~e; medicino's cellular task force

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Wed, 23 Jan 2002 13:23:31 -0600

  [see origional article for active URLs to serveral links in the
story... what is
  difficult about this story is the eithor-or aspect of a
linear-logic, of economics,
  of reasoning, of action. someone will win, someone will lose. that
is how it is to
  be presented, but is a misrepresentation of the issues at hand. people who are
  sensitive to environmental stressors, EM being a magnificent example, then i'd
  say these intellectual ostriches better pull their heads out of the
dark ages and
  get the fuzz in the gray areas of their minds. the question isn'
whether one group
  who needs wireless free activities will take away free-speech of a
college radio
  station, as it is presented. and ideally, it would not need to be in
these terms if
  any reasonable situation to resolve this conflict were paradoxical, where both
  can have valid views, and both need accompidation, but through cooperation and
  not compeititive social darwinism, where the dark-ages of the mind refute any
  _possibility, 'as the science is not there to prove anything', that
people _can_
  indeed feel in an disharmoic energetic place, where it takes a toll.
if electro-
  cution kills people, could not someone in a cage bombarded with EM signals at
  high-strengths also be affected? humans are basically electromagnetic motors,
  and so the fields do have influence upon the human physiology. what, debated,
  but that it does, validated. the gray area, what about it. especially once the
  lawsuits from the mobile-phone antennaes today that put out as much signal
  into the human brain as the atmosphere? when will the lawsuits fly on that
  issue? or, any of the wireless technologies, or electrical... would be quite
  a disturbance if the probability of something beneficial also haveing a molar
  negative influence, is also discovered, health and sickness. so how could this
  one issue, EM, escape that universality. not to be wondered. only
its arrival.]

Mendocino, CA: Microwave Hot Seat
By Julia Scheeres

2:00 a.m. Jan. 22, 2002 PST
  From Wired News, available online at:

Arthur Firstenberg moved from New York City to Mendocino, a quaint
Victorian village on California's rugged Northern Coast, to escape
the radio frequencies he believes were making him sick.

The 51-year-old says he is "electrically sensitive," meaning he
believes he can detect, and is harmed by, the electromagnetic fields
emitted by everything from hair dryers to power lines.

Firstenberg is one of a growing number of people around the globe who
claim they suffer from the same condition. And since wireless
technology burst onto the scene in the mid '90s, they say, there are
fewer and fewer places to hide from radio frequency pollution.

"The world is a minefield for people with electrical sensitivity,"
said Firstenberg, the author of Microwaving Our Planet, a book that
blames radio frequencies for everything from irritability to cancer.

Firstenberg is the president of The Cellular Task Force, a national
organization of people who claim they are electrically sensitive, and
a member of Wireless Free Mendocino, a local group that -- you
guessed it -- wants to ban wireless services from Mendocino.

"I have people calling me, crying to me that they're in pain all the
time, asking me where they can live," Firstenberg said. "I tell them
we're trying to save Mendocino as a refuge."

The group has been highly successful in achieving its goal. Wireless
Free Mendocino has been instrumental in defeating attempts to bring
cell phone and a high-speed Internet service to the town's 1,000-odd
residents. Now the group is trying to force the high school radio
station to remove its antenna from the school roof -- a move that
could sound the death knell for the struggling student outfit.

But while Firstenberg says he's fighting to protect the health of the
townspeople, his detractors say the group has created a brain drain
of entrepreneurs to more connected locales, miring Mendocino in
low-paying tourism industry jobs and reducing future opportunities.

"Basically what you have is a very small population and a lot of
people who aren't technical," said Lee Livezey, the chief technology
officer of Elucit, a firm that builds Web-enabled temperature
monitors. "He's convinced a vocal minority that wireless is bad for

Elucit is planning to relocate up the road to Fort Bragg, where it can
get a fatter Internet pipe than the unreliable ISDN line offered by
the local ISP, Mendocino Community Network (MCN), Livezey said.

MCN, which is owned by the school district and operated out of
Mendocino High School, fought hard to establish a high-speed wireless
Internet service in the village last year before crying uncle a few
weeks ago.

Wireless Free Mendocino vehemently opposed MCN's plan to offer
wireless broadband from the moment it was announced as an item at a
school board meeting last spring. A series of public forums were
launched, in which technophiles argued in favor of the service, and
the anti-wireless folks - including a woman who appeared at one
meeting wearing dark sunglasses and protective headgear to ward off
stray signals - insisted that the plan was dangerous.

More than 260 people signed a petition against the proposal, including
16 who said wireless made them sick. But the school board approved
the plan, and the skirmish continued in the form of scathing letters
published in the editorial section of the local newspaper, The
Mendocino Beacon, and flyers posted around town.

After MCN installed a wireless transmitter on the high school roof,
one woman yanked her daughter from class. English teacher Christy
Wagner said her students suddenly became "irritable and easily
distracted" and that she herself felt nauseous whenever she was at
the school. In September, she took a medical leave.

"This overexposure to pulsed microwaves has been a personal tragedy
for me," Wagner said in an e-mail interview. "I'm left hypersensitive
- even my mouse burns my hand when I use my computer now."

MCN cancelled the wireless broadband service in December, said manager
Rennie Innis. Only 60 people signed up, despite market surveys
reflecting a viable demand before the controversy arose.

Electrical sensitivity is not recognized by the U.S. medical
establishment, and Firstenberg refused to disclose his diagnosis,
which allows him to collect disability income. He also says he
suffers from chemical sensitivity, a condition denounced by many
doctors as quackery.

Firstenberg says he became electrically sensitive in 1982 as a pre-med
student at the University of California at Irvine, after he received
more than 40 dental X-rays. One day he collapsed on the hospital
floor with heart pains and subsequently he lost 15 pounds in two
weeks. He also grew short of breath around electrical equipment.
Finally he dropped out of med school and moved to the "clean
environment" of Mendocino.

Nowadays when Firstenberg travels, he lugs along a bevy of devices to
detect radio frequencies, including a meter that gauges electrical,
magnetic and microwave fields.

If he visits wireless-saturated San Francisco, three hours south of
Mendocino, his devices go berserk and he experiences multiple
symptoms, including an unquenchable thirst, a pressure in his chest
and behind his eyeballs, and "buzzing sensations" in his lips.

"The reason I'm lobbying so hard to stop the expansion of wireless
facilities all over the country is because I firmly believe this is
affecting the health of the nation," said Firstenberg, who graduated
from Cornell University with a degree in mathematics and a minor in
physics. "There has to be widespread recognition among scientists and
the public that this is a problem."

One of his targets has been the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which
prohibits local governments from banning wireless facilities based on
the "environmental effects" of the radio frequency emissions.

In 1997, a coalition of anti-wireless groups, including Firstenberg's
Cellular Phone Taskforce, sued the FCC, alleging that the clause
preempts local governments from protecting public health and
therefore violated the 10th Amendment, which limits federal authority.

The case, which plaintiffs said represented over 2 million people, was
thrown out by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and denied review
by the Supreme Court earlier this month.

Because anti-wireless activists are unable to challenge cell tower
sitings on health grounds, they resort to scouring municipal codes
for rules that would preclude the towers for other reasons.

It worked in Mendocino. The village's Historical Review Board -
dubbed the Hysterical Review Board by locals since it controls
everything from the color of housepaint to the number of lawn gnomes
placed in yards -- denied a height variance to U.S. Cellular to erect
a tower in Mendocino, despite testimony from the Sheriff's Department
that mobile phone service would increase public safety.

Now Wireless Free Mendocino has its sights set on a couple of radio
antennas perched on the high school, which the group alleges also
violate height restrictions. One of the antennas is a transmitter
used by the student radio station, KAKX. If the station - which
scrapes by on funds collected from yard sales and donations - is
forced to take down the antenna, it may not have enough money to
build a new one, said station manager Scott Southard.

Southard, who teaches an audio class at the high school, said the
wireless controversy has torn his small community apart.

"There have been radio towers on the high school for 30 years and
there were never complaints about them until Firstenberg started his
campaign of misinformation and fear," Southard said bitterly. "You
can't argue with zealots."

Related Wired Links:

Wireless Harmless, More or Less?
Jan. 22, 2002

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