Thursday, September 18, 2014  
The Charger Bulletin

Band from California Kicks off Earth Week Events

by Patricia Oprea | April 24, 2013

Vegetable oil is used in cooking quite often, but this Tuesday students found out that it could be used to power cars, too. Big Tree, an indie pop band (with psychedelic rock influences) performed at UNH Tuesday, April 16, and their tour van runs on grease (which Bartels typically has an excess of during its meal hours).

The UNH Green Team, also cosponsoring with SCOPE and MIC, invited this quintet to come play in the Quad and kick off upcoming Earth day events. The concert was going to be held in the Quad, but a perfectly-timed rain shower prevented this venue from being used. Instead, thanks to the scrambling of quick students and Green Team President Michelle Murphy, a new venue was found.

Members of the band didn’t let the rain or the very small crowd affect their attitude. They were happy to include UNH on their east-coast tour. “It’s nice to be able to look out into the crowd and see everyone’s face,” said lead singer Kaila McIntyre-Bader. Big Tree is also comprised of backup singer Anna Ghezzi, guitarist Dan Pirello, bassist Luke Bace, and drummer Matt Schory. Their set included about 11 songs, between which they talked and engaged with the audience.

After about one hour of music including maracas, harmonicas and a tambourine, the band wrapped things up and stayed around for students to ask questions. The main subject intriguing everyone was about the vegetable oil as fuel. 180 degrees is what the oil has to reach in order to be used in a vehicle, and it is 85 percent cleaner than diesel. Usually bands in this situation would take a mechanic with them, but Big Tree kind of went out on a limb.

Pirello saying “we got books [and decided] we’d better study up. It feels really good to drive 600 miles and say that we didn’t stomp on the Earth.”

This factor fits the bands image very well, as they express the essence of West-Coast life through their ambient music and organic image. “Trees, fractal geometry, and whiskey,” are what the band claims as its inspirations.

Big Tree formed in 2008 while its members studied at Sarah Lawrence College in New York; their current location is the Bay Area of California. They have wandered around from coast to coast, and their music is said to reflect aspects of both regions in regards to nature.

Check out Big Tree’s Facebook page, or bigtreesings.com, and take a listen to their music, which includes two albums and two EPs. Big Tree displays how it is possible to “go green” in a career path that is dependent on using up resources, and how, if they can be successful, we can do our part too.

UNH is Where I Belong

by Elizabeth Field | December 12, 2012

When I tell people that I hail from Orange County, California, I am always met with the same response: “WHY did you come to Connecticut?!”And sometimes, honestly, I have no idea.

What has kept me here has been the amazing experience in academia, friendships, and self-bettering opportunities that have been afforded to me by the University of New Haven. I came to UNH as a freshman with no friends, connections or anything tying me to the area, and I didn’t have high expectations for what my college experience would bring.

In high school, I had dreamed of attending a big-name, state university and was slightly underwhelmed when I arrived on campus to a small, private university in what I had at the time considered the middle of nowhere. I received all of the literature universities bombard prospective students with and read a little about the comprehensive experimental education program and the other benefits of UNH (such as guaranteed freshman dorm space and small class sizes), but none of this information really translated in my mind to how it will affect my personal experience.

Moving into my freshman dormitory that day I would never imagine that I would stand here today, half-way through my senior year dreading the thought of graduating. Not because I’m terrified of the responsibilities of true adulthood (well…maybe not completely…) but because I can’t imagine closing this chapter in my life.

My experience in college hasn’t been typical in the ways I had imagined it would be as a child: I’m not in a sorority, I don’t live on campus, I have two on-campus jobs, and as a History/Political Science double major my weekends are more often than not spent pouring over historical texts instead of out drinking with my friends. But what I have taken away from these last three and a half years are limitless accomplishments, unending friendships and the potential for greatness.

Earlier this semester, I wrote an article about the Pledge of Allegiance and why I felt uncomfortable reciting it during USGA meetings. The article garnered a lot of negative attention, and by that I mean atrocious and disgusting things were said about me and my character. And the worst part was that they were said by my peers. The people in my classes, that girl I see everyday in the cereal line—these were the same people that I could never imagine looking in the eyes again. At the time I wanted to pretend like these things didn’t matter, that words couldn’t hurt me, but I was lying to myself. Words hurt. Words hurt when they’re anonymous, but they hurt more when they’re from people that you respect.

