Support the Reburial of Jim Thorpe

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Earlier in the semester, we briefly talked about Jim Thorpe. Jim Thorpe was a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. Some have called him the greatest athlete of the twentieth century. Few dispute the claim. Regardless of his accomplishments in life, the source of much of his fame has come from a decade's long struggle over his remains. The borough of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania and Thorpe's two surviving sons are the combatants.

When Jim Thorpe died, his entire family made arrangements to have him buried in his home. He would be returned to his native land, as he wished, and services would follow the traditional Sac and Fox Nation rites. His wife interrupted the ceremony and later, when his planned memorial was repealed, began dragging the remains around the country to find a place that would build him a proper memorial and pay her for it. She eventually came to Mauch Chunk in Pennsylvania. The town was renamed Jim Thorpe and a mausoleum was built.

I have personally visited this town several times; certainly not pay homage to Thorpe the man. At no point during my visit was I under the impression that the townspeople were touting their status as the burial place of Jim Thorpe. It seemed secondary and not at all fitting for the greatest Native American athlete ever. The town believes it must honor its contractual obligation to Thorpe's wife. It sees the current struggle as a mere family issue that Thorpe's sons will have to get over and not an issue of Native rights.

The fact is, Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/battle-over-athlete-jim-thorpes-burial-site-continues/2012/02/21/gIQAn5DLES_story_4.html) This act was meant to "undo" the unacceptable grave robbing of Native burial grounds that has occurred since 1867. Skeletons and remains of native peoples were displayed in museums. To me, the Jim Thorpe memorial in the town is just a museum. I believe it is astonishing that the remains have not been returned to his home yet, if not even out of respect.

Reference, previously shared by Mr. Dubose:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/battle-over-athlete-jim-thorpes-burial-site-continues/2012/02/21/gIQAn5DLES_story.html

For more information about the Sac and Fox Nation, go to:

http://www.sacandfoxnation-nsn.gov/

To show support for the reburial of Jim Thorpe, go to:

http://www.jimthorperestinpeace.com/Support.HTM

The Circle of Life: Seafood and Penguins

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The little bird who is always tuxedo-suited-up is in danger of extinction.  Once again humanity is the reason for this unfortunate occurrence.  Penguins are in trouble and we have got to do something to help them.  Their home is being destroyed as a result of what human industrialization is doing to the environment.  The countless ships traveling throughout their waters have been terrorizing the African Penguin's home for many years--in the last eight years the population has decreased over 50%!  Half of the African penguin population is gone!  Oil spills have assisted in destroying their food supply, we all need to eat to live and now the penguins have nothing to eat.  Fishermen threaten whatever amount of the food supply that isn't destroyed by pollution.  We often forget that the food we buy in the grocery store came from the wild--who knew! 

The oceans are taken advantage of so badly it's impossible for the fish to replenish themselves as fast as humans are capturing them.   Fishing seems like a swell activity that will result in lasting memories with grandfathers and grandsons on a holiday, the world needs to realize it will also result in extinction of many animals.   Elliot Norse of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute in Washington said, "We're not really fishing there.  We're mining there." when asked about deep sea fishing.  Did you know that it takes some types of fish 40 years to mature? That means certain types of fish do not have the ability to reproduce as quickly as we capture them.  The popular film Happy Feet features friendly penguin pals facing environmental difficulties.  The film has partnered up with Seafood Watch in order to raise awareness of the rapidly growing problem of overfishing. http://www2.warnerbros.com/happyfeet/seafood.html <-This link features a video entitled Where did all the fish go? That shares shocking statistics like "90% of the big fish in the world's oceans are gone." GONE!  Please check out the links below to learn more about how to help save seafood and our penguins.

