Pam Rotella's Vegetarian FUN page -- News on health, nutrition, the environment, politics, and more!
NEWS LINK ARCHIVE 2014
News from the Week of 23rd of February to 1st of March 2014
Significant crude by rail accidents in North America: 2013-2014 (1 March 2014)
According to Statistics Canada, in 2011, about 68,000 carloads of fuel oils and crude petroleum were moving along Canadian rail lines. In 2012, that rose to nearly 113,000. Between January and September of 2013, some 118,000 carloads had already been moved. The Association of American Railroads estimates 400,000 crude carloads will move in the U.S. in 2013, up from 234,000 in 2012 and just 9,500 in 2008.
Rail industry associations say their products get to their destination safely more than 99 per cent of the time. But the growing volume of oil shipments also heightens the risk of a spill.
Postmedia has mapped significant crude by rail accidents in North America in 2013 and 2014. Use the map and timeline below to find out about each accident.
A recent version of Chrome, Safari or Firefox is needed to view the map.
Obamacare causing Target to drop coverage for part-time employees (1 March 2014)
The latest Obamacare employment casualties are part-time workers at big-box retailer Target. According to a recent report in The Hill, the company has decided that, in order to cut costs, it will be dropping health coverage for its part-time employees - despite President Obama's unconstitutional one-year delay of the employer mandate:
In a blog post on the company's website, Jodee Kozlak, the executive vice president of human resources, framed it as a positive development for part-time employees of the company.
"The Health Insurance Marketplaces provides new options for healthcare coverage that we believe our part-time members may prefer," she wrote. "In fact, by offering them insurance, we could actually disqualify many of them from being eligible for newly available subsidies that could reduce their overall health insurance expense."
Uh, well - perhaps not. But all of this was foreseeable as well. As to Obamacare creating part-time jobs...
Prickly pear: discover the healing power of an ancient Aztec superfood (1 March 2014)
(NaturalNews) If you live in Latin America, or a semi-arid region of the United States, a wild superfood may be ripe for the picking in your own backyard. Known as prickly pear cactus (Opuntia spp), the leaves and fruit of this desert plant can be harvested and consumed to treat a variety of conditions -- including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and inflammation.
Native to the mountainous areas of Mexico, prickly pear cactus has been used since ancient times as a potent medicine, as well as a daily food source. Many of the nutritional advantages of the plant are attributed to its growing habitat - namely, volcanic soil and high altitude. The Aztecs so valued prickly pear that it was considered food fit for warriors and royalty. Jump to the present day and you'll find health enthusiasts have also embraced the food for boosting stamina, improving health and slimming down.
A common sight in Hispanic communities and Latin America, cactus as a food may seem exotic to those unfamiliar with its use. And yet, science is beginning to recognize prickly pear as a beneficial food and therapeutic medicinal for many of the health disorders plaguing us today. One of the more intriguing uses for the cactus paddle (known as nopales) is in the treatment of diabetes. As a low-glycemic, high-fiber food, nopales lowers blood sugar levels, helping to keep obesity and diabetes at bay. Moreover, research published in Chemistry Central Journal found that consuming either tortillas or bars made with nopales increased vitamin C plasma levels, and reduced both cholesterol as well as triglycerides - which is good news for those concerned about cardiovascular disease.
As an added benefit, the plant sterols found in prickly pear act as antioxidants in the system, reducing inflammation and deterring the formation of plaque on blood vessel walls. What's more, the flavonoids present in the cactus minimize free radical load, which lessens the strain on the liver and boosts overall immunity. Since the fruit and leaves of the plant are loaded with non-carbohydrate polysaccharides in the form of pectin, hemicellulose and mucilage, prickly pear soothes and coats the digestive tract, relieving constipation as well as ulcers.
Snakes protect themselves from their own venom by producing natural chelating agent (1 March 2014)
Snakes protect themselves from their own venom by producing natural chelating agent
An abstract, presented by researchers Francis B., Seebart C., and Kaiser II, explains how snakes generate a natural chelating agent that protects them from their own venom.
In the study, selected snake venom was studied at the molecular level for enzyme activities. The researchers found large secretions of citrate, which is produced by snakes alongside their venom. The citrate acts as a natural chelating agent, which inactivates divalent metal cations that are required for destructive biological processes of enzymes in the venom.