When I finally realized I was not okay, admitting it to others and myself was such a relief. I received such an outpour of support from the UNH community. It wasn’t support of my ideas or beliefs, but support for my well-being, for my personhood, and support for my right as an American (and as an opinion writer for the Charger Bulletin) to be able to formulate an opinion.

Even though I would never consider myself grateful for this experience or wish it upon anyone, it has been the most impactful and positive experience of my college career.

Somehow everything clicked. Small class sizes meant I had professors who knew my name and, furthermore, who offered advice. Living on campus for two years meant I had many trusted and reliable friends who lent an ear. An emphasis on student wellness meant that I had counselors and administration available to me all hours of the day whenever I felt emotionally unwell.

Finally, after three years, this is when it all clicked. UNH is where I belong.

 

Wildfire Prompts Evacuations in Southern CA Forest

by The Associated Press | September 5, 2012

GLENDORA, Calif. (AP) — A wildfire that broke out in the Angeles National Forest on Sunday forced the evacuation of thousands of visitors and sent a huge cloud of smoke that could be seen from throughout the Los Angeles basin.

A wildfire that broke out in the Angeles National Forest on Sunday sent a huge cloud of smoke that could be seen from throughout the Los Angeles basin.

The fire broke out near a campground around 2:30 p.m. and quickly grew to 3,600 acres, or about 5 ½ square miles.

It forced the evacuation of campgrounds that typically attract up to 12,000 visitors on Labor Day holiday weekend, as well as rehabilitation centers and the private community of Camp Williams Resort above the city of Glendora, forest spokeswoman L’Tanga Watson said.

“We got most folks out along the recreational area,” Watson said.

The forest is heavily used by Southern Californians because of its proximity to populated areas. Fire officials said that while the campgrounds were not in the line of the fire, they had to be emptied so that the only road in and out of the San Gabriel Canyon could be open just for fire trucks and other emergency vehicles.

The fire was burning thick brush that was not touched by the destructive Station Fire in 2009, Watson said. She said the flames, fueled by a combination of dry, hot conditions and the heavy brush, were marching uphill toward the wilderness.

About 300 firefighters, aided by four water-dropping helicopters and nine air tankers, were able to contain 5 percent of the blaze. Fire officials also activated the use of a DC-10 capable of dropping thousands of gallons of retardant.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The Station Fire, which killed two firefighters, destroyed 89 homes and blackened 250 square miles of forest land, was the largest in Los Angeles County history.

In Northern California, a fire that’s been burning since Aug. 18 in a rugged area of Mendocino County has destroyed seven homes and nine outbuildings, fire officials said Sunday.

Fire spokeswoman Kate Kramer says the increase in the number structures burned in the North Pass fire comes as crews found more destroyed buildings in the remote area over the weekend.

The fire, which has scorched nearly 64 square miles, is 58 per cent contained.

 

Holstein With Mad Cow Disease Was Lame, Lying Down

by The Associated Press | May 2, 2012

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — The California dairy cow found to have mad cow disease was very old for a milk producer and had been euthanized after it became lame and started lying down, federal officials revealed in their latest update on the discovery.

The 10-year-old dairy cow, only the fourth ever discovered in the United States, was found as part of an Agriculture Department program that tests about 40,000 cows a year for the fatal brain disease. It was unable to stand before it was killed and sent to a rendering plant’s Hanford, Calif. transfer station.

It was one of dozens that underwent random testing at the transfer site, and the positive results have set off a federal investigation into the source of the disease.

U.S. health officials say there is no risk to the food supply. The California cow was never destined for the meat market, and it developed “atypical” BSE from a random mutation, something that scientists know happens occasionally. Somehow, a protein the body normally harbors folds into an abnormal shape called a prion, setting off a chain reaction of misfolds that eventually kills brain cells.

A USDA spokesman says they do not yet know what causes this strain of the disease. Agriculture officials are investigating, among other things, whether feed sources might have played a role in the animal contracting the fatal illness.

The strain of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that appeared in the UK in the 1990s and set off a worldwide beef scare was a form caused by cattle eating rendered protein supplements derived from slaughtered cattle, including brains and spinal columns, where the disease is harbored. Scientists know less about the “atypical” strain.

