Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2012
News from the Week of 26th of May to 1st of June 2013
Slew of new caffeinated food products has FDA jittery (1 June 2013)
Who needs coffee for breakfast when you can pour Wired Wyatt's caffeinated maple syrup over your Wired Waffles? Remember Cracker Jack? This year saw the advent of Cracker Jack'd Power Bites, with as much caffeine per serving as a cup of coffee.
Americans, it turns out, are willing to gobble up caffeine in all kinds of foods -- from potato chips to sunflower seeds to beef jerky. Not to mention gummy bears and marshmallows. -Energy-boosting foods racked up more than $1.6 billion in domestic retail sales last year, up nearly 50 percent from five years ago, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International.
The trend, experts say, reflects a rush by food manufacturers to cater to consumers' increasingly frenetic lives -- and to cash in on the popularity and profitability of high-caffeine energy drinks.
"This is something that's going to continue to grow," said Roger Sullivan, founder of Wired Waffles, based in Marysville, Wash. He says his product is popular with endurance runners, long-haul truck drivers and -sleep-deprived college students. "It's definitely a market where I think a lot of large companies are figuring out how to jump in."
Frightened Oklahoma residents opt to flee tornadoes (1 June 2013)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- It's a warning as familiar as a daily prayer for Tornado Alley residents: When a twister approaches, take shelter in a basement or low-level interior room or closet, away from windows and exterior walls.
But with the powerful devastation from the May 20 twister that killed 24 and pummeled the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore still etched in their minds, many Oklahomans instead opted to flee Friday night when a violent tornado developed and headed toward the state's capital city.
It was a dangerous decision to make.
Interstates and roadways already packed with rush-hour traffic quickly became parking lots as people tried to escape the oncoming storm. Motorists were trapped in their vehicles -- a place emergency officials say is one of the worst to be in a tornado.
Walmart workers rely on food stamps: Study (1 June 2013) [Rense.com]
Many Walmart workers rely on food stamps and other government aid programs to meet their basic needs as the giant retailer holds on to its minimum wage policy, warns a new study.
This would cost American taxpayers as much as $900,000 for only one Walmart Supercenters in Wisconsin, the study released by Congressional Democrats on Thursday found.
"The Low-Wage Drag on Our Economy," report was produced by Democrats with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is chaired by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.). According to the committee, Wisconsin was chosen for the study as the state's data seems to be the newest and the most inclusive.
The findings come as Walmart workers at stores across the United States continue to walk off their jobs in pursuit of better pays.
Naval Academy probing alleged sexual assault (1 June 2013)
The U.S. Naval Academy is investigating allegations that three members of its football team sexually assaulted a female midshipman at an off-campus house last year, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday, and a lawyer for the woman says she was "ostracized" on campus after she reported it.
The names of the players were not made public and the athletic director deferred comment to a Naval Academy spokesman, who said school leadership were monitoring the investigation but declined further comment.
The allegation is the latest in a string of sexual assault cases that has drawn attention in Congress and at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the chiefs of each military branch, are scheduled to testify next week at a Senate hearing.
The alleged assault occurred in April 2012 at an off-campus house in Annapolis. The woman woke up after a night of heavy drinking and later learned from friends and social media that three football players claimed to have had sex with her while she was intoxicated, her attorney Susan Burke said in a statement Friday. She said her client reported the allegations to Navy criminal investigators, but was disciplined instead for drinking. The athletes were permitted to continue playing.
Pfc. Bradley Manning's WikiLeaks trial also a test for government (1 June 2013)
The trial could prove a further embarrassment to a government that granted a low-level disgruntled Army private from a small farm in Oklahoma wide access to the nation's top-secret vault and then unwittingly allowed him to compromise an estimated 700,000 state secrets.
"It's disappointing on a diplomatic level," said Donald J. Guter, president of the South Texas College of Law and a former Navy judge advocate general. "And the lack of any efficient control over the content of the material was a huge issue. He shouldn't have been able to do what he did. It's disturbing and embarrassing."
Legal experts say that government lawyers do not have an open-and-shut case because they must prove that Manning knew he was jeopardizing national security.
"The government can't win just by showing up," said Elizabeth Goitein, an expert on government secrecy and co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. "It has to prove that Manning had reason to believe his disclosures would harm national security."
Google ordered to hand private customer data over to FBI investigators (1 June 2013)
A US judge has ordered Google to comply with FBI secret demands for customer data, despite earlier ruling the warrantless orders unconstitutional.
District court judge Susan Illston this week rejected the internet search giant's argument that so-called National Security Letters (NSLs) violated its constitutional rights. As such it ordered Google to hand over private information relating to US citizens to federal agents.
It comes despite Illston earlier ruling the letters unconstitutional in a separate case in March. In that case, brought by non-profit advocacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the judge said that such demands violated the right to free speech.
She also ruled against gagging clauses attached to the demands that prevent the recipients of NSLs from disclosing the mere existence of an order.
"The court concludes that the nondisclosure provision violates the First Amendment ... the government is therefore enjoined from issuing NSLs ... or from enforcing the nondisclosure provision in this or any other case," Illston concluded in March.
Grass isn't greener on the Navy side -- just longer (1 June 2013)
Here's an unexpected consequence of federal belt tightening: The U.S. Navy has become that sloppy neighbor with the unsightly front yard.
To trim the budget, the region's naval bases have cut back on trimming the grass.
The civilian contractor responsible for lawn care at Hampton Roads installations has been instructed to let grass grow to a foot before mowing, a change that's expected to save the Navy about $1.9 million this year.
That's a drop in the bucket compared with the $4 billion the service has had to slash to meet the demands of sequestration. But out-of-control grass at area bases has quickly become one of the more visual signs of sweeping defense cuts.
After days of rain, much of Norfolk Naval Station was overgrown last week, giving swaths of the world's largest naval base an unlived-in appearance. Similar scenes were reported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
At Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, tall grass and thigh-high weeds greeted visitors near the entrance to the master jet base. (Note: If Virginia Beach residents or businesses let lawns grow above 10 inches, they could face criminal misdemeanor charges and fines up to $350.)
Mes Aynak: Afghanistan's Buddhist buried treasure faces destruction (1 June 2013)
In the spring of 1963, a French geologist set out from Kabul to carry out a survey in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan. His destination was the large outcrop of copper-bearing strata in the mountains above the village of Mes Aynak. But in the course of boring for samples, the geologist stumbled on something much more exciting: an entire buried Buddhist city dating from the early centuries AD. The site was clearly very large -- he estimated that it covered six sq km -- and, although long forgotten, he correctly guessed that it must once have been a huge and wealthy terminus on the Silk Road.
Archaeologists in Kabul did a preliminary survey of the site, mapping it and digging test trenches, but before they could gather the enormous resources needed for a full-scale excavation, first the 1978 Marxist coup then the 1979 Saur Communist revolution and the Soviet invasion intervened. In the chaos of conflict that followed, the Soviets visited Mes Aynak to dig test tunnels into the hillside and investigate the feasibility of extracting its copper. Later, during the Taliban era, one of the abandoned Soviet tunnels became an al-Qaida hideout, while the remote valley became a training camp: the 9/11 hijackers stopped off here en route to New York. During the American onslaught of December 2001, US special forces attacked the tunnel: an unexploded rocket lodged in the roof and burn marks at the cave mouth still bear witness to the attack.
By the time French archaeologists returned in 2004, they found that the secret of the buried city was out. As had happened in many other sites in the country, a large and highly organised team of professional art looters, probably from Pakistan, had systematically plundered the mounds at Mes Aynak and, judging by the detritus they left, had found large quantities of hugely valuable Gandharan Buddha images: the remains of many painted stucco figures deemed too fragile or too damaged to sell were left lying around the looting trenches which now crisscrossed the site. Beside them, the archaeologists found empty tubes of glue and bags of fine plaster -- evidence of attempts at restoration and conservation.
Things did not begin well. The first set of guards placed on the site in 2004 ended up shooting each other in a gun-battle; indicating, presumably, that profitable looting was continuing long after the site had passed into Afghan government control. But it was now beyond dispute that Mes Aynak was a discovery of major significance. In the months that followed, the excavators uncovered 19 separate archaeological sites in the valley. These ranged from four fortified monasteries, a Zoroastrian fire temple and several Buddhist stupas (commemorative monuments), through ancient copper working, smelting workshops, miners habitations and a mint, as well as two small forts and a citadel. They also found a hoard of Kushan, Sassanian and Indo-Parthian coins, more than 1,000 statues, and several perfectly preserved frescoes showing donor portraits and scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Old Virginia town famed for ham uneasy about Chinese bid (1 June 2013)
(Reuters) - Painted pig statues grace the picturesque brick sidewalks of this small Virginia river town of 8,000, and its slogan, "Hams, History and Hospitality," probably tells visitors all they need to know about Smithfield and its relationship with Smithfield Foods, the world's largest hog producer.
