Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is asking the Federal Emergency Management Administration for disaster funds to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer. She says the aid is necessary to prevent the tree-killing pest from spreading into more states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta reports:
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is asking the Federal Emergency
Management Administration for disaster funds to deal with the Emerald Ash
Borer. She says the aid is necessary to prevent the tree-killing pest from
spreading into more states. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rick Pluta reports:
The Governor’s request is for money to remove and destroy infested trees, and to come
up with ways to contain the pest. The ash borer has already killed an estimated six
million trees in Michigan, and it’s also been found in Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, and
Governor Granholm says it’s too big a problem for her state to handle
“We need additional resources, and certainly I know the federal
government would be interested in making sure that it doesn’t spread to other
states or the entire country. We need help. This is an emergency.”
She says the state’s not assured it will get that help, and is getting
mixed signals from the federal government on its request.
Linda Sacia of the Federal Emergency Management Administration says a review of the
request is still underway, and there’s no word on when an answer might be coming.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Rick Pluta.
Federal officials began taking information off government websites after the September 11th attacks. They feared terrorists would use the information to plan future attacks. Now, a new study says much of that information wouldn’t be useful to terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush explains:
Federal officials began taking information off government websites after the
September 11th attacks. They feared terrorists would use the information to
plan future attacks. Now a new study says much of that information wouldn’t
be useful to terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has
Researchers at the Rand Corporation spent a year analyzing 629 federal
websites. They looked at sites that had information about things such as
bridges, power plants, transit systems, and chemical factories. They found
that less than one percent of the websites they analyzed had information that
would be useful for a terrorist to mount an attack.
Beth Lachman co-authored the study. She says agencies need to develop
better methods before pulling information off of their websites:
“Stuff that we think may be very sensitive may not be quite as sensitive as
you thought. Just because you have to really analyze, ‘Well how useful is
this? How unique is it? Is it out there in a lot of different sources? What
are the cost and benefits associated with putting it out there and
potentially restricting it from being out there.'”
Lachman and the other researchers say if the information isn’t useful to a
terrorist, it should be made available to the public. They say people have
the right to know about information such as what chemicals are stored
in their neighborhoods.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
In springtime, many homeowners’ thoughts turn to home improvement projects. That typically means a hit in the wallet, and for some, guilty feelings about consuming too much. Most do-it- yourselfers saw up a lot of trees in the lumber they use. And they use other materials that affect the environment. But there are ways to keep more green in your pocket, and boost your green conscience. As part of an ongoing series called “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Cari Noga reports:
In springtime, many homeowners’ thoughts turn to home improvement projects. That
typically means a hit in the wallet, and for some, guilty feelings over consuming too
much. Most do-it-yourselfers saw up a lot of trees in the lumber they use. And they use
other materials that affect the environment. But there are ways to keep more green in
your pocket, as well as a green conscience. As part of an ongoing series called “Your Choice; Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Cari
If you’ve ever sat in a high school gym, you’ll likely get a sense of déjà vu when you
walk into John Patterson’s home. That’s because in its former life, the house’s flooring
was high school bleachers. Cleaning them up was a chore. Patterson says he and his
wife filled up a five-gallon bucket removing the gum wads from the 20-foot yellow pine
planks. But Patterson says the work was worth it…
“What I like about them the best is the wood is so old, because they were in the school
for like 40 years. I hope they stay here for 40 years. You can’t replace them, or regrow
trees this long and tall. It’s something I’m really proud of doing.”
The floor is just one part of the couple’s overhaul of their home. Two summers ago they
stripped the tiny ranch-style home down to the studs. They nearly doubled the square
footage, and added a second floor. The windows, siding and even the 2 by 4s, are reused
A growing number of homeowners are combining a do-it-yourself attitude with an
environmental ethic. Instead of shopping at big box chain stores, they go to auctions and
used building material stores. They buy everything from bathtubs to doors to, yes, even
the kitchen sink. Patterson’s wife Sarah Goss is the scavenger, scouting out the stuff for
him to install. For her, reuse has been a lifelong value.
“I think it’s upbringing. You just grow up feeling a little guilt if you overuse your
resources…any way you can conserve or be a part of that, I feel like it’s an added plus.”
They’re not the only ones who think this way. Kurt Buss is president of the Used
Building Materials Association. He says the reuse movement is spreading as
communities nationwide try to reduce landfill volume. Up to 40 percent of landfill space
is construction debris.