It “may or may not be related to feed or forage type,” said Larry Hawkins, spokesman for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in California.

The dairy in question is one of 381 in Tulare County, the No. 1 dairy county in the nation. Most mega-dairies have computerized records which would allow investigators to easily track any offspring the cow had in order to keep up her milk production.

However, USDA spokesman Matt Herrick said investigators are laboring through paper records. That fact, combined with the fact that the cow was more than twice as old as most milk cows in the system, could indicate one of the region’s smaller dairies is the target of the probe.

The World Organization for Animal Health has established protocol for investigations into cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that includes finding other cows that the Holstein in question was raised with, tracking down all progeny and determining what she ate.

After the UK crisis, federal regulations changed to keep brains and spinal columns in cattle over 30 from being rendered into protein products for human consumption. In addition, bovine protein is not supposed to be fed to other bovines.

However, bovine protein is routinely fed to egg-laying chickens, and the “litter” from those chickens — chicken excrement and the feed that spills onto the floor — is collected and rendered back into cattle feed. Neurodegenerative researchers such as UC San Francisco’s Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Medicine for discovering prions — the protein associated with BSE — has warned that the US should ban poultry waste in cattle feed.

Most dairy cows typically experience declining milk production by age 5 and are sent to slaughterhouses to be ground into hamburger. The FDA tests 40,000 of the nation’s 35 million slaughtered dairy and beef cattle annually for BSE, targeting animals older than 30 months, when the disease is more likely to appear. However, there are cases of BSE that have been detected in cattle as young as 20 months.

“We are testing .12 percent of the cattle slaughtered,” Michael Hansen, senior scientist at the Consumers Union and a longtime critic of the US policy regarding mad cow disease. “In Japan they test all cattle over 20 months, in Europe it’s all cattle over 24 or 30 months, depending on the country. They’ve been able to find sick animals that look healthy but could have ended up in the food supply.”

A move by a Kansas beef packer in 2006 to voluntarily test all of its beef so it could label the packages “BSE free,” was thwarted by the USDA, which argued that it would create instability in the market. Creekstone Farms Premium Beef had challenged the USDA’s position that it held legal authority to control access to the test kits.

In the current case, the USDA didn’t elaborate on the cow’s symptoms other than to say it was “humanely euthanized after it developed lameness and became recumbent.” Outward symptoms of the disease can include unsteadiness and incoordination.

The unidentified Tulare County dairy where the cow died was not under obligation to report its suspicious behavior, according to state and federal agriculture officials, because the symptoms mimic other neurological diseases that can afflict cattle, said Dr. Richard Breitmeyer, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory at UC Davis.

“In reality (mad cow disease) is so rare in this country and there are just very little in the way of clinical signs specific to BSE alone,” said Breitmeyer, who spent 17 years as California’s state veterinarian.

Tanning Beds Banned for Minors in California

by Liz De La Torre | October 19, 2011

Glorified by MTV’s Jersey Shore and other reality shows, it is no surprise that tanning beds have become a popular trend among younger audiences. In fact, research conducted by Indoor Tanning Association reveals that teens under 18 make up five  to ten percent of tanning bed users on a national scale. But now, that sweet bronze, and sometimes orange, tan is stirring some protest from the youth. As part of new California legislation, it seems that teens will have to resort to getting natural tans. Just last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that, effective Jan. 1, 2012, will forbid teens under 18 from using tanning beds.

Pending the execution of the new law, teens under 14 will still be restricted from access to tanning beds in California. Moreover, teens between the ages of 15 and 17, with the exception of parental permission, will be allowed limited access. Although California is the first state to enact this law, other states including New York, Ohio, Illinois, and Texas are also endorsing this by including age restrictions for tanning beds.

As the craze for tanning beds progressed over the years, tanning salons were able to entice customers into tanning for the perfect look. According to Time magazine, a study by NCI revealed that 71% of tanning salons allowed tanning every day for the first week and presented customers with “unlimited tanning” discounts in 2009. Though never actually evading criticisms, tanning salons disregarded many rules and regulations due to the soaring popularity of tanning in media and fashion. Consequently, less than 11% of tanning salons refused to comply with government sanctions on sunlamp exposure in the same study found in Time magazine.

