Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
Week of 15th to 21st of November 2009
France Finds Monsanto Guilty of Lying [R]
France's highest court has ruled that U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup. The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as "biodegradable" and claimed it "left the soil clean." Roundup is the world's best-selling herbicide.
French environmental groups had brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" by the European Union.
In the latest ruling, France's Supreme Court upheld two earlier convictions against Monsanto by the Lyon criminal court in 2007, and the Lyon court of appeal in 2008, the AFP news agency reports.
Monsanto already dominates America's food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation's tactics, including ruthless legal battles against small farmers, is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.
At Least 92 Die in Chinese Mine Explosion
HONG KONG -- A gas explosion at a coal mine in northeastern China early Saturday morning killed 92 people and left 16 more trapped in the shaft, China's worst mine disaster in nearly two years, Chinese official media said late Sunday night.
The latest figures show that five more people initially listed as missing have been found dead. Since an initial announcement on Saturday that 42 were dead and 66 were missing, no further survivors of the powerful underground explosion have been found, and 50 bodies have been located.
The explosion took place at the Xinxing Coal Mine in Hegang City, in Heilongjiang province, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Another 29 miners were hospitalized, including 6 with serious injuries.
�The Card Game��New Doc Investigates History of Credit Card Industry and Proposals for Reform [DN]
LOWELL BERGMAN: Open this one for me and tell me what you think. That's from Bank of America, and on the back it says, �zero percent intro APR.�
SHAILESH MEHTA: Right, but there is an asterisk, or whatever the mark.
LOWELL BERGMAN: Right.
SHAILESH MEHTA: So I have to now read that footnote. I will have to remove by glasses to read it. It says, �For this, see disclosure summary insert for details.� And I have to find the disclosure summary, which is the one here. So, on the outside, it says, �zero percent intro APR�; in here, it says that my APR is 11.9, 15.9 or 19.9, right? And the APR received is determined based on your credit worthiness. So I have no idea which one I�m going to get when they approve me.
LOWELL BERGMAN: So, disclosure, you say, doesn't work.
SHAILESH MEHTA: As I say, I mean, look how much time it takes for both of us to go through this.
Hunger in U.S. at a 14-Year High
WASHINGTON -- The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year, to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls �food insecurity� 14 years ago, the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.
The increase, of 13 million Americans, was much larger than even the most pessimistic observers of hunger trends had expected and cast an alarming light on the daily hardships caused by the recession's punishing effect on jobs and wages.
About a third of these struggling households had what the researchers called �very low food security,� meaning lack of money forced members to skip meals, cut portions or otherwise forgo food at some point in the year.
The other two-thirds typically had enough to eat, but only by eating cheaper or less varied foods, relying on government aid like food stamps, or visiting food pantries and soup kitchens.
Fired therapist: Stressed Marines got bad care; Camp Lejeune patients had to use trailers near live-fire training exercises
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines treated at Camp Lejeune for post-traumatic stress had to undergo therapy for months in temporary trailers where they could hear bomb blasts, machine-gun fire and war cries through the thin walls, according to servicemen and their former psychiatrist.
The eight trailers were used for nearly two years, until a permanent clinic was completed in September in another location on the base, said a Camp Lejeune medical spokesman, Navy Lt. Mark Jean-Pierre.
The noise from training exercises "shook me up real bad. I couldn't take it. I almost ran out of there a couple of times," said a Marine patient who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media. "My mind couldn't focus on the treatment. I couldn't tell the difference between the combat zone and the non-combat zone."
As Wall Street Posts Record Profits and US Hunger Rate Grows, Robert Scheer Asks: "Where Is the Community Organizer We Elected?" [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Yet you ask, where's the community-organizer-in-chief?
ROBERT SCHEER: I am appalled. This is not a minor criticism. I think the guy is betraying--betraying--his own presidency, the promise of his presidency, because he has taken these thieves--and I use the word advisedly. You know, I think people like Lawrence Summers, who pay themselves--you know, maybe he's not legally a thief, but, you know, a guy who pays himself, or gets paid from hedge funds and other people, $15 million in '08, while he's advising Obama about the economy. And he's the guy who, more than anyone else, when he was Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, pushed through the radical deregulation that allowed these businesses to get in all this trouble and refused to regulate derivatives and all that sort of thing. And then these guys are made the head of the--what? They're going to save us now?
