News Briefs 

It’s not a dog’s life at Brooks AFB

The research laboratory at Brooks Air Force Base has been named “the most painful laboratory in the U.S.” in a recent report by Stop Animal Exploitation NOW!

The animal-rights watchdog group based its findings on federal documents that show 43 percent of 2,091 animals in Brooks AFB labs experience “unrelieved pain during experiments,” because they’re “conducted without the benefit of anesthesia.”

Brooks’ spokesman Ed Shannon replied that Air Force researchers “make every effort to ensure animals are treated humanely during all stages of research.” He added that Brooks “uses primarily rats and mice” and is “seeking alternatives to animal use,” including computer modeling.

SAEN alleges that Brooks is violating provisions of the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, which regulates the treatment of most warm-blooded animals held by zoos, laboratories, and pet stores. The report stated that between 2004 and 2005, 15 dogs, five primates, 685 mice, and 202 rats experienced “unrelieved pain” at Brooks AFB. In “Protocol 2003-06” at Brooks, eye damage was inflicted on six primates to assess recovery time from laser-induced retinal injury.

According to the Department of Defense’s Biomedical Research Database, Brooks’ laboratories receive almost $5.4 million a year in funding to conduct “a different kind of research,” SAEN’s Michael Budkie explained. Military research focuses on laser injury, irradiation research, microwave, and chemical-weapons analysis to gauge human thresholds.

Research labs throughout Texas, including those at UTSA and Southwest Research Institute, experimented on more than 33,000 animals in 2003.

The SAEN report states that the “research projects do not appear to be unique in nature” and that “many of the projects are potentially duplicative `and` appear to be very long lived.”

The United States Department of Agriculture is charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act; however, the USDA also experiments on animals. SAEN said the reason a large number of animals are being experimented with is, “for most federal facilities, the lack of independent oversight is a problem. It can take years to get data about what’s going on because you have to go through the Freedom of Information Act.”

Budkie likened the USDA and Brooks AFB to “the fox guarding the henhouse but with Brooks, the fox isn’t even allowed in.”

For more information, visit saen/

Francesca Camillo

Guajardo supporters rally

More than 100 San Antonio residents, including many from District 7, packed City Council Chambers last week to support Councilwoman Elena Guajardo, whom critics have implicated in the suicide of Zachry employee George Dickerson. `See “Troubled company,” February 8-14, 2006, “The blame game,” February 22-28, 2006`.

Dickerson’s friend Allen Ellerbracht, who lives in District 7, has attended several Council meetings, and vowed to gather signatures on a petition to recall Guajardo.

Her supporters booed Ellerbracht as he spewed his invectives at Guajardo and Councilmembers during Citizens to be Heard last Thursday. Ellerbracht then led a small band of Guajardo detractors from Council Chambers as more supporters spoke in her favor.

Local political-science professor Jeff Harmon accused Ellerbracht of pursuing his own agenda through “hate speech. None of this is really about Mr. Dickerson; it’s about him and his agenda. The news won’t talk about that.”

“I defended Elena and WOAI called me to defend myself,” said Balcones Heights City Councilman Steve Walker of the Clear Channel station’s anti-Guajardo coverage. “Elena, I still love you. You’re still my friend; we will continue to work together.”

Former San Antonio City Councilwoman Maria Berriozabal said it was time for “deep sympathy for Mr. Dickerson,” but asked councilmembers to “adopt a resolution against intolerance, against bigotry, and to encourage Zachry to do likewise with their employees. During my 10 years on City Council, we did not allow personal attacks on any councilmembers.”

Berriozabal said that when people of color hear phrases such as “the other side of town,” “across the railroad tracks,” and other racially tinged phrases, “We know what that means. We have grown up in this city. We have learned how to live with this.”

City Hall lobbyist Richard Alles expressed his appreciation for Guajardo’s willingness to work on citywide issues, and he suggested a future headline for the Express-News’ Ken Rodriguez, who attacked Guajardo in his column last week: “Ken Rodriguez, the votes are in, we want Rick Casey back.”

Michael Cary

Authors to discuss Mexican migration

The building at the corner of Commerce and Colorado now houses Café Don Juan and a hair salon, but in 1924, hundreds of Mexicans crowded in front of W.J. Lewis’ Alamo City Employment Agency, 1401 W. Commerce, nibbling on bread as they waited to be dispatched to jobs as far away as Minnesota.

While Congress argues about managing the flow of illegal immigrants, most of them Mexican, into the United States — building fences, penalizing employers, and imposing jail sentences on those who re-cross the border — authors and professors Jorge Durand and Patricia Arias argue in their book, La Vida en El Norte (University of Guadalajara Press), that the recent debate is merely another installment in 100 years of fickle immigration policy, in which the U.S. takes little, if any, responsibility for encouraging foreigners to work here.

Durand and Arias will speak about the history of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on Mexican laborers at Trinity University March 6.