 

References:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx

 

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-02-19-overfishing-depths_x.htm

http://www.care2.com/causes/penguin-species-in-danger-of-extinction.html

Landfills on both solid ground and floating in our lakes and oceans could be diminished through recycling.  The list of things that are thrown away instead of reused and recycled is shocking.  I am ashamed to say I wasn't educate about the simple things I can do to stop adding to the landfills. One woman, LuAnn Foty, began recycling by teaching her children the importance of reusing old crayons by melting them down to create new ones.  Foty's idea blossomed into a company, Crazy Crayons, LLC with her main belief remaining, "If you teach the kids, they teach the parents."  Crazy Crayons has stopped over 80,000 pounds of crayons from entering landfills.  Reading information on this site moved me to send an e-mail to my elementary school asking them to join me in helping to improve the environment. 

Any tennis player knows how quickly the balls lose their bounce, making them virtually useless to an avid player.  I discovered that there is also a company dedicated to putting the bounce back in these balls, the company is so dedicated to the cause they send the donator of the old balls prepaid shipping labels--it costs people NOTHING to recycle something they would have just tossed aside.  The organization, reBounces, has recycled 1,897,808 balls in the last four years. This eliminates countless tons of garbage from landfills.  My summer gym credit was a tennis class, each student had to purchase nine tennis balls because they would lose their bounce so quickly.  This really makes me wonder how many tennis instructors are aware that this type of recycling effort is available to them. 

I found so many different ways we can all help reuse everyday items, I want to share one more.  Sneakers.  Remember a few months ago when a certain C.E.O stole every Penn Staters heart, if you forgot you can watch this again, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbkZFriUZLk - Well, I found something else we can start to love about Nike--the Reuse a Shoe movement. http://www.nikereuseashoe.com/ On this website I learned that you can take old shoes to almost ANY Nike store and have them recycled.  I am ashamed that I never knew how simple other people are making it to save the planet.  The website not only tells people how to recycle shoes, but gives a few other useful tips on how to make a difference.  

Landfills are a problem.  One we contribute to without giving it a second thought.  If you think what you do doesn't make a difference on the world, please, take a moment to read some stories of the inspiring people who decided that they CAN change something.  Take something away from their story and start making your own.

 

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow.cfm?id=earth-day-10-surprising-recyling-efforts

http://www.rebounces.com/ -

www.crazycrayons.com

Pebble Mine

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In southwest Alaska, plans are underway to construct North America's largest copper and gold mine.  Called Pebble Mine, the mine would endeavor to harvest North America's largest known deposit of gold and copper.  Gold has its value in many things, ranging from jewelry to electronic parts, and copper is used in today's technology as well, with its value also seen in the emerging green economy.  Supporters of the mine praise its eventual ability to generate more jobs, and that it will generate immense tax revenue for the state of Alaska.  Also, if successful, the mine could generate around 80 billion pounds of copper, and over 100 million ounces of gold.  However, the bulk of the controversy surrounding the mine comes from its location, which serves to be problematic due to the high environmental hazards that mines can have. 

            Pebble mine would sit between two rivers that drain into Bristol Bay, home to a large fishing industry.  A mine of Pebble's size would produce massive amounts of environmentally hazardous tailings, which could produce acid mine drainage, which I talked about in my first post.  The acidic drainage could seep into Bristol Bay, poisoning the water and killing large populations of fish.  To prevent this, plans have been made to create large dams to store the tailings, filling two valleys with large lakes.  However, the location of the dams would reside in a high earthquake risk area, and if ever an earthquake were to hit, the dams could be damaged to the point where large quantities of sulfuric acid could drain into Bristol Bay. The mine would also have a very significant environmental footprint.  Massive quantities of energy would be needed to power the mine, and roads built to supply and ship material could disrupt eco-systems surrounding the area, potentially throwing off the migration patterns of certain animals, and hindering the hunting practices of local native tribes.  Also, the amount of money generated by the fishing and tourism industry is far more than the possible tax revenue generated from Pebble Mine.