Earlier this week, Smithfield Foods (SFD.N) received a $4.7 billion buyout offer from a Chinese food company. News that an agreement had been reached and was awaiting U.S. government approval sent a shiver through the community, where it is the largest employer with a payroll of nearly 4,000 people. Worldwide, Smithfield employs 46,000.
Ham is the town's primary industry, followed by tourism.
The hope, community leaders say, is that Smithfield Food's new owners will invest in the community, not cut jobs.
Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd's agreement to buy Smithfield would be the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese one. The bid is part of an effort to feed growing demand in China for U.S. pork.
PAM COMMENTARY: It's also known for the intolerable smell.
Japan and other nations say no to U.S. wheat, worried about GMOs (31 May 2013)
Japan cancelled a bid on 27,500 tons of Pacific Northwest wheat on Thursday -- the first bite taken out of America's wheat export market after a rogue genetically engineered strain was discovered growing like a weed on an Oregon farm.
Other international buyers also reacted negatively to the news, with South Korea suspending its tenders to import U.S. wheat and European Union countries being urged to step up genetic testing of American imports. Taiwan said it may seek assurances that all imported wheat from the U.S. is GMO-free, the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch reports.
From Agence France-Presse:
"As long as the situation remains unchanged, we have no choice but to avoid bidding for the product," [a Japanese government] official said ...
In Civil Rights Victory, Virginia Restores Voting Rights for Hundreds of Thousands Nonviolent Felons (31 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
GOV. BOB McDONNELL: We are a nation of second chances. We believe in redemption and restoration. And our recidivism rate in Virginia is down to 23 percent. But part of what we've been able to do is have a aggressive prisoner re-entry system, but also to get people fully reintegrated into society. And so, what I announced yesterday, Joe and Mika, was, once somebody has done their probation or parole or incarceration and they paid all their fines and costs and don't have any pending charges, we're going to automatically restore their voting rights and their civil and constitutional rights, get them fully reintegrated in society to be a law-abiding citizen, because that will decrease the chances they commit new crimes.
AMY GOODMAN: Currently, Virginia is one of only four states that do not automatically restore voting rights to felons once they've served their time. Even under the new process, Virginia Governor McDonnell says he can only legally restore rights on an individual basis. This means the governor's office will send a letter to each former nonviolent felon it can find, telling them their rights are restored. Attempts to amend the Constitution to make the process automatic have proved unsuccessful for more than 30 years.
Ex-offenders reacted to Governor McDonnell's announcement on CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia.
DARRELL GOODEN: I can be a part of society.
JOHN KUNZ: I've forgiven myself. The other people involved in my situation have forgiven me. But it's just--it was like a dark cloud over my head, because now this--this finally feels like society forgiving me, as well.
No need to eat like a caveman -- just eat your damn veggies! (31 May 2013)
Rubbery, wishy-washy supermarket fruit and veggies got you down? You're not alone. It's the flipside of plants bred to produce bumper crops that can survive 1,000-mile cross-country treks and then look pretty on store shelves. Tasty? Not so much. But the problem goes deeper than a bouquet of blandness.
We've known for a while that our food has been dropping in nutritional content thanks to 50 years of this kind of thinking. The go-to source for this information is this 2004 study that found significant reductions in the amounts of little things like calcium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and C in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including corn, carrots, strawberries, and broccoli.
But it turns out that the effects on our food from the industrialization of agriculture pales in comparison to the effects on our food from the actual invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. While industrial agriculture has cut the amounts of nutrients in certain foods by as much as half, wild versions of common vegetables have hundreds or even thousands of times the phytonutrients and antioxidants of our current fare.
This all matters because these obscure but powerful compounds are the real benefit we get from eating our fruits and veggies. Our main nutrients, such as fats, proteins, and many minerals, we can get from carbs, meat, dairy, and legumes. But phytonutrients -- which include familiar vitamins like beta-carotene and more obscure but possibly equally important substances like lutein, lycopene, anthocyanins, and flavonols -- come only from plants. When your parent or doctor or the U.S. Department of Agriculture tells you to eat your fruit and veggies, what they're really saying is, "Eat your phytonutrients!"
Why do we allow pesticides in baby formula? (31 May 2013)
(NaturalNews) It has been established that infant formula increases the risk of severe, debilitating and even fatal childhood diseases through a wide range of epidemiological studies. Is it really any wonder when we allow chemicals such as Cupric sulfate a known pesticide, herbicide and fungicide in baby and infant formulas? (1,4,5,6,7)
What is cupric sulfate?
Cupric sulfate is an inorganic salt which is widely used in industry, agriculture, and veterinary medicine. (2) Cupric sulfate is also used in copperplating, in dyeing (as a mordant), in wet-cell batteries, in pigments, and algicides. (1). So what in the world is this doing in baby formula? This chemical is listed plainly on the ingredient label of many prominent baby food formulas, including Enfamil (3, 4), Similac , (5), and Earth's Best Organic (6). You can even find it in Centrum and One-a-Day vitamins. Research has identified a link between cupric sulfate and many negative conditions such as arsenic poisoning, DNA damage, heavy metal toxicity and mercury poisoning. Much of this research dates as far back as 1991, so why are companies still allowing this chemical in consumer products, and notably in baby formulas?
What's the risk?
The following information is taken directly from the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Cupric Sulfate:
Section 3: Hazards Identification, of the Material Safety Data Sheet for cupric sulfate show Potential Acute Health Effects: Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of eye contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation. Potential Chronic Health Effects: CARCINOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. MUTAGENIC EFFECTS: Mutagenic for mammalian somatic cells. TERATOGENIC EFFECTS: Not available. DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICITY: Not available. The substance may be toxic to kidneys, liver. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. (7)
Section 7: Handling and Storage, states the following precautions "Do not ingest, do not breathe dust, wear protective clothing. If ingested, seek medical advice immediately. Avoid contact with skin and eyes." (7)
Jesse Ventura for president? Former governor toying with idea (31 May 2013) [InfoWars.com]
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura is toying with the idea of running for president in 2016.
Ventura returned from his winter home in Mexico last week, and during a stop Friday at the state Capitol, he floated a trial balloon for a White House bid.
He told reporters 2016 will be an "opportune moment" for an independent presidential candidate because no incumbent will be running and the public is fed up with the two major parties.
"If I were to decide -- and I haven't, and may not -- I believe one issue would carry me to victory," he said. "I would give the people of America their first opportunity to elect a president who doesn't belong to a political party since George Washington."
In addition to being an independent, Ventura said, the key to having a shot at winning is having the "ability to rise above the mainstream and get the press, which I have never had a problem doing. You guys like me, I guess."
Four Years After Murder of Dr. George Tiller, His Wichita Abortion Clinic Reopens Despite Threats (31 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. George Tiller speaking in 2001. He was murdered four years ago today. The man who assassinated him, eight years after he spoke in that clip, anti-choice extremist Scott Roeder, is serving a life sentence. The four years since Tiller was murdered have seen a wave of new abortion restrictions. Eight states now ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Arizona Congressmember Trent Franks recently announced his intention to seek such a ban nationwide. Meanwhile, clinics across the country have been threatened by laws aimed at shutting them down.
For more, we go now to Julie Burkhart, director and founder of the Trust Women Foundation. She worked for eight years with Dr. Tiller before he was assassinated. Last month she reopened Tiller's clinic, which had been closed for the four years since his death. She's joining us from the newly opened South Wind Women's Center in Wichita.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dr. Burkhart. Can you talk about the opening of your clinic and what this means to you, Julie Burkhart, four years after he was murdered?
JULIE BURKHART: Well, thank you, Amy. And it's wonderful to be with you today.
We are just delighted. And I think we're still in a bit of awe that we have been able to finally reopen the clinic here in Wichita for women in this community and beyond. We have had approximately 200 patient visits in just the two short months that we've been open. And we are just so happy to be back in this community.
Endangered whooping crane born at Calgary Zoo (31 May 2013)
The Calgary Zoo is welcoming one of its tiniest -- and rare -- citizens.
A whooping crane has hatched from a total of six fertile eggs at the zoo's off-site wildlife conservation centre. The remaining five will be sent to other North American facilities to help boost the endangered bird's population in the wild.