At present, the new law has generated vast support from people who have cited tanning beds as a precursor to cancer. Senator Ted Lieu has applauded the law as an effort to have healthy measures protect teens: “I praise Gov. Brown for his courage in taking this much-needed step to protect some of California’s most vulnerable residents — our kids — from what the ‘House of Medicine’ has conclusively shown is lethally dangerous: ultraviolet-emitting radiation from tanning beds.”

Feds Approve Largest-ever Solar Project in California

by Liana Teixeira | November 3, 2010

The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration has approved a solar project located on federally owned land in southern California. This comes after a five-

Solar Panels being installed in California as part of the new solar project that was recently approved.

year hiatus from the Bureau of Land Management when solar developers asked for rights to develop solar plants on federally owned land.

According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the thousand-megawatt project will be constructed in an area of the Mojave Desert, near Blythe, California. The project is called the Blythe Solar Power Project and will cost approximately $6 billion. Solar Millennium, a German solar developer, is assisting in its production. “Today is a day that makes me excited about the nation’s future,” Salazar said Monday at a news conference. “This project shows in a real way how harnessing our own renewable resources can create good jobs here at home.”

The approval of the Blythe Project marks the sixth federally authorized solar power project this month; all projects are located in California and Nevada. With a seventh project awaiting approval in the coming weeks and a total of fourteen projects planned, this enthusiastic response to solar energy does not seem to be ending anytime soon. Combined, the projects are expected to create 2,000 jobs during its construction and a few hundred permanent jobs after its completion. By the end of 2011 or early 2012, the power generated by all seven projects could start transmitting electricity to over 2 million homes.

In addition to providing considerable employment opportunities, these types of projects are the first ever to be approved by the land management bureau. Compared to the 74,000 oil and gas permits issued in the past twenty years, this revitalized motivation towards creating more clean energy sources makes the projects truly momentous. In spite of these breakthroughs, solar power has a long way to go before it becomes a major source of power in the U.S. According to Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Washington-based trade group Solar Energy Industries Association, “Even after the 14 fast-track projects are approved, solar energy will remain a tiny fraction of overall energy production on U.S. lands.” If future projects such as the Blythe Project gain acceptance, however, solar power will gain a more prominent role within society.

An increase in the usage of solar power would undoubtedly benefit people and the environment. Unlike oil or gas, solar power is a natural resource and, therefore, has little to no danger of readily depleting. Furthermore, the release of pollution or greenhouse gases while using solar energy is virtually eliminated. This protects plants, animals, and other living organisms in the environment.

The federal government is taking many precautions upon embarking on this major project, including the protection of wildlife. An 8,000 acre habitat will be established to accommodate animals such as the desert tortoise, western burrowing owl, bighorn sheep, and Mojave fringe-toed lizard.

3 Calif. beaches closed after deadly shark attack

by Maideline Sanchez | October 24, 2010

From the Associated Press

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – A string of beaches on California’s Central Coast were shut down Saturday and there was no word on when they would reopen after a deadly attack on a bodyboarder from what some scientists said was probably a great white shark, authorities said.
The three beaches north of Santa Barbara — including Surf Beach where the attack took place — would be closed at least through the weekend and officials on Monday would decide when to reopen them, said Jeremy Eggers, spokesman for Vandenberg Air Force Base, which owns the beach property.
Eggers said he expected base officials would reopen the beaches Monday, but there was too much uncertainty and confusion surrounding the attack to say for sure.
“There’s a lot of fog and friction in these kinds of situations,” said Eggers. He said his bosses determined the shutdown “was the right thing to do as a safety precaution.”
Lucas Ransom, a 19-year-old student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, was bodyboarding with friend Matthew Garcia off Surf Beach some 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles on Friday when the shark pulled him under the water. He resurfaced with his leg nearly severed amid what Garcia told The Associated Press was a wave of pure red.
Garcia said his friend already appeared dead.
Ransom had a severe wound to his left leg and died a short time later at Surf Beach, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Federal and state Fish and Game officials were working to identify the type of shark that attacked Ransom. A shark expert told the Los Angeles Times, based on its behavior and Ransom’s injury, it most likely was a great white.
“It takes a shark of massive size and jaw to inflict that kind of injury,” Andrew Nosal of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography told the newspaper Saturday.
Authorities have issued several warnings this year after great white shark sightings up and down the California coast.
There have been nearly 100 shark attacks in California since the 1920s, including a dozen that were fatal, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. But attacks have remained relatively rare even as the population of swimmers, divers and surfers sharing the waters has soared.

