AP Enterprise: Drugs affect more drinking water

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer – From Yahoo News

Testing prompted by an Associated Press story that revealed trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in drinking water supplies has shown that more Americans are affected by the problem than previously thought — at least 46 million.

That’s up from 41 million people reported by the AP in March as part of an investigation into the presence of pharmaceuticals in the nation’s waterways.

The AP stories prompted federal and local legislative hearings, brought about calls for mandatory testing and disclosure, and led officials in at least 27 additional metropolitan areas to analyze their drinking water. Positive tests were reported in 17 cases, including Reno, Nev., Savannah, Ga., Colorado Springs, Colo., and Huntsville, Ala. Results are pending in three others.

The test results, added to data from communities and water utilities that bowed to pressure to disclose earlier test results, produce the new total of Americans known to be exposed to drug-contaminated drinking water supplies.

The overwhelming majority of U.S. cities have not tested drinking water while eight cities — including Boston, Phoenix and Seattle — were relieved that tests showed no detections.

“We didn’t think we’d find anything because our water comes from a pristine source, but after the AP stories we wanted to make sure and reassure our customers,” said Andy Ryan, spokesman for Seattle Public Utilities.

The substances detected in the latest tests mirrored those cited in the earlier AP report.

Chicago, for example, found a cholesterol medication and a nicotine derivative. Many cities found the anti-convulsant carbamazepine. Officials in one of those communities, Colorado Springs, say they detected five pharmaceuticals in all, including a tranquilizer and a hormone.

“This is obviously an emerging issue and after the AP stories came out we felt it was the responsible thing for us to do, as a utility, to find out where we stand. We believe that at these levels, based on current science, that the water is completely safe for our customers,” said Colorado Springs spokesman Steve Berry. “We don’t want to create unnecessary alarm, but at the same time we have a responsibility as a municipal utility to communicate with our customers and let them know.”

Fargo’s water director, Bruce Grubb, said the concentrations of three drugs detected there were so incredibly minute — parts per trillion — that he sent them to the local health officer to figure out how to interpret the information for the community.

“We plan to put this into some kind of context other than just scientific nomenclature, so folks can get some level of understanding about what it means,” said Grubb.

The drug residues detected in water supplies are generally flushed into sewers and waterways through human excretion. Many of the pharmaceuticals are known to slip through sewage and drinking water treatment plants.

While the comprehensive risks are still unclear, researchers are finding evidence that even extremely diluted concentrations of pharmaceutical residues harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species in the wild and impair the workings of human cells in the laboratory.

And while the new survey expands the known extent of the problem, the overwhelming majority of U.S. communities have yet to test, including the single largest water provider in the country, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

In April, New York City council members insisted during an emergency hearing that their drinking water be tested. But DEP officials subsequently declared that “the testing of finished tap water is not warranted at this time.”

___

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate@ap.org

9/11’s Potemkin Village

By Billy Cox – Herald Tribune

As the nation pauses for 9/11, let us also remember that, despite billions of dollars invested in a new security bureaucracy, American airspace is no more secure today than it was seven years ago.

Federal Aviation Administration radar records indicate that the U.S. Air Force was powerless to stop a mysterious aerial incursion from surging toward President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex., in January. The 77-page analysis posted by the Mutual UFO Network in July has been neither challenged nor rebutted by military officials. Nor have any scientists emerged to take issue with any of the technical points raised by the MUFON study.

Nor have government authorities bothered to refute last year’s study assembled by the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena. That 155-page report described how a UFO parked itself over the United Airlines terminal at Chicago’s busy O’Hare International for 18 minutes while ground crews watched the object burn a circular hole in the cloud cover upon its departure.

Our government’s refusal to acknowledge these meticulously detailed reconstructions, along with the media’s failure to press for answers, creates a vacuum that can only be filled by vigilant taxpayers demanding accountability from this Potemkin Village. Maybe the citizens of Arizona are best positioned to elevate this conundrum into what it’s been all along — a political issue.

Long before the “Phoenix Lights” incident drew international attention in 1997, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater made repeated and now well-publicized attempts to flesh out the UFO mystery. But not even the lion of modern conservatism could get past the locked doors of Gen. Curtis LeMay, the former Air Force Chief of Staff.