And so, you have the one I attack, particularly, Neal Wolin, who was the general counsel of Hartford, but before that he�d been the general counsel to the Treasury Department, he�s now Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, and he�s the guy that pushed through the reversal of Glass-Steagall. He wrote the actual words in, you know, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. And now he's our deputy. And he condemns--the point of the column was that there�s actually a chance to do something now. Chris Dodd has finally seen the light. He is the most important--
AMY GOODMAN: While he is running for reelection.
ROBERT SCHEER: Yeah, running for election.
New Computer Operating System Stores All Data On Google Servers [AJ]
Internet search giant Google has lifted the lid on its operating system, known as Chrome OS.
The free and open source system is initially aimed at low-cost netbooks and does away with many of the features of a traditional program.
All applications are designed to run in a web browser and all the user�s data is stored on Google�s servers.
Panel Urges Mammograms at 50, Not 40
Most women should start regular breast cancer screening at age 50, not 40, according to new guidelines released Monday by an influential group that provides guidance to doctors, insurance companies and policy makers.
The new recommendations, which do not apply to a small group of women with unusual risk factors for breast cancer, reverse longstanding guidelines and are aimed at reducing harm from overtreatment, the group says. It also says women age 50 to 74 should have mammograms less frequently � every two years, rather than every year. And it said doctors should stop teaching women to examine their breasts on a regular basis.
PAM COMMENTARY: Also see CNN story on same topic below.
EXCLUSIVE: Civil Rights Attorney Lynne Stewart Responds to Court Ruling Upholding Conviction and Ordering Her to Prison [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Lynne, would you do anything differently today, or would you do anything differently back then, if you knew what you knew today?
LYNNE STEWART: I think I should have been a little more savvy that the government would come after me. But do anything differently? I don�t�I�d like to think I would not do anything differently, Amy. I made these decisions based on my understanding of what the client needed, what a lawyer was expected to do. They say that you can�t distinguish zeal from criminal intent sometimes. I had no criminal intent whatsoever. This was a considered decision based on the need of the client. And although some people have said press releases aren�t client needs, I think keeping a person alive when they are in prison, held under the conditions which we now know to be torture, totally incognito�not incognito, but totally held without any contact with the outside world except a phone call once a month to his family and to his lawyers, I think it was necessary. I would do it again. I might handle it a little differently, but I would do it again.
PHOTO ESSAY ~~ LYNNE STEWART, AMERICA�S NEWEST POLITICAL PRISONER [WRH]
PAM COMMENTARY: Photos to go with the above story.
As UC Regents Approve Major Tuition Hike, Students, Faculty Decry Erosion of Public Education in CA and Nationwide [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Bob Samuels, just explain the situation right now. Why are these student hikes? What�s the justification for the 32 percent increase in student fees?
BOB SAMUELS: Well, President Yudof, the president of the University of California system, says that because of state cut to the UC budget from 20 percent of the state contribution, which is�the state only contributes about�contributes only about 15 percent of the total budget, but because of that cut, they say they have to raise student fees. And our argument has been that this is actually a record year of revenue for the UC system, and the problem is they just don�t want to spend the money on instruction. So what they�re doing instead--
AMY GOODMAN: How could it be a record year?
BOB SAMUELS: They brought in a lot of money from the federal stimulus money. They had a record year in their research grants. They had a record year in medical profits. Most of their money is brought in by selling parking, housing and medical services throughout California. So they had a record year in that revenue. They had a record year in grants. And so, actually, last year they ended up getting more money than before from the state, because they got the federal stimulus money.
Waiting In Line For Cheap Crap From China And Mexico
I said, "These must be made in China."
He replied, "No, Mexico."
Oh, my apologies to China. The defective Time Warner "Atlanta Explorer 8300" cable boxes were not made in China. They were shoddily constructed in Mexico. It was the defective Time Warner remote controls that were made in China. Mine were both bad and I traded each of them in.
I said to the folks behind the desk. "You know, I would rather pay a bit more and have quality electronics built in America." They all nodded in agreement. I felt sorry for them. It must be a boring job, having to sit there all day and deal with angry people trading in their defective Time Warner cable boxes from Mexico and broken remote controls from China.
I said to the guy stacking the defective cable receivers built so poorly in Mexico, "You must have a warehouse full of these."
"We bring 'em in on pallets," he answered.
