News Briefs: No Hemp | Speghetti Bowl | Reluctant Martyr | Dalai Lama on War | Pot Support Growing| Corrections
News: Halfway to Yucca-- DOE has a Utah site in mind for "temporary" nuke storage.
Happening People: Joshua Skov.
NO HEMP THIS YEAR
|Persecuted Oregon marijuana/hemp activist William Conde makes his new home in sunny Belize.|
Well, it's that time of year again: Saturday Market, garden parties with wine and beer, endless outside events. And before you know it it's time for the Country Fair, the Barter Fair, and the Hemp Festival ... wait a minute, no Hemp Fest this year. Bill Conde is gone.
He vamoosed to Belize, Central America. He lives in a village near Orange Walk Town with his wife, Ruby, and three children, ages 9, 6, and 2. He has the newest and biggest house in town that also doubles as a variety store, which he calls "Guaranteed Used." They sell fine used clothing he buys from Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul. He also sells filtered water and filtered ice and that brings in a good living.
Conde just bought the property next door to him, which he says will be a youth hostel or a poor man's B&B. He loves the lifestyle down there and asks, where else can his kids grow up with all their cousins and grandparents within a two-mile area?
A joint public hearing on the West Eugene Parkway (WEP) was scheduled for Wednesday, May 29, too late for us to cover in this issue of EW. This hearing before the Eugene and Springfield City Councils, Lane County Commission and Lane Transit district Board concerns amendments to TransPlan, the West Eugene Wetlands Plan, Metro Plan, and Lane Rural Comprehensive Plan. Officials will vote on proposed plan amendments in June or July and pass on their decisions to state and federal officials. We've said it before and we'll say it again: Highway projects such as WEP only make traffic and sprawl worse. Funding low-priority WEP sucks money from high-priority transportation projects. The plan would fill and pave protected wetlands and parklands. And the 2001 advisory vote marginally in favor of WEP was no mandate, but rather indicates a deeply divided community. Let's once again quash this outdated and seriously flawed project.
We haven't heard much from our readers on the Disclosure Project. Surely someone in Eugene has had their life permanently altered by close encounters with the X-Files of Steven Greer when he was in Eugene. Or is it all silly nonsense based on overactive imaginations and shaky conspiracy theories? What is the truth out there? And speaking of X-Files, we read on www.commondreams.com that Pentagon and GAO analysts admit that about one quarter of our defense budget is "lost" to secret and unknown expenditures — more than the annual federal budget for education. We predict future investigations will uncover outrageous corruption and waste going on today in our military-industrial complex. Meanwhile, even Democrats are going along with Bush's push for a nearly $400 billion defense budget.
The cost of health care is outrageous and it's only going to get worse. And despite the Oregon Health Plan, thousands of Oregon families are without health insurance. What can we do about it? We can get a single-payer health care initiative on the November ballot and work to pass it. We hear 60,000 signatures have been gathered, nearly half in Eugene, and 67,000 valid signatures are needed to make the ballot. Let's sign the Health Care For All-Oregon petition and put the medical community in charge of our medical care instead of the paper shufflers! Call 484-6145 to help.
In April, U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., was labeled "dangerous, loony and irresponsible" by her colleagues after calling for a congressional investigation into pre-Sept. 11 warnings to the Bush administration. With the revelations of the past two weeks, and more coming each day, McKinney's call now seems prescient. Not that you'd know it from the mainstream press, however. If you think she deserves an apology— or kudos for speaking out during these jingoistic days — you can reach her at (202) 225-1605 or through her website: www.house.gov/mckinney
No, your eyesight has not gotten better. We've jacked up the type size in our Letters section by a full point this week. Should be much easier on the stiff old eyeballs among us. And yes, our letters section is growing as well. Last year at this time we were cranking about one page a week of letters, including the cartoon. Thanks to growth in advertising and larger papers we are now able to print half again more letters, and more guest commentaries.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Conde is a high-profile character in the community, and as usual, is getting involved with charitable projects for the local kids. He admits Belize is a third world country, but says he loves the lack of pressure and laid-back attitude of the locals. He and the secretary of agriculture have discussed the possibility of industrial hemp farming as an exportable commodity. Sugar cane is the lowest of all possible crops and most of Belizean agriculture is sugar cane.