“You don’t throw away newspapers and tin cans. You shouldn’t throw away your house.”
Buss says reused materials can be better quality, too.
“More often than not the wood is old growth lumber, which is certainly preferable to
much of the lumber that you see in lumber stores today which is speed grown on tree
farms… So there’s premium materials that are available with environmental benefits
So, reused materials are often higher quality, and go easy on the environment.
They also cost a lot less – typically half of what the same item would cost new.
Still, not everyone’s sold immediately. There’s a lot of sweat equity that offsets the cost
advantage. John Patterson and Sarah Goss worked a long time scraping off all that
Then there’s getting over the fact that most of the stuff is someone else’s discarded
material… their trash.
Bruce Odom owns the Michigan store where Patterson and Goss found many of their
materials. He says many shoppers walk in skeptics, but become believers.
“You see a lot of one party tugging the other one along, and the other one saying, ‘No,
no, I don’t know about this,’ whether it be the husband or the wife. You see a lot of that.
And yeah, you do need to realize that it’s all done and installed, you probably aren’t
going to recognize the difference except in your checkbook.”
If you’re making a list of things to do around the house, you can find reused materials
stores in at least 30 states. A visit to one might deconstruct the perception that newer is
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Cari Noga.
The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle was introduced in 1916 to control aphids. It has since established populations around the country. (Photo courtesy of the USDA)
Many people in North America have already met the multicolored Asian lady beetle. It looks like an ordinary ladybug, but it has some bad habits. It stinks, it bites and it invades homes when the winter approaches and stays there until spring. And not only is it a pest in our houses, it has decided that it likes wine too. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has the story:
Many people in North America have already met the multicolored Asian lady beetle. It
looks like an ordinary ladybug, but it has some bad habits. It stinks, it bites and it
invades homes when the winter approaches and stays there until spring. And not only is
it a pest in our houses, it has decided that it likes wine too. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Victoria Fenner has the story:
Ann Sperling goes out to the vineyards every day to check for bugs. She’s the vintner
with Malivoire Winery. Malivoire is a small organic winery in the Niagara Peninsula in
Southern Ontario, just north of the New York State border. There’s one kind of bug in
particular that Ann is hoping she doesn’t see – the multicolored Asian lady beetle.
It was introduced to North American in 1916 to control help aphids on plants. In 1988 in
Louisiana, the ladybug population suddenly started to grow. Scientists still don’t know
what happened to make them reproduce so fast at that time. But in only six years, it
spread as far as the northern states and southern Canada.
The spread of the bug has been very bad for the grape and wine industry. Sperling is
nervous about these ladybugs because she was caught by surprise a few years back. She
didn’t know anything about the problems they would cause to her wine at the time.
“Typically there is a certain number of insects including wasps and things like that that
are harvested with the fruit and it doesn’t cause any problems in the processing. And in
2001 there were these Asian lady beetles and they infected, or affected, the flavor of the
wine, so that there were many wines from that vintage throughout the Niagara peninsula
that had the characteristic flavor and were not saleable.”
The big problem is that Asian ladybugs are the skunks of the insect world. Just like
skunks, they give off a bad smell to discourage predators. And they release a sticky
brown substance from the joints in their body when they’re stressed and they make a real
At harvest time, there’s a lot of commotion in the vineyards. That’s when the bugs get
really upset, and they leak all over the grapes. They also hang on to the grape clusters
and are pressed into the wine along with the fruit. Sperling says they had to dump half of
their 2001 vintage because it had a bitter taste and a bouquet of raw peanuts.
Because of this, the multicolored Asian Ladybug has become a big problem for wineries
in the Great Lakes region and in the Midwest. It’s such a pressing problem for the wine
industry that the Ontario Grape Growers Association has set up a special task force to
figure out what to do. Gerry Walker is heading up the task force. He says the ladybug
isn’t a problem this time of year, but the populations are being monitored to head off
potential problems during the harvest season.
“First of all, the bug usually is outside the vineyard for most of the season. It’s usually
located in soybean fields or forested areas. It has a wide host range in terms of what
aphid species it will feed on. It primarily feeds on aphids during the growing season,
populations build up and at the end of the growing season when cool temperatures occur
it cues the bug to look for hibernating wintering sites and also to fill up on sugars in order
to hibernate. And so they move to the vineyards as the grapes begin to ripen.”
Asian ladybugs are found across most of the southern part of North America –
everywhere that there is an aphid population.