Vancouver Island evacuation order lifted
While rain continued to fall in the region on Saturday, B.C. Environment Minister Barry Penner said more flooding is not expected.
"We expect the trend will be for the rivers to either stabilize or continue to decline slowly," Penner said.
He said the flooding was caused by a combination of heavy rains, rising freezing levels and snow melt.
"The river crested at almost the same time as the high tide occurred," Penner said in an interview Saturday. "We don't expect to see that combination of events tonight or tomorrow."
There is no word yet on the extent of the damages, but some residents reported water levels rose "up to their doorknobs" on Friday.
While residents were allowed to return home, some will have to stay in hotels or with friends and relatives for the next few days due to the extensive damage caused by the rising waters.
Bacteria 'glow near landmines'; Bacteria that glow green in the presence of explosives could provide a cheap and safe way to find hidden landmines, according to British scientists. [R]
The bugs can be mixed into a colourless solution that forms green patches when sprayed on to ground where mines are buried.
Researchers who created the bacteria at the University of Edinburgh believe the microbes could be dropped from the air on to danger areas.
Within a few hours, they would react to traces of explosives leaking from the devices buried underground.
PAM COMMENTARY: The question is, what's the environmental impact of these bugs once released?
Obama Nominates Pesticide Executive to Be Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the US Trade Representative [DN]
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the organizing that�s going on right now and if you see Siddiqui�s nomination as indicative of the whole approach of the Obama administration. I mean, you have Michelle Obama, the main advocate now for organic farming, or at least organic gardening at the White House.
MARCIA ISHII-EITEMAN: Correct, and it�s rather ironic in that this appointment of a CropLife representative, Mr. Siddiqui, he comes from the very same organization that infamously shuddered at Michelle Obama�s planting of this White House organic garden.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
MARCIA ISHII-EITEMAN: Well, when she first announced and began developing this organic garden at the White House as a way of highlighting to the public and letting people know that local fresh and organic produce is actually healthier for our bodies and for our children, CropLife�s regional partner in the Midwest sent a letter to Michelle Obama expressing their deep concern that she was setting a bad example for the rest of the country by not using their chemical pesticides. And then they organized a letter writing campaign to urge her to abandon this practice and start using pesticides as soon as possible.
So there�s a great deal of irony here, but the problem is�goes deeper than the irony, and it even goes deeper than this revolving door that we�re seeing. I think what we have with the Obama administration is a very mixed bag of let�s try to do both and everything together, but predominantly, at the basis of the administration�s agriculture policy is a commitment to a fundamentally flawed industrial model of agriculture that is chemically intensive, energy and water intensive, and that is not the solution for the kinds of changes that the planet and US farmers, in particular, are facing in the coming years and decades with climate change, water scarcity and this rapidly diminishing supply of fossil fuels. What we really need to be doing is getting off the pesticide GMO treadmill and moving as quickly as possible on to the right kind of agroecologically based farming that history and science now tells us is really the most robust way forward.
Major Victory With Swine Flu Scandal [AJ]
Accusations are flying in British and French media that the pandemic has been �hyped� by medical researchers to further their own cause, boost research grants and line the pockets of drug companies.
Britain�s Independent newspaper this week asked �Pandemic? What Pandemic?�
Signs Swine Flu Wave May Have Peaked in U.S.
Although federal health officials decline to use the word �peaked,� the current wave of swine flu appears to have done so in the United States.
Flu activity is coming down in all regions of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, though it is still rising in Hawaii, Maine and some isolated areas.
The World Health Organization said Friday that there were �early signs of a peak� in much of the United States.
On Wednesday, the American College Health Association, which surveys over 250 colleges with more than three million students, said new cases of flu had dropped in the week ending Nov. 13. It was the first drop since school resumed in the fall, and it was significant � new cases were down 27 percent from the week before.
And on Friday, Quest Diagnostics, the country�s largest laboratory, said its tests of 142,000 suspected flu specimens since May showed that the flu peaked in late October.
Zap! Light used to paralyze tiny creatures; Research behind nematode photoswitch could have medical applications
The researchers fed a light-sensitive material � a "photoswitch" known as dithienylethene � to the transparent worms. When exposed to ultraviolet rays, the molecule turned blue and the worms became paralyzed. Using visible light instead made the chemical turn colorless and the paralysis ended.