I have spent quite a bit of time down there and I see the Belizean Islands are growing at a remarkable pace. Cancun developers are buying land and building resorts farther out and north of San Pedro. I met with them this New Year's Eve and it's apparent what's going on. "The New Frontier" is cheap Caribbean property. This is the second largest barrier reef on Earth and the tourists are coming in droves, more from Europe than the U.S.
There are always trade-outs in life and nothing is free. The summers down there are humid and the chances of high winds in the fall are great. So please remember this song: "Summertime and the living is easy, your ma is good looking and your daddy's" ... well, alive and hiding in plain sight in Belize.
Conde asked me to say, "Who will step up to the plate and have the guts to do the Hemp Festival this year?" Have a grand, endless summer.
— Ira Shubert, email@example.com
Freeway interchange construction plans to accommodate sprawl at the Interstate 5/Beltline intersection are going before a public hearing Wednesday, June 5. The hearing before the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration will begin at 6:30 pm at the Doubletree hotel, 3280 Gateway, in Springfield.
"This project would reconstruct the existing interchange into a giant Los Angeles-style spaghetti bowl," says local transportation watchdog Mark Robinowitz. The project was officially budgeted at $53 million in TransPlan, but Robinowitz says more current estimates range from $104 million to $122 million.
Robinowitz says ODOT options include widening Beltline to 10 lanes west of I-5 (including ramps), making it one of the widest highways in Oregon. The freeway itself could be widened to eight lanes between Beltline and I-105.
"This boondoggle is a key part of the long-term effort to relocate downtown Eugene to the Coburg Road and Gateway area," he says.
Environmental activist Jeffrey "Free" Luers, sentenced last year to 22 years in Oregon State Prison on arson charges, says he has become a reluctant martyr to some in the environmental movement. Luers' sentence, which is being appealed, followed his arrest in a Eugene car dealership fire case.
"This is not a role I chose to fill. It was forced upon me," says Luers in a letter to Congressman Scott McInnis forwarded to EW. "By giving me a sentence of 22 years, viewed by a majority of people as overly harsh and extreme, the system has put me in the spotlight, giving me international attention. I have been made to be an example. However, that has only served to make me a political prisoner and for some perhaps even a martyr."
Luers says if he had been given a "reasonable sentence" he would have been forgotten by the public. "I would have been one news story. I would have served my sentence and finished my BA. I would have been released, reunited with my family and enjoyed the rest of my life. Yes, I would have continued to be active in efforts to protect the environment, but I would have avoided activities that would lead me back to prison."
Luers says he is not "wasting away" in prison, but rather actively pursuing his education.
Luers' letter to McInnis was in response to recent congressional hearings where Luers' case was cited as an example of "eco-terrorism." For more information on the hearings, visit www.protectcivilliberties.com For more information on the Luers case, visit www.spiritoffreedom.org — Ted Taylor
LAMA ON WAR
The Dalai Lama says the best long-term solution to the terrorist threat would be to concentrate on basic human values rather than force.
Us All Up
WebSitings is a list of useful and sometimes quirky web sites. Care to contribute to the list? Send suggested sites and a short description to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tibet's spiritual and political leader has consistently called for a nonviolent approach to 9/11, and during his visit to Australia last week, he warned the war on terrorism could backfire.
"The difficulty with violence is (that) once you commit it, it's unpredictable," he is quoted by the Aussie media group AAP. "At the beginning you may have certain intentions or certain aims but once you've committed violence then there's always a danger (it will get) out of control."
He said World War II and the Korean War could be considered justified because one protected western democracy and the other protected South Korea's prosperity and freedom.
"But then Vietnam War, originally, (had the) same aim, the same motivation, but it completely failed," he said.