            Pebble, however, has taken these concerns into consideration, investing almost $120 million into research, research which includes studying the potential environmental aspects of its operation.  The mine offers the possibility of mining vast quantities of valuable resources, and studying how it may be developed in an environmentally safe way has become very important.  Alaska as a whole has strict regulations when it comes to mining, and according to the Anchorage Daily News, "Modern Alaska mines have achieved success where others have failed because of the environmental care required by the state coupled with responsible practices exercised by conscientious companies that take environmental stewardship seriously." This is of course in contrast to earlier mining, when things weren't so regulated, and it was much easier to get away with things then it is now, and because of this, it's quite possible that earlier in the 20th century the mine may have been built without a problem. I personally think that it's a little difficult judging just how harmful the mine will be if it hasn't even been built yet. Using past mining operations as an example for the environmental hazards that mines of this caliber can have is an efficient way of predicting what could happen, however until the mine is actually put into motion, one could never know.  There have been mines in the past that have been very successful with tailing storage, and have never had a problem with acid mine drainage.  I feel that as long as they fully study and understand the environmental aspects that Pebble Mine could have, adhere to the regulations put on them by the state, and create roads that wouldn't interfere with the local ecosystems, then Pebble Mine could be an interesting success for Alaska.

 

Works Cited

Taylor, Ken. "Concerned About Pebble Mine? Read This Document."

                   COMPASS: Other Points of View. Anchorage Daily News. 17 March 2012.

                   Web. 30 April 2012

http://www.adn.com/2012/03/16/2375545/concerned-about-pebble-read-this.html

 

 

Coil, David, McKittrick, Erin, Higman, Bretwood. "Pebble Mine (Copper/Gold Prospect)."

                   Ground Truth Trekking. 13 April 2012. Web. 30 April 2012.

http://www.groundtruthtrekking.org/Issues/MetalsMining/PebbleMine.html

Roaming Buffalo in Montana

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Since grade school I've been told that because of game hunting and poaching on the part of the Americans, the American buffalo that roamed the grasslands of the American Prairie are all but a myth. The numbers are so low that one day the American buffalo would become an extinct species. In grade school, other than the few endangered animal projects that were handed out there was never any real activism done, only awareness. Thankfully, there are organizations created to preserve the buffalo.

The American Prairie Reserve (APR), works to, well... preserve the American prairie. I wouldn't have known about this organization if it weren't for a tab on the World Wildlife Fund's website that is dedicated to the Northern Great Plains (there are other great orgs on the website as well).

 The organization is devoted to the "The American Serengeti", and saving the land and wildlife by buying land so that there is open land for the animals of that biome to roam without fear of extinction. In Montana, where the APR is stationed, there is a buffalo ranch dedicated to releasing calves from the Elk Island Reserve in Canada into herds of wild buffalo.  Last month they reintegrated close to 75 calves into a herd, much to the delight of the Salish and Kootenai tribes that were there to witness.

In 2025 the APR is projected to be responsible for close to 5000 buffalo, and be the largest conservation group in the world. Although this number is far from the 60 million that roamed the American prairie 200-years ago, it is amazing to know that there are groups set up to maintain the American buffalo.

 

WWF page dedicated to The Northern Great Plains - http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/wherewework/ngp/projects.html

American Prairie Reserve - http://www.americanprairie.org/

Buffalo releasing in Montana - http://www.economist.com/node/21550292

The Unseen Hazards of the Alaskan Gold Rush

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In today's day and age, it would seem that Alaska is quickly becoming the new "western frontier." Alaska is now the furthest west that Americans today can go, and just like the pioneers of the past, they are determined to go as far as international boundaries will allow them, The west of old appears to be exhausted, with gold and oil rushes being a thing of a romanticized past.  Cowboys are being forgotten in the media, and instead, the spotlight seems to be on Alaska.  Alaska is constantly in the media today, with TV shows like "Flying Wild Alaska," "Ice Road Truckers," "Gold Rush" and "Bering Sea Gold" gaining millions of weekly viewers due to its fascinating portrayal of rugged life in the arctic, as well as the modern day gold rush.  These shows seem to advertise Alaska in a way that would strive to attract people looking for a sense of adventure, or an interesting way to strike it rich.  The mining shows are arguably the most popular of the bunch, with "Gold Rush" being the number one show in all of television on Friday nights while it was airing.  However, while focusing on the struggles and triumphs of the miners in the show, the environmental hazards that gold mining, or mining of that nature in general, called "open-pit mining," are conveniently ignored and never mentioned at all.