Although it remains uncertain how the switch causes paralysis, materials scientist Neil Branda at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, and his colleagues suspect that when the molecule is blue, its structure interferes with the metabolic pathways responsible for energy in the worm. Different levels of paralysis were seen depending on how much of the photoswitch the worms took � at too high a level, the light even killed the worms.
Branda wanted to make clear that this photoswitch would likely not have the same effect on humans . "You'd have to have a huge amount of it," he explained. "If you did, you might see the activity of cells shut down, which would eventually kill them. Paralysis is just an intermediate step to death in many cases."
Ecuador's Amazonians sue Chevron over poison waterways [R]
Texaco, which is owned by Chevron, first started operating in Sucumb�, in northeastern Ecuador in 1964 and in 26 years made $490m (�294m) and produced 1.7 billion barrels of oil.
As the operator of a consortium with Petroecuador, it drilled hundreds of wells in an area of 1,500 square miles and for each one, a series of pits in which to put the water produced as a byproduct of the oil.
Those fighting Chevron claim the 18 billion gallons of water put into the pits was toxic and was allowed to overflow into nearby rivers. They also claim Texaco spilled an additional 17 million gallons of crude oil.
The resulting contamination has increased cancer rates in the area threefold, they claim, and led directly to the deaths of 1,400 people.
"Texaco treated Ecuador's Amazon like a garbage dump," said Douglas Beltman, a former official at the US Environmental Protection Agency who serves as a scientific consultant to the affected indigenous groups. "Almost everything an oil company could do wrong, Texaco did do wrong."
FAA computer problem causes widespread delays
Air traveler nationwide was slowly returning to normal Thursday after an FAA computer glitch caused widespread cancellations and delays for the second time in 15 months.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the problem, which lasted about five hours, was fixed around 10 a.m., but it was unclear how long flights would continue to be affected.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was one of the hardest hit, and glitch-related flight delays left a bitter taste in the mouths of some passengers.
Chris Torres, 40, a vacationing surgeon from New York, said he was supposed to get a connecting Delta Air Lines flight in Atlanta to fly to his cousin's wedding in Guatemala. Instead, because of a delay in his flight from New York, his connecting flight had left by the time he got to Atlanta.
He said Delta told him to get a hotel room in Atlanta and they would attempt to book him on a flight Friday, but he said the airline did not give him a hotel voucher.
"They told us this is a federal problem, not an airline problem," Torres said as he waited at the South Terminal baggage claim terminal. "We weren't expecting this. No one was expecting this."
Meteor lights up early morning sky, alarms Utahns [WRH]
At exactly 12:07, people from all over the western United States watched as the bolide meteor crashed into Earth's atmosphere. In some areas, the flash of light was so bright it caused light-sensor street lamps to shut off.
Clark Planetarium Director Seth Jarvis said the stony meteorite was probably traveling 80,000 miles an hour when it hit our atmosphere. He said it happened 100 miles up in the air; so despite the brightness, Utah was never in any danger.
"These collisions can do damage, but they are extremely rare; and literally once in a century do you observe something that's actually doing damage," he said.
Witness Andy Bailey said, "Oh, it lit up the whole sky, like almost brighter than the day. It was bright."
Drug Makers Raise Prices in Face of Health Care Reform
Even as drug makers promise to support Washington�s health care overhaul by shaving $8 billion a year off the nation�s drug costs after the legislation takes effect, the industry has been raising its prices at the fastest rate in years.
In the last year, the industry has raised the wholesale prices of brand-name prescription drugs by about 9 percent, according to industry analysts. That will add more than $10 billion to the nation�s drug bill, which is on track to exceed $300 billion this year. By at least one analysis, it is the highest annual rate of inflation for drug prices since 1992.
The drug trend is distinctly at odds with the direction of the Consumer Price Index, which has fallen by 1.3 percent in the last year.
Drug makers say they have valid business reasons for the price increases. Critics say the industry is trying to establish a higher price base before Congress passes legislation that tries to curb drug spending in coming years.
PAM COMMENTARY: They did the same thing when Clinton was talking about health care reform. And of course the prices don't go down from there, they'll just take everything that they can get from people.
Fluoridation Increases Infant Death Rates [R]
Fluoridation causes more premature births, one of the top causes of infant death in the USA. It poses the greatest risk to poor non-white mothers and babies. This is the finding State University of New York researchers from data spanning 1993 to 2002.
Research in Chile in the 1970s also showed fluoridation caused an increase in infant death rates. Chile stopped fluoridation as a result.
