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Dispersants Add to Gulf Spill's Toxic Threats

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By Susan Buchanan, Special to the NNPA from the Louisiana Weekly –

NEW ORLEANS (NNPA) - The Obama Administration has started to rein in BP's use of dispersants to break up spilled oil while a toxic stew swirls off Louisiana's coast, threatening marine life and human health.

More than a month after BP's oil-rig explosion on April 20, over 800,000 gallons of dispersants had been applied to Gulf waters, including 100,000 gallons that were injected underwater. Helicopters distribute the chemical cleaners, or deodorized kerosene, on the ocean's surface, while robots dispense them deep in water.

After the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency let BP use dispersants because they were seen as "the lesser of two evils," said Ronald Kendall, director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) in Lubbock, Texas. Dispersants break oil into small droplets more quickly than ocean waves do, but they can also widen the area of the spill. Using them is "a tradeoff between, on the one hand attempting to keep oil from the shore by dispersing it, and on the other, injecting the ocean with chemicals," he said. Dispersants have never been applied in the quantities that BP is using them in the Gulf, he noted.

The EPA on May 10 authorized BP to use two dispersants-COREXIT 9500 and COREXIT EC9527A, distributed by the Tennessee and Texas units of Nalco Co. in Illinois. BP had already applied those products at the spill site for nearly two weeks. As concerns about COREXIT grew, however, the EPA asked BP on May 19 to find a less-toxic dispersant within 24 hours, and to start using its replacement in 72 hours. BP answered that it wanted to stick with COREXIT.

Frustrated EPA and Coast Guard officials said the company's response was inadequate, and told BP to start reducing its use of surface dispersants. But in a decision questioned by some scientists, officials said BP's subsea or underwater dispersant use, authorized in mid-May, could continue.

The EPA and the Coast Guard now say they will call the shots about BP's dispersant use and that COREXIT applications could be scaled back by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent. COREXIT is not the best possible choice for combating the Gulf spill, according to experts, who question why BP first selected and then asked to stick with the dispersant. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC, pointed to corporate ties between BP and Nalco as possibly contributing to the decision to use COREXIT. Nalco board member, Rodney Chase, worked for BP for 38 years.

For its part, BP continues to say that large quantities of COREXIT are readily available and that Nalco can deliver as much as 75,000 gallons per day indefinitely.

Coastal experts worried about the ecosystem have sifted through past evidence about COREXIT and other dispersants. After the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, a version of COREXIT was used, but abandoned when weak wave action made it ineffective. And in the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, some dispersants were applied before hay turned out to be a better solution. Oil-coated clumps of hay spread by boat washed ashore, and were hauled away by dump trucks.

Weeks into BP's Gulf spill, scientists questioned the company's decision to use dispersants on a wide scale and in particular its choice of COREXIT. On its own, COREXIT 9500 can be four times as toxic as oil, according to product evaluations. And of 18 dispersants approved earlier by EPA, twelve were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than COREXIT, EPA data show.

Kendall said he was very concerned that EPA hadn't assessed risks to the Gulf earlier from BP's massive dispersant use. And in contrast with EPA statements, he is particularly worried about underwater injections. "LC 50 studies have shown that COREXIT is toxic to young marine and other aquatic life," he noted. In toxicology language, a Lethal Concentration 50 rating means that a chemical can kill at least 50 percent of a sample population.

Marianne Cufone, fish program director at Food & Water Watch in Washington, DC, said "COREXIT in studies was shown to be twice as harmful to shrimp as an alternate dispersant called Dispersit," produced by Polychemical Corp. in New York. That's problematic for the huge Gulf shrimp industry, she noted. Meanwhile, according to test results compiled by the EPA, seven alternative dispersants are less toxic to shrimp than COREXIT and at least 14 alternatives are less toxic to fish.

Cufone noted that Dispersit is about twice as effective in breaking oil down as COREXIT and is also far less toxic.