"(With) the Afghanistan scene, it seems as if the majority of local people seem to welcome the new situation, so you may have some justification."
An initiative to enhance the distribution of medical marijuana to the seriously ill could be on the Oregon ballot in 2004, according to a recent statement from the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.
Oregonians have consistently supported the right of seriously ill people to use marijuana for medical purposes, but a recent poll shows that support has grown since Oregon's medical marijuana initiative passed in 1998.
According to the poll, administered to over 1,000 adults by the Lucas Organization, 76.5 percent of Oregon voters "strongly support" or "somewhat support" the state law allowing "seriously ill patients to use and grow their own medical marijuana with the approval of their physicians." This is a big jump over the 55 percent of voters who supported the initiative in 1998. The poll was conducted in three other states with medical marijuana laws, which also show increased levels of support since their laws were passed.
The poll results also indicate that Oregon voters would favor expanding the law to allow medical marijuana distribution by non- profit medical clinics (69.1 percent) or the state government (64.4 percent).
"Oregonians have already taken the first step by providing legal protection to people suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and other terrible illnesses," says Kristin Oechslin of the Marijuana Policy Projec. "Making sure sick people can easily obtain their medicine is the logical next step."
For more information, Oechslin can be reached at Krissy@mpp.org
‚ The credit for last week's (5/23) cover photo of the young man jumping into the Willamette River was accidentally deleted, but goes to Kurt Jensen.
‚ And that's Congressman Dennis Kucinich, not Gary as written in the caption, who's smiling in the 5/23 "Peaceful Institutions" news story.
‚ Our story "Scooter Stylin'" last week failed to mention how readers can find out more about the local motor scooter scene. One source is Bob Moreno at 349-0555, www.scooterkingofeugene.com Another site www.amerivespa.org gives info on a scooter event in Portland this weekend.
‚ The Emerald Art Center's grand opening will be from 5:30 to 7 pm on June 6. The event was not listed in last week's Summer Guide.
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DOE has a Utah site in mind for "temporary" nuke storage.
By J.A. Savage, Alternet
Utah's Skull Valley is already a busy place. All around it, the Air Force makes practice blasts in its Hill Bombing Range. Dugway Proving Grounds tests chemical and biological weapons. There's a Safety Kleen hazardous waste incinerator and landfill. The Deseret Chemical Depot stores weapons and the Tooele Chemical Demilitarization Facility burns 'em.
Passing through Oregon and Washington this week is a the Mock Nuclear Waste Cask, part of a six-cask protest campaign to raise awareness of the upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate on Yucca Mountain. The scale version of the cask is 20 feet long and eight feet in diameter at the ends. The Northwest cask left Reno May 27, arrived in Ashland May 28 and was due to stop in Eugene May 29 before heading to Corvallis and Salem May 30. Later stops include Seattle and Portland in early June, and then the cask will head east to Washington, D.C.
John Hadder of Citizen Alert is speaking along the way and was scheduled to talk in Eugene at Jefferson Middle School with County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.
The Mock Cask represents the kind of containers that will be traveling Northwest roadways by truck carrying about two metric tons of highly radioactive waste. Approval of the Yucca Mountain site will "result in thousands of shipments over 24 years through 44 states and within one-half mile of 50 million Americans;" says a statement from Citizen Alert and Eugene PeaceWorks.
The group is calling on Congress to resolve technical issues at the proposed storage site and review health and security issues surrounding the transporting of radioactive waste.
For more information, contact Eugene PeaceWorks at 343-8548 or e-mail email@example.com Citizens can also voice their concerns to Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden by calling toll-free (888) 554-9256 between 9 am and 5 pm EST.
If the Department of Energy (DOE) gets its way, Skull Valley will also be the home to so-called "temporary" high level radioactive waste on its way to the permanent waste dump in Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
With the Senate set to vote June 5 to override Nevada's veto of the Yucca Mountain facility — the House already voted overwhelmingly to ignore Nevada's preference — the people who live in Skull Valley are getting increasingly nervous.