And there is a connection between soybean fields and vineyards. Here’s why – aphids
like to eat soybeans, and the multicolored Asian ladybeetle likes to eat aphids. When the
soybeans are harvested, the beetles look for new food and move to the vineyards.
Mark Sears is an environmental biologist at the University of Guelph. He’s beginning a
study to find out the movement patterns of the ladybug. He says we can’t get rid of them.
All we can do is control them.
“This beetle’s been here long enough that there’s no way we’re going to eliminate it. We
just want to suppress its numbers so that it isn’t a problem, in this case, in the vineyards.
If we do a good job of suppressing aphids – we’re not going to eliminate them either, but
if we keep them at lower numbers then there’s less food available for beetle populations,
there will be fewer of them to move to vineyards. And therefore we should be able to
contain the problem, not the insect itself.”
Ann Sperling is one of many winemakers who’s happy to see that this major study of the
ladybug is being done. But the invasion of 2001 was also a valuable learning experience.
Sperling says they’re ready if it happens again. Malivoire Winery has bought a shaker
table to dislodge the bugs from the bunches of grapes. They’ll also hire more people to
sort the grapes by hand.
Some people in the wine industry don’t like to talk about the multicolored Asian ladybug.
They’re afraid of tainting the reputation of their wines. Ann Sperling agreed to talk about
it because she thinks there wouldn’t have been as much damage to their 2001 vintage if
they had been better prepared. They haven’t had any big problems since then.
If another large invasion happens now, Malvoire Winery is ready. Ann Sperling hopes
other wineries will learn from their experience.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Victoria Fenner.
Mock evidence of radiological material to make a dirty bomb gives trainees an idea of the kind of materials they might find in a terrorist operation. (Photo by Lester Graham)
A lab mocked up to resemble a terrorist operation making sarin nerve agent. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Environmental Protection Agency response vehicles include equipment to detect all sorts of material that might be released by terrorists. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Since 9/11, emergency responders have been practicing for new kinds of emergencies. In addition to fires and hazardous materials spills, emergency personnel have been training to deal with terrorist attacks. Recently, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham was allowed behind the scenes in a terrorism attack training exercise:
Since 9/11, emergency responders have been practicing for new kinds of emergencies. In
addition to fires and hazardous materials spills, emergency personnel have been training
to deal with terrorist attacks. Recently, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester
Graham was allowed behind the scenes in a terrorism attack training exercise:
These two men are the victims of some kind of biological toxin. They were investigating
an abandoned rental truck and now they’re writhing on the ground after a package
spewed some kind of liquid.
(chatter between mock victims) “You alright, man?” “What was that?” “I don’t know
what that was. It hurts.”
These guys are acting. They’re part of a huge training exercise put on by the
Environmental Protection Agency. Dozens of firefighters, emergency medical personnel,
EPA investigators, the FBI and people in t-shirts identifying themselves with acronyms
for agencies most of us have never heard of. They’re all working through a couple of
scenarios. So far today, they’ve discovered radioactive material to make dirty bombs and
some kind of lab set up to make a chemical like sarin nerve gas… and then there’s the
rental truck which is loaded with nasty chemicals.
Mark Durno is the U.S. EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator…
“We have some very distinct objectives with this exercise. One is to practice responding
to unusual situations that might involve weapons of mass destruction. In this particular
exercise, we’re practicing chemical agent and radiological agent response.”
There are lots of new things to learn. Coordination between agencies… and new
techniques. In this exercise, Detroit city departments are learning to work with federal
agencies. Melvin Green is with the Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. He
says this exercise is good. He’d rather see his medical technicians make mistakes here
than during a real emergency… where his worst fears might be realized.
“I would have to say that, you know, them become casualties, that’s probably my biggest
fear. This is why we want to educate them on—and this is why the exercise is so
important. We want to educate them on the possibilities. Keeping our people safe
That’s because if the emergency medical personnel are hurt… fewer people will be
The idea of a terrorist attack with radiological or biological agents is the kind of
nightmarish scenario that no one really wants to think about… but it’s something
emergency responders HAVE to think about.
During this day-long exercise… these trainees are upbeat, they’re confident in their
response. They feel they’ve come a long way in the nearly three years since 9/11.