When the snake's citrate was applied, calcium ions were chelated, and the enzymes were found to be completely inhibited and void of venomous activity. Natural citrate secretion reduced the activity of specific enzymes, protecting the snake from its own venom. The snake practically possesses its own antivenom. This research could help medical professionals develop alternative ways to treat snakebite venom.
Doug Ford: Rob Ford scandal 'put Toronto on the map' (1 March 2014)
Councillor Doug Ford is not at all worried about the impact of Mayor Rob Ford's crack cocaine scandal on Toronto's global reputation.
"Matter of fact, good or bad, it has put Toronto on the map," Doug Ford, his brother's campaign manager, told SiriusXM radio host Arlene Bynon on Thursday in an entirely serious tone of voice.
Ford said "everything is booming in the city." His evidence: "Like I've said a million times, 189 cranes in the air. The records for tourism. They say, 'well, it's embarrassing, it's hurting the city' -- well, a lot of cities wish they were in the same shape as Toronto is."
Only one of Ford's three supporting assertions is definitively accurate. One is false, and one is more false than true.
PAM COMMENTARY: An increase in tourism: "Let's drop by the local crack house so we can hang out with the Mayor!"
Actually, an increase in tourism probably has more to do with the value of the Canadian dollar. The lower it is, the better the prices look from overseas. And he's not helping his brother's substance abuse problems by making excuses for them.
Senators to investigate NSA role in GCHQ 'Optic Nerve' webcam spying (28 February 2014)
Three US senators are planning to investigate any role the National Security Agency played in its British partner's mass collection of Yahoo webcam images.
Reacting to the Guardian's revelation on Thursday that UK surveillance agency GCHQ swept up millions of Yahoo users' webcam chats, senators Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Martin Heinrich said in a joint statement that "any involvement of US agencies in the alleged activities reported today will need to be closely scrutinized".
The senators described the interception as a "breathtaking lack of respect for privacy and civil liberties".
On Friday, the Internet Association -- a trade body representing internet giants including Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix, AOL and Twitter -- joined the chorus of condemnation, issuing a statement expressing alarm at the latest GCHQ revelations, and calling for reform.
Idaho gov. signs 'ag gag' bill into law (28 February 2014)
Idaho on Friday became the first state in two years to pass a bill aimed at stopping filming at farms and dairy producers. The bill, which animal rights activists often refer to as an "ag gag" bill, was created in response to undercover animal rights activists exposing animal abuse at one of Idaho's largest dairy operations 2012.
The bill was signed into law by Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter on Friday.
The measure passed Idaho's Senate earlier in February to the applause of agricultural representatives who said it would help ensure farmers' right to privacy. But animal rights groups say the measure will have a chilling effect on investigations that attempt to expose wrongdoing on Idaho's farms.
"Gov. Otter has decided to keep corrupt factory farming practices from the public. He's created a safe haven for animal abuse," said Matt Rice, the director of investigations at Mercy for Animals, the group that made the 2012 video that sparked Idaho's ag-gag debate. "These are facilities that supply food to the entire country. No other industry has the kind of immunity."
Celery's an aphrodisiac -- too bad no one told Steve Buscemi (28 February 2014)
Celery, as Carrie Brownstein's character points out, is kind of a hard sell. "It's full of soluble AND insoluble fiber! You don't understand -- that's very hard on the digestive system," she tells Buscemi. On the plus side, it's also rich in vitamins K and A, which can help keep skin, eyes, and bones healthy.
Too bad Buscemi didn't know that celery's an aphrodisiac -- or at least the ancient Romans thought so. "It contains the pheromone androsterone, released by men's sweat glands to attract females," attests the U.K. Express. Adds food writer Amy Reiley:
"Celery is said to stimulate the pituitary gland, which is key in releasing sexual hormones ... As far back as the Middle Ages, the power of celery was well understood, according to a quote unearthed in the Eighteenth Century by Grimod de la Reyniere, 'It is enough to stress that [celery] is not in any way a salad for bachelors.' ... [And] raw celery root has been used for centuries as a cure for impotence."
Could polio or other vaccinations be behind the new "polio-like" Illness outbreak in California? (28 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) According to reports, there are now about 25 or more cases, and counting, of a new "polio-like" outbreak in California children. Disease control officials have yet to determine the cause of the outbreak and they are looking for a new virus. Perhaps one direction they should take a look at is polio and other childhood vaccinations.