The History and Iconography of Mexican Migration to the United States

4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 6

Trinity University
Coates University Center

San Antonio is featured in their book, which has yet to be printed in English, as one of the primary launching points for the Mexican diaspora. The advent of Mexican railroads and their connectivity to U.S. cities, including San Antonio, allowed Mexicans to travel easily in search of work; in turn, employment companies such as W.J. Lewis established offices where they could cherrypick from the labor pool.

The American economy has long depended on foreign workers, but policymakers use them only as long as it’s convenient. For example, during World War II, a shortage of American labor prompted the establishment of the bracero program, which allowed Mexicans to work legally in the U.S. Yet after the war, when veterans returned to the workplace, the U.S. deported Mexican laborers en masse; they had become inconvenient.

In the late 19th and 20th centuries, illegal immigrants worked difficult and dangerous jobs in poultry factories, agriculture, and foundries. They lived in boxcars or shacks, earned low wages, and were tricked, usually because of language barriers, into signing one-sided labor contracts. Today, more rigorous fair-employment laws haven’t improved the Mexican workers’ lot. They often work without access to medical care or health insurance, and have few labor rights. And when the suits on Capitol Hill decide a guest worker program is too politically costly, they can always send the workers back.

Lisa Sorg

Candidates preach to choir on environmental issues

A Trinity environmental forum on Sunday, February 26, was a poor reflection of Texas’ environmental politics: The approximately 2,429 empty seats of the Laurie Auditorium only emphasized the absence of concerned citizens, and panel seats left symbolically empty mocked the absentee candidates, including Congressional candidates Jessie Bouley, Michael Idrogo, Mark Rossano, Representative Lamar Smith, Clifford Messina, and Henry Cuellar.

Sponsored by Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas, Trinity's urban studies program, Texas Environmental Watch Alliance, and other local environmental groups, the forum was moderated by journalist and Trinity history professor Char Miller.

In nearly every case, as Miller’s questions were met with nods of agreement from candidates: District 20 U.S. Representative Charlie Gonzalez, James Strohm (Libertarian, District 21), John Courage (Democrat, District 21), Victor Morales (Democrat, District 28), and former District 28 U.S. Representative Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat, said they would not support President Bush’s effort to gut the Clean Water Restoration Act. Nor would they support pro-industry efforts to weaken NEPA, a law that requires every federal agency to assess the environmental impact of its actions, and to provide a mechanism for public input on federal decision making, or oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Alaska is a treasure. Bush says Americans are addicted to oil,” said Courage, “but he wants to dig more wells. He says ANWR will reduce our ties to the Middle East, that’s just not true; U.S. studies show it will not and it will only lower the cost of oil by one cent. We need to work on new technologies.”

Although Strohm gave a mealy answer about Libertarians supporting free trade (in general, Strohm and Morales while taking a pro-environment stance, were the least versed on the issues), the rest of the candidates said they would have or did vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement because it doesn’t adequately protect the environment. “I think you can have a good debate when it comes to whether CAFTA will increase or decrease jobs,” said Gonzalez. “But it’s hard to debate whether or not CAFTA should impose environmental and labor laws, especially when we can develop such sophisticated laws regarding patents, for example. Not to have environmental laws puts the U.S. at a disadvantage.”

The candidates were not as comfortable with local issues, giving vague answers to questions such as how they would meet the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s mandate to protect endangered species by ensuring a continuous minimum spring flow of the Comal and San Marcos Springs by December 31, 2012.

Fluoride was the only subject on which the candidate’s answers varied dramatically. An audience member asked the candidates whether they would support a national moratorium on programs to add fluoride to drinking water because of possible cancer risk. Gonzalez said that he would not support a moratorium because the citizens had voted to put fluoride in the water; Courage said he would strongly consider it; Strohm said he would not, unless it was for economic reasons; Rodriguez said he would consider it if presented with significant evidence of fluorides’ toxicity; Morales said he didn’t know.

Audience members were also concerned about global climate change, and asked candidates how they would prioritize the issue. Only Morales said it was a high priority. Both Rodriguez and Courage said that they would have to place it below health care, education, and jobs.

“`Global warming` is a reality. Personally, I’m a snow skier. The snow’s no good in New Mexico y’all,” quipped Strohm. “It’s going to impact tourism, so we have to do everything to try to mitigate it.”

“First the administration wouldn’t admit that global warming existed, now they say it exists, but for different reasons; it’s not our fault,” said Gonzalez. “The U.S. should take the lead because it produces the most emissions, but its not going to happen in this administration. It’s a dollars and cents issue, and first we have to make the average citizen aware of the consequences, but the truth is we can’t even get people interested in health care and education. But I do appreciate your concern.”

“Y’all have the hardest job,” he added. “We are consumer obsessed — we have people buying two and three cars, 5,000-square-foot houses with central air in the garage. How do you undo that? We have homemakers going to the grocery story in cars made to hunt elephants and you think I can reach them? A social conscience is an oddity.”

By Susan Pagani



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