But other emergency service experts are not quite as upbeat. Just 40 miles from this
training exercise… at the University of Michigan Hospital’s Department of Emergency
Medicine, Administrator Peter Forster says there are weaknesses in preparedness for
“We’ve made a lot of progress from where we were, but we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Forster says when victims start showing up at the hospital emergency rooms…. there will
“Most emergency preparedness activities have been geared toward local events with
relatively small numbers of victims. When we start talking about hundreds of people or
thousands of people injured or hurt, or exposed to some toxic or contagious substance,
then I think the health system would have a significantly difficult time expanding to meet
that requirement, regardless of how much, uh, how well we’re trained or how prepared
we are. We don’t really have the capacity on the health care side to manage a significant
influx of patients.”
Forster says plans to set up emergency medical facilities in auditoriums, school gyms,
and maybe even hotel rooms need to be completed… arrangements made… and supplies
(sound up of training exercise, generators, etc.)
Meanwhile, back in Detroit… investigators are putting on bulky chemical protection
suits—the ones that look like big space suits…blue, yellow, olive, with teal-colored
gloves and orange boots… you’d think of circus colors if the subject matter weren’t so
serious. After examining the mock lab, spending about an hour in the sweltering suits,
they come out for decontamination before their air tanks run out. The local agencies help
with decontamination… spraying and scrubbing the suits down.
(sound: beeping, scrubbing)
The training site has all the sights and sounds of a real emergency. Lots of emergency
vehicles… the noise of generators and the smell of diesel. But it’s fairly relaxed. There’s
none of the tension, none of the urgency of a real emergency.
The U.S. EPA’s On-Scene Coordinator, Mark Durno, says there are some things you
can’t bring to a drill…
“You can never simulate the adrenaline and the potential panic that’s associated with a
real event, especially when you hear the words ‘chemical’ and ‘radiological’ agent.
However, we can practice those little tools that we’re going to need to be absolutely
proficient at to ensure that when the panic hits, we’re ready to roll without any
The days’ training has turned up a few glitches. Communication between agencies is
still a problem. Emergency radio frequencies need to be sorted out and coordinated. And
there are still some major gaps in preparedness that are not part of this training… such as
the emergency room capacity problem. But one of the bigger issues is money. Federal
money has been promised to local governments… but it’s been very slow in coming.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The Environmental Protection Agency says a new rule will cut down on pollution from stationary diesel engines. It applies to industrial equipment like backhoes and forklifts, and to farm tractors. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency says a new rule will cut down on pollution from
stationary diesel engines. It applies to industrial equipment like backhoes and forklifts,
and to farm tractors. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
The EPA says the measure will prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, a million lost
work days, and 15,000 heart attacks every year.
The new rule aims to do two things: clean up diesel fuel, and clean the exhaust from
diesel engines. Doug Aburano is with the EPA.
“The engine manufacturers have agreed to produce a catalyst that would reduce
emissions from these engines, while we also have an agreement from the diesel producers
to reduce the sulfur content to such an extent that the sulfur would not poison the
catalysts that the engine manufacturers are doing. So you have to do a collaborative
approach like that to get to the huge reductions we’re looking at.”
Aburano says emissions of soot and smog will be cut by 90%. It will take several years
to accomplish that, as businesses and farms replace old equipment. Health and
environmental organizations are welcoming the measure.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
Beekeepers in the Midwest and elsewhere are turning to innovative ways to protect their hives from tiny, blood-sucking mites. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, farmers depend on the health of commercial honeybee colonies:
Beekeepers in the Midwest and elsewhere are turning to innovative ways to protect their hives
from tiny, blood-sucking mites. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports,
farmers depend on the health of commercial honeybee colonies:
Apples, cherries, and cucumbers are among the crops that depend on bees for pollination. But in
the mid-80’s, a parasite called varroa wiped out wild honeybees in the U.S. And the mites have
also taken a toll on commercial colonies as well.
The problem is especially serious in California. Almond growers there have had difficulties in
the last few years getting enough bees to pollinate their half-million acres of almond trees. But
Zachary Huang, a honeybee researcher at Michigan State University, says beekeepers in the
region still have about twice the number of bees needed to meet farmers’ demands.
“It’s not so bad yet that we’re having trouble getting bees to pollinate our fruit trees.”