The chick is healthy and feeding well with the help of its parents, said curator Colleen Baird.
It's possible the valuable bird will remain in Calgary and in several years be matched up with a mate as part of the zoo's ongoing breeding program to reintroduce the fowl into their natural habitat.
ORNGE helicopter crash: "Black hole" effect could have brought down air ambulance (31 May 2013)
OTTAWA--It's been called the "black hole" effect, when sky and ground blur into one seamless, disorienting curtain of darkness.
That's what the crew of the ORNGE chopper would have faced soon after their midnight take-off from Moosonee airport. And it may have been their downfall as the Sikorsky S-76 crashed into the ground just minutes later, killing all four onboard.
It's a phenomenon that has claimed many pilots, most notably John F. Kennedy Jr., who crashed his light plane into the Atlantic Ocean during a night flight over water in 1999. U.S. investigators later said that Kennedy lost control flying in the dark haze because of "spatial disorientation."
On Friday, contact was lost with the chopper soon after its departure. So far, there has been no indication that crew signalled they were having troubles. In a statement Friday, ORNGE said it had no indication about what caused the accident.
An answer to a lunar mystery: Why is the moon's gravity so uneven? (30 May 2013)
Ever since the first satellites were sent to the moon to scout landing sites for Apollo astronauts, scientists have noticed a peculiar phenomenon: As these probes orbited the moon, passing over certain craters and impact basins, they periodically veered off course, plummeting toward the lunar surface before pulling back up.
As it turns out, the cause of such bumpy orbits was the moon itself: Over the years, scientists have observed that its gravity is stronger in some regions than others, creating a "lumpy" gravitational field. In particular, a handful of impact basins exhibit unexpectedly strong gravitational pull. Scientists have suspected that the explanation has to do with an excess distribution of mass below the lunar surface, and have dubbed these regions mass concentrations, or "mascons."
Exactly how these mascons came to be has remained a mystery -- until now.
Using high-resolution gravity data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, researchers at MIT and Purdue University have mapped the structure of several lunar mascons and found that their gravitational fields resemble a bull's-eye pattern: a center of strong, or positive, gravity surrounded by alternating rings of negative and positive gravity.
To figure out what caused this gravitational pattern, the team created simulations of lunar impacts, along with their geological repercussions in the moon's crust and mantle, over both the short- and long-term. They found that the simulations reproduced the bull's-eye pattern under just one scenario.
Did Public Television Commit Self-Censorship to Appease Billionaire Funder David Koch? (30 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: So, why don't you tell us about what's happened to your film? We saw you at the Sundance Film Festival. We always cover the documentary track, and your film, Citizen Koch, was one of those that was premiering at Sundance. Tia, what happened next?
TIA LESSIN: Well, as we were racing to meet the deadline to get to Sundance, actually, is when we started to hear the first rumblings of problems over at ITVS. It was about a week after Alex Gibney's film aired, and we got a series of frantic phone calls, actually after we decided to change the--to come up with the title Citizen Koch. We had had a working title, Citizen Corp., for our film, but we needed a title to go to Sundance, so we came up with Citizen Koch. They had been fine with that a week earlier. But then we got a frantic series of text messages and phone calls, you know, and they desperately wanted to see the film that we were going to take to Sundance. And we were happy to give it to them. So, I guess a couple days after that, we got on the phone with the head of production over there, and they said, "You know, if you guys don't change the name of your film, then we're going to have to take funding away from you. We can't have a relationship with this film under that name."
And, you know, we were sort of stunned. We were open to other names, you know, quite frankly, but we were really curious about what was behind that. And, look, it took one Google search to figure out that David Koch was a board member of WNET and GBH also, and also a contributor. So we asked, very directly, "Did this have anything to do with the demands they were making?" And, you know, they were not very transparent, but it became clear that, in fact, there was a climate at PBS that would find the name of this film, Citizen Koch, unacceptable. And we told them, "Look, we're happy to change the name, but not for political reasons. We're not going to change the name of our film because one of your donors is going to be angered by it." So, we took a principled stand. We thought that everything would fall apart then and there. We went to Sundance, and they told us before Sundance, "No, we're still committed to your film. We're on board with you. We want to see you through this. And we're still in partnership." So, that's where the story left off.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, the Jane Mayer article in The New Yorker has pointed out the key role played by Neil Shapiro in beginning to exert pressure on ITVS. Of course, Neil Shapiro had a long career as a network executive at NBC before he came over to run the duopoly, the PBS duopoly in New York. But did you, at that time, get any indication Neil Shapiro was directly intervening?
TIA LESSIN: Look, they weren't being completely honest with us. They--it was clear that they were afraid of something and somebody. What we now know from Jane Mayer's article is that Neil Shapiro called ITVS directly and issued some threats, including that they would--that NET would pull out of their series Independent Lens in the aftermath of that Gibney film. And so, I guess they saw our film coming down the pike and freaked out, you know. And it wasn't just that they wanted us to change the title of the film. It became clear that they wanted us to get--you know, to sanitize the film, to scrub Koch out of the film altogether.
High doses of pain-killers such as ibuprofen 'can cause heart attack' (30 May 2013)
Earlier research had linked the drugs' use to a risk of serious gastrointestinal problems. This led to a new generation of NSAIDs called coxibs that were designed to reduce these complications, but instead came under scrutiny for increasing the risk of heart attacks.
The new study, published in The Lancet, found that high doses of not only coxibs but also older-generation NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Advil) or diclofenac (Voltaren) were associated with heart disease risk.
"For every 1,000 individuals with a moderate risk of heart disease allocated to one year of treatment with high-dose diclofenac or ibuprofen, about three would experience an avoidable heart attack of which one would be fatal," said a press statement accompanying the study.
"In addition, all NSAIDs double the risk of heart failure and produce a 2-4 times increased risk of serious upper gastrointestinal complications such as bleeding ulcers," said the statement.
A high dose of diclofenac is indicated as 150 milligrammes per day and of ibuprofen about 2,400 milligrammes per day.
Analysis: Behind China's U.S. pork deal, fears over feed additives (30 May 2013)
(Reuters) - When Smithfield Foods Inc. quietly weaned the first of its pigs off the controversial feed additive ractopamine last year, it may have helped open the door for a Chinese counterpart to acquire the world's largest hog producer.
Used for more than a decade in the U.S. livestock industry to help pigs quickly build lean muscle instead of fat, the additive had begun to ring alarm bells among some major meat importing countries around the globe. U.S. media reports of ractopamine-fed pigs becoming sick fueled questions among food-safety critics last year about the potential long-term impact on human health.
Among worried buyers was China, a nation stung by a series of food-safety scandals including the export of arsenic-laden apple juice as well as toxic toothpaste; authorities had been on high alert after a 2011 scare with a different, and toxic, growth drug found in some pork. This March, China began requiring third-party verification that U.S. pork products were ractopamine-free. Russia, the sixth-largest buyer of U.S. pork, had blocked imports of U.S. meat using ractopamine weeks before.
The measures highlighted a sharp contrast with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved ractopamine for use in commercially-raised swine in 1999 and stands by that decision, saying its safety has been corroborated four times. It is used in more than half of the U.S. hog herd, analysts estimate.
Now Smithfield's move to eliminate ractopamine from more than half of its operations is likely to intensify questions both about the safety of medicated additives and about the livestock industry's increasing reliance on Big Pharma to help engineer the perfect pig - bigger and cheaper than ever.
The company's decision to break ranks also may pressure peers to follow its lead -- or relinquish access to the world's fastest-growing food market, China.
Prospect of Smithfield sale blindsides town officials (30 May 2013)
In a town known as the "Ham Capital of the World," where life-size hog statues decorate downtown and local restaurants consider pork a menu mainstay, Wednesday's news was a shocker.
Mayor T. Carter Williams heard it from the television: A Chinese company had announced it would buy pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc.
"It was a total surprise," Williams said.
Based in Smithfield, the company is so closely connected to the town that residents can hardly imagine a future without it.
Keystone wait weighs on smaller oil producers (30 May 2013)
Competition from rising U.S. energy supplies, a dearth of capacity to ship crude out of landlocked Alberta and political deliberations around pipelines have pushed oil from Canada, home to the world's third-largest reserves, swinging to as much as $41.50 a barrel below the main U.S. crude. The gap was $19.35 below U.S. crude yesterday.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he would decide on the $5.3 billion Keystone XL conduit from Alberta's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast this year, North Dakota Senator and Keystone XL supporter John Hoeven, a Republican, said in March, after a meeting with the president and other Republican lawmakers. TransCanada Corp., builder of the proposed Keystone XL, has faced pressure from environmental groups such as 350.org who say oil-sands operations release more carbon dioxide than other forms of conventional drilling.