Calif. Neighbors Survey Ruins of Blasted Hillside

by The Associated Press | September 15, 2010

SAN BRUNO, Calif. – Patrick Yu has had nightmares and headaches since a fireball from a natural gas explosion caused his ceiling to crash down next to him while he slept.
He was one of many residents who returned to the ruined hillsides of their suburban San Francisco neighborhood Sunday after Thursday’s pipeline blast and fire destroyed nearly 50 homes and damaged dozens of others.

Emergency workers patiently sifts through rubble of a burned down home, three days after a natural gas pipeline exploded into a deadly fireball in San Bruno, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said four are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically. Two people reported missing after blast were located Sunday, city spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The explosion prompted California regulators to order the utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, to survey all its natural gas lines in the state in hopes of heading off another disaster.
Yu said he crouched in the doorway after the blast, thinking he was in the middle of an earthquake. When the shaking subsided, he found that the heat had warped the door so much he had to pull with all his strength to get out of the bedroom.

The 62-year-old learned Sunday that his house had been red-tagged, meaning it has extensive damage and will require closer inspection before authorities can declare it safe.
“I have lots of memories in that house,” Yu said. “Lots of stuff you can’t replace.”

A few blocks away, houses had collapsed into black and white debris on ground, with a smell like charcoal in the air. All that remains standing is a row of brick chimneys, while across the street, some homes are undamaged.

Authorities were still working Monday to confirm how many people died.

The remains of at least four people have been found, and authorities have said four are missing and at least 60 injured, some critically. Two people reported missing after the blast were located Sunday, city spokeswoman Robyn Thaw said.

San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault said investigators were still trying to confirm whether some of the remains are human and identify victims.

Meanwhile, federal investigators were probing how the gas line was able to rupture, blowing a segment of pipe 28 feet long onto the street some 100 feet away and creating a crater 167 feet long and 26 feet wide.

Christopher Hart, vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said investigators want to speak with anyone who smelled gas in the days leading up to the blast, especially those who reported the problem to PG&E or any other officials. Hart said Monday that investigators have not yet seen any record of gas leak complaints.
“We’re pursuing those rumors, and we’ve obtained records — not only from PG&E but from other places where people might call. And so far, we have not been able to verify that anybody smelled gas and called it in,” Hart said.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said Sunday there had been no gas leak complaints to the utility’s call centers from the San Bruno neighborhood in the week leading up to the blast.
Hart said investigators also want to talk to residents who had noticed dead vegetation around the rupture spot, which can be a sign of a leak.

A risky segment of the gas line was due to be replaced, the utility responsible said, because it ran through a heavily urbanized area and the likelihood of failure was “unacceptably high.” That 30-inch diameter pipe a few miles north was installed in 1948 and slated to be swapped for new, smaller pipe.

PG&E submitted paperwork to regulators for ongoing gas rate proceedings that said a section of the same gas line about 2 1/2 miles away was within “the top 100 highest risk line sections” in the utility’s service territory, the documents show.

The company also considered the portion that ruptured to be a “high consequence area” requiring more stringent inspections called integrity assessments, federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokeswoman Julia Valentine said.

Nationwide, only about 7 percent of gas lines have that classification, she said.

PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said the company had planned to replace the piece of the gas line mentioned in the documents with 24-inch pipe as a part of its broader proposal to upgrade infrastructure that the commission began considering last year.

He said the ruptured section, which was installed in 1956, was last checked for leaks in March. The company said later Sunday that no leaks were found.
The segment farther north was checked for leaks Friday and none was found, Souvall added.

“We take action on a daily basis to repair our equipment as needed,” he said. “PG&E takes a proactive approach toward the maintenance of our gas lines and we’re constantly monitoring our system.”

In ordering the company to conduct the leak survey on its natural gas lines, the state’s Public Utilities Commission said Sunday that PG&E must give priority to higher pressure pipelines, as well as to lines in areas of high population density.

