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Idaho Lawmakers Consider Bill to Allow Bible in Science Classes

By Heather L. Weaver – ACLU – March 14, 2016

Idaho’s public school students may soon have an additional reference text in science class — the Bible.

Senate Bill 1342, which will be heard this week by the House Education Committee, would authorize the use of the Bible “for reference purposes” in any class where “an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant.” Of course, our courts have repeatedly made clear that instruction in the Bible and creationism is neither useful nor relevant nor constitutional in science class. But that didn’t stop the bill’s drafters from explicitly listing astronomy, biology, and geology among the courses into which teachers may incorporate the Bible.

The ACLU of Idaho opposed the bill in the Senate, pointing out that religious texts and beliefs about the origin of life have no place in science class. So, what was the “fix” offered by the Senate Education Committee? They deleted the bill’s references to astronomy, biology, and geology. They also amended the bill to provide that other religious texts could be used as well.

Neither of these cosmetic changes, however, fixes anything; they merely attempt to better mask the measure’s serious flaws. As amended, the bill still allows for teachers to use the Bible in “any topics of study” where a teacher personally believes it is “useful or relevant,” including science classes. And based on the bill’s original text and the current title of the relevant subsection, which remains — “USE OF THE BIBLE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS” — we know that’s exactly what was intended all along.

Bible passage

Authorizing and encouraging teachers to incorporate the Bible into science classes not only shortchanges Idaho’s students, who deserve a sound science education that will prepare them for college, but it is also a violation of the separation of church and state.

Indeed, even in non-science classes, allowing teachers to incorporate the Bible or other religious texts into class on a whim — regardless of state educational standards and approved curricula — raises serious constitutional concerns. Without in-depth training from a non-religious source and appropriate teaching materials, such as those available for a comparative religion course, it is very likely that teachers will inject their personal beliefs into these lessons, resulting in the violation of students’ First Amendment rights and a real risk of costly litigation for schools.

Unfortunately, the Idaho Senate has already passed the amended bill. But hopefully, as members of the House Education Committee consider the bill this week, they will take a much closer look and conclude, as we have, that Senate Bill 1342 is no gem.

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

The Fukushima Health Crisis

By JOSEPH MANGANO and JANETTE SHERMAN | CounterPunch | August 1, 2014

Over 3 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is virtually no health research being conducted or released on harm to the Japanese. An April report by a UN committee tried to sweep the issue under the rug, predicting any harmful effects of the catastrophe is “unlikely.”

The UN panel made a very broad assumption about the worst nuclear catastrophe in history (or worst since Chernobyl) – and did this BEFORE research is done. However, a local health study raises alarm bells. Fukushima Medical University found 46% of local children have a pre-cancerous nodule or cyst, and 130 have thyroid cancer, vs. 3 expected. Incredibly, the University corrupts science by asserting the meltdown played no role in these high figures.

But Japanese studies must go far beyond childhood thyroid diseases. Japan isn’t the only site to study, as the fallout from the meltdown spread across the northern hemisphere.

In 2011, we estimated 13,983 excess U.S. deaths occurred in the 14 weeks after Fukushima, when fallout levels were highest – roughly the same after Chernobyl in 1986. We used only a sample of deaths available at that time, and cautioned not to conclude that fallout caused all of these deaths.

Final figures became available this week. The 2010-2011 change in deaths in the four months after Fukushima was +2.63%, vs. +1.54% for the rest of the year. This difference translates to 9,158 excess deaths – not an exact match for the 13,983 estimate, but a substantial spike nonetheless.

Again, without concluding that only Fukushima caused these deaths, some interesting patterns emerged. The five Pacific and West Coast states, with the greatest levels of Fukushima fallout in the U.S., had an especially large excess. So did the five neighboring states (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah), which received the next highest levels.

Most of the spring 2011 mortality increase were people over 80. Many of these elderly were in frail health; one possibility is that the added exposure to radioactive poison sped the dying process.

Fukushima radiation is the same as fallout from atom bomb explosions, releasing over 100 chemicals not found in nature. The radioactive chemicals enter the body as a result of precipitation that gets into the food chain. Once in the body, these particles harm or kill cells, leading to disease or death.

Once-skeptical health officials now admit even low doses of radiation are harmful. Studies showed X-rays to pregnant women’s abdomens raised the risk of the child dying of cancer, ending the practice. Bomb fallout from Nevada caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Nuclear weapons workers are at high risk for a large number of cancers.

Rather than the UN Committee making assumptions based on no research, medical research on changes in Japanese disease and death rates are needed – now, in all parts of Japan. Similar studies should be done in nations like Korea, China, eastern Russia, and the U.S. Not knowing Fukushima’s health toll only raises the chance that such a disaster will be repeated in the future.

Joseph Mangano is Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

Janette D. Sherman MD is an internist and toxicologist, and editor of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment.