Chemicals have been developed to kill the mites. But so far, they’ve proved only partly effective,
or the mites become resistant. Huang has patented a device called the “mite zapper” that kills the
parasites in the hives. He hopes to be able to market it to beekeepers next year.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
A new report finds the average person carries pesticide residue in their body that exceeds government-approved levels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
A new report finds the average person carries pesticide residue in their body that exceeds
government-approved levels. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
The Pesticide Action Network analyzed blood and urine samples of more than 9,000
people. The samples were collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
According to the report, every sample contained pesticide residue. The highest
concentrations were found in adult women, children and Mexican Americans, who were
more likely to work in agriculture.
Angelica Barrera is with the Pesticide Action Network. She says the current testing of
these products isn’t enough, and they’re calling on Congress to impose tougher
“To put the burden of proof on the chemical manufacturers, that before they put anything
on the market, they need to prove that that pesticide is in fact safe for public use.”
The most commonly found pesticide residue was from chlorpyrifos, an chemical used in
agriculture. A spokesperson for Dow Chemical, which makes the pesticide, said their
products are safe if used properly.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
You’ve probably heard about global warming, maybe also climactic cooling. Scientists have identified another phenomenon called “global dimming.” They say the world is getting darker. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports:
You’ve probably heard about global warming, maybe also climactic cooling. Scientists
have identified another phenomenon called “global dimming”. They say the world is
getting darker. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports.
In the 1980’s, a handful of researchers noticed a strange trend. Less sunlight was
reaching the earth’s surface than fifty years earlier. The scientific establishment
dismissed the notion as ridiculous. But researcher Michael Roderick of Australia
National University says today, ‘global dimming’ is becoming accepted. He says much
of the northern hemisphere is 10 to 20 percent darker than it used to be.
“Something in the atmosphere is blocking the sunlight from getting through. And that
something is either more clouds or more aerosols, so basically pollution.”
Roderick says the dimming is worst in big cities, but rural areas and even Antarctica also
are getting less sun.
Scientists don’t know what ‘global dimming’ means for people, plants, and animals.
Roderick and geophysicists from around the world are meeting this week in Montreal to
take a first stab at that question.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
According to the USDA, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has increased nearly 80 percent in the past decade, with roughly 3,100 in operation. Like many other Midwesterners, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King buys much of her warm-weather produce from local growers. But King thinks those farmers grow something else that might be just as important as food:
According to the USDA, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has
increased nearly 80 percent in the past decade, with roughly 3,100 in operation. Like
many other Midwesterners, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King buys
much of her warm-weather produce from local growers. But King thinks those farmers
grow something else that might be just as important as food…
Not long ago, my ten-year-old daughter gathered her allowance, dropped her coins into a
see-through, polka-dot plastic purse and journeyed with me to our local farmers’ market.
Inside the old warehouse-turned-emporium, we strolled up and down the aisles. She
sniffed bars of soap and fragrant candles, poked bags of cheese bread and gazed at
almond croissants. But it was a large butternut squash that finally caught her eye.
She smiled and pointed at the unusual treasure. The farmer behind the counter called out
a price and I watched from a distance as she dug into her little plastic purse, pulling out a
quarter here, a dime there. As she calculated the numbers, her smile faded; she was fifty
cents shy of the total.
“Oh, you go ahead and take it anyway,” he told her. “It’s a little bit old, really.”
She paused, uncertain. I stepped into view and offered a dollar to the farmer, but he
stood his ground. He wanted to sell the squash to my daughter for the price she could
afford. He said it was a fair exchange. We thanked him repeatedly and my daughter took
the big pear-shaped vegetable in her arms like it was a baby doll.
It was not the first time one of the market’s farmers had put kindness before cash. Shop
there long enough and someone is bound to say, “Oh, take two, they’re small” or “This
one’s a little bruised; I’ll throw it in for free.”
These aren’t “blue light specials” or “supersaver sales;” they’re gifts from people who
never tire of the magic that springs from the earth. In a year of Saturdays, I’ve been
invited to marvel at the shape of a carrot, to behold the size of a potato, to delight in the
beauty of a snapdragon.
In a nation of box stores and billionaire wannabes, a nation where “excess” is master, the
men and women who labor in the soil offer a glimpse of something different. It’s a
commerce measured not only by what they gain, but also by what they give.
John Greenleaf Whittier put it best in his poem, “Song of Harvest”:
Give fools their gold, and knaves their power;
Let fortune’s bubbles rise and fall;
Who sows a field, or trains a flower,
Or plants a tree, is more than all.
HOST TAG: Julia King lives and writes in Goshen, Indiana. She comes to us by way of
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.