Initial reports have indicated that the children being affected by the new disease have all been vaccinated against polio. The scenario of children vaccinated against polio and other illnesses coming down with a "polio-like" illness is all too familiar. Look for example at what happened in India when widespread polio vaccinations were used to reportedly eradicate polio from India.
India's polio vaccination experience
After years of massive administration of polio vaccine, India was declared polio-free and the last reported incidence of polio in India was in January 2011. Although the reported milestone has been widely publicized, what has not been so widely reported is that there were an extra 47,500 new cases in 2011 of the rare illness known as Non-Polio Acute Flaccid Paralysis (NPAFP).
The incidence of NPAFP in India in 2011 was 12 times higher than expected and was found to be directly proportional to doses of oral polio received. Though it may be called "Non-Polio" the symptoms of NPAFP are clinically indistinguishable from polio paralysis and the illness is twice as deadly.
Organic eggs are so expensive because the chickens eat fancy imported food (28 February 2014)
There are lots of reasons to pony up a few extra dollars for organic eggs -- they have those rich, deep yellow yolks, for instance, and you get the satisfaction of knowing the chickens who laid them lived better lives than the chickens who laid the sad non-organic eggs. But man, they are spendy.
One reason, Dan Charles reports at NPR, that organic eggs are expensive is that the chickens eat fancy imported food. American farmers aren't growing enough organic feed to feed the chickens that produce organic eggs:
"Most chickens eat feed made from ground-up corn and soybeans, but America's farmers are not growing enough organic corn and soybeans -- especially soybeans -- to feed the country's organic animals. ...
"It's led to the following situation, which on the face of it seems bizarre. The U.S., a soybean superpower, ships conventional soybeans all over the world to feed animals in places like China. Meanwhile, in China, farmers are growing organic soybeans and sending them here."
Juggling study leads to new revelations about human movement (28 February 2014)
A traditional circus act may shed new light on human movement, with implications for the treatment of neurological disorders or other scientific breakthroughs.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University are using juggling to study how touch, or haptic, feedback influences movement, and they've found that such feedback can help humans make fewer movement errors. The research could be beneficial to those studying how to create better prosthetic limbs or more nimble robots, they said.
Noah Cowan, a professor of mechanical engineering overseeing the research, and his team of graduate students designed and built a virtual juggling system with an acrylic paddle that study participants jiggled to bounce a ball on a screen, trying to keep the ball between two lines.
Some participants used only their vision for their exercise, but others got a tiny pulse when the virtual ball "struck" the paddle. Those who got the touch feedback, researchers found, made about half as many errors in the exercise as the group relying solely on vision.
Get an up-close, face-to-face view of a rescued pelican learning to fly (28 February 2014)
Bigbird the Pelican was a foundling. He swam in off Tanzania's Lake Tanganyika one day, alone and unable to fly, and he was adopted by a safari company, Greystoke Mahale, that makes its camp on the lake's banks.
And he grew up, and he learned how to fly, and his rescuers strapped a GoPro camera to his beak while he did it so you could get a bird's-nose view of the whole thing. This video of Bigbird winging over the lake may essentially be a commercial for GoPro, but it's also pretty awesome. Look how big Bigbird's wings are!
Wind turbines could weaken hurricanes, study shows (28 February 2014)
Can offshore wind turbines take down a hurricane?
Yes, if there are enough of them, according to a new study.
Spinning turbines suck winds from hurricanes as they make electricity, said Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering and lead author of "Taming hurricanes with arrays of offshore wind turbines," published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.
"They subtract from wind energy," Jacobson said in an interview. "They actually weaken the entire hurricane."
His computer modeling showed turbines would be capable of reducing winds by 56 to 92 miles per hour, as well as decreasing storm surge.
Las Vegas Sands says Pennsylvania casino hacked, customer data stolen (28 February 2014)
Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world's largest casino company, said customer data at its Pennsylvania property was stolen in a cyber-attack on its computer systems this month.
The information included Social Security and drivers license numbers, said a person with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be named because they aren't authorized to speak publicly.
"We have now determined that some legally protected guest data at Sands Bethlehem has been compromised," the Las Vegas- based company said today in a statement.
As of today, the number of customers affected is less than 1 percent of total visitors to the casino since it opened, the company said. A mailing database was also stolen, the company said.
Exposé of abused grandmother puts harsh spotlight on China's 'black jails' (28 February 2014)
Zhang Fengmei, a kindly looking gray-haired grandmother, couldn't sleep. Four nights she had spent alone, on the floor under a quilt, since the police had thrown her into this secret jail tucked into a quiet courtyard. No one had told her how long she would be kept prisoner.