August 3, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Biomass Industry Fans Flames of Wildfire Hysteria

By Josh Schlossberg | The Biomass Monitor | September 2013

California’s Rim fire, expected to be fully “contained” by October after igniting in Yosemite National Park on August 17, will ultimately benefit the forests it has passed through. While media accounts sensationalize such large wildfires as “catastrophic” and “disastrous,” science demonstrates that, to the contrary, fire is a vital component of western forest ecosystems.

Journalists mischaracterize the ecological function of wildfire as “devastation” or refer to forests that have experienced fire as a “barren wasteland,” exploiting emotions to sell newspapers. Yet media is only an accomplice to one of the masterminds ultimately responsible for fanning the flames of wildfire hysteria: the biomass energy industry.

Ignoring sound science and common sense, the biomass industry insists that cutting more backcountry forests, including native forests, will somehow prevent wildfires and protect people.  

In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the siphoning of even more taxpayer dollars to log and burn forests for energy under the guise of “reduc[ing] the risks of catastrophic wildfires.” In this most recent taxpayer handout to the biomass industry, $1.1 million in grants will be diverted to encourage more biomass incineration in California, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

The biomass boosters’ well-worn talking points are laid out perfectly by Julia Levin, director of the Bioenergy Association of California, in a recent op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. Without citing a single scientific study, Levin boldly claims that hacking apart forests to burn for energy would “prevent more Rim Fires,” asserting that keeping chainsaws out a forest is the same thing as letting it go “up in smoke.”

George Wuerthner, ecologist and editor of Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, explains that instead of stopping fires, logging “typically has little effect on the spread of wildfires.” Contrary to industry and media spin, large fires such as the Rim fire are a product of “high winds, high temperatures, low humidity and severe drought.” These bigger fires are “unstoppable and go out only when the weather changes — not because of a lack of fuels” in a logged forest. 

Wuerthner contends that logging or “thinning” can actually “increase wildfires’ spread and severity by increasing the fine fuels on the ground (slash) and by opening the forest to greater wind and solar penetration, drying fuels faster than in unlogged forests.”

Biomass proponent Levin warns in her op-ed that wildfires have “enormous impacts on public health from the smoke, soot and other emissions.” Yet Levin sees no disconnect in building biomass incinerators that would spew deadly particulate matter into low-income communities twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, at higher levels than most coal plants.

Wildfire can “threaten lives, homes and businesses,” Levin states truthfully, particularly as more forests in the fire plain are opened to development. Yet the industry mouthpiece doesn’t once mention the only action that can actually protect structures from wildfire: maintaining “defensible space” 100-200 feet around a building. Instead, she offers more backcountry logging as the solution.

Levin claims to fret about the impact on climate change from an occasional wildfire, while pushing hard for more biomass incinerators that would pump out more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than some of the dirtiest coal plants in the country.

Recent science demonstrates that big blazes have been typical in western forests for hundreds of years. “If you go back even to the turn of the century, you will find that tens of millions of acres burned annually,” according to Wuerthner. “One researcher in California recently estimated that prior to 1850, an average of 5 million to 6 million acres burned annually in California alone.”

Yet biomass opportunists such as Levin cling to the outdated belief that “wildfires are increasing dramatically in frequency and severity as the result of climate change and overgrown forests.”

It would be unfair to suggest that Levin completely ignores forest ecology in her op-ed. She doesn’t. She just makes up her own version of it to suit industry’s desire to get out the cut, swearing that more intensive logging won’t harm forests, but magically “increase forest ecosystem health.”

That’s just dead wrong, according to ecologist Chad Hanson, director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute in California. Hanson explains that burned forests “support levels of native biodiversity and total wildlife abundance” equal to or greater than any forest type, including old growth. Burned forests are also the rarest kind of forest, and therefore among the most ecologically important.

Black-backed woodpeckers drill their burrows in standing dead snags, according to Hanson, eventually providing homes for other cavity-nesting species of birds and mammals. Native flowering shrubs thriving in the wake of wildfire attract insects, which feeds species of birds and bats. Shrubs and downed logs provide habitat for small mammals, which become food for raptors like the California spotted owl and northern goshawk. Deer live off the tender new tree growth, bears gorge themselves on the resulting berries and grubs, and Pacific fisher hunt the rodents, while the decaying organic material rejuvenates soils for swiftly regenerating seedlings.

Levin and the biomass industry’s “cure” for our “sick” western forests includes a recent bill passed by the California legislature requiring the Public Utilities Commission to generate up to 50 megawatts of biomass power, which Levin says would be extracted from 300,000 acres of forests over a ten year period.

The director of the Bioenergy Association of California specifically advocates for the construction of the 2.2 megawatt Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility in Placer County, California. This proposed facility is currently under legal challenge from Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental organization alleging that the Environmental Impact Report “does not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.”

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Leave a comment