If dispersants must be used in the Gulf spill, choosing the right one makes a big difference because "the dose makes the poison," Kendall said "We're watching the biggest ecological, toxicology experiment in our nation's history," he stated. "Underwater pools of oil have formed that are 20 miles long. And the mixture of chemicals-oil, dispersants and residue from setting oil on fire-presents new threats to the sea bottom, the shore, marshes and the air."

Randy Lanctot, executive director of the Louisiana Wildlife Fed?eration, worries that dispersants are being used too close to the coast. "Dispersants are not supposed to be applied from aircraft within three miles of land, according to Coast Guard protocol." But he said "I'm not sure that rule is being precisely followed with respect to the barrier islands that are havens for shore and seabirds. Because of the proximity of birds and other wildlife, dispersants should not, in my opinion, be applied landward of these barriers, and they shouldn't be applied within three miles seaward either." He added "wetting birds with dispersants may put their survival at risk."

Andy Nyman, associate professor of Wetland Wildlife Manage?ment at Louisiana State University, said marsh food chains, starting with micro organisms and moving up to herbivores and carnivores, are often altered by an influx of oil or oily dispersants. Oil and dispersed oil can pass under containment booms, he noted. While fishermen usually don't enter marsh grasses, fish larva and young marine organisms spend their first few months of life there, he noted.

Moreover, findings from Dr. Nyman's experiments appear to contradict BP's reasoning that it's better to use dispersants to protect the coast than to allow oil to break up on its own.

An experiment conducted in the late 1990's by Nyman and other LSU researchers on soil from many of the state's tidal freshwater marshes found that dispersants mixed with oil reaching marsh soils were more toxic to fish, crustaceans and benthic invertebrates than undispersed oil for months after arriving in the soil. Benthic invertebrates are small, growing organisms that live at the bottom of the marsh.

Nyman said "it appeared in our experiments that COREXIT 9500 was toxic to microbes in the marsh soil that eat the oil." And in another experiment with salt marsh soils, Dr. Nyman found that dispersed oil biodegrades, or was eaten by oil microbes, much more slowly than non-dispersed oil.

Based on recent reports likening them to dish detergent and shampoo, dispersants might be viewed as safe to handle. But Kendall warns "for humans, dispersants contain solvents, so you don't want to touch them." A solvent is a substance capable of dissolving another substance. Solvents can be carcinogens, and touching, much less ingesting them, threatens the central nervous system, along with the heart, liver and kidneys. Inhaling solvent vapors can irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

The mix of chemicals at the BP spill site explains why the company requires fishermen under its Vessels of Opportunity program and others employed for cleanup to have HazMat training.

A concoction of oil and dispersants is already hovering over corral beds, like the Pinnacles south of Louisiana. And Kendall said the mixture is getting into the Loop Current, which heads to south Florida-where ancient corral reefs could be devastated. With hurricane season approaching, the presence of chemicals in Gulf Coast waters frightens him. Winds from a big storm will push the dispersed oil mixture around, and that could be catastrophic for the salt-and-fresh or brackish-water balance of Lake Pontchartrain, he warned. The lake has only recently been judged safe again for swimming after industrial and farm waste was brought under control.

"Given the size of the Gulf spill, we need to try everything that's environmentally sound to get rid of the oil and the added chemicals," Kendall said. Texas Tech Univer?sity, he noted, developed Fibertect, a product with an activated, carbon core between layers of non-woven cotton that can be used in containment booms and to clean wildlife. He said a marketing firm has explained Fibertect's several applications to BP.

Lanctot said the use of "dispersants in the Gulf is a huge, unplanned and not very well-controlled experiment." He added that it's anybody's guess how dispersants will effect the Gulf ecosystem as it tries to recover after the oil well is plugged.

Meanwhile, the price of Nalco stock rallied in early May after BP said it was using two forms of COREXIT, Cufone noted. Shares swiftly retreated however, after the EPA expressed its concern about using the company's products in the Gulf.