When two men came into her cell soon after midnight and silently dismantled the CCTV cameras mounted high on the walls, however, she knew something was up.
The next morning, on Feb. 14, Ms. Zhang was told to leave. The city officials who had been guarding her gave her no explanations, nor any discharge papers. They had processed no documents on her arrival earlier in the week either. As the provincial government admitted after a Chinese newspaper reported on grandma Zhang's ordeal, her detention was wholly illegal.
But not, perhaps, without its redeeming features.
Chinese newspaper readers and bloggers are following her case, lawyers are planning lawsuits, and government officials are finding the story hard to ignore. All this unusual fuss suggests that Beijing may at last be cracking down on the "black jails" where local officials have often shut troublemakers away with no regard for the law.
Mt. Gox collapse spurs calls to regulate Bitcoin (28 February 2014)
A leading Bitcoin exchange completed its weeks-long collapse Friday with a public apology and a bankruptcy filing, fueling calls for regulators to rein in the innovative virtual currency worth billions of dollars.
The spectacular rise and fall of the marketplace, called Mt. Gox, has played out as something of a morality tale for those skeptical that a currency created on computers and untethered from regulatory structures or the full faith and credit of an issuing nation can be made secure enough for routine transactions.
Yet as the debate raged over Bitcoin's fate, there was growing consensus that virtual currencies -- if not this particular one -- would soon become irreplaceable features of the world's financial system by satisfying a widespread demand for high-tech, low-cost ways to transfer money beyond the reach of most forms of government tracking.
Losses at Mt. Gox have been put at more than $400 million, and experts say it's not clear whether that money was stolen by criminals or somehow mishandled by the operators of the exchange. Company officials have blamed a glitch in the transaction software that, they say, allowed hackers to siphon away money undetected.
Mexican kingpin's fall clouds future of drug heartland (28 February 2014)
Among the tin-roof shacks that cling to the hillsides rise pink and orange mansions that Guzman built for his mother and grandmother. Perched on the mountain above is his own mansion, "El Cielo" (or "The Sky"), ringed by tall pine trees.
Guzman, known by his nickname "Chapo" (or "Shorty"), was arrested on Saturday when Mexican marines stormed a condominium in the beach resort of Mazatlan.
It was a major victory for the government in its long, brutal war on drug cartels, whose feuds have claimed more than 80,000 lives in the country since 2007.
The news shocked local residents, who think of Guzman as one of the most powerful people in Mexico, bathed in riches that for years allowed him to pay off police and politicians and even escape from prison in 2001.
Boy with swastika carved into forehead leaves school, struggling with aftermath of attack, his mom says (28 February 2014)
Dustyn Murrain, the 16-year-old boy who police say was tortured by four other teenagers in a shed behind a Southeast Portland home, won't return to David Douglas High School and instead plans to join the Job Corps, his mother said.
"At least, it will get him away,'' Kelli Murrain said in an interview Friday.
The bandages are gone and his injuries are healing, but the emotional trauma is deep, she said.
"When he does talk about what's happened to him, he shakes,'' she said. "He's not comfortable with it. He's afraid. We've secluded him.''
'Truly Shocking': Govt Spies Hacked into Live Webcam Chats of Millions (27 February 2014)
The latest documents leaked to journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published Thursday in the Guardian newspaper reveal that the British GCHQ spy agency--with possible assistance from its U.S. counterpart--built and maintained a program that allowed it to tap the live webcam chats of millions of internet users with no connection to criminal or national security investigations.
With a program codenamed "Optic Nerve," the documents reveal how the agency hacked into the camera feeds of those using Yahoo! webchats, capturing both snapshots of conversations and metadata associated with the communication. As its name indicates, at least part of the program was aimed at improving the government's ability to use digital eye-recognition technology to detect and catalog online users that may or may be not be part of a criminal investigation.
"Truly shocking," were the words used by Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the ACLU's National Security Project, to describe the latest details about the dragnet surveillance programs of the GCHQ and the NSA, which seemed to have some knowledge of the program and may have had an active role in executing certain aspects of it.
"In a world in which there is no technological barrier to pervasive surveillance, the scope of the government's surveillance activities must be decided by the public, not secretive spy agencies interpreting secret legal authorities," said Abdo in a statement. "This report also raises troubling questions about the NSA's complicity in what is a massive and unprecedented violation of privacy. We need to know more about what the NSA knew, and what role it played."