Marathon, based in Houston, said last week it ended talks to sell its 20 percent stake in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project mine in northern Alberta after failing to reach an agreement with a potential buyer. Lee Warren, a Marathon spokeswoman, declined to provide further detail on why talks broke down, in a telephone interview yesterday from Houston.
As Lawmakers Target Food Stamp Funding, New Report Finds 1 in 6 in U.S. Are Going Hungry (30 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
SMITA NARULA: Sure. As you've mentioned, we're facing a serious food insecurity crisis in the country today. Of the 50 million people who are food insecure, 17 million are considered as having very low food security. And what this means is that people are regularly reducing the size of their meals, skipping meals altogether, and in some cases going entire days without eating. Our report finds that the key nutrition assistance programs which represent the government's response to food insecurity are failing to address this crisis adequately, and instead of shoring up these programs, Congress is now threatening deep cuts to SNAP, or the Food Stamp Program, which threatens to push millions of Americans into deeper crisis.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, what about this network of programs, a safety net the government has, not only the Food Stamp Program, but the WIC program, the free lunch--School Lunch Program, the free breakfast programs? How well are they tackling the problem right now?
SMITA NARULA: These programs are incredibly vital to millions of Americans, and they have tremendous reach, but our report finds that they fall short in three key respects. First, the eligibility requirements for these programs, which are often drawn along income and asset lines, are simply drawn too narrowly, so these programs are not reaching all food insecure households. Second, numerous burdensome certification, renewal and verification processes are deterring applicants from applying altogether. And, finally, the amount of benefits that are provided by these programs are simply insufficient to meet a family's food-related needs.
To give you an example, a family of four entitled to the maximum SNAP benefit can only provide $1.90 per person per meal under those benefits. That's less than $24 a day to feed an entire family. There are two things that are wrong with that number. One, it doesn't stretch until the end of the month, and people end up lining up at food pantries. And second, it's also insufficient to ensure nutritious food, and many people turn to junk food, which is much more cheaper and more readily available in this country.
U.S. discovery of rogue GMO wheat raises concerns over controls (31 May 2013)
(Reuters) - For global consumers now on high alert over a rogue strain of genetically modified wheat found in Oregon, the question is simple: How could this happen? For a cadre of critics of biotech crops, the question is different: How could it not?
The questions arose after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it was investigating the mysterious appearance of experimental, unapproved genetically engineered wheat plants on a farm in Oregon. The wheat was developed years ago by Monsanto Co to tolerate its Roundup herbicide, but the world's largest seed company scrapped the project and ended all field trials in 2004.
The incident joins a score of episodes in which biotech crops have eluded efforts to segregate them from conventional varieties. But it marks the first time that a test strain of wheat, which has no genetically modified varieties on the market, has escaped the protocols set up by U.S. regulators to control it.
"These requirements are leaky and there is just no doubt about that. There is a fundamental problem with the system," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists who served on a biotech advisory subcommittee for the Food and Drug Administration from 2002 to 2005.
Arsenic being intentionally added to conventional chicken (30 May 2013)
(NaturalNews) The old saying, "You are what you eat," poses troubling implications for public health in light of a new study on chicken meat, which found that most of it contains dangerously high levels of toxic arsenic. And the worst part is that industrial chicken producers are directly responsible for causing this, as they intentionally add arsenic-based pharmaceutical drugs to chicken feed in order to bulk them up quickly and improve the color of their meat, which in turn poisons you and your family.
You can thank researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Maryland for exposing this little-known fact in a recent paper published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. As it turns out, virtually all commercial chicken, including certified organic and "antibiotic-free" varieties, contain some level of inorganic arsenic. But it is the conventional chicken fed arsenic-based drugs that have the highest levels.
As reported by GRACE Communications Foundation Senior Policy Advisor Chris Hunt, writing for Ecocentric, Johns Hopkins researchers collected a variety of chicken samples from grocery stores in 10 cities across the U.S. Some of the meat samples came from conventional sources, while others were U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic or "antibiotic-free." All the samples were tested side-by-side with each other, including in both raw and cooked form.
Upon analysis, the team discovered that the conventional chicken meat samples had the highest levels of inorganic arsenic overall, containing up to four times as much arsenic as the organic chicken samples. These same conventional chicken meat samples contained up to three times more arsenic than the maximum levels proposed, but later retracted, as a safety standard by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2011.
Ibragim Todashev's father: FBI 'bandits' murdered my son (30 May 2013)
An Islamic advocacy group insists that Todashev was unarmed, and that he was hit by at least seven bullets during the interview in his Orlando apartment on 22 May, contradicting earlier law enforcement accounts of the incident.
Hassan Shibley, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that Todashev's family and friends were meeting lawyers on Thursday to finish off a report that will support the request.
"We're not accusing anybody of anything, but we do want to know how an unarmed man who had not been charged or convicted of anything was shot seven times, once in the head, and killed," he said.
He said his group had a source close to the FBI investigation who confirmed that Todashev was not armed, and that all but one of the agents had left the room when the fatal shots were fired.
A Six-Foot-Eight Prosecutor Who Stared Down Bush to Lead FBI (30 May 2013)
The lawyer President Barack Obama plans to nominate as the next FBI director made his name as a prosecutor of terrorists who also resisted demands by President George W. Bush's White House for broad authority to wiretap without court approval.
Along the way, James B. Comey Jr. developed a loyal following of fellow attorneys and law enforcement agents, according to colleagues, classmates, bosses and friends. That talent for gathering support will be critical if he's confirmed to lead a Federal Bureau of Investigation that's challenged to meet new threats of terrorism and international cyber-crime at the same time its budget is being squeezed.
"People feel that they will be involved in something important if they work with him, and that he will absolutely do the right thing," said Patrick Fitzgerald, a former U.S. attorney and a friend of Comey's, said in a phone interview. "It's going to be an adventure and great things will get done - - very few people can say no to that."
Comey's nomination hasn't been announced. Two people familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to discuss internal discussions, said Obama has settled on him for the job.
Radiation measurements suggest new obstacle in human trip to Mars (30 May 2013)
Astronauts who travel on future missions to Mars would likely be exposed to their lifetime limit of radiation during the trip, not to mention time spent on the Red Planet, scientists said Thursday.
The measurements were made aboard the Mars Science Laboratory, an unmanned NASA rover and mobile lab that set off for Mars in 2011 before landing 253 days later in August 2012, said the report in the US journal Science.
"In terms of accumulated dose, it's like getting a whole-body CT scan once every five or six days," said Cary Zeitlin, a principal scientist in Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI) Space Science and Engineering Division.
"Radiation exposure at the level we measured is right at the edge, or possibly over the edge of what is considered acceptable in terms of career exposure limits defined by NASA and other space agencies."
Abducted yard aliens tale has sweet ending (30 May 2013)
The two plastic aliens disappeared from Robert and Dian Bolling's front yard in South Roanoke on April 22, filched by some hard-hearted thieves. Since then, news of their abduction has gone across the country and 'round the world.
Many were touched by the tale of the Bollings, a couple who have three teenage boys with Fragile X syndrome. The genetic abnormality leaves them profoundly unable to communicate or interact socially. The Bollings have used the aliens, purchased a dozen or so years ago at a Halloween clearance sale, as an ongoing yard stunt to relieve stress, meet friends and help their sons learn socialization skills.
They were understandably crushed when the figurines were stolen.
This past Friday afternoon, aliens reappeared at the Bollings' house. Robert Bolling found them in a cardboard box on his front porch.
UN scientists warn of massive jellyfish overpopulation in the Mediterranean (30 May 2013)
The United Nations on Thursday warned overfishing in the Mediterranean was boosting jellyfish, which reduce stocks further and it called for jellyfish to be used in food, medicine and cosmetics.
A study by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome said overfishing had increased the number of jellyfish because it had removed their main predators from the food chain.
In a "vicious circle", the jellyfish then feed on fish larvae and young fish "and further reduce the resilience of fish populations," the report said.
It pointed out that fish stocks had still not recovered from a surge in the mauve-coloured Pelagia jellyfish in the Adriatic 20-30 years ago.
The report pointed to other possible factors behind the growing number of jellyfish besides overfishing, including global warming and the increase in fertilizers and sewage in the water which increases the nutrients for jellyfish.
Missoula aims to catalog 30,000 to 50,000 urban trees (30 May 2013)
This summer, teams of arborists and volunteers will flit from tree to tree throughout Missoula like squirrels on an arboreal marathon.