Several months after countless Arizonans were startled by the massive UFO cruising their skies 11 years ago, Goldwater’s successor, John McCain, defended the military cover story that warplanes were conducting routine maneuvers that night in a letter to a constituent (at http://bp2.blogger.com/_PXeDY3KOwgA/R7XBpEcLPnI/AAAAAAAABic/XiYKW7nikQU/s1600-h/Phoenix+Lights+McCain+Ltr+Pg+(1).jpg):

“I believe that these exercises, culminating in the release of many flares simultaneously, provide a reasonable explanation for the appearance of the peculiar lights that evening.”

Several years later, however, when asked at a press conference about UFOs, McCain wasn’t laughing (see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4686586251683588658): “I think it’s of great interest. I would point out to you that there was a case a couple of years ago in Arizona of some lights that were seen over Arizona and that has never been fully explained.”

So which is it? What does McCain know?

In 2007, fellow Republican Fife Symington, the former Arizona governor who initially ridiculed the Phoenix Lights, admitted he’d seen the damned thing himself. He called it “enormous. It just felt otherworldly. In your gut, you could just tell it was otherworldly.”

It’s time for the “maverick” presidential candidate to figure out what’s going down in his own back yard. There’s never been a better moment for the folks who put McCain in office to demand a little more straight talk at the next town hall forum.

Brussels in ‘frightening’ grab for personal information

Civil liberties and privacy are being eroded at a “breathtaking” rate by European Union governments, according to a report.

By Christopher Hope, Home Affairs Editor – The Telegraph

Civil liberties watchdog Statewatch criticised the EU’s post-9/11 security strategy as a “frightening” grab for every aspect of individual information.
The 60-page report – published on the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington – said that the EU now saw data privacy and judicial scrutiny of police surveillance tactics as obstacles to efficient law enforcement co-operation, rather than rights to be safeguarded.
The report, The Shape Of Things To Come, described a so-called EU “Future Group” preparing a new five-year security strategy as “shadowy”.
It said that plans to co-operate with the US on “extremely controversial” techniques and technologies of surveillance and “enhanced” co-operation.
The group is accused of trying to harness a “digital tsunami” to aid law enforcement.
The Statewatch report quotes an EU Council of Ministers document on justice and security which declared: “Every object the individual uses, every transaction they make and almost everywhere they go will create a detailed digital record.
“This will generate a wealth of information for public security organisations, and create huge opportunities for more effective and productive public security efforts.”
The report responds: “The implications of this statement are breath-taking. Across the EU, governments have, or are, adopting national laws for the mandatory retention of everyone’s communications data – all forms of communication (phone calls, faxes, mobile calls including locations) which will be extended to keeping a record of all internet usage from 2009 – even though few are aware this is happening.
“This allows law enforcement and security agencies to get access to all traffic data – in the UK access is already automated.”
The report goes on: “When traffic data including internet usage is combined with other data held by the state or gathered from non-state sources (tax, employment, bank details, credit card usage, biometrics, criminal record, health record, use of e-government services, travel history etc) a frightening detailed picture of each individual’s everyday life and habits can be accessed at the click of a button.”
The report adds: “The harnessing of the ‘digital tsunami’ by public security organisations means that expected behaviour can be assessed by ‘machines’ on the basis of which directions are given to state officials on the spot.”
Statewatch says that, ever since 9/11, Washington has “got its way” on security policy to the detriment of privacy and protection data about EU citizens.
Statewatch director Tony Bunyan said: “EU standards have been by-passed or undermined and the USA has steadfastly refused to offer Europeans the equivalent level of privacy protection to US citizens.”
On plans for the EU and Washington to now develop even closer co-operation across the entire justice and security policy area, he said: “It is hard to think of a greater danger to our privacy and civil liberties.”
He called for a “meaningful debate” about the direction of EU justice and security policy, but warned: “There is now only a slim chance that the political elites in the Council of the European Union, the European Commission, national governments, the law enforcement agencies and the multinationals will change course – they have already invested too much to allow a meaningful public debate to take place.”
Mr Bunyan said: “The national and European states require unfettered powers to access and gather masses of personal data on the everyday life of everyone in order so that we can all be safe and secure from perceived ‘threats’.
“But how are we to be safe from the state itself, from its uses and abuses of the data they hold on us?”