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The top 10 stories not brought to you by mainstream news media in 2008 and 2009
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The long-term contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than Chernobyl."

Shearon Harris' track record is pocked with problems requiring temporary shutdowns of the plant and malfunctions of the facility's emergency-warning system.

When a study was sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission highlighting the safety risks and recommending technological fixes to address the problem, St. Clair noted, a pro-nuclear commissioner successfully persuaded the agency to dismiss the concerns.

Source: "Pools of Fire," Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, Aug. 9, 2008

5. U.S. FAILS TO PROTECT CONSUMERS AGAINST TOXICS

Two years ago, the European Union enacted a bold new environmental policy requiring close scrutiny and restriction of toxic chemicals used in everyday products. Invisible perils such as lead in lipstick, endocrine disruptors in baby toys, and mercury in electronics can threaten human health. The European legislation aimed to gradually phase out these toxic materials and replace them with safer alternatives.

The story that has gone unreported by mainstream American news media is how this game-changing legislation might affect the U.S., where chemical corporations use lobbying muscle to ensure comparatively lax oversight of toxic substances. As global markets shift to favor safer consumer products, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is lagging in its own scrutiny of insidious chemicals.

As investigative journalist Mark Schapiro pointed out in Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power, the EPA's tendency to behave as if it were beholden to big business could backfire in this case, placing U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage because products manufactured here will be regarded with increasing distrust.

Economics aside, the implications of loose restrictions on toxic products are chilling: just one-third of the 267 chemicals on the EU's watch list have ever been tested by the EPA, and only two are regulated under federal law. Meanwhile, researchers at UC Berkeley estimate that 42 billion pounds of chemicals enter American commerce daily, and only a fraction have undergone risk assessments. When it comes to meeting the safer, more stringent EU standard, the stakes are high — with consequences including economic impacts as well as public health.

Sources: "European Chemical Clampdown Reaches Across Atlantic," David Biello, Scientific American, Sept. 30, 2008; "How Europe's New Chemical Rules Affect U.S.," Environmental Defense Fund, Sept. 30, 2008; "U.S. Lags Behind Europe in Reguutf8g Toxicity of Everyday Products," Mark Schapiro, Democracy Now! Feb. 24, 2009

6. AS ECONOMY SHRINKS, D.C. LOBBYING GROWS

In 2008, as the economy tumbled and unemployment soared, Washington lobbyists working for special interests were paid $3.2 billion — more than any other year on record. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, special interests spent a collective $32,523 per legislator, per day, for every day Congress was in session.

One event that triggered the lobbying boom, according to CRP director Sheila Krumholz, was the federal bailout — with the federal government ensuring that the lobbyists got a piece of the pie. Ironically, some of the first in line were the same players who helped precipitate the nation's sharp economic downturn by engaging in high-risk, speculative lending practices.

"Even though some financial, insurance and real estate interests pulled back last year, they still managed to spend more than $450 million as a sector to lobby policymakers," Krumholz noted.