Black-White Marriages Drastically Increase Over Last Three Decades

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By Gregory Dale, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –

(NNPA) - While the trend of interracial marriages between Whites and American-born Asians, and Whites and Hispanics has slowed over the years, Blacks are more likely than before to marry whites, according to new census data.

The latest census reveals that the number of interracial marriages in the U.S. has increased by 20 percent since 2000 to nearly 4.5 million, according to the Associated Press. While the overall number of interracial marriages is still rising, the pace of that increase has slowed from the 65 percent increase seen between 1990 and 2000. Interracial marriages now account for 8 percent of all U.S. marriages, up from 7 percent in 2000.

According to the data, Blacks are now three times more likely to marry Whites than in 1980. Nearly 14.4 percent of Black men and 6.5 percent of Black women are in interracial marriages.

Experts attribute the number to a more racially integrated military, higher educational attainment and a rising Black middle class that offers more interaction with other races.

Despite the increase, there are still Blacks that would traditionally feel more comfortable only marrying inside their race.

“I would consider dating outside my race but I probably would stay inside because of fewer complications on [my partner’s] family not accepting me,” said Courtney Gamble, a 22-year-old African-American student at Rutgers University. “I might date outside my race but I would [definitely] marry inside my race.”

However, American-born Asians and Hispanics have increasingly married members of their own races over the last decade, according to the census data.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S.-born Asians marry Whites--a number that has not changed since 1980. But their likelihood of marrying Asian immigrants has multiplied 3 times for men and 5 times for women, to nearly 20 percent.

U.S.-born Hispanics saw a small increase in their likelihood to marry Whites, which grew from 30 percent in 1980 to 38 percent today. But their likelihood of marrying foreign-born Hispanic immigrants has doubled, to 12.5 percent for men and 17.1 percent for women.

Gary Coleman: The Life of a Legendary Child Actor

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By Robyn H. Jimenez, Special to the NNPA from the Dallas Examiner –

(NNPA) - Gary W. Coleman was perhaps the most famous child star in history. He was known for his small stature, lovable charm and incredible talent as a young comedic actor.

Born in Illinois Feb. 8, 1968, he was adopted by a forklift operator and nurse practitioner.

At less than 5 ft. tall, Coleman’s child-like appearance never seemed to mature due to a congenital kidney disease, which caused him to stop growing at a very early age. He also suffered from seizures, according to reports.

Coleman underwent a kidney transplant in 1973. A few years later, he landed a role on The Jefferson’s and Good Times as George’s precocious nephew Raymond, who came for a 6-week stay. His character quickly began driving George crazy, while winning the heart of the wife, Louise.

He also played Gary James, a tiny participant with a big character in a play that Penny – played by Janet Jackson – was directing, on Good Times. Coleman stormed in like a whirlwind, delivering one hilarious line after the other perfectly. And then he was gone.

In 1976, Norman Lear created Different Strokes, featuring Coleman as an adorable, unpredictable, smart-mouth little boy. The cast included Todd Bridges, who played Arnold’s older brother Willis; Conrad Bain, who played Philip Drummond, a wealthy widower who adopted the boys, Dana Plato, who played Kimberly, Philip’s daughter and Charlotte Rae, who played Edna Garrett, the lovable housekeeper.

Ironically, Coleman and Plato were both adopted.

The show later included Dixie Carter, Philip’s new wife, and Danny Cooksey, who played her son.

Coleman became famous for his line, “Whatcha talkin bout Willis?” The show brought in celebrities and athletes, such as Mr. T, Reggie Jackson, In 1979 he starred in the movie, The Kid From Left Field. He also appeared on the Lucille Ball Special, where he was applauded for his comedic timing.

He received a People’s Choice Award, in 1980.

In 1981, Coleman starred in On the Right Track as Lester, a homeless boy who lived in the railway and made a living as a shoeshine boy.