Sexual assaults: Army removing 588 soldiers from 'positions of trust' (27 February 2014)
In the wake of a review ordered by the Defense secretary to help bring down rates of sexual assault, the Army is firing hundreds of soldiers from their jobs in "positions of trust." This move has advocacy organizations alternately hailing the removals as an important step in ongoing efforts to bring down sexual assault rates, and unleashing a new string of critiques against the Pentagon.
Pressure to get a handle on rising reports of sexual assault has been increasing as the Senate schedules a vote on a bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, which would take away from commanders the final say on whether prosecution of a sexual assault case proceeds. Most senior Pentagon officials strongly oppose such a move.
Hours into a congressional hearing Wednesday on the ties among sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide, USA Today came out with the news about the firings: After reviewing the records of 20,000 troops, the Army was going to remove 588 sexual assault counselors, as well as recruiters and drill sergeants, because of convictions in their past -- including for child abuse, stalking, drug use, drunken driving, or even sexual assault.
Currently, 79 soldiers are waiting to be given their walking papers from the Army altogether, according to an Army spokesman. "However, others could face further actions from their commands," adds Col. David Patterson, chief of Army Public Affairs.
Study: Global Warming Will Cause 180,000 More Rapes by 2099 (27 February 2014)
Global warming isn't just going to melt the Arctic and flood our cities--it's also going to make Americans more likely to kill each other.
That's the conclusion of a controversial new study that uses historic crime and temperature data to show that hotter weather leads to more murders, more rapes, more robberies, more assaults, and more property crimes.
"Looking at the past, we see a strong relationship between temperature and crime," says study author Matthew Ranson, an economist with the policy consulting firm Abt Associates. "We think that is likely to continue in the future."
Just how much more crime can we expect? Using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's warming projections, Ranson calculated that from 2010 to 2099, climate change will "cause" an additional "22,000 murders, 180,000 cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, 1.3 million burglaries, 2.2 million cases of larceny, and 580,000 cases of vehicle theft" in the United States.
Poultry workers, industry take fight to Capitol Hill over proposal to speed processing lines (27 February 2014)
Poultry workers, chicken industry lobbyists and food-safety advocates have been converging on Capitol Hill in recent weeks with dueling efforts to either boost or kill a proposal to overhaul the way the $60 billion-a-year poultry industry operates processing plants.
The latest push came Thursday when civil rights and worker-safety groups arranged for poultry workers to meet with lawmakers and administration officials to warn against the proposed acceleration of processing-line speeds and to share their accounts of injuries being caused at current speeds.
Opponents of the proposed -changes are trying to play catch-up with the efforts of the poultry industry. The National Chicken Council has been spending an average of more than $500,000 annually lobbying Congress, according to lobbying records, five times the group's average spending in the years before the U.S. Agriculture Department began working in earnest on the proposed plan in 2011.
The USDA was expected to finalize the plan last summer, but some members of Congress, along with worker and food-safety groups, raised concerns over provisions that could increase processing line speeds by 25 percent and reduce the number of government inspectors by 40 percent. In exchange, the poultry industry would be required to take steps to reduce food-borne pathogens, such as salmonella.
Michelle Obama unveils food label proposals: 'This will be the new norm' (27 February 2014)
Michelle Obama has some bad news for weight-conscious shoppers and food manufacturers: we've all been cheating.
In a rare foray into a frontline political battlefield, the first lady on Thursday announced a series of proposed changes to US food labelling rules that seek to tackle the fact that the average serving sizes used to calculate calorie intake have lost track with the reality of modern American appetites.
"This will be the new norm for providing consumers with the information they need," said the First Lady.
"We first launched Let's Move four years ago, [and] all of us here today were driven by a simple belief: that parents deserve to have the information they need to make healthy choices for their kids," she added.
New threat to Brazil's breadbasket: a pesky caterpillar (27 February 2014)
(Reuters) - Brazilian farmers are battling a voracious caterpillar that likely arrived from Asia, challenging the agricultural superpower's widely touted mastery of tropical farming just as it is on the verge of becoming the world's top soybean producer.
The caterpillar, a variety known as helicoverpa armigera that thrives in dry heat, was spotted for the first time in the Americas on cotton farms in drought-prone western Bahia in early 2012, fuelling panic among farmers who had no idea what it was.