Mining in general creates large scale water contamination due to its leaking of chemicals and byproducts into underground water sources. According to Ground Truth Trekking.org, "mining has contaminated...over 40 percent of watersheds in the western continental US" alone.  A big environmental problem that results from mining, especially in Alaska, is that of the tailings, or leftovers from the mining process.  These tailings contain unwanted materials, such as dirt and rocks, but may also contain various other substances that may be hazardous to the environment if leaked into the water system. One common substance left behind in tailings is iron sulfide, which when exposed to air or water reacts and turns into sulfuric acid. According to Ground Truth Trekking.org, when the sulfuric acid is introduced to water, it makes it much more acidic, and can cause various toxic heavy metals to leach into the water.  The acidic water can get so bad that nothing but bacteria can survive when contaminated. This environmental issue is known as acid mine drainage.  Since many mines, especially gold mines, rely on close large quantities of water to function, the ease of contamination is evident.  There are ways to control and prevent acid contamination, however these methods of prevention, as well as the hazards themselves are never scene on the reality TV shows showcasing gold mining.  I feel that if audiences were clued in to the potential environmental hazards that gold mining can have, then it would be a very efficient way to cause awareness, especially since millions of viewers watch the show every week. However, it would seem that the networks are wary of turning off viewers, and instead focus on the romantic aspects of gold mining, as well as the struggles of the everyday man in order to keep viewers coming back every week.

 

Works Cited

           

Bibel, Sara. "Discovery Unveils 2012-13 Upfront Slate Including 4 New Series and 12 Returning    Series."

TV By the Numbers. Zap2it. 5 April 2012. Web. 30 April 2012

         

Coil, David, McKittrick, Erin, Higman, Bretwood. "Alaska Metals Mining."

           Ground Truth Trekking. 19 April 2012. Web. 30 April 2012.

Nuclear Waste and Yucca Mountain

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 Some say that nuclear energy is the way to a greener future, after all nuclear power plants do not emit carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides. However, there are some downfalls to nuclear power the most important one being nuclear waste. "There is pretty much no knowledge in the human repertoire on how to handle such long lasting toxic substances, so industry relies on that old standby, computer projections, and counts on the Earth to take care of it," (LaDuke 97). Winona LaDuke in her book All Our Nations explains to readers that the United States government has been trying to "dump" nuclear waste on reservation lands and that Yucca Mountain, located in Nevada and on Western Shoshone territory, is going to be the final resting place of copious amounts of nuclear waste. Currently nuclear power makes up 20 percent of the country's electricity. We need to encourage our government to put more money into finding actual green, renewable energy sources, and there also needs to be a new plan of action for containing all of the hazardous waste we have created.


Luckily for the Shoshone people, Nevada was also, for lack of a better term, pissed about the plans for Yucca Mountain. This was a project that was not volunteered, but being forced on not only the native Shoshone people, but also the state as a whole. In 2009, President Barack Obama ended the Yucca Mountain project, which by that time already had $15 billion invested into it, and parts of the new laboratory are already constructed. If the bill to make Yucca Mountain passed, "it would authorize the transportation of up to 90,000 shipments of nuclear waste on American highways and railways across the country," (LaDuke 108). LaDuke also points out that 50 million Americans live within a half-mile of the most likely highways.


The Blue Ribbon Commission was formed and released its findings in January of 2012. The report outlined three crucial elements: 

1. They recommend a consentbased approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities, noting that trying to force such facilities on unwilling states, tribes and communities has not worked.'

2. The responsibility for the nation's nuclear waste management program should be transferred to a new organization; one that is independent of the Department of Energy and dedicated solely to assuring the safe storage and ultimate disposal of spent nuclear waste fuel and high level radioactive waste.

3. They recommended changing the manner in which fees being paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund - about $750 million a year - are treated in the federal budget to ensure they are being set aside and available for use as Congress initially intended.