Their mission: to catalog every stump, tree and broken branch in the city's public byways.
The first Missoula Tree Census expects to make a file on 30,000 to 50,000 urban trees.
"The people who planned this city planted lots of trees -- they had great foresight," said Karen Sippy, who helped organize the nonprofit Trees for Missoula organization. "But they're starting to fail at the same time. They need a lot of care."
Plan by Google's Motorola to open Tex. factory signals shift as tech firms look to add U.S. jobs (29 May 2013)
Motorola Mobility, once a pioneer in shifting manufacturing to China, is opening a smartphone factory in Texas, the company said Wednesday, joining a small but growing movement toward bringing technology jobs to the United States.
The decision follows announcements by major tech firms, including Apple and Lenovo , planning to add U.S. manufacturing capacity after more than a decade in which the flow was almost exclusively in the other direction -- with millions of jobs going to East Asian factories known for low wages and minimal labor protections.
The shifts to the United States are fledgling, and some industry experts say the companies are motivated less by long-term manufacturing needs than by public relations strategy. At a time of rising governmental scrutiny of technology companies, analysts say, there are few better ways to acquire allies on Capitol Hill than to create manufacturing jobs in lawmakers' home districts.
But Motorola Mobility officials said they see significant business logic to having a factory close to the engineers who are designing a new flagship smartphone and the customers they hope will buy it. Officials say it aids innovation while allowing for leaner inventories and lower shipping costs.
Assange: U.S. Probe of WikiLeaks & "Show Trial" of Bradley Manning Aims to Scare Whistleblowers (29 May 2013)
JULIAN ASSANGE: Bradley Manning is making his statements under duress, presently. He is facing a capital offense, which Barack Obama would have to sign, so politically there is possibly only a 3 percent, say, chance that Barack Obama would sign a death certificate or that the judge would decide to promote a death certificate. But if there was a 3 percent chance of you crossing the road, you wouldn't do so.
He's also facing a quite decent chance of life imprisonment. And the life imprisonment charge comes from a very new ambit claim of the Pentagon, that is--and the Department of Justice, that is, communicating with a journalist is communicating to the public, is communicating to al-Qaeda. And there's no allegation that Bradley Manning intended to communicate to al-Qaeda. The only allegation is that he indirectly did so as a result of communicating with journalists, who communicated to the public. If that precedent is allowed to be erected, it will do two things. Firstly, it means it's a potential death penalty for any person in the military speaking to a journalist about a sensitive matter. Secondly, it also embroils the journalist and the publication in that chain of communicating, they would say, to the enemy, and therefore making them susceptible, as well, to the Espionage Act, which also has capital offenses. And that is part of the U.S.--that latter part is part of the U.S. attack on WikiLeaks, including myself.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Julian Assange, there are about 150 witnesses who are set to testify against Manning at the trial. Among those witnesses, The Washington Post reports, is a person they have called a DOD operator, whose name they have not revealed, who is likely to say that Osama bin Laden received access to some of the WikiLeaks material through an associate because of what Manning revealed.
JULIAN ASSANGE: Well, the latest information I have is that there are, in fact, four of those people involved in the Osama bin Laden raid who will be testifying in one way or another. This is, of course, part of the show trial. The alleged actions here are a communication between a source and a journalist. There's no allegation anyone else was present in the room. So, 141 prosecution witnesses, 31 of them are giving secret testimony, in part, or behind a screen or something like this. This is a show trial. The trial is meant to go for 14 to 16 weeks, And the prosecution, the Pentagon and possibly White House is hungry for this. This is their big Broadway musical moment, and they have their star divas, from the SEALs and elsewhere, that they intend to put up in order to terrorize people from communicating with journalists and communicating with the public.
Julian Assange on Meeting with Google, Responds to Anti-WikiLeaks Attacks from New Film to Finances (29 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: We wanted to turn--switch gears right now. The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, has come out with a new book called The New Digital Age. And we wanted to ask you about a meeting you had. On June 23rd, 2011, Julian Assange, you had a secret five-hour meeting with the Google CEO Eric Schmidt. At the time, you were under house arrest in rural England. Also in attendance Jared Cohen, former adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; Scott Malcomson, director of speech writing for Ambassador Susan Rice at the State Department and current communications director of the International Crisis Group; and Lisa Shields, vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schmidt and Cohen requested the meeting to discuss their ideas for this book that has just come out, The New Digital World. We want to go to a part of your conversation with Schmidt and Malcomson. This is a recording you made of that meeting, first time being played in a national broadcast, where you talk about the PATRIOT Act.
JULIAN ASSANGE: We wouldn't mind a leak from Google, which would be, I think, probably all the PATRIOT Act requests.
ERIC SCHMIDT: Yeah, which would be illegal.
JULIAN ASSANGE: There's no jurisdiction, da-da-da-da-da.
ERIC SCHMIDT: We are a U.S.--
JULIAN ASSANGE: There's higher laws. There's higher laws, First Amendment, you know.
ERIC SCHMIDT: No, no. I've actually spent quite a bit of time on this question, because I am--I am in great trouble because I have given a series of criticisms about PATRIOT I and PATRIOT II, because--
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yeah.
ERIC SCHMIDT: --which I think are--because they're nontransparent, you know, because the judge's orders are hidden, and so forth and so on. And the answer--the answer is that the laws are quite clear about Google in the U.S., that we couldn't do it. It would be illegal.
Minn. churches are sued under new sex abuse law (29 May 2013)
A 51-year-old Twin Cities man sued Wednesday alleging sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in the 1970s, the first such lawsuit since the Child Victims Act was signed into law last week by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The act strips away the statute of limitations that previously gave child sex-abuse victims until the age of 24 to sue. Exactly what impact it will have is unclear, but St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing the man, said more litigation is inevitable.
"He was suffering in the shadows," Anderson said of his client, who is remaining anonymous. "There are going to be many more [suits] to come, as they should. Now is the time for reckoning."
Anderson's client, Doe 1, is suing former priest Thomas Adamson, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona in Ramsey County District Court. Anderson is also asking the archdiocese and diocese to publicly release the names of 46 priests who have "credible allegations of sexual abuse."
Smithfield Foods sale to Chinese firm gives US pork giant entry to China (29 May 2013)
China's Shuanghui International has made a $4.7bn bid to takeover Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, in what would be the biggest takeover of a US company by a Chinese firm to date -- if it passes regulatory hurdles.
The deal is likely to run into heavy opposition in Washington, where a series of Chinese takeovers have been blocked by politicians and regulators. Shuanghui, also known as Shineway, is China's largest pork producer and is part owned by an investment firm run by Goldman Sachs.
A takeover would give Smithfield entry into China, the biggest and fastest growing market for pork. Per-capita pork consumption last year was 86 pounds, up from 70 pounds in 2002, according to Northstar Commodity Investment. In the US consumption was 58 pounds last year, down from 66 pounds in 2002.
And as demand has risen China's domestic pig farmers have been subject of scandals with thousands of dead pigs found dead in Chinese rivers, disease outbreaks and illnesses.
Where greenhouse gases come from, in one graph (29 May 2013)
You should click and look at the big version, or better yet get the PDF from Ecofys and zoom in really close, where you can see the sectors further broken down.
No grand conclusions to draw, just something to think on. Every one of these sources can be dialed down, through conservation and efficiency if nothing else, but off the top of my head I'd say the easiest targets for rapid emission reductions, in no particular order, are: 1) stop chopping forests down, 2) zero out emissions from residential and commercial buildings, 3) capture methane everywhere, from agriculture to energy to solid waste, 4) reduce vehicle-miles-traveled with densification and transit, then electrify the hell out of everything else in transportation.
The tough nut to crack, it seems to me, is industrial uses of coal. Industry uses coal for high-heat operations like coking for steel production and it's difficult to replace that kind of thing with electricity. Maybe renewables will eventually crowd natural gas out of electricity and into industry, where it can displace coal? I'd like to hear more about how to squeeze coal out of industry, if anyone knows of good studies.
iPhone thief drags Toronto actor alongside car (29 May 2013)
A Toronto actor faced an unfortunate case of life imitating art Tuesday when he was the victim of a violent cellphone theft.
eff Hanson, who is currently in a play about random violent attacks, was walking home from a performance. He was on Bathurst St. just south of Dupont St. at about 11 p.m. when a car pulled up next to him.
The driver asked to borrow his phone to call a friend for directions. Immediately after Hanson leaned into the passenger window and handed him his iPhone, the man stepped on the gas.
