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Monthly Archives: February 2011

There’s been some changes at Florida A&M over the past few years. The school has seen more recycling bins, compact fluorescent light bulbs and student energy around sustainable activity. David Brown and Kari Knowles, two students in the journalism department, give credit to the FAMU Green Coalition.

To learn more about what the Green Coalition has been up to, including their plans to attend a sustainability summit in Washington D.C. check out their site:

For their most up-to-the-minute going-on’s with this energetic group, follow them on Facebook:

And stay tuned for more environmental stories from our audio workshop in Tallahassee.

David and Kari Naturally Speaking.mp3 4.2 MB

A Brazilian judge has halted plans for a controversial hydroelectric dam set to be built in the Amazon rain forest due to environmental concerns.  If built, the Belo Monte dam would cost $26 billion to build and would be the worlds third largest dam in the world.
The dam has been heavily protested against around the world and has attracted celebrity attention including that of "Avatar" director James Cameron.  A protest in Brasilia in February led by Kaiapo Indians, who currently inhabit the land, produced a petition with nearly a half a million signatures in opposition to the dam.
Judge Ronaldo Desterro also cut off funding for the project in the court ruling.  The National Development Bank is not allowed to provide any funding to the dam.  Judge Desterro declared that contingency plans for transportation along the river where there is an expected sharp decrease in water levels was not met.     
The Brazilian government wants to build the dam in order to support the country's ever-rising energy demands.  Brazil is Latin America's largest economy and is growing at its fastest pace in two decades.  But Belo Monte carries a heavy environmental price.  The dam would flood 199 square miles of the Amazon, displacing 1,000 natives.          

Author Wayne James Sheppard takes us on a journey of interwoven past and present lives in Burden of Privilege:The Secret Life of Geoffrey Collins, a story of mystery, struggle, love and hope.
   In 1942 only months before his passing, the great scientist George Washington Carver imparts secrets of monumental importance for a future earth to his young beloved student Leopa Williams. Many decades later, Dr. Williams a Tuskegee University professor emerita discovers Geoffrey Collins, a visiting young botany professor from U Davis in California to be the reincarnation of Dr. Carver. When she reveals her discovery to Collins, he responds with resistance and panic as his heretofore undisturbed, charmed life is thrown into uncontrollable turmoil. A series of haunting dreams, mysterious outof body experiences with a Mayan shaman, and other -wordly experiences are all events that will shape and condition Geoffrey and his fiancee' Eva, for their participation in an amazing world-wide Great Event. Burden of Privilege
leads the reader through an extraordinary odyssey of spiritual awakening, leaving that reader with unexpected resolve for active stewardship in helping cultivate a New Earth.

The Supreme Court has ruled against the family of an infant who suffered from 125 seizures over 16 days as a result of a vaccine.  In a 6 to 2 decision, the court ruled that under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, drug companies are immune from lawsuits brought by plaintiffs seeking compensation for injury or death as a result of being vaccinated.
The 1986 act is designed to protect drug companies from liability lawsuits to ensure that drug companies do not shy away from producing vaccines out of fear of liability claims.  To balance out the law, congress created a special vaccine court to provide funds for infants and children who have an adverse reaction to a vaccine.  An excise tax placed on every vaccine is used to fund this special vaccine court.
While the majority of infant vaccines are safely administered, families submit between 100 and 200 claims for compensation to this special vaccine court each year.  Currently, over $1.8 billion has been granted to 2,500 petitioners with the average amount of compensation being $750,000.
In April of 1992, the Bruesewitzes went to have their then-healthy infant Hannah to get her third round of DTP which prevents diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whopping cough).  The same afternoon, Hannah's mother Robalee Bruesewitz, discovered her daughter having violent seizures.  The family sought compensation from the vaccine court in April of 1995 but was turned down.
DTP was known to cause seizures.  But despite this knowledge, the Department of Health and Human Services removed seizures from the list of symptoms covered under the Vaccine Injury Act for DTP just a month before the Bruesewitzes applied for compensation.
The Bruesewitzes decided to sue Wyeth Inc., the vaccine manufacturer responsible, for negligence claiming Wyeth long had a safer version of the vaccine but failed to put it on the market.  Russel Bruesewitz claimed that Wyeth withheld the safer version because profits superseded the safety of children.  Wyeth Inc. countered that the Vaccine Injury Act forbids such claims to be made in court.       
The Vaccine Injury Act was created to prevent open-ended money damages to vaccine manufacturers however Congress did not spell out which cases could go through and which cases were to be thrown out. The law states:
"No vaccine manufacturer shall be liable in a civil action for damages arising from a vaccine-related injury or death associated with the administration of a vaccine after October 1, 1988, if the injury or death resulted from side effects that were unavoidable even though the vaccine was properly prepared and was accompanied by proper directions and warnings."
According to products liability law, there are three circumstances where a company can potentially be held liable.  First, if there is a defect in the manufacture; second, if there were inadequate warnings and third, for defective design.  The law, as stated above, does not include "defective design" leaving the Supreme Court to interpret why Congress left this out.
The majority came to interpret the law by meaning that drug manufacturers were immune to all design defect lawsuits if the manufacturing process did not create a defect and that adequate warnings were given and directions were correct.   
In the dissent, Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg said that Congress had intended vaccine manufacturers to face a continued "legal duty" to improve their vaccines with advancements of science and technology. Because of this interpretation, drug manufacturers no longer have a legal responsibility to improve vaccines as these already bring in high profits with little competition.
Wyeth Inc. pulled the vaccine in 1998 in favor of the safer version. But for Hannah Bruesewitz, this action comes too late.  She now suffers from permanent developmental disability where she is completely non verbal and will need 24 hour assistance for the rest of her life.