Here is a video that talks about another solution for storing nuclear waste:



Sources and Site for more information:

USA Today article about Yucca Mountain and the results of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Blue Ribbion Commission website.

Environmental Protection Agency for information about the pros and cons of nuclear power. 


Mother's Milk Project

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In her book All Our Relations, Winona La Duke sheds light on the issue of PCB's and the fact that these toxins are accumulated via water, and they are stored in body fat and excreted through breast milk. These toxins are being pumped into the water by multi-million dollar corporations such as General Motors, and other industrial plants located near the Mohawk reservation in upstate New York. Katsi Cook, a Mohawk woman, became curious as to if and how this would effect the babies being breast fed by other Mohawk women. This curiosity was the basis for the founding of the Mother's Milk Project, something that still is used to inform pregnant and breastfeeding woman of the dangers of PCB's and other dangerous contaminants.

In 1985, Katsi helped with the creation of the Akwesasne Mother's Milk Project. The project was designed to "understand and characterize how toxic contaminants have moved through the local food chain, including mothers' milk," also stating that another goal was to get woman within the community to learn how to apply science in their everyday lives. The research project was funded by the U.S. Congress, and studied 50 new mothers over several years. The project showed a 200% greater concentration of PCB's in the breast mild of mothers eating fish from the St. Lawrence River near the reservation as opposed to the general population.

Mohawk mothers, much to their outrage, were told to continue breast feeding by Mohawk officials despite the project's finding. Katsi stated, "Our traditional lifestyle has been completely disrupted, and we have been forced to protect our future generations....Although we are relieved that our responsible choices at the present protect our babies, this does not preclude the corporate responsibility of General Motors and other local industries to clean up the site."

It is not fair for the mothers and their babies are being punished by General Motors and the other industrial plants located near the reservation. Though they have stood up against GM, it is an ongoing battle. It is our job as caring individuals to not only inform other woman of the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in breast milk, but to also support the Mohawk woman in their attempts to take down GM. This isn't something that just effects Mohawk mothers, but all mothers, as the contaminants can get into the water all over the world. By visiting the Mothers Milk Project website at www.MothersMilkProject.org , one can learn all of the facts related to the harmful toxins being found in breast milk. There is also information on how to give a milk sample for testing, as well as important events coming up for the project. "We believe 'breast is best' and our babies should be protected from insidious contaminants" said Nancy Burton, co-founder of the Mother's Milk Project. This project is very important and I strongly urge anyone to read up on it and inform others, with the hopes that knowledge really is power, and that a change can be made in the environment by standing together and standing up.

References:

La Duke, Winona. All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. Print.

"Mothers Milk Project." Mothers Milk Project. Web. 27 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mothersmilkproject.org/>.

Save the Pacific

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When I think of the West, as we have been covering in class, I often think of California. Having spent a lot of time over a few Summers there, California, and in particular the Los Angeles and Santa Monica areas, it is very near and dear to my heart. I was not shocked, but very saddened to learn that recently California is experiencing problems with trash in the Pacific Ocean killing wildlife. The West is a place that people go to experience new and great things, and one of them should not be a polluted ocean.


According to environmentcalifornia.com, Californians throw away 123,000 tons of plastic bags each year, and many of them end up in the ocean. Today, there are 100 million tons of trash in the North Pacific Gyre, and in some parts of the Pacific, plastic outweighs plankton 6 to 1. This trash in the Pacific is creating an ecological disaster, according to Environment California. Turtles and sea birds often ingest the trash, thinking its food. They also get entangled in bags and often drown or die of suffocation. Toxic pollutants also leak from the plastic into the water. Scientists are now studying whether fish and other marine life absorb these toxic pollutants. If so, there is a good chance that we also absorb them when we eat the products of the sea. 


The effects of this are being tackled at great lengths already, but it is imperative that everyone stand up to help make a change. Great progress in educating the public on the harmful effects of plastic has been made, and today, bags are banned, or soon will be banned, in 40 California communities. "It's a great start, but we're not stopping until we rid the whole state of plastic bag pollution," states Environment California.