The fate of Yucca Mountain has grabbed all the headlines. The fate of Skull Valley is barely a blip on the national radar. No matter whether you think the Nevada site is a good or bad place to store waste, at least it has big plans to use the best technology available, bury the waste deep underground and monitor it. Skull Valley doesn't.
At Skull Valley, waste would be shipped by rail in containers and set above ground next to the bombing range. The technology would consist of some concrete and steel and a chain link fence. The plan calls for the area to hold — for 20 years with a 20-year extension — enough nuclear waste to accommodate all the spent fuel for every reactor in the nation.
"If there's enough focus on Yucca, they can sneak Skull Valley in there and buy Yucca 40 more years," said Sammy Blackbear, a Goshute Indian opposing the storage site.
The only way the DOE could get a lease for this halfway-to-Yucca storage site so quietly and efficiently is because it is owned by Native Americans — the Goshute Tribe, whose Skull Valley members number about 130. Of that, 70 are voting members with authority over 18,000 acres. Fifteen have filed litigation to stop the proposed radioactive dump.
Native Americans' governments are sovereign unto themselves. As such, they don't have all those pesky laws that the state of Nevada, for instance, and even the DOE and Nuclear Regulatory Commission have for environmental protection and public process. None of that applies to the Goshutes.
The legal complaints allege federal support for a Tribal Council of three whose chairman was recalled by the tribe, but returned to power by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1994. The chairman, Leon Bear, convenes an "illegitimate regime," according to filings, which "remains in power through bribery and corruption." However, when pressed for specifics, Blackbear said he couldn't release the material due to the current court battle.
Tribal chairman Leon Bear cited in a statement the potential flow of money from nuclear waste storage to the Goshute, which everyone involved agrees is impoverished.
"For a long time the tribe has been pretty much distressed over revenues that they don't have, lack of infrastructure of the tribal government. And we were looking for economic benefits or development for the tribe."
Those revenues would be provided by Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of reactor-owning companies (Consolidate Edison Company of New York; GPU Nuclear, New Jersey; Genoa FuelTech, Wisconsin; Florida Power & Light; Indiana-Michigan Power, also known as American Electric Power; Xcel, Minnesota; Southern California Edison; and Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Alabama). Private Fuel Storage has applied for a federal license to run the facility.
Private Fuel Storage is impatient about Yucca Mountain.
"There are nuclear plants that will run out of on-site storage before Yucca Mountain could open. Those plants are faced with the difficult decision to shut down their reactors prematurely, severely limiting their ability to meet the electricity needs of their customers," noted the consortium.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering granting a license for the facility. A Final Environmental Impact Statement released by the NRC at the beginning of the year "concluded environmental impacts would be small or small-to-moderate and that the proposed Private Fuel Storage facility is the best alternative of those considered," according to the company.
It appears that no matter what happens with the Senate vote to override the State of Nevada's Yucca Mountain veto, the potential for a far less protected nuclear waste dump in the so-aptly named Skull Valley will remain.
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When he was 14 years old in Olympia, Wash., Joshua Skov read Paul Ehrlich's book The Population Bomb. "It sparked an interest in population, the environment, and social equity," he notes. A grad student in economics at UC Berkeley (he's finishing his Ph.D. project on agricultural development of the Brazilian Amazon), Skov joined with his cousin Dag Hinrichs of L.A. and friend Joshua Proudfoot of Eugene two years ago to launch Good Company, a Eugene-based for-profit business doing research and consulting on sustainability. GC's ultimate goal is to provide consumers with guidance in choosing "good companies" - businesses that respect the environment, their workers, and their communities. "We do sustainability assessments for companies and colleges - everything from office needs to the buildings you build and how you treat employees," Skov says. "The UO was one of our first clients." Other clients include Reed and Vassar Colleges, and the corporate campus of a global footwear company. "This is cutting-edge stuff," says UO recycling coordinator Karyn Kaplan. "This group is creating an amazing movement on college campus sustainability."
-- Photo by Paul Neevel
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