The order came after Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado asked the commission to order the utility company to conduct an integrity assessment of its natural gas pipeline system. Maldonado is serving as acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger travels in Asia.

The commission also plans to appoint an independent expert panel to help with their investigation.

Crews Monday prepared to ship to Washington a crate containing the 28-foot section of ruptured natural gas pipeline that was blown out of the ground. Also being shipped were two 10-foot sections of pipe removed from the crater Sunday from either side of where the ruptured section had been.

Investigators believed they had collected all the sections needed to reconstruct the metal pipeline but asked that anyone who found metal fragments in the blast area contact the NTSB.
Residents of destroyed or red-tagged homes waited anxiously Monday for more information on what would happen next, while the luckier ones settled back into the neighborhood.
Returning residents were wearing wristbands that show police they live in the area.

Pat and Roger Haro and their dog, Rosie, have been living in a hotel room since Thursday after fleeing their home with the clothes they were wearing, dog food, water and an iPad.
When they returned, their home was marked with a green tag — indicating less damage than others with yellow or red tags — and their electricity was still off.
“Once I saw the house was still there, then I felt a whole lot better,” Pat Haro said. “I think we’ll be a tighter community.”

California Falls Behind In Waste-To-Energy Race

by The Associated Press | September 8, 2010

LONG BEACH, Calif. — Government officials from around the world used to come to this port city to catch a glimpse of the future: Two-story piles of trash would disappear into a furnace and eventually be transformed into electricity to power thousands of homes.

Nowadays, it’s U.S. officials going to Canada, Japan and parts of Western Europe to see the latest advances.

The Long Beach plant, for all its promise when it began operations roughly 20 years ago, still churns out megawatts. But it is a relic, a symbol of how California, one of America’s greenest states, fell behind other countries in the development of trash-to-energy technology.

“I am having a hard time explaining why California is so far behind,” said Eugene Tseng Tseng, a University of California, Los Angeles law professor who spent the last three months leading delegations on overseas tours.

While so-called biorefineries have blossomed abroad, concerns that technique would undermine recycling efforts and create worse air pollution stalled efforts in California. With space for garbage dumps dwindling, proponents of a new breed of the technology hope to win over detractors.

Los Angeles County officials want to build three plants at a total cost of $200 million to demonstrate how far the technology has come as they scramble for alternatives to closing the world’s largest landfill and shipping trash four hours by rail to an abandoned goldmine near the Mexico border.

If they prove successful at reducing waste and producing power, there’s no guarantee they’ll usher in a new wave of garbage-gobbling technology.

Efforts to pass legislation that would have given waste-to-energy plants credit toward recycling and renewable energy goals so cities could meet state mandates hit a snag this year when some environmentalists argued that such facilities are no different from incinerators, which do not receive credits.

“We have the most aggressive goals for recycling and renewable energies but we’ve also got groups fighting us on solar, wind and now this,” said Coby Skye with the county’s Environmental Programs Division. “There are no other options if we can’t get these technologies moving forward.”

Part of the reason that Europe and Asia are now ahead of the U.S. on such technology is that they had to grapple with the lack of dump space years earlier. Many are also signatories to the Kyoto Protocol and must reduce greenhouse gas that are produced as waste decomposes in landfills.

The county plan, which still needs financing and permitting, is to build three demonstration plants in Riverside and Orange counties. They would either use heat to turn trash to energy or use microorganisms, which would eat organic material and create methane to produce power. The byproduct can also be used as compost.

Each plant would be a little smaller than a typical biorefinery and would convert as much as 300 tons of trash per day, accepting trash from all over. Los Angeles County alone produces about 33,000 tons of garbage a day.

The plant in Long Beach, which was completed in 1988, consumes about 1,550 tons of trash per day. Unrecyclable garbage is fed into a furnace and the steam generated from burning the trash is used to drive a turbine generator, producing enough electricity to power 35,000 homes.

The resulting ash is also used to pave roads at the county’s dump.

Scott Smithline with Californians Against Waste, a key opposition group, said he has toured such facilities around the world.

To build a clean-burning plant in an area synonymous with smog, he said, garbage costs would soar. He also fears that efforts to increase the mandate that cities recycle half their garbage will fail if communities have contracted to send that waste to a biorefinery.