"I had a fight-or-flight reaction," recalled Hanson, who grabbed onto the inside of the car as the man sped off.
Before the Bikini: Rare Vintage Beach Photos (29 May 2013)
Beach vacations started as early as the late 1800s after railroads became a viable source of transportation, according to Victoriana Magazine. Swimwear consisted of fully covered gowns and bloomers that revealed very little. Although the sun's harmful UV rays were an unknown danger at the time, this conservative beachwear would have provided a good deal of protection.
By the early 1900s, beach resorts were becoming a popular destination. But water activities such as swimming and diving were a burden due to the bulky Victorian-style swimsuits, especially for the women, the magazine reports. Thus, by the 1920s, fitted swimwear that modestly conformed to the body became a part of beach fashion. Susan Sessions Rugh, an American history professor at Brigham Young University, points out that as the years passed, swimsuits became smaller and smaller.
"Earlier in the century, the sexes were often segregated on the beach and women were chaperoned, even though today their swimsuits look ridiculously modest," Rugh said in an interview with Weather.com. "Swimsuits shrunk over the years as new stretch fabrics and manufacturing methods allowed a more form-fitting garment."
Rationing of fabric during the war created women's clothing in America that was somewhat more revealing, possibly inspiring the production of two-piece bathing suits, which exposed women's midriffs.
After the war, in 1946, the bikini was introduced and a trip to the beach hasn't been the same.
PAM COMMENTARY: "Although the sun's harmful UV rays were an unknown danger"? As if sunburn was unknown to them. Nice photo gallery, though.
Horses run wild and free on Canada's remote Sable Island (29 May 2013)
Home to a breathtakingly beautiful herd of feral ponies, seal breeding grounds and Arctic terns, among other wildlife, Sable Island in Nova Scotia is Canada's newest national park, but has has had very few visitors over the years.
Well, not intentional visitors: It was nicknamed "Graveyard of the Atlantic" for the number of wooden shipwrecks off its notoriously foggy, windy shores, leading to the establishment of livesaving stations on Sable Island in 1801. One such shipwreck may have contributed to the current equine population, although the Canadian Encyclopedia says evidence points to a Boston merchant's having brought Acadian horses over in the mid-18th century in an unsuccessful attempt to farm the island nearly 200 miles southeast of Halifax.
Protected since 1962, the herd of up to 400 horses greatly outnumbers the half-dozen humans living on the island, and few others have the privilege of seeing the ponies. "Cruise lines include (Sable Island) in their itinerary, but most can't access it the first try, give up and carry on their way," explains Jillian Dickens of Adventure Canada, a 25-year-old expedition company specializing in the high Arctic, Greenland, Northwest Passage and Labrador.
In 2014 Adventure Canada will run its first trip to Sable Island -- and become the first tour operator to devote an itinerary to this secret gem of the north. I wrote about the inaugural seven-night cruise out of Newfoundland in my Globetrotter column in the May 26 Chronicle Travel section (also available online on the Chronicle's premium Web site), but only one picture could appear in print and the e-edition (and none on the Web site.)
Germany fears revolution if Europe scraps welfare model (28 May 2013)
(Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned on Tuesday that failure to win the battle against youth unemployment could tear Europe apart, and dropping the continent's welfare model in favor of tougher U.S. standards would spark a revolution.
Germany, along with France, Spain and Italy, backed urgent action to rescue a generation of young Europeans who fear they will not find jobs, with youth unemployment in the EU standing at nearly one in four, more than twice the adult rate.
"We need to be more successful in our fight against youth unemployment, otherwise we will lose the battle for Europe's unity," Germany's Schaeuble said.
While Germany insists on the importance of budget consolidation, Schaeuble spoke of the need to preserve Europe's welfare model.
Who will be Miss Nerd America? (28 May 2013)
All right, ladies, where do all the nerdy guys hang out?
That is, after they've finished playing video games and swinging light sabers.
Why, on the Miss Nerd America website, where the girls all play video games and swing light sabers, among other, um, interesting diversions.
"We are focusing on personality and interests and hobbies," said site co-creator Jeff Wolski. "We have all ages, all shapes and sizes and backgrounds."
Mom brings home more bacon in nearly 1 in 4 homes (28 May 2013)
Moms now earn more than dads in almost a quarter of all U.S. families, the highest level in history. It's a huge leap from 50 years ago when only a handful of moms were bringing home the bacon, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.
Overall, women -- including those who are unmarried -- are now the leading or solo breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households, compared with just 11 percent in 1960, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau analyzed by Pew.
That's both good news and bad news, depending on which end of the scale you examine. At the top level, educated women are catching up with men in the workforce. But at the bottom rungs, there are more single mothers than ever and most of them are living near the poverty line.
"It's a long-term trend since the '60s that the breadwinner moms have gone up," said Wendy Wang, a Pew research associate and the lead author of the report.
Facebook gives way to campaign against hate speech on its pages (28 May 2013)
Facebook has bowed to an outcry over content promoting violence against women after advertisers pulled ads in protest.
The company said on Tuesday it would update its policies on hate speech, increase accountability of content creators and train staff to be more responsive to complaints, marking a victory for women's rights activists. "We need to do better -- and we will," it said in a statement.
The climbdown followed a week-long campaign by Women, Action and the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and the activist Soraya Chemaly to remove supposedly humorous content endorsing rape and domestic violence.
Examples included a photograph of the singer Rihanna's bloodied and beaten face, captioned with "Chris Brown's Greatest Hits", a reference to the assault by her ex-boyfriend.
Facebook wages censorship war against moms of autistic children who protest GMOs: Exclusive interview with Andrea Lalama (28 May 2013)
(NaturalNews) When Facebook suspended the account of a mom of two autistic children who held anti-GMO signs at the recent rally, it became national news. Drudge Report linked to our Natural News story which documented Facebook censoring multiple accounts for sharing a photo Facebook absurdly called "abusive."
That photo, it turns out, was nothing more than a picture of two children holding up hand-made signs at the March Against Monsanto. One of the signs read, "Biopesticides = Autism, Say No to GMO" and the other sign read, "Organic Food It's My Medicine, Label GMOs" (see videos, below).
This defiance against GMOs was apparently too much for Facebook to tolerate, so it took immediate action to censor the account of the mom, Andrea Lalama.
In an exclusive interview, I spoke with Andrea by phone, where she provided more background about her autistic sons, her research into the causes of autism (vaccines and GMOs), and how Facebook's outrageous act of censorship has actually multiplied global awareness of the corporate conspiracy against moms who seek the truth about autism, vaccines and GMOs.
Walmart pleads guilty in waste case (28 May 2013)
Walmart agreed Tuesday to pay $82 million after pleading guilty to criminal charges that the company improperly dumped hazardous waste at stores across California.
The big-box retailer pleaded guilty at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to six misdemeanor counts of violating the Clean Water Act by negligently dumping pollutants from its stores into waste bins and sewer systems.
Walmart also pleaded guilty in a similar case in Missouri and agreed to settle a civil suit brought by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The deal closed a nearly decade-old investigation that involved more than 20 prosecutors and 32 environmental groups.
Disenfranchised ex-cons a stain on Virginia's democracy (28 May 2013)
VIRGINIA GOV. Robert F. McDonnell took office admirably determined to change a scandalously antiquated system by which the state has deprived several hundred thousand felons of their voting rights -- permanently. To his credit, he's done a better job than any of his predecessors at restoring the vote for former offenders who have served their sentences.
But measured against the problem, the governor's efforts have amounted to little. Given that more than half of the state's prison population is African American, the result is a stain on the state's democracy.
The essential problem is a provision in the state's constitution, reaffirmed by racist lawmakers more than a century ago, that deprives felons of the vote unless their rights are individually restored by the governor. Only three other states are so punitive; in the vast majority of states, voting rights are restored automatically once offenders have paid their debt to society.
Mr. McDonnell (R) has supported a change in the constitution, and so has the state Senate. But they've been blocked by Republicans in the House of Delegates, who may fear an infusion of African American voters.
In the absence of a constitutional change, Mr. McDonnell streamlined and accelerated the review of applications from ex-offenders and has restored voting rights to about 1,500 people each year, more than 80 percent of those who have applied. But each year 11,500 people are released from Virginia prisons, and an equal number of new convicts are incarcerated each year.
Deer Lice Infestation Causing California Animals To Bald, Leading To Deaths (28 May 2013)
SAN FRANCISCO -- An invasion of aggressive lice appears to be behind the balding of deer across California and may even be linked to deer deaths, according to state wildlife officials who are studying the hair loss.
