FEMA LOOKS FOR A FEW GOOD MEN (AND WOMEN)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will recruit and train an army of 400,000 Citizen Corps volunteers in medical care and other skills to be at the ready for the next possible terrorist attack, FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh told UPI Tuesday.
The plan is to harness the American patriotic spirit in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, and it reflects new responsibilities for FEMA as the agency takes center stage in the war on terrorism with ramped-up budgets and power in the federal government. "Everyone wants to help," Allbaugh said. "This is a great mechanism for Americans."
Allbaugh said the role designated for his agency in Bush's 2003 security plan will virtually transform FEMA and double its budget to $6.5 billion -- making it the go-to agency for helping state and local governments prepare for terrorist attacks and other emergencies. He said his agency would absorb the Justice Department Office of National Preparedness, and at FEMA this office is already working on plans to help recruit, train and field the citizen volunteers across America and dole out grant money to states.
This would be the largest federally led volunteer effort since the Air Raid wardens of World War II and will enlist the outpouring of private citizens anxious to take part in the defense of their country.
Under Bush's budget proposal, released Monday, the agency will become the sole source of a $3.5 billion flood in grants to state and local government "first responders" and will oversee the establishment of a new army of citizen volunteers, designed after the Peace Corps to be called the Citizen Corps.
Allbaugh said FEMA will actually increase in size relatively little as he commits his staff to getting that money "out the door" to the states. "I want to get that money out the door and on the street and not have it sucked up in government bureaucracy," he said.
"I work directly for the president of the United States," Allbaugh explained, "so he has a person, when an incident takes place, he can pick up the phone and say, 'What is going on? What are we doing? How are we responding to this?' I am that person."
The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is planning a boycott of the grocery store giant Safeway, claiming the supermarket chain has committed numerous acts of cruelty to farm animals.
PETA said it'll formally announce the boycott at a news conference Wednesday in San Francisco near Safeway's headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif. The group also said it would show video footage of animal abuse on farms employed by Safeway.
Bruce Friedrich, PETA's senior campaign coordinator, said some footage will feature a farmer at Seaboard Farms in Guymon, Okla., beating and kicking pigs, slamming pigs into concrete floors and hitting the animals with metal hammers. Friedrich said the footage was obtained during a three-month undercover investigation conducted in early 2001.
Safeway -- which own 17 meat and dairy plants and sells its own brand name products in its stores -- buys meat, eggs and dairy products directly from farms such as Seaboard.
Friedrich said PETA is not trying to get Safeway to force major meat producers -- such as Purdue which farms chicken, and Jimmy Dean which makes sausage -- to meet basic animal welfare standards. Instead, PETA wants to see Safeway enforce animal standards at farms from which it makes purchases for its own brand name products.
When asked for comment on PETA's actions, Brian Dowling, vice president of public affairs for Safeway, told UPI, "I don't know what PETA is trying to do." He added he would look into seeing whether the company had a response. Subsequent calls were not returned.
Other corporate giants have been targeted by the animal welfare agency before. PETA campaigned against fast-food chains Wendy's, Burger King and McDonald's and successfully pressured them to improve their animal welfare policies. It said it wants to see Safeway follow these restaurants' examples. Such standards include more humane slaughtering methods involving giving animals injections to make them insensitive to pain and also providing sufficient grounds that avoid overcrowding animals.
Safeway -- one of the biggest supermarket chains in the country -- operates about 1,750 stores nation wide. The boycott also is to include Safeway's subsidiaries Vons, Pavilions, Dominick's, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Genuardi's and Carrs.
Florida wildlife officials are tentatively blaming the state's warm winter weather for 16 deaths of manatees from boats in January -- the highest number for one month, at least since the species became endangered.
The previous high was 14 in April 2000.
The officials said the weather, which averaged 10 degrees above normal for most of last month, dispersed the manatees that normally seek warm water spots -- such as near power plants -- and also brought out more boaters.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is urging boaters to reduce speeds even in areas that aren't posted for speeds.
"We want to inform the boating community that their diligence, maybe not just around the power plants, might help reduce the continuation of this high level of mortality," said Kipp Frolich of the commission.
The dispute over manatee protection between boaters and environmentalists has continued for years and with the increased number of deaths it's expected to heat up. Recreational boating groups are fighting state and federal plans for more slow-speed and no-entry zones. They argue that increasing deaths are the result of more manatees in the water.
LOVE MAKES THE WORLD GO 'ROUND
Love means spending time together. That's according to a Valentine's Day poll commissioned by the American Heart Association. When asked the best way to show someone you care, more than 50 percent of people surveyed cited togetherness --- making it the No.1 answer. Time fared better than showing affection or buying expensive gifts like jewelry, clothes or electronics.
Four out of 10 people polled said they preferred to celebrate Valentine's Day with dinner at a restaurant, while nearly 30 percent felt a vacation or getaway was the most romantic way to celebrate the holiday. But don't bring the kids or make it a group activity. Most people report they prefer to spend Valentine's Day with their spouse or significant other. Valentine's Day with family and children ranked a distant second.
Americans picked health over love, money and fame. More than half (53 percent) of all people questioned felt health was more important than love (39 percent), money (7 percent) or fame (1 percent).
They also believe relationships are important to health. Six out of 10 of those surveyed believed strongly that relationships affect their overall health. However, only about two in 10 felt taking care of their loved one's health or their own health was the best way to show caring toward a loved one.
But are the Valentine's Day staples --- wine and chocolate --- good for your health? Nearly seven out of 10 Americans believe drinking wine is good for your health, and more than 50 percent think chocolates have or may have health benefits as well.
While research has found that eating dark chocolate can have a positive effect on LDL (bad cholesterol) because of the flavonoids in it, the high fat content is the reason for limiting the amount of chocolate one eats. While red wine also contains flavonoids, right now the American Heart Association doesn't recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to achieve these potential benefits.
The survey was conducted as part of the organization's Power of Love fund-raising campaign.