• 167 U.S. military suicides* (167)
• 317 coalition troops killed** (317)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 98,731 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (98,564)
• $587.7 billion cost of war ($587.7 billion)
• $167.7 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($167.1 million)
* through Jan. 19, 2009; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** sources: icasualties.org, defenselink.mil
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 (Lancet survey, 2006) to 1.1 million (Opinion Research Business survey, 2008)
• Now it’s time for the community to organize Obama. That’s what former UO Law School Dean Derrick Bell suggests in his closing lines written for EW this week (see Viewpoint). That’s also the theme of the People’s Agenda for a New America, a series started last week by Progressive Responses, a program of CALC. About 70 local folks, some of them quite cranky, gathered in Harris Hall to talk about a new peace strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Dan Goldrich, retired UO professor, and Stan Taylor, LCC professor, laid out options for solutions other than endless war in that region. Next session is 7 pm Jan 24, at the UO Law School, room 110, featuring David Bacon, who wrote Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants.
The underlying theme of this series is that all of us who supported Obama should trust him but organize ourselves to put our progressive agenda squarely in the middle of his administration.
• Some of the most moving lines spoken during the inaugural/Martin Luther King Jr. string of events came at the dedication of the Rosa Parks statue at the LTD station in downtown Eugene Jan. 19. The stirring program included local schoolgirls simply reading what Rosa Parks said: “Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it … I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move … When I made that decision, I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me … I only knew that as I was being arrested, it was the last time I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind. … Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”
Dr. Ed Coleman was the master of ceremonies and Greg Evans was chair of the committee to honor Rosa Parks. Hundreds came, many on LTD buses, to honor her with a statue in our city center.
• Fix the economy by spending more? What we heard from the Bush administration for eight years is that the solution to our nation’s economic woes is for everyone to go out and shop. Obama has better solutions, but old attitudes and values die hard. Excessive consumption, particularly on credit, has been a major contributor to both our economic and environmental problems. What makes more sense is to focus individual and government spending on useful products and services. Money spent on warfare and prisons, for example, brings a lousy return on investment, as does money spent on the unrepairable plastic and electronic gadgets that overflow our landfills. But spending strategically on education, child welfare, preventive medicine, green energy, green design, infrastructure, the arts, organic agriculture, sensible and practical consumer goods — this is how we build a solid and dependable economy.
• Longtime R-G editor/manager Jim Godbold left the R-G in December, but if the paper published anything about his departure, we missed it. Godbold joined the paper in 1983 and rose through the ranks to become managing editor, overseeing 100 newsroom staffers when the paper was at its peak, then executive editor, then editorial page associate editor. Godbold had a big impact on the newspaper and was a candid critic of the paper’s shortcomings (see EW news story, 5/27/04). He left quietly to join the PR staff at PeaceHealth. We remember some hoopla when Fred Crafts retired after decades as an arts critic at the R-G. Maybe Godbold got a party.
Godbold is not the first seasoned journalist to leave the daily paper for a PR job, and he likely won’t be the last. Environmental reporter Lance Robertson took a PR post with EWEB several years ago, and his job was never filled; other reporters picked up some pieces of his beat. Tim Gleason, dean of the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication, told a crowd at City Club last week that one of the great tragedies in journalism today is that “so much intellectual capacity and institutional memory” is leaving the profession. On the upside, we hear retired R-G editorial writer Don Robinson is back on staff editing letters to the editor.
• A sparkling and energized downtown Eugene is touted in the January VIA magazine put out by the AAA. Oregon is celebrated in the Northwest edition, and to read the “Weekender” story by Christopher Hall (www.viamagazine.com), you’d think our downtown is full of life and vitality. We will take his vision, knowing that every new visitor helps make it come true.
As a senior at South Eugene High School in 2000, Gabriel Hamel was the first from his school in 25 years to win a state championship in wrestling. He also joined the Army National Guard as a senior and found himself 20 miles south of Baghdad in 2003-04, patrolling Iraq’s main highway. “It was a good personal experience; it grew me up,” says Hamel, who got out in ’05. “I’m thankful we made it back.” Struck by the poverty he saw in Iraq and on trips to El Salvador, he launched Humans for Humanity, a nonprofit umbrella group to support projects that help poor people. HH’s first project is Escuelo Camino Claro (caminoclaro.org), a community education center in Pavones, Costa Rica, co-founded by Hamel’s SEHS classmate Haley Whitely. ECC will hold its second annual Pura Vida fundraising event at the Fenario Gallery, 881 Willamette Street, on the evening of January 31, featuring a silent auction and music by four local bands. Since his return from Iraq, Hamel has also served as wrestling coach at South. “My first year back, there were four kids on the team,” he says. “Now we have 22, mostly freshmen and sophomores.” Last fall he began full-time work at the school, teaching a life skills class for special-needs kids.