Since 2009, researchers have collected hair and blood samples from more than 600 deer and elk with symptoms ranging from a scruffy-looking coat to almost complete baldness, the San Francisco Chronicle (http://bit.ly/12eXN8o) reported Monday.
So far, the hair loss has been linked to an invasive species of biting lice that normally feeds on fallow deer native to Europe and Asia. The deer respond by biting and scratching, which researchers believe could be leading to the hair loss, Greg Gerstenberg, a senior wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the Chronicle.
Hair-loss syndrome is associated with poor nutritional condition, state wildlife officials say. Researchers also speculate that deer infested with the lice become easy targets of coyotes and mountain lions because they spend so much time grooming, Gerstenberg said.
"While this theory is still under investigation, what we do know is that the louse has impacted migratory populations of California deer, which now have a low fawn survival rate, making it difficult to replenish the herd," Gerstenberg said in a release put out by the state fish and wildlife department.
This poignant film will make you fall in love with cicadas (28 May 2013)
Samuel Orr has been filming cicadas since 2007, and he gets up close and personal with these buggies. Really personal. (Nice cloaca!) This short excerpt of the footage he's collected runs for seven minutes, but stick with it. It starts out kind of poignant, with cicadas emerging from years of lonely existence, gets a little creepy when they start swarming, and, by the end, starts to feel almost like a preview for a magical fairy-tale epic designed to get kids to drag their parents to the theaters.
U.S. Army Vets Join with Afghans for Peace to Lead Antiwar March at Chicago NATO Summit (27 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
SURAIA SAHAR: My family is from, well, four different provinces: Laghman, Kabul, Logar, Badakhshan. I was born in Kabul. And I left Afghanistan in 1988 as a refugee from the Soviet war.
AMY GOODMAN: And here you're standing next to a U.S. soldier.
SURAIA SAHAR: Absolutely. And I feel honored standing next to this veteran, Graham, because they're now, I believe, in my opinion, doing what--doing the right thing in speaking out against the occupation and war alongside us today. And so, we will be marching with them at the rally, and we will be with them during the reconciliation event towards the end, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: As we speak here right near the NATO summit, Amnesty International is holding what they're calling an alternative summit, but Madeleine Albright is addressing them. And they have these ads up now that basically congratulate NATO and talk about continue the progress with women in Afghanistan. What is your response to that?
SURAIA SAHAR: No, I think that that's an absolute ridiculous joke. They are not there to liberate Afghanistan's women. You cannot liberate women through occupation and through war, through violence, through bombs, through tanks, through weapons. That's not how you do it. And it's quite offensive to me, as an Afghan woman, standing here before you.
Memorial Day Special: U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit (27 May 2013) [DemocracyNow.org]
IRIS FELICIANO: My name is Iris Feliciano. I served in the Marine Corps. And in January of 2002, I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And I want to tell the folks behind us, in these enclosed walls, where they build more policies based on lies and fear, that we no longer stand for them. We no longer stand for their lies, their failed policies and these unjust wars. Bring our troops home and end the war now. They can have these back.
PETE SULLIVAN: My name is Pete Sullivan. I served in the Army National Guard for 12 years. And all I have to say is that this is not something that I'm proud of.
ERICA SLONE: My name is Erica Slone. I'm from Ohio. I served in the Air Force from 2002 to 2008. I'm an Iraq veteran. In the military is where I learned what integrity meant, and I believe I served with integrity. And at this point in my life, if I want to continue to live with integrity, I must get rid of these.
GREG MILLER: My name is Greg Miller. I'm a veteran of the United States Army infantry with service in Iraq 2009. The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, servicemembers, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you. But that didn't work on me, so I'm here to return my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my National Defense Medal, because they're both lies.
The new tech palaces: visionary HQs, or cursed trophies? (27 May 2013)
(Reuters) - While much of corporate America is retrenching on the real estate front, the four most influential technology companies in America are each planning headquarters that could win a Pritzker Architecture Prize for hubris.
Amazon.com this week revealed plans for three verdant bubbles in downtown Seattle, joining Apple's circular "spaceship," Facebook's Frank Gehry-designed open-office complex and a new Googleplex on the list of planned trophy offices.
"It signals a desire, a statement, to say that we're special, we're different. We have changed the world and we are going to continue to change it," said Margaret O'Mara, associate professor of history at the University of Washington, who has written about the building of Silicon Valley.
"It's also a reflection of robust bank accounts. They have a lot of cash."
Historically, however, when a company becomes preoccupied with the grandeur of its premises, it often signals a high point in its fortunes. These fantastical buildings may end up as little more than costly monuments to vanity and a loss of focus on the core business that made for success in the first place.
PAM COMMENTARY: It's better than spending their building money on an ugly place to work.
Ship's legal plight part of battle over dumping waste (27 May 2013)
Like most such cases, the eight-count indictment issued last week in Norfolk federal court pivots around something called a "magic pipe." The term is shorthand for a way of handling the discharge of oily bilge water - the runoff from machinery and other sources that accumulates in the bottom of ships. Such methods enable a ship to bypass environmental controls mandated by international and U.S. law.
The indictment names as defendants the ship's operator, Kassian Maritime Navigation Agency Ltd., a Liberian corporation with offices in Athens, Greece; Angelex Ltd., the Malta-based owner of the ship; and Lambros Katsipis, the ship's chief engineer.
The charges include conspiracy, falsification of records and obstruction of justice.
Clifford P. Case, a New York attorney who has written about magic-pipe cases, said the term probably originated from the way the systems made contaminated wastewater seem to disappear.
"It was magic because it made the problem 'go away' by dumping the water overboard as opposed to running it through the treatment system," he said.
Court records show that this is essentially what Coast Guard inspectors found on April 15, not long after they boarded the Pappadakis at Norfolk Southern Corp.'s Lamberts Point terminal, where it was being loaded with coal bound for Brazil.
Study finds routine operations produce more waste than family of four in week (27 May 2013)
Operations to replace worn out knees in Canada are generating nearly half a million kilograms of surgical waste every year, according to a new study that says more needs to be done to "green" the nation's ORs.
After conducting a waste audit of five knee replacements performed by a single surgeon in February 2010, researchers from the University of Western Ontario in London found that the average surgical waste per surgery was 13.3 kilograms.
When extrapolated to the more than 47,000 knee replacements performed in Canada in 2008-09, the authors estimated knee surgeries generated 407,889 kg of landfill waste.
On average, 64 plastic wrappers, 41 surgical gloves, 29 green sterile towels, 10 vinyl gloves, five surgical gowns, five surgical drapes and three table covers were used per knee replacement, the authors write in the Canadian Journal of Surgery.
French professors in Montana to study environmental messages (27 May 2013)
"In many cultures, the bear is an animal that arouses powerful emotions," Grandjeat said during a visit to Missoula. "It has for centuries. It polarizes and concentrates emotions. It makes it so that as animals, they can't be approached just by a biological standpoint."
Grandjeat is a professor of American literature at Universite Michael de Montaigne in Bordeaux. With fellow professors Stephanie Bonnefille, who studies cognitive linguistics, and Laurent Conderchet, a geographer, he is visiting Montana to learn how ecological issues cross social and political lines.
For example, when Grandjeat was following the effort to take gray wolves off the federal endangered species list, he got the impression Americans were "taking the attitude there was a possibility of sharing territory with other species -- that wolves had a right to roam that territory."
"But here it seems more that you were saying, 'We can control wolves,' " he said. "It's a power relationship, that maybe hasn't altered in the way it might have been. I'm wondering if this is more about the human desire to dominate the environment."
Bonnefille found a similar divide when studying environmental messages in president George W. Bush and Barack Obama's State of the Union addresses. She recorded how Bush consistently referred to America's energy supply as a crisis and considered those who threatened the country's energy independence "almost like drug pushers -- criminals."
She said she was surprised when Obama reversed the language, but in an unexpected way.
Boston Marathon winner will donate medal to honor bombing victims (26 May 2013)
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- The Ethio-pian winner of this year's Boston Marathon said Sunday that he will donate his first-place medal to the people of Boston, telling visiting Secretary of State John F. Kerry that he wants to honor the dead and wounded from the finish-line bombing.
"Less than two hours after I crossed the finish line as this year's champion, my joy turned to sorrow," Lelisa Desisa said. "This day brought pain to many families and sorrow to many homes," the 23-year-old novice marathoner added as he announced his plan to travel to Boston to return the medal.
Lelisa spoke in his native Oromiffa at a brief ceremony at the U.S. Embassy here, standing with Kerry and two other top Ethiopian competitors in this year's Boston race. Kerry was in Ethiopia for an African Union summit.