Photo by John Heller/Post-Gazette

Planet Harmony would like to thank all the amazing students who turned out for our radio workshop down at Florida A&M.  Stay tuned as we publish their environmental stories over the coming weeks.  If you are interested in having pH come to your school or organization send us a message!  We want to help you develop your own ideas into audio stories. 

Check out the album on our Facebook page…and stay tuned!

President Obama has proposed to cut funding for programs in every environmental agency in his 2010 Budget.  The budget, which the White House calls "tough choices," would trim $1.1 trillion off the deficit through spending cuts and increased taxes.  The Environmental Protection Agency would receive a 13% funding decrease down from $10.3 billion to $8.973 billion.  Lisa Jackson said at a press conference
"This budget focuses our resources on the most urgent health and environmental challenges we face…Though it includes significant cuts, it provides the EPA with what we need fundamentally protect the health of the American people."
The EPA would receive the steepest cuts for The Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.  This fund helps to finance improvements on drinking water infrastructures, helps small and disadvantaged communities and promotes programs that prevent pollution of water ways.  If approved, the program would be brought back to 2009 levels funding.
Republicans have sought even deeper cuts to the EPA.  Under the GOP plan, the EPA would have received a 29% decrease in funding.
The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents 300 public agencies and organizations, has said that budget cuts to the Clean Water Act of any kind "ignores the financial constraints of states and municipalities to implement a growing array of increasingly costly CWA requirements."  The EPA, the Government Accountability Office and the Water Infrastructure Network has estimated a $500 billion gap in how much funding is being provided versus what is needed to improve the nation's waste water systems.
The EPA's Superfund budget would also be cut by $70 million.  The Superfund is used to target the nation's highest priority hazardous waste sites for clean up to protect public health and safety.  A program that protected the health of people living in the Great Lakes area would also have to make due with a $125 million decrease.
The EPA has requested for an increase in funding for a number of programs.  Requests were made for targeting upstream pollution in the Mississippi River Basin to help improve water quality.  The Chesapeake Bay Program will receive a $17.4 million increase to meet the Executive Order to improve the Bay's water quality.  The EPA will be beefing up enforcement and compliance initiatives for high risk chemical and oil plants using state of the art e-reporting and monitoring tools.
To learn more about what you can expect from the EPA's budget, click here.

planetharmony: RT @RayLaHood: #Green #jobs is not just a strategy to protect environment, but to help US #compete in global economy

planetharmony: GWC came up with a fun lesson plan to teach elementary school students “progressive nature studies” (starts at 132)

planetharmony: Rare footage of George Washington Carver at Tuskegee “using his knowledge in the war effort”

The Louisiana-based oil company, Turner Industries Group, is being sued by 230 current and former employees who say they had to endure racial discrimination. Turner Industries denies any wrongdoing and Roland Toups, chairman and CEO issued a statement saying "Make no mistake, Turner Industries stands for diversity and inclusion of all.  Our records support that."
But the 230 plaintiffs claim otherwise.  The group says that for decades they have complained to the company of racial discrimination and bigotry. One worker, Yvonne Turner said that she was greeted at work by a stuffed protective suit with her name on it hung from a noose.  The workers also say that the racism increased after the election of President Barack Obama.
Despite company denial, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April of 2010 reported that workers did experience discrimination, racial slurs, intimidation tactics and received lower paying jobs and received fewer promotions and salary increases.  The EEOC reported that Turner Industries knew of these incidents and did nothing to make changes or improvements.