He also starred in the 1982 film, The Kid with the Broken Halo playing Andy, an irreverent angel-in-training who is constantly getting in trouble. Later that year, he was featured in The Gary Coleman Show, an animated show based on his angelic character, Andy. The show ran for 13 episodes.

Coleman’s health continued to decline and he had to have a second kidney transplant, in 1984. Afterwards, he had to receive dialysis on a daily basis. Yet, he continued to work. In a televised interview, Coleman once talked about how exhausted he was at times, during the taping of the show. Bridges stated in an Internet interview a few months ago, that Coleman’s parents were making him work, even when he was rejecting his kidney and again after his surgery.

“Throwing up, deathly ill, looking like he was death warmed over… and I started crying because I couldn’t believe his parents were forcing him to work,” Bridges stated, remembering a time when he was sick with a fever and his mother told him to stay home from work and called in for him. He went on to say that his mother was informed that if she didn’t get him to the set, he was fired. “And my mother said, ‘Well, you’re going to have to fire him then, because he ain’t coming back. The studio sent a physician to validate the illness and Bridges was cleared to stay home.

This wasn’t the first time allegations had been made of Coleman being forced to work despite his illness.

When Different Strokes ended in 1986, Coleman’s career began to fall apart. Afterwards, he refused to communicate with anyone that had anything to do with the show.

Throughout the years, the three original siblings had various run-ins with the law. Plato admitted to abusing prescription drugs while she was still with the show. She continued to misuse drugs and was arrested twice before overdosing and ending her life. Bridges reveals his issues with drugs and the law in an autobiography that was released earlier this year. Coleman admittedly had anger management problems, which led to his arrest.

On one occasion, he was brought up on charges of battery toward a woman who asked him to autograph a piece of paper. He agreed, but after signing it, she gave it back to him and asked him to write more. According to Coleman, when he refused, the woman began making unkind remarks about his career. Bridges described Coleman as a bitter little man, but said he didn’t blame him after all he had been through.

Coleman took his parents and advisers to court in 1989, suing them for misappropriating his $3.8 million trust fund. In 1993, they reached a settlement of just over $1 million, in Coleman’s favor. He never recovered his relationship with his parents, who many say goes much deeper than just money.

During an interview in 1993, he discussed his deep depression and having attempted suicide twice. In 1999, he filed for bankruptcy.

In 2003, during the gubernatorial recall election for California governor, Coleman threw his hat into the ring with 134 other candidates, of which many were celebrities. In November, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the votes and was sworn in as governor.

In 2005, Coleman began working as a commentator, covering the Michael Jackson trial for All Comedy Radio.

In March 2007, shocking footage of Coleman working as a security guard was released on national television show. The public was partly shocked that the child star had to take a low-paying job at a shopping mall. But the public was also shocked that, in an attempt to block someone from taking photos of another well-known celebrity, Coleman climbed on the person’s vehicle and began threatening to break one of the driver’s windshield wipers.

Later that year, he was featured in commercials for Cash Call, a national personal and mortgage loan agency.

On Aug. 28, 2007, Coleman married Shannon Price, his 22-year-old girlfriend that he had been dating for only five months. The marriage stayed hidden from the public for six months. He said that they met on the set of Church Ball, a comedy about a team of misfits on a church basketball team whose goal toward brotherly love and sportsmanship comes up against a competitive drive to the championship. Coleman said in an interview, that Price was his first love and his first romantic relationship.

The couple made appearances on a few daytime talk shows, professing their love for one another. But when asked why they had not revealed their marriage for several months, Coleman stated, “It’s nobody’s business what we do.”

The two were far from living happily-ever-after. In the past three years, police have been called out to the Coleman residence several times for domestic disturbance. Some reports indicate that there have been over 20 police visits to the home, including domestic disputes and suicide attempts. They attempted to resolve their issues by appearing on Divorce Court, in May 2008, to get advice from Judge Lynn Toler.