The caterpillar was soon in soybean fields thousands of kilometers away thanks to the long-distance flying power of its moths, consuming everything from tomatoes to sorghum.
While crop losses have thus far been limited, Brazil is now on red alert over the nation's third major pest outbreak in 30 years. Officials have stepped up port controls, farmers are rethinking planting patterns and the hardest hit are blaming the government's cumbersome bureaucracy for not allowing the import of pesticides that have helped control the bug in other nations.
Most importantly, the caterpillar appears to be eating away at Brazil's proud claim to have conquered the craft of growing reliable crops in a tropical region where pests and disease can spread more quickly than for other major growers.
Big Oil and Bad Air: Report Exposes Link Between Fracking and Toxic Air Emissions in Texas (27 February 2014) [DemocracyNow.org]
Can you talk about what you found in this major new report you did on fracking the Eagle Ford Shale?
LISA SONG: Sure. This report that we did was done in collaboration with the Center for Public Integrity and The Weather Channel. And we decided to focus on air quality and air pollution issues from natural gas development, instead of water, because the issues with water have been looked at before.
And what we found in the Eagle Ford is that--the Eagle Ford is a huge, 20,000-square-mile area in South Texas. And there is right now one of the biggest oil and gas booms in the nation. But it hasn't gotten the national attention that places like the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania have. And what you have there in South Texas is this boom. And looking through air permits and looking at the regulatory regime, we found that there all of these facilities, that the wells and compressor stations and all the infrastructure that comes with the boom, that are emitting industrial-sized air pollutants into the air. And you're talking about things like hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly, volatile organic compounds like benzene that can cause cancer in the long term. And you have that alongside many, many hundreds of residential complaints about things that are related to the industry. So you have residents complaining to regulators about headaches and foul odors and trouble breathing and all kinds of respiratory problems.
And at the same time, you have a regulatory system that knows very little about the air quality in the area, because they have only five permanent air monitors in the entire Eagle Ford. And none of these monitors are in places with a lot of drilling. Also, you have regulatory agencies that are very business-friendly and very closely intertwined with the oil and gas industry. And that's something that David can talk about, because he looked into the politics.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants polluters' fees to help fund high-speed rail (27 February 2014)
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown wants long-term funding for California's high-speed rail project to come from the state greenhouse gas reduction program, expanding his commitment to the $68-billion project despite an ongoing legal battle.
His plan would annually shift a third of all "cap-and-trade" revenue, generated through fees on polluters, to help build the first leg of the rail line, which is supposed to stretch from Merced to the San Fernando Valley by 2022.
The proposal could provide billions of dollars for the bullet train over the next several years, although administration officials have not released specific estimates
"We believe it will be a growing source of revenue," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for Brown's Department of Finance.
Cornucopia Institute files third legal complaint over alleged violations at Horizon 'Organic' dairy factory farm (27 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) The nonprofit organic advocacy group the Cornucopia Institute (CI) has filed its third legal complaint with the National Organic Program (NOP) alleging serious improprieties by Dean Foods, and specifically its WhiteWave subsidiary. According to the complaint, WhiteWave's Horizon Organic milk brand violates organic standards because cows raised on the giant factory farm in Idaho where the company gets much of its milk are confined to feedlots and routinely barred from accessing pasture as required by law.
On February 11, CI sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service requesting an immediate investigation into the matter, which was first brought to the agency's attention back in 2006. Addressed specifically to Matthew Michael at the NOP Compliance and Enforcement Branch, the letter alleges that Horizon repeatedly violated the law with its milk brand by corporatizing the milking process to match that of the conventional dairy industry.
"This new legal complaint is an update to the complaint... from 2006 that was never properly adjudicated by the National Organic Program," reads the letter. "Based on freedom of information documents previously obtained by The Cornucopia Institute, it does not appear that NOP investigators ever visited the Dean/WhiteWave operation in Idaho despite our multiple requests to have them fully scrutinized."
Horizon 'Organic' cows over-milked, confined during feeding, alleges complaint
CI previously presented evidence to the NOP showing that the Idaho farm where Horizon receives much of its milk, which has since been sold to private investors, was milking as many as 8,000 animals as often as four times daily in clear violation of national organic standards. Cattle were also not being properly rotated, reads the complaint, another violation that the NOP essentially disregarded, perhaps due to powerful lobbying efