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Herbal Remedy Offers Hope for Cancer Patients
Health: Formula yields results after other prostate treatments fail. But scientists urge caution on unregulated medications.

By SHARI ROAN, Los Angeles Times Health Writer

     A centuries-old Chinese herbal remedy is showing striking results in treating patients with advanced prostate cancer, even winning support from doctors despite a lack of federal oversight.
     The blend of eight herbs, used by an estimated 10,000 men and sold over the counter, appears to reduce signs of tumor growth in patients who have exhausted all conventional treatments, according to studies in two well-regarded medical journals.
     "I can't cite any other example in medicine where we've considered an herbal compound in an end-stage cancer situation and where other therapies have already failed," said Dr. Aaron E. Katz, an associate professor of urology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
     The new studies, including one by Katz, on the effect of the supplement are almost certain to spark widespread demand. Almost 180,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, with 40,000 deaths.
     The product's potency, and the likelihood that its use will grow, sharply highlight the disparity between the heavy regulation that traditional drugs undergo and the virtual absence of regulation of supplements.
     "We don't even know what the [supplement's] long-term side effects are," said Dr. Eric J. Small of UC San Francisco, coauthor of the other new study of the product, sold as PC SPES.
     "For [drugs], the United States has extremely stringent regulations that are the envy of the world," said Dr. Ian M. Thompson Jr., chief of urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. "But for something like this, we have no oversight."
     Accordingly, many unanswered questions about PC SPES remain: For whom is the remedy best suited? What dose is correct? How does it compare with other treatments?
     Physicians are also worried because the supplement carries the risk of serious side effects. Most common are breast tenderness and enlargement because of herbs that act like estrogen. But 2% to 4% of patients also run the risk of blood clots, a potentially fatal problem, the studies found.
     Because of this risk, Katz and other doctors say the therapy should generally be used only on patients who have not been helped by hormone therapy--even though the herbal supplement appears to reduce tumor growth in men with any stage or type of prostate cancer.
     "This is not for someone in an early stage," Katz said. "We don't have enough long-term follow-up."
     In his study of 69 men, published this month in the Journal of Urology, 88% of patients taking the product experienced a significant drop in a protein called prostate specific antigen, or PSA, which is a marker for tumor growth.
     Similar results, reported by Small, will appear in the November issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Although there have been a handful of earlier papers on PC SPES, the two new studies are the first to examine the product in a large number of men.
     Both studies also found that the herbal remedy reduced prostate specific antigen levels in men who had received hormone therapy, a standard approach to halt advanced disease, but who were still experiencing cancer growth. In Katz's group, 74% of those men responded to the herbal therapy; 54% in Small's study.
     "There is a subset of patients where the hormone therapy does not work and the cancer continues to grow. That's the form of the disease that will eventually kill a patient," Katz said. The herbal treatment "is effective in those patients."
     Some studies have also shown a reduction in pain and tumor activity in men whose cancer has spread to the bone or brain.
     The supplement's benefits may be another reason the product should not be sold over the counter, Thompson said. In an editorial in the Journal of Urology, he questions whether consumers should have to pay as much as $450 a month for a potentially lifesaving therapy. Over-the-counter herbal remedies are rarely covered by insurance plans. The supplement is sold in bottles of 60 capsules at $108. A typical regimen consists of six to nine capsules a day.
     "The efficacy and toxicity of PC SPES should be a call to action for elected officials to demand testing of agents . . . that by any other definition are truly pharmaceuticals," said Thompson.
     According to a Food and Drug Administration representative, the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act bars makers of supplements from saying that their products "cure, treat, prevent or mitigate disease." The FDA has the authority to enforce that law, but has little additional power to regulate herbal supplements.
     Efforts have been made to boost the regulators' authority--including a federal proposal that would require manufacturers to supply information about warnings or cautions surrounding a supplement's use. But there has been no sustained movement in the United States to hold supplements to the same testing and manufacturing laws as for drugs.
     The federal government hasn't entirely ignored PC SPES. Earlier this month, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, authorized a study of the remedy at the Johns Hopkins Center for Cancer Complementary Medicine.
     But the studies lag behind the powerful anecdotal evidence for the therapy, which has been on the market since 1996.
     Michael Cook, 49, was diagnosed at the age of 45 with prostate cancer that had already spread to his ribs and pelvis.
     Cook, a former magazine publisher who lives in Brea, was told that his only option was treatment with hormones, which he decided to forgo because studies have shown that hormones may work for only a limited time. After trying numerous other alternative remedies, his prostate specific antigen had skyrocketed and his bone pain had moved to his back.
     "Then I heard about PC SPES," Cook said. After a month on the herbs, his antigen levels dropped from 80 to 0.2, he said.
     "My doctor was stupefied by it," he said. "I've been on PC SPES for three years now, and I seem to be in complete remission."
     The blend of herbs was brought to this country by Allan X. Wang, a Chinese herbal doctor who learned the formula from a long line of healers in his family, including a great-grandfather who ministered to the last Chinese emperor.
     In 1987, Wang enlisted the talents of a Western-trained herbal specialist to tweak the mixture into its current formula.
     PC SPES is now manufactured exclusively by privately held BotanicLab, which is based in Brea. Although under the law, supplement manufacturers can't claim to treat disease, BotanicLab acknowledges that "PC" stands for prostate cancer. "Spes" is Latin for hope.

