Mother Jones Daily: Briefing


Smoking Canadians Out of Their Holes
The EPA’s Hamburger Helper

International News
Smoking Canadians Out of Their Holes

Relations between the US and Canada, already strained by Canada’s refusal to kowtow to Bush, are “officially going to pot,” as Robert Lusetich of Australia’s Herald-Sun writes. Canada’s recent push for the decriminilization of marijuana has infuriated US drug czars, and caused the Bush administration to threaten the Canadian economy with tighter restrictions on trade.

The countries’ recent fallings out, evidenced by Bush’s cancellation of a visit to Ottawa (Bush opted to invite Australian Prime Minister John Howard to Texas instead) have sent Canadians a pointedly unsubtle message, as Alex Beam of The Boston Globe reports:

“This is the message: Australia = good, brave, ‘willing’ Commonwealth country; Canada = bad, stoner, un-‘willing’ Commonwealth country . In case Canada is hard of hearing, the White House slapped a punitive tariff on its wheat exports over the weekend to make sure it’s paying attention.

Canada, which has debated decriminalizing pot for nearly three decades, was somewhat shocked by the US’s sudden desire to preserve what the Office of National Drug Policy’s special assistant referred to as “the integrity of the hemisphere,” writes Frances Bula of the Vancouver Sun. The Canadian Supreme Court will rule on a marijuana case this week, and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien plans to introduce legislation that rescinds some of the country’s restrictions on marijuana. Bush’s drug czar, John Walters, has directly asserted that relinquishing restrictions on Canada’s marijuana would result in the “ loss of the mutual co-operative partnership we’ve had with Canadians” in the past, reports Tim Harper of the Toronto Star. Canadian federal justice official Richard Mosley, who oversees criminal law policy, explained that, despite Walters’ claims to the contrary, decriminalizing the drug in Western Europe and Australia did not increase its use. Walters’ painfully ironic retort only served to enforce the Canadians’ point, as Harper observes:

“Walters used an analogy many Canadians might find amusing — gun control. If laws were relaxed on possession of illegal weapons, he asked, does anyone believe there would be a decrease in gun crime?

‘That would be ludicrous. The same principle applies to drugs,’ he said.

Environment
The EPA’s Hamburger Helper

With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency, factory farm industry leaders stand to get out from under clean air environmental laws.

The Environment News Service reports,

“This backroom deal smells every bit as bad as the stench from these animal factories,” said John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Clean Air Program. “It is yet another example of the Bush administration trying to dismantle our bedrock environmental laws at the expense of public health.”

Despite rural community complaints about factory livestock farms polluting local skies and ground water sources, farmers may receive a “get out of environmental enforcement free” card from lawmakers. The Environmental Protection Agency has negotiations under way with agricultural industry leaders about Clean Air Act and Superfund exemptions for large livestock farms throughout the U.S.

A National Academy of Sciences report prompted negotiations by stating that stricter water regulations on farms may result in increased air pollution, but those statements were inconclusive.New York Times reporter Jennifer Lee reports:

“‘I think it’s a done deal between the negotiators,’ said William Becker, the executive director of State and Territorial Air Pollution Administrators. ‘This is a pattern of where the industry meets behind closed doors with the government.’ A large hog or chicken farm can generate millions of gallons of waste and hundreds of tons of fecal dust particles annually. In the case of hog farms, the waste is often gathered into open-air cesspools that release hydrogen sulfide, ammonia and methane gases, all of which are known to be toxic in high concentrations.”

Former EPA head, Eric Schaeffer went on to describe the negotiations as a political arrangement that had little evidence to back up it up.

For more information on the type of pollution factory farms cause, see the National Resource Defense Council’s summary statement on farm pollution.