While back in chambers, the two said that they mainly fought about having children. After suffering greatly from his kidney disease since early childhood, Coleman was worried about his children having to struggle through the same thing. Not knowing who his parents were, he couldn’t be sure if it was inherited or if there were other disorders that he was unaware of. However, his wife was sure that the chance of having a sick child was slim.

“We may go a week and not speak to each other,” he said in a televised interview, denying that they had a volatile relationship.

Eleven months ago, his wife was arrested for domestic violence; both were cited for disorderly conduct. But at the beginning of this year, Coleman was arrested for domestic violence, according to reports. He made television appearances to tell his side of the story and ended up losing his temper. At times he used vulgarity towards his aggressive interviewers.

During one of those appearances, he is shown yelling at his interviewer, after being provoked regarding statements of domestic violence, then walking off of the set. It was reported that he suffered from a seizure shortly after and was rushed to the hospital after being examined by Dr. Drew Pinsky of Celebrity Rehab, who happened to be in the studio at the time.

On May 27, Coleman was injured in his home. Details of the accident have not been released, however, it was reported that he had a head injury that lead to a brain hemorrhage. He was reportedly awake and lucid initially, but fell into a comma hours later and was placed on life support.

The next day, his wife made the decision to take him off of life support and he died soon after. The official cause of his death is still under investigation. Though sometimes scoffed at, the legendary actor is remembered fondly throughout the country. Coleman was 42.

Information taken from viewed clipped of interviews on NBC Today, The Insider, Fox News, Inside Edition and The Young Turks. Filmography obtained from The Internet Movie Database.

Chevron Bars Niger Delta Activist From Shareholder Meeting

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – Activist Emem Okon of the Niger Delta was among 17 people representing oil-producing communities in Angola, Ecuador, Burma, the Philippines and around the world to be locked out of a shareholders meeting on May 30 by the oil giant Chevron.

Ms. Okon, who traveled to Houston, Texas, from Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region, said she came to urge the company “to clean up the environment, end gas flaring, and to respect their human rights policies, which call for two-way communication between Chevron and the community people,” she said.

Police arrested five protestors with The True Cost of Chevron Network who had rallied to call attention to Chevron’s human rights and environmental record.

In a radio interview, Ms. Okon said: “I came to tell Chevron that they have oppressed in the Niger Delta region with impunity for the past fifty years, poisoning our waters, devastating our environment, killing the fish we eat, burning poison gas through gas flares that has caused cancer, asthma, corroding our roofs. And they have not done anything to alleviate the sufferings of the people as the result of their activities.”

“I am surprised at the attention that the BP oil spill has attracted in the United States,” she continued, “and I expect that the condition in the Niger Delta should attract the same coverage… Chevron (should) stop their inhuman activity and abuse of human rights in the Niger Delta region.

Rwandans Lock Up U.S. Lawyer In Genocide Dispute

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – US lawyer Peter Erlinder is behind bars in Rwanda, days after his arrival in the Central African country. He had come to defend Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, an alleged genocide denier, and political opponent of the current president, Paul Kagame.

Dozens of lawyers and their organizations have appealed for Erlinder’s release. "There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes…," said David Gespass, president of the National Lawyers Guild.

Rwanda's 1994 genocide claimed the lives of more than 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The massacres ended when mostly Tutsi rebels led by Kagame defeated the mostly Hutu extremist perpetrators.

Ingabire, a Hutu, returned to Rwanda in January after 16 years of living abroad. She says she returned to Rwanda because the country needs an open discussion to promote reconciliation.

In a visit to a memorial to Tutsis killed in the 1994 genocide, she asked why Hutus who also died weren't remembered. She was arrested as a “genocide denier” and is free on bail. Her case drew the attention of Erlinder, a law professor at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. If convicted, Ingabire, 41, could be sentenced to more than two decades in prison. US Ass’t Sec’y of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson accused the Kigali government of restricting freedom prior to presidential polls in August, in which Ms Ingabire is a challenger.

President Paul Kagame is a Tutsi former rebel leader who came to power to end the killings. His forces have been accused of massacring Hutus after the genocide ended.

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