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Document: Governor Kate Brown Ethics Policy Summary

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As More Imported Foods Reach the Dinner Table, Holes Remain in FDA Safety Net

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In April 2012, a team of inspectors from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigated a seafood company in southern India that had been exporting tons of frozen yellowfin tuna to the United States. What they found was not appetizing: water tanks rife with microbiological contamination, rusty carving knives, peeling paint above the work area, unsanitary bathrooms and an outdoor ice machine covered with insects and “apparent bird feces,” according to the report.

The FDA issued an “import alert” that barred Moon Fishery India Pvt. Ltd. from shipping fish to the United States. But the damage to public health had been done. By the time the FDA got around to inspecting the plant, a salmonella outbreak was erupting around the country. Ultimately, 425 people in 28 states and the District of Columbia were sickened, with victims ranging from babies to octogenarians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 55 people were hospitalized.

The fact that tons of bad fish had sailed into this country was not a surprise. The FDA has been outgunned and overmatched for years as a rising tide of imported food has found a place at the U.S. dinner table. Because of budget constraints, ordinarily only 1 percent to 2 percent of food imports are physically inspected by the agency at the border each year. Typically, operations such as the one in India that supply foods for the U.S. market are inspected only if something goes terribly wrong.

And the threat of illness from imports may be growing. According to an analysis of FDA data by FairWarning and the Investigative News Network, the FDA today rejects about the same number of shipments of foreign food as it did a decade ago – when imports were less than half the current level.

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Fishing reform drives inequality in Alaska's coastal communities

 

The third installment in our trilogy of fish stories by Lee van der Voo appears in the Dec. 9 issue of High Country News.

KAKE, ALASKA — Henrich Kadake remembers when halibut was king in this mostly Native outpost on the remote coast of Kupreanof Island, a hundred miles south of Juneau. As he pilots his truck through the cluster of old wooden buildings on a rainy spring day, he points out the fish hatchery and the Kake Cannery complex, constructed from 1912 to 1940, now a national historic landmark. One of the world's most famous totem poles – taller than a 10-story building – stands on a bluff; it was carved in 1967 for the Alaska Purchase Centennial, then installed here after being displayed at the 1970 World's Fair in Japan.

The natural features that made this a good place for the Kake Tribe of Tlingit Indians to begin settling here in 1891 – including six salmon-bearing streams and marine habitat for halibut, clams and crab – are still present. But as Kadake knows all too well, in recent years, Kake has become a place that people leave.

Fishing has historically been the chief employer, but a federal program that was supposed to help preserve and enhance the local fishing economy has instead helped cause a severe decline. Over the last five years, the village's population has dropped by half, to 500, as people leave to seek work elsewhere. School enrollment slid from 210 to 97. The exodus has included six of Kadake's sisters, several of his children, his grandchildren and friends.

"That's the hardest time I ever had in my life – watching my own family move out of town," says Kadake, who was born here in 1944 and is now the hoodie-clad mayor as well as a board member of the tribal corporation, which is separate from the town's government.

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Timeline: Fish Consumption Rate

For more than 10 months, bureaucrats and business, politicians and tribes influenced the Department of Ecology's ultimate decision to slam the brakes on fish consumption. Full emails and reports can be seen here.

Read the Reporting Behind this Timeline

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Fish Consumption Records from the Governor's Office

The documents in this collection include communications to and from the Washington State governor's office obtained by InvestigateWest through a public records request.

 
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Who gets rich when halibut goes from $3.99 to $28 a pound in two decades?

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Two decades ago a pound of halibut sold in frozen bricks for less than $4. Then the government privatized the industry, putting in place a first-in-the-nation system called catch shares that stabilized the fishery and sent prices soaring. But it was a move that created basic inequities in a system that has yet to right itself. 

This week in Seattle Weekly, Lee van der Voo has the story for InvestigateWest.

Guys like Jared Bright vie for control of the industry's lower rungs, the only rungs that seem to be left. Simply put, they're renters. They don't own the halibut, not even when it lands in their boats. The fish are instead the property of a generation of wealthy owners, most of whom did nothing more than fish in the right place at the right time to get a stake.

Their ownership rights came courtesy of the federal government. At the time, it was a good idea. In ways, it still is. But it's created what amounts to a feudal system over a natural resource.

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Pediatric MS cases rise in the Northwest

The Pacific Northwest has one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world, yet the reasons why remain elusive. It’s an old mystery, but one that now has a new face. Today, doctors are seeing a growing number of cases in kids. They hope these young patients will yield more clues to what causes the disease.

MS is an autoimmune disease that causes nerve damage over time. It’s more common at higher latitudes, and tends to affect more women than men. Eventually, it can impair someone’s mobility, their vision – even their thinking and memory. It’s always been known as a “prime-of-life” disease, one that typically strikes in young adulthood.

For Allexis, now a senior at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, that wasn’t the case. She was diagnosed when she was 14 years old.

It started one Friday during the summer two years ago.

“I couldn’t sleep because I had the worst headache,” she said. “Out of a scale of one to 10, it was a 15.” She tried to go for her regular morning run the next day, and things got worse.

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If Green Roofs And Rain Gardens Are So Great, Why Aren’t There More?

Grants helped pay for this rain garden to be built in West Seattle. Property owners
who choose to build rain gardens see it as a way to beautify their property, increase property values
and reduce pollution through stormwater runoff.
Katie Campbell/EarthFix

The most pervasive water pollution source in American cities and suburbs is the contaminant-laced rainwater that sloughs off hard surfaces like streets and parking lots after a heavy rain, carrying with it the toxic debris of modern life.

Clean Water: The Next Act

This little-noticed form of pollution kills fish and other aquatic creatures, pollutes drinking-water supplies and scours away streambeds that fish such as salmon need to lay eggs. At least since the 1970s, scientists and engineers have been devising methods to intercept –- or better yet, never generate –- this so-called stormwater.

Yet these methods still are not widely mandated, making stormwater one of the leading reasons the Clean Water Act –- passed into law 40 years ago today -– has failed to meet its goal of making all American waterways fishable and swimmable.

Experts’ modern consensus: Handling stormwater is all about building our cities differently, with more greenery to slurp up the rainwater. Techniques to accomplish this include specially designed swales, green roofs, rain gardens and porous pavement that allows the water to soak into the ground instead of gurgling into a stream.

So why are these techniques – part of a new building approach commonly dubbed low-impact development or green stormwater infrastructure – not more widely required in the Pacific Northwest when a developer plunks down building plans at City Hall today?

The explanation differs according to the state:

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