“What Californians care about is is the air going to be clean?” he said. “What I don’t want to see is this done on the cheap.”

Critics call the technology experimental and say building such refineries would be a step back to the 1970s and 1980s when incinerators were a top producer of toxic air contaminants.

But Bill Welch, an emissions experts at the University of California, Riverside said times have changed and biorefineries produce about the same amount of pollution as refineries, chemical plants, dry cleaners and auto body shops. “Incinerators got a horrible reputation and deservedly so, but since then the air pollution technology is so sophisticated,” said Welch, who was contracted by the Bioenergy Producers Association to study emissions data from facilities around the world.

“As an environmental scientist, I think the biggest threat we face is global warming. That’s going to make many more people sick than any of the emissions from these plants will,” he said.

Striking a balance between fresh air and fewer greenhouse gases remains a challenge, and has some environmentalists saying it’s time to take a hard look at alternatives.

“The current situation with our trash both because of our over consumption and over-reliance on landfills is not sustainable,” said Martin Schlageter, who heads the Coalition for Clean Air. “All options have to be on the table.”

The federal government appears to be taking such technology seriously.

The Navy has partnered with UCLA to study biorefineries in an effort to meet a national renewable energy plan that includes half of the agency’s energy usage coming from alternative sources by 2020.

Leslie L. McLaughlin, the solid waste program manager for the Navy Region Southwest in San Diego, said she understands the concerns people have and wants to make sure they proceed carefully.

“My focus on this is to make sure we don’t create one environmental problem by trying to solve another,” she said.

Supreme Court to Have Final Say on Video Games

by Liz De La Torre | May 5, 2010

If it wasn’t enough that Arnold Schwarzenegger settled for three films kicking machine ass, the Terminator is back fighting the latest threat to human existence: Video games?

If it wasn’t enough that Arnold Schwarzenegger settled for three films kicking machine ass, the Terminator is back fighting the latest threat to human existence: Video games?

California’s appeal for managing violent video games was accepted by the Supreme Court on Apr. 26. The bill, which was first signed by California governor Schwarzenegger in 2005, seeks to ban the sale or rental of violent video games to minors as well as reinforce the video game rating system. In addition, retailers in violation of the law would face fines of up to $1000. Initially, the bill was rejected by a California federal court because it conflicted with the constitutional concept of free speech, resulting in awarding the Entertainment Software Association $282,000 in legal fees. Now, the clash between Arnold Schwarzenegger, his California backing, and the gaming industry is drawing national upset for the regulation of violent video games, a topic that’s been steadily receiving intense scrutiny over the years.

According to California definition, interactive games are those in which the player is given the choice of “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in offensive ways. The bill examined “ultra-violent games” whose violence causes them to “lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors” as well as those whose violence “is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim,” said California assemblyman Leland Yee. Such games have been at the center of controversy, begging the question of whether the state or parents should be the ones to regulate what their children play.

Parents have raised the issue of psychological damage to children that may generate aggression, isolation, and an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. In fact, there have been complaints about the effect that graphic depictions in video games have on children’s behavior. “We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies,” governor Schwarzenegger proclaims.

The game Rapelay allows players to rape women, impregnate them, and even persuade them to abort pregnancies. Manhunt allows players to use explicit and brutal violence to kill enemies and as the levels increase, the methods to execute enemies get more gruesome and extreme. Condemned 2: Bloodshot, a psychological horror game, depicts a swearing alcoholic investigator who uses graphic violence in a crime-infested world. Dante’s Inferno includes players slashing possessed babies. And in Gears of War, players can use a chainsaw bayonet to chop enemies in half. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 consists of a level where players watch terrorists slaughter civilians at an airport by shooting them in the back of the head. Despite these complaints, the game industry says: “Sex, unlike violence, is a subject uniquely considered to be outside children’s purview. Violence, on the other hand, is a regular part of children’s literature and stories…as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales are aware.”

In response to the recent appeal, ESA president and CEO Michael D. Gallagher says: “What the state proposes in this case would effect a sea change in the permissible regulation of all media—including books, movies, and television programs—that contain violent content and are accessible to minors. We have the opportunity to make our case again and hopefully put this issue to rest.”

The Supreme Court will be hearing the case in October.

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