* * *
     Herbal Remedy
     An over-the-counter herbal remedy is generating interest among men with prostate cancer. Two recent studies show that the product, called PC SPES, may have both benefits and risks.
     Could lower prostate-specific antigen levels in most men with prostate cancer.
     Could work in some men for whom conventional therapies have failed.
     Could help men whose disease has spread to other parts of the body.
* * *
     Could increase the risk of blood clots in legs.
     Could cause breast enlargement and tenderness.
     Could decrease sexual desire.
     Could cause mild diarrhea and leg cramps in a small number of men.
* * *
     Sources: Journal of Clinical Oncology, Journal of Urology  

Europe's Cheaper Rx for Health
As the U.S. presidential candidates debate reforming Medicare, similar systems in France and Italy top a U.N. survey. Apart from their cost, their most important difference is offering citizens freedom from uncertainty.

By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG, , Los Angeles Times Staff Writers 10/21/00 

    CLERMONT-FERRAND, France -- When Mathis Pascouret recently entered the world, something was dangerously wrong. His mother had unwittingly passed on to him potentially lethal bacteria while he was in the womb, and he was near death.
     With a fever of 102 and his heart, lungs and stomach malfunctioning, the gasping newborn was whisked by ambulance to a state-run hospital here in central France. In the new neonatal emergency care unit at Hotel-Dieu Hospital, Dr. Jacqueline Gaulme and others toiled to save the infant's life.
     Nine days later, Mathis opened his eyes for the first time, and he is now expected to live.
     "We should go down on our knees," said his mother, Estella Pascouret, 29, "and thank the doctors and the hospital."
     For Americans, the real marvel in this story might not seem so much medical as financial. Mathis' treatment costs an estimated 8,000 francs, or more than $1,000, a day. But his parents pay nothing.
     "Eight thousand francs--it's what I earn in a month," said father Thierry, 38, who makes tires for motorcycles.
     Since World War II, the French have deemed their health a national resource too priceless to leave to market forces alone and have instituted a state-run health insurance system that covers everyone. As Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush make Medicare reform a leading issue of their presidential race--they exchanged several pointed remarks at this week's debate--the health care choices in France and elsewhere in Western Europe offer a stark contrast to those in America.
     The most important difference is freedom from uncertainty. Despite flaws such as high taxes or slow-moving bureaucracies, government involvement in Europe gives the ordinary citizen an enormous sense of security. In many countries on this side of the Atlantic, people never have to worry about being deprived of essential health services--or prescription drugs, a hot-button issue in the U.S.--because they can't afford them.
     What's more, unlike customers of many U.S. health maintenance organizations and health insurers, Europeans such as Estella and Thierry Pascouret can be sure they won't be ruined financially because their health plan is unwilling to cover a particular treatment or pays only a part of the cost.
     This year, a 191-country survey by the World Health Organization ranked France's health care system the most effective in the world, with Italy the runner-up. Those ratings are disputed, even in the winning countries, but the survey's bottom line is this: The French and Italians spend far less than U.S. citizens on health care, and they live longer.
     The United States--which lays out a bigger share of its income on health than any other country, at 14% of all generated wealth--ranked 37th in the WHO survey, barely edging out No. 39 Cuba.
     "I make my students watch episodes of 'ER,' " said Dr. Andre Labbe, professor of pediatrics and respiratory diseases at the University of Auvergne medical school in Clermont-Ferrand. "They're always stunned by what they see. On the last program, there was someone diagnosed with lung cancer who told the doctors: 'Don't bother to treat me. I can't afford it.'
     "That," Labbe said, "is unimaginable in France."
     While admiring the expertise of their U.S. counterparts, European health professionals can be scathing about what they call America's money-driven method of dispensing health care. In France, the government doesn't hesitate to throw its weight around to keep costs down by pressuring physicians, nurses and other care providers.
     "The state fixes the level of contribution, reimbursement, the cost of drugs and prostheses--in fact, it fixes just about everything. In terms of the state's mentality, the French system is a lot closer to [Soviet] Russia than to your system," said Dr. Pierre Fender, a Paris-based official in the social security system.
     A doctor's house call in France is supposed to cost the equivalent of only $14.28, not including transportation, and a night in a private room in a medical clinic costs $73. Social security, funded mainly out of payroll deductions, reimburses 65% of minor expenses and 100% of major ones.
     Italy, which finances its state-run National Health Service entirely from general taxation, keeps an even tighter lid on medical costs.