"Sport should never be used as a battleground," Lelisa said through a translator. He said that he and his team will return to Boston to run again next year "to show the world that our commitment to sport, our commitment to our freedom will be stronger than any act of violence."
Native American veterans push for recognition (26 May 2013)
The Navajo Code Talkers are legendary. Then there was Cpl. Ira Hamilton Hayes, the Pima Indian who became a symbol of courage and patriotism when he and his fellow Marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945.
Before World War II and in the decades since, tens of thousands of American Indians have enlisted in the Armed Forces to serve their country at a rate much greater than any other ethnicity.
Yet, among all the monuments and statues along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., not one stands in recognition.
A grassroots effort is brewing among tribes across the country to change that, while Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii has introduced legislation that would clear the way for the National Museum of the American Indian to begin raising private funds for a memorial.
"This is not a political gamble for anyone, and it's not politically threatening for anyone," said Jefferson Keel, a retired Army officer and president of the National Congress of American Indians. "This is something that both sides of the aisle can get behind and support, because it's not going to cost a lot of money for the country. It's just something that needs to be done."
Memorial Day deserves better (26 May 2013)
The observance of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Bureau of Colored Troops in the District occurred this week, only a few days before Memorial Day. It seems fitting that the sesquicentennial of the Colored Troops Bureau falls close to the day originally set aside to remember those killed in the Civil War.
More than 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors served in the Union Army and Navy. Nearly 68,000 died.
Those African American service members were honored Wednesday at a wreath-laying ceremony and a program at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum on Vermont Avenue NW.
The event, organized by the museum's founder and director, Frank Smith, was well-attended and inspirational but low-key. There was not even a cameo appearance by Mayor Vincent Gray or a member of the D.C. Council. If any D.C. elected official sent a representative to the commemoration, the gesture went unannounced and unnoticed.
Chuck Hagel: US military must stamp out 'scourge' of sexual assault (26 May 2013)
Defence secretary Chuck Hagel told cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point on Saturday that they must stamp out the scourge of sexual assault in the military.
A day after President Barack Obama delivered a similar edict to US Naval Academy graduates, Hagel's message comes amid a series of widespread incidents of sexual misconduct across the armed services in recent months and a new report showing that the problem is growing. The challenge is particularly poignant for the West Point community, since earlier in the week an army sergeant was charged with secretly photographing and videotaping at least a dozen women at the prestigious military academy, including in a bathroom.
"Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts," Hagel told 1,007 graduating cadets during a cold, rainy outdoor ceremony. "This scourge must be stamped out. We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens. We cannot fail the Army or America. We cannot fail each other and we cannot fail the men and women that we lead."
Hagel, who served in the army in Vietnam, took the opportunity to reflect on his own time in uniform and the lessons that he said must resonate as the soldiers take on the job of helping to transform the military. It was his first graduation address as defense chief.
The graduates, he said, must be the generation of leaders who will stop the debilitating and insidious threats of suicide, sexual assault and drug and alcohol abuse that are hurting the all-volunteer force.
FBI grilled government officials over leaked story, New York Times claims (26 May 2013)
FBI agents grilled government officials and examined their email and phone logs in an effort to uncover the source of a story on Iran leaked to the New York Times, the newspaper reported.
As the Department of Justice continues to draw heat over its decision to seize the phone records from journalists at the Associated Press, the Times published an article Sunday giving fuller details of other attempts to discover those who had passed on sensitive information to the press.
It claimed that the FBI targeted the same AP reporters currently being investigated over a 2012 article about a Yemeni bomb plot for two other stories relating to terrorism. Meanwhile, a separate probe into the leaking of a CIA document on North Korea to Fox News had seen agents pull electronic data from officials, detailing who had access to the dossier and who had contact with reporter James Rosen.
The investigations into Fox News and AP stories have in recent weeks sparked protest from sections of the media, suggesting it amounts to clear government overreach. Last weekend, Associated Press's president and CEO Gary Pruitt condemned the Justice Department's actions as "unconstitutional".
Pruitt added that the probe had already had a chilling effect.
"Officials that would normally talk to us and people we talk to in the normal course of news-gathering are already saying to us that they are a little reluctant to talk to us. They fear that they will be monitored by the government."
In China, food scares put Mao's self-sufficiency goal at risk (26 May 2013)
(Reuters) - The discovery of dangerous levels of toxic cadmium in rice sold in the southern city of Guangzhou, the latest in a series of food scandals, has piled more pressure on China to clean up its food chain - possibly at the expense of Mao Zedong's cherished goal of self-sufficiency.
The ruling Communist Party has long staked its legitimacy on its ability to guarantee domestic staple food supplies, and has pledged to be at least 95 percent self-sufficient even as demand increases and the fastest and biggest urbanization process in history swallows up arable land.
That has led to a drive for quantity rather than quality - securing bumper harvests even from land contaminated by high levels of industrial waste and irrigated with water unfit for human consumption. "China has a big population and we used to face food shortages so the government has focused on quantity," said Li Guoxiang, a researcher at the state-backed Rural Development Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences.
But food safety is becoming a bigger worry than food security after a series of scandals ranging from melamine-tainted milk to toxic heavy metals in rice and vegetables - and raising the share of imports may be the least-worst option.
See rare sight Sunday: Jupiter, Venus and Mercury together (26 May 2013)
Three planets will perform a rare celestial dance in the sunset sky Sunday, a cosmic show that stars Jupiter, Venus and Mercury.
Weather permitting, the three planets will shine together in a triangle formation low in the western sky in a planetary meet-up known as a conjunction. But there is more to the night sky sight than meets the eye.
"Triple conjunctions of planets are fairly rare," astronomer Tony Phillips explained in a NASA observing guide. "The last time it happened was in May 2011 and it won't happen again until October 2015."
What sets Sunday night's planetary show apart from other conjunctions is that it includes the three brightest planets visible in the May night sky. Venus is the brightest of the trio, with Jupiter a close second and Mercury coming in third.
Exclusive: Facebook censors pictures of children rallying against GMOs during global March Against Monsanto (26 May 2013)
(NaturalNews) In one of the most devastating acts of destruction of its own credibility, Facebook engaged in yet more censorship of Free Speech with the suspending of an account that posted a photo of children rallying against Monsanto during today's global March Against Monsanto.
The picture shows two children of Natural News reader Andrea Lalama. They are carrying hand-drawn signs that read:
"ORGANIC FOOD It's My Medicine - Label GMOs - Say NO to GMO"
"BIOPESTICIDES = AUTISM - SAY NO TO GMO"
After this picture was shared on Facebook by Natural News, Andrea's account was immediately suspended. Facebook displayed a message on her account which read (see screen capture, below):
"FACEBOOK: You have been restricted from Interacting With Pages until Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 6:47pm."
At this point, Andrea can only re-post other people's content but is disallowed from posting her own content. Why? Because children with signs are obviously very, very dangerous to the establishment.
Down with the clown: Third graders stand up to McDonald's junk-food marketing (26 May 2013)
Last week at the McDonald's shareholder meeting, the world's largest fast food chain heard from a brave 9-year-old, Hannah Robertson. She was among a growing chorus of parents, teachers, and kids calling out the company for its relentless marketing to kids, especially with the use of its iconic clown, Ronald McDonald. (Who, by the way, I've always found creepy).
"It would be nice," said Robertson at the company's annual meeting in Chicago on Thursday, "if you stopped trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time."
CEO Don Thompson responded, "We are not marketing unjustly to kids."
Mr. Thompson, I'd like to introduce you to someone you might know: Ronald McDonald.
Deaths at Atlanta VA hospital prompt scrutiny (26 May 2013)
One patient with a history of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts was left alone in a waiting room inside the Atlanta VA Medical Center, where he obtained drugs from a hospital visitor and later died of an overdose.
Another patient wandered the 26-acre campus for hours, picking up his prescriptions from an outpatient pharmacy and injecting himself with testosterone before returning voluntarily to his room.
The cases at the Atlanta VA Medical Center are the latest in a string of problems at Veterans Affairs facilities nationwide, prompting outrage from elected officials and congressional scrutiny of what is the largest integrated health care system in the country with nearly 300,000 employees.
"It's not just Atlanta. There are issues throughout the United States," said Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, who noted there are many hard-working employees within the VA but feels legislation is needed to reform operations nationwide.
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Sources (if found on major news boards):
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[BF] - BuzzFlash.com
[DN] - DemocracyNow.org
[R] - Rense.com
[WRH] - WhatReallyHappened.com