News Briefs

A last push to deregulate

The Bush administration is working hard to enact a wide array of federal regulations before a new administration takes over in January and while Congress is not in session to veto. The regulations would weaken government rules that currently protect consumers and the environment.

The new rules would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms. They would also clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they can typically only be undone through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.

As many as 90 new regulations are in the works; they include new rules regarding employees who take family- and medical-related leaves and new standards for preventing or containing oil spills.

Palin gets dialed

It’s hard to believe, but a Quebec radio station gave Governor Sarah Palin a big “Gotcha!” with an old fashioned crank call. Last week a radio team known as the “Masked Avengers” successfully got Palin on the phone by pretending to be Nicholas Sarkozy, the president of France. “Sarkozy” told her he wanted to go hunting with her in a helicopter, and confessed that his wife, singer/model Carla Bruni was “hot in bed.”

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Not realizing it was a hoax, Palin laughed and said, “”It’s so good to hear you, thank you for calling us … we have such great respect for you, John McCain and I, we love you!”

The McCain campaign released a statement shortly after the phone call was made public.

“Governor Palin was mildly amused to learn that she had joined the ranks of heads of state, including President Sarkozy, and other celebrities in being targeted by these pranksters. C’est la vie.”

Arrest made in newspaper Anthrax threat

Last month, 120 faux anthrax packages were sent to media outlets around the country. The packages labeled “anthrax” were actually filled with sugar.

Federal agents arrested 66-year-old Sacramento man Marc Keyser at his home last week in connection with the mailings. Eleven more packages were found in Keyser’s car. He was charged with three counts of sending the anthrax threats via mail.

None of the packages received by newspapers in the past week tested positive for anthrax.

All of the packages contained a CD titled “Anthrax: Shock & Awe Terror,” which Keyser said was the title of his new book.

Fishy business for farm animals

One-third of the world’s ocean fish catch is ground up for animal feed, scientists said last week.

In the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, scientists revealed that 90 percent of medium-sized species fished from the ocean – like sardines and anchovies – are ground into feed for pigs, chickens and farm-raised fish.

According to the study, the forage fish account for 37 percent, or 31.5 million tons of all fish taken from the world’s ocean each year.

The concern, according to the scientists, is that this is not only a waste of a valuable human food source, but also a potential problem for marine ecosystems as “fish are fundamentally important to the health of the ocean.”