A baby born at least 3 weeks early is classified as premature - accounting for about 12 percent of US births.
Don't forget! Leonid meteor showers between midnight and dawn on Tuesday morning, November 17th!
Circle Nov. 17 on your calendar, for early that morning a moderate to possibly very strong showing of annual Leonid meteor shower is likely.
The very strong display will favor those living across most of central and eastern Asia. In this region, meteor rates might briefly rise to a few hundred per hour (the time frame for the most intense activity is anticipated sometime around 21:40 GMT).
A far more modest, but still potentially enjoyable display of a few dozen Leonid meteors per hour is expected to favor North America. In the United States and Canada, eastern observers will be particularly well-positioned for maximum activity, expected sometime between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m. EST, when the radiant of the Leonid shower will be well up in the dark southeastern sky.
New study casts more doubt on drugs Vytorin, Zetia
ORLANDO � The blockbuster cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia suffered a major setback Sunday when doctors released the results of a second study in as many years that raises concerns about how well the drugs work.
The new study found that a prescription version of the drug niacin, used in different forms for half a century, reduced artery plaque significantly better in eight months than ezetimibe, the active ingredient in both Vytorin and Zetia.
Patients in the ezetimibe group also suffered more heart attacks and other major heart problems than those in the niacin group, but the numbers were too small to draw conclusions, says the lead author, Allen Taylor, of the Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center.
Tugs may try to pull runaway barge off Sandbridge beach tonight
Each line will be attached to a separate tug, Miller said. If all goes according to plan, Titan Salvage could make a first attempt to pull the barge off the beach duirng tonight's high tide.
On Sunday, officials with the American Bureau of Shipping, Coast Guard, Crowley and Titan assessed the barge to make sure it is seaworthy, Miller said.
Also during the weekend, officials were able to confirm that the massive unmanned barge isn't leaking any hazardous chemicals.
Uninsured ER patients twice as likely to die; New study highlights disparity of care for those who don't have coverage
CHICAGO - Uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance, according to a troubling new study.
The findings by Harvard University researchers surprised doctors and health experts who have believed emergency room care was equitable.
"This is another drop in a sea of evidence that the uninsured fare much worse in their health in the United States," said senior author Dr. Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and medical journalist.
Task force opposes routine mammograms for women age 40-49
Women in their 40s should not get routine mammograms for early detection of breast cancer, according to updated guidelines set forth by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Before having a mammogram, women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of the test, and then decide if they want to be screened, according to the task force.
For women ages 50 to 74, it recommends routine mammography screenings every two years. Risks and benefits for women age 75 and above are unknown, it said.
The group's previous recommendation was for routine screenings every year or two for women age 40 and older.
PAM COMMENTARY: Press coverage of this story borders on whitewashing the issue. Mammograms have been controversial in general because radiation from mammograms can CAUSE cancer. Any potential benefit of the test must be weighed against the increased risk of cancer from radiation, in addition to the question of whether mainstream medical care provides a great enough success rate to justify that increased risk.
Del. Phil Hamilton resigns from Virginia legislature
Del. Phil Hamilton has resigned from his seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, ending a long and productive legislative career on an ignominious note.
The embattled Newport News Republican concluded the remaining days of his 21 years in the House, effective yesterday. He sent a two-sentence letter dated Nov. 10 to the House of Delegates clerk resigning his post in �what I consider to be, the most distinguished legislative body in the world.�
Hamilton became embroiled in a scandal during the final months of his re-election campaign when The Virginian-Pilot reported that he had negotiated a $40,000-a-year job for himself at an Old Dominion University teacher training center while securing startup funds for the facility in 2007.
Revelation of that controversy prompted Hamilton and ODU to sever that professional relationship. It also became an issue in the statewide campaigns this fall and led House Speaker William Howell, R-Stafford, to call for a state ethics panel inquiry into Hamilton�s conduct.
PAM COMMENTARY: Hamilton had already lost his seat to a Democrat in Virginia's state elections earlier this month. He was involved in several scandals that had the appearance of favors-for-money, including the introduction of a bill (still law today) making the HPV vaccine MANDATORY for Virginian schoolgirls. The ODU scandal was slightly worse for Hamilton, though, as it may have crossed the line into illegal territory.
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Sources (if found on major news boards):
[AJ] - InfoWars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, or other Alex Jones-affiliated sites
[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com