With outside help, Environment California believes they can put a state wide ban on the plastic bags that are harming the ocean animals and in turn could also be harming those eating the fish from the ocean. By going to http://environmentcalifornia.org/programs/keep-plastic-out-pacific and clicking on the "help protect ocean wildlife"tab on the right hand side, you personally can send Governor Jerry Brown to support a statewide ban on plastic bags. More information and ways to help out are also available on the cite. Though you may not live on the West Coast, it is still important to help support the movement as someday the issue could effect you as well. Do your part and help save the wildlife in the Pacific Ocean!

20090422-tows-fabien-cousteau-1-290x218.jpg

References:

"Keep Plastic out of the Pacific."Environment California. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://environmentcalifornia.org/programs/keep-plastic-out-pacific>.


"The World's Biggest Landfill - Ocean Pollution - Oprah.com."Oprah.com. Web. 28 Apr. 2012. <http://www.oprah.com/world/Ocean-Pollution-Fabien-Cousteaus-Warning-to-the-World>. 

Surmounting Native American Conflicts

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Throughout the semester, we have discussed the difficulties imposed on Native American tribes throughout the western United States.  As we have seen, Native Americans suffer disproportionately to other ethnic groups in the United States due to the reservation system, unscrupulous entities who would use their land, through climate change, and through stereotype and prejudice.   Though the reservation system may be Native American's only current option following the United States government taking their lands, these other problem areas can be improved on for the benefit of native people and American society as a whole.  It will take a combined effort to address these issues, but remediation will be key toward a progressive American culture comprised of coexisting ethnicities and nationalities. 

In researching some of the conflicts facing Native American tribes, I came across some articles that provide additional information about the problem of dumping on reservation lands and climate change's effect in general on reservation land.  David Kelly of the Los Angeles Times reports that in California, Nevada, and Arizona, illegal dumping contributes to pollution and residents fear their health is at risk.  Kelly inspected the illegal dump of George Auclair, a Torres Martinez tribal member, who has recently been fined millions for the site.  Auclair apologized for his actions, but Kelly notes that illegal dumping has been a source of revenue for many in the area.  Kelly interviewed Lt. Mark Barfknecht of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department who remarked, "People who have objected to the running of an illegal dump have had their families threatened...As recently as 18 months ago there was a school project where kids living in and around the reservation filmed the burning in the illegal dumps and were chased off by armed men. (David, 2007)"

In addition to this manmade environmental problem, there is the growing problem of climate change and its effect on this country.  According to John Broder of the New York Times, Native Americans feel the effects of climate change disproportionately to other groups within the United States.  Broder cites a recent study by the National Wildlife Federation which states, "American Indians and Alaska natives are more dependent than most other Americans on natural resources and on the bounty of oceans and rivers and thus are particularly at risk from the effects of a warming planet... (Broder, 2011)" Clearly, something must be done to assist Native American people adapt to a changing planet.  Native Americans need to be assisted with increased federal funding to adapt their lands to the changing climate.  Additionally, the United States needs to make greater use of solar, hydro, and wind power to accommodate America's vast energy needs while limiting the effect of its consumption on the delicate environment. 

Though Native Americans struggle to an unfair extent, this injustice can be corrected with some simple behavior by us all.  Just by thinking twice about where your refuse will end up is one way of helping these people.  Also, being mindful of your own carbon footprint can slow down your impact on climate change.  Finally, one must be culturally sensitive to the needs of others and mindful of the fact that we are all different parts of a whole who must work together to maintain a good stewardship of our planet. 

Works Cited

Broder, John. "Climate Change an Extra Burden for Native Americans, Study Says." New York Times on the Web 3 Aug. 2011. 30 Apr. 2012 <http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/03/climate-change-an-extra-burden-for-native-americans-study-says/>.

Kelly, David. "Reservation's Toxic umps a Multilayered Nightmare." Los Angeles Times 2 Jun. 2007. 30 Apr. 20012 <http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/02/local/me-dump2 >.

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