     As a result, total public and private outlays on health care and insurance come to $1,857 for each French man or woman and $1,357 for each Italian--a fraction of the $4,178 spent by or for the average American in 1998.
     Even when an ill person can pay nothing at all, the health networks in these countries are supposed to react with competence and compassion. France's social security program was first restricted to the gainfully employed and retirees, but a 1998 law extended it to everyone on French soil.
     "It's a fact that when you need care in France, you go into a clinic or a hospital, and they'll take care of you--take your blood pressure and try to see what's wrong. They don't ask for your credit card," said Dr. Christian Pradeyrol, president and general director of a 250-bed private clinic in Aurillac, a town in Auvergne.
     While millions of Americans worry about whether they can afford health care for themselves and their families, the French and Italians swear by a social contract that makes accessible treatment as much their birthright as being able to speak their minds or vote.
     Although the notion that the state should be deeply involved in something as personal as health might be anathema to many Americans, such involvement is a long and welcome tradition in Europe.

     Italy Pioneering a Home Care System

     While the United States has few doctors who would even consider making house calls, and Congress has cut government payments for home health care generally in recent years, Italy has been pioneering a publicly supported system of free home care.
     "Go to the patient. Don't wait for the patient to come to you," were the marching orders to doctors from Dr. Rosi Bindi, who stepped down as Italy's health minister after overhauling the National Health Service to make it more responsive.
     In practice, this means that Dino Coltelli, 88, who hated being hospitalized so much that he screamed at everyone around him and often escaped, can now rest easy while doctors and nurses come to his home in Imola in northern Italy. Diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, he has been treated during the weekly house calls for pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and a nervous disorder.
     "Without this care, he'd be back in the hospital at least once a month," said Dr. Fabio Suzzi, who sees Coltelli and eight to 10 other patients at home each week, earning a $75 bonus for each visit on top of his $4,000 monthly state salary.
     The home care program, organized in 17 of Italy's 20 regions, is an acknowledgment that the country's most reliable giver of informal care--the family--needs some help.
     As Italians have fewer offspring, become more mobile and live longer, the tradition of large extended families nursing their ailing elders has come under strain, forcing many senior citizens to face their last years alone. Liliana Coltelli, 78, cannot care for her husband by herself, and the couple have no children.
     Doctors in Imola and the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region, home to 4 million people, treat more than 15,000 patients at home, including 40% of all those with cancer. Regional officials say the home care program has cut hospital costs by $180 million in three years.
     Retired people in the region lobbied hard for home care, fought for a role in monitoring the program and are pushing to double the number of senior citizens served.
     "If you're treated at home, you keep some control over your own life, your own dignity," said Germano Casanova, secretary of the regional Pensioners Union. "If you enter a nursing home, that's all finished. Not one elderly person in 100 ever walks out of a nursing home."
     Indisputably, many French and Italians would be the first to admit that their health care systems are far from perfect. Among the prevalent gripes: a surfeit of red tape, excessively high taxes or payroll deductions to underwrite the systems, delays and inequalities despite avowed noble goals, and the heavy hand of government bureaucracy.
     This summer, when personnel from France's state-run hospitals took their usual vacations, some patients being admitted to emergency wards had to wait as much as 10 hours on stretchers before being examined.
     Martine Aubry, who until this week held the ministerial portfolio for health, complains that "in big towns, it's hard to find a pediatrician on Fridays after 5 p.m." To make sure that not all doctors vanish at night and on weekends, Aubry has asked prefects--the national government's representatives throughout France--to force all physicians to take part in an on-call rotation for emergencies.
     Chafing under official pressure, some French doctors claim that politicians on both the left and the right have cooperated since the mid-1990s to craft an ever-tightening straitjacket of regulations and price ceilings that are now suffocating private practitioners and clinics.
     "The state has got a noose around our neck, and we're one twist away from asphyxiation," protested Pradeyrol, 55, an anesthesiologist.
     This summer, a plan backed by Aubry to hold down rising health costs, in part by cutting office visit fees paid to specialists such as cardiologists, radiologists, neurologists and gynecologists, sparked numerous protests, with 100 angry doctors occupying the Eiffel Tower one morning.

     Prompt Service a Goal Often Unmet

     Italy's tax-financed system falls short of its goal to provide prompt service, from dental checkups to knee surgery, to all. For every tax dollar the state spends, Italians shell out 38 cents of their own for some kinds of specialized care that are more prompt or reliable.
     Franco Bornini, a taxi driver in the northern city of Bologna, found that the waiting list to get free physiotherapy for his dislocated right shoulder was six months long. The injury has partly disabled him, reducing the hours that he can work. So he has resorted to a private therapist at $15 a week over 10 weeks--a financial burden, because he, like most Italians, doesn't have private health insurance.
     But the public system offers better care to the neediest--expectant mothers, the elderly and people with life-threatening ailments.
     Some of this care borders on luxury. Patients who undergo heart surgery are entitled to two weeks at a rehab center near Lake Garda or Lake Como, prime vacation spots in northern Italy. They receive three hours of physiotherapy in the morning and relax in the afternoon, with the state paying the tab.
     Nobody is supposed to fall through the cracks, even foreigners living in Italy illegally.
     In Bologna, a publicly funded health center with Arabic and Chinese translators on staff has catered exclusively to immigrant women and their children for the past nine years. The center doesn't even ask to see patients' identify papers. Dr. Giovanna Caccialupa, the director, has rebuffed so many police inquiries about her patients that the police have stopped coming around--even during periodic official sweeps to drive illegal immigrants out.
     "We're treated like anyone else," said an immigrant Moroccan mother waiting her turn at the clinic.
     This sense of inclusion and security is more than what many immigrants feel in the United States, especially those who are in the country illegally. Many of the latter say they are afraid to avail themselves of the health care system for fear that information about them will be reported to the police and that they will be deported. In three-quarters of Italy's regions, health officials have set up 138 public health clinics, nearly all in the past five years, especially for immigrants.
     Statistics point to a clear impact on Italy's overall health. In part because of intensive efforts to provide prenatal and postnatal care to all mothers, the country's infant mortality rate has fallen to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. The U.S. figure is 7.2 deaths.
     "We in the United States do worse than our European counterparts in the area of prenatal care, both for immigrants and minorities," said Dr. Christopher Murray, an American who heads WHO's health policy program.

     French System Tries Reconciling Aims

     In France, 30 chronic and especially costly medical conditions, from Alzheimer's disease and AIDS to diabetes and psychiatric ailments, are fully covered by a hybrid health care system that tries to reconcile a patient's right to choose a doctor with a pledge of universal coverage.
     Moreover, operations or other medical procedures costing more than about 600 francs ($77) are paid for.
     "Six hundred francs--that's the cost of a wrist fracture," remarked orthopedic surgeon Pierre Deguillaume.
     When interviewed, the perspiring Deguillaume was at work in an operating theater at the Aurillac clinic, removing a stainless steel brace from around the backbone of an anesthetized 25-year-old pharmacy clerk. The operation took two hours, plus Deguillaume had to make an earlier run to a local hardware store. The brace was U.S.-made, and he needed a non-metric wrench to undo the nuts and bolts.
     "There is no cost for any of this to my patient. Everything is picked up by social organizations," Deguillaume said.
     For chronically unwell patients who face lifelong expenses, the certainties of such a health system bring enormous comfort.
     Take French retiree Roger Martin, 75, whose failing kidneys can no longer purify his blood. Once every two days, the retired electrician and TV repairman who used to have a shop in the town of Montlucon in the heart of France is picked up by a taxi and driven 40 miles for a four-hour dialysis session.
     Each treatment costs the equivalent of $267, not including $130 for round-trip taxi fare. Martin pays nothing. For 55 years, he made mandatory contributions to the social security system, or la Secu, as the French call it. The health program now pays for his dialysis sessions, including cab fare.
     "I know there are problems over there with hospitalization and the costs," Martin said as he rested on a bed after a dialysis session. "But when we come here, they take us in their arms and care for us. There is always a smile."
     In the United States, both leading presidential candidates have come up with proposals to change Medicare, which pays for many of the health care costs of 39 million elderly and disabled Americans. While both candidates propose increasing prescription drug coverage, only Gore would have the government pay a major part of the cost of the coverage. About 13 million elderly and disabled Americans have no coverage at all for prescriptions.

     A Uniform Approach to Prescription Drugs

     Italy's National Health Service gives full coverage for about 3,000 prescription drugs, including the big-ticket categories: blood-pressure medicines, chemotherapy, drugs for diabetes and HIV/AIDS, plus a full range of antibiotics. Patients have to pay 50% of the cost of a second category of 38 drugs for such ailments as stomach disorders, aching joints and kidney stones.
     In the United States, there is no uniform system of insurance for prescription drugs. While most people younger than 65 who have health insurance pay only a $10 to $20 co-payment for most prescriptions, 13 million elderly and disabled people and 44 million people younger than 65 have no insurance at all. For those who are uninsured, a common ulcer drug such as Prilosec if bought in Los Angeles costs as much as $133 for a one-month supply, according to a 1999 study by a California member of Congress. Prices, however, vary by region, as do insurance plans.
     In France, the totally infirm older than 60 are entitled to medical care in nursing homes at state expense, while conditions classified as recurring and costly are fully covered for young and old alike. Drugs for such ailments are fully paid for by social security. For others, the reimbursement rate is 65%.
     To reduce even further the chance that disease might have financial repercussions, almost nine French people in 10 buy private health insurance to cover minor expenses that aren't taken care of by social security. But the bulk of the country's doctor and hospital bill--75.5%--is paid by la Secu.
     Andre Calsac, 75, a former notary in the Champagne region of eastern France, is in his fourth week of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer of the lymph glands. His treatment is fully financed by social security--including the pain-dulling morphine he is given each day.
     "It's all in the hands of the health insurance and the doctors," Calsac said. "I don't have to do anything."

* * *
     Dahlburg reported from Clermont-Ferrand and Boudreaux from Emilia-Romagna. Times staff writer Alissa J. Rubin in Washington contributed to this report.  

IDF fears Arafat is pushing for war

By Amos Harel, Ha'aretz News 10/20/00

The defense establishment is becoming increasingly convinced that Yasser Arafat does not intend to return to the Oslo process. This leaves him with two choices: The first, and the one he apparently prefers at the minute, is controlled violence that will lead in the end to new diplomatic initiatives, but with increased international involvement. The second, which Arafat has not ruled out, is a full-scale regional war.

The hope that Arafat would act forcefully to stop the violence has been revealed as delusional. The populace is pushing him to continue the "Al Aqsa Intifada." He has not yet sent a clear message of commitment to the Sharm understandings, contenting himself with anonymous and nonbinding statements through the Palestinian media. And serious incidents continue to occur.

Furthermore, some of the most dangerous Hamas activists are still not back in Palestinian Authority prisons. IDF officers say that "lifting the closure on the territories at this point would be tantamount to madness," given the intelligence information regarding plans to carry out bomb attacks in major urban centers. Nor is it only Islamic radicals who pose a concern. According to the IDF, many of the latest incidents involved members of Mohammed Dahlan's preventive security apparatus, and both Dahlan and his counterpart in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, are still refusing to meet with Shin Bet security service chief Avi Dichter.

In Arafat's preferred scenario, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would resemble Kosovo: increasing international involvement, foreign observers and troops, and finally an imposed settlement - which would be better for the Palestinians than what the Americans offered at Camp David. The minute parties other than the Americans are involved, Arafat profits. An Israeli mistake (bombing civilians, a massacre by settlers) or a new, more hesitant American administration would also help.

And if Plan A does not achieve its goals, Arafat would still have the option of a regional conflict. His hope is that once the smoke clears, a Palestinian state will emerge, perhaps with better borders than Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton have offered him.

In the meantime, there are several tactical junctures to be maneuvered. The first is this afternoon, when in Israel's view, the 48 hours allotted for implementing a cease-fire expire (in the Palestinian view, this deadline expired yesterday). Then comes the Arab League summit tomorrow. But the most important will come in the middle of next week, when Israel, finally convinced that Oslo, like Sharm, is a dead letter, will have to decide what to do. For the first time, it will have to consider taking the initiative, rather than merely responding to events.

Despite differences of opinion within the general staff, most of the generals still favor restraint. But continued escalation by Arafat would change their mind. "We cannot become reconciled to a reality of daily attacks," said one. "A war of attrition is the worst scenario ... it would be better to sharpen [the conflict]."

Against this background, a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state - probably sometime between the end of the Arab summit and November 15, which is Palestinian Independence Day - becomes more likely. Ironically, this would also have advantages for Israel: Israel would be seen as justified in taking steps to guarantee its own interests, such as separating more decisively from the Palestinians, seizing key positions, and even annexing part of Area C (that part of the territories still under full Israeli control).

The most worrying scenario is a regional conflict. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been working for restraint, but Iraq, Iran and Hezbollah are working for war. Iraq has already moved a division toward the Jordan border and put its air force on higher alert - exhibitionist steps, but not meaningless - and Hezbollah will do its best to drag Syria into the conflict.

Original Message -----
From: "NewsHawk Inc." <
Sent: Saturday, October 21, 2000 8:14 AM
Subject: Topless Environmentalists Bemuse California Loggers

 These passionate gals are baring it all -- or baring MOST of it, in an  effort to WAKE UP California North Coast loggers to the fact that out of  the forest lands which covered North America when European settlers  (invaders?) first arrived here, LESS THAN FIVE PERCENT NOW REMAIN; the  vast majority of this being in the Pacific Northwest. These temperate  forests, magnificent, majestic, irreplaceable and CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT  ecosystems, are in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth forever.

 The virgin temperate forests of Canada, Alaska and Siberia are being  decimated with similar reckless greed and brutality.

 Hats off! -- to these ladies who are out there taking their clothes off,  as a means of bringing timber workers to "attention" ("is that a  chainsaw in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"), and get them  to focus on these issues.

 The funny thing is, this is happening RIGHT in my neighborhood (northern  Mendocino County) and I've never yet seen these "ladies of the forest."  I must need to spend more time in the woods. Lucky loggers...

 NewsHawk® Inc.

Topless protester bemuses, confuses
 By Jane Kay

 First, Julia "Butterfly" Hill bedeviled North Coast loggers by perching  in a tree for two years.

 Now, poet-environmentalist La Tigresa is popping up bare-breasted at  Mendocino County logging sites.

 Billing her performance art as "Striptease for the Trees," La Tigresa  started her topless crusade to persuade the timber workers to spare  forests a week and a half ago. She surprises some at dawn with her  wood-nymph attire, poems and songs.

 "They stop their trucks because I'm bare-breasted. The poem keeps their  attention. I want them to see in me an image of something beautiful,  sacred and vulnerable -- just like the Earth," she said.

 La Tigresa, whose real name is Dona Nieto, has attracted national  attention with her tactics. Jay Leno worked her into a Bill Clinton  joke. Rush Limbaugh jeered her on his national radio show, which is very  popular behind the Redwood Curtain in Mendocino and Humboldt counties  where timber wars rage over where and how many trees to cut.

 "I'm having my 15 minutes of fame," La Tigresa said. "But whatever it  takes to get in the door."

 On Tuesday, the Mendocino resident appeared on a weekly environmental  show broadcast on KMUD radio, the grass-roots voice of the North Coast  based in Redway in Humboldt County. She's featured on the Earth Films  Web site at La Tigresa describes her acts as "very  funny, very sexy, very environmental," but loggers have mixed reactions.

 Work stoppage

Her first topless appearance was Oct. 10 at a Humboldt County site near McKinleyville. Hearing her chant, "see how the legs of any woman are the pillars of a temple, growing up like redwoods from their roots below  ground," one man hid in the bushes out of embarrassment while another  talked to her about her cause.

 Another day she strolled onto a site near Westport in Mendocino County,  again half-naked with flowers in her hair, and found two men operating  heavy equipment.

 "One man leaped off his loader, yelling Bible verses. He turned on  Christian radio," she said.

 She chanted, "Northern California is a country under siege ... we're  losing old-growth trees, the forests are being gobbled up by the  corporation's greed."

 La Tigresa, who declined to reveal her age, was born Donna Sue Scissors  in St. Louis. She's lived most of her life in California, and now makes  her home around Mendocino and Westport. She uses her former husband's surname.

 Last year, La Tigresa, a writer and an environmental activist for  several years, wrote a screenplay and a short story portraying the  goddess, Gaea, the Earth Mother, walking on the Earth as a woman.

 "Gaea has followers," she explained. "I saw them as Earth First,  Birkenstock girls from Humboldt State University. They stopped the  bulldozers by being naked and crying and praying. They sing songs to the men. In the face of that, the men cannot continue to destroy the Earth."

 It's her story that she's now putting into practice.

 One-woman show

 In the summer, she performed a one-woman show, "Who Says A Stripper  Can't Save the World?" at Active-fest, an environmental festival in the  small Mendocino County town of Boonville. She billed herself as an  "eco-tantric rap artist."

 On Sept. 10, she performed at the Caspar Inn in the village of Caspar between Mendocino and Fort Bragg. "No, I was not naked. I had fishnet  stockings and a bustier. I was covered with a plastic garbage bag," she said.

 La Tigresa said that she -- like Julia "Butterfly" Hill, who used the  fragile butterfly image, "the feminine strength of the power of her  vulnerability" during a two-year tree sit to protest the clear-cutting  of old-growth forest -- projects fragility. "But I'm also a tigress,"  she added.

 Paul Mason, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Information  Center in Garberville, said he hasn't met La Tigresa yet. But he's heard  her on the radio.

 "Her poetry is pretty intense. I think it's a good way to think about  some of those connections between the way we as a society treat the  Earth and the way we treat women," Mason said.

 EPIC and other environmental groups are awaiting court decisions over  lawsuits filed against Pacific Lumber Co. and California Department of  Forestry alleging that logging at various sites in Mendocino and  Humboldt counties would harm endangered species and streams.

 Art Harwood, president of Harwood Products, a family-owned sawmill in  Branscomb, Mendocino County, had to laugh over the idea of women baring  their breasts at logging jobs. He's heard there's more than one.

 "I'm sure the men will stop working. But I don't know what they'll  think," Harwood said. "On the one hand, the women are obviously getting  lots of publicity. But on the other hand, I'm not sure how seriously  anyone is going to take them.

 "It actually is kind of fun. If it lightens things up a bit, there's  nothing wrong with that."

 When there are naked women in the North Coast forests, "I'm sure all the  tensions go away, and that's part of the deal," Harwood added. "If the  loggers could get past the fact that they have a half-naked woman there,  they'll probably engage in a meaningful dialogue. But she's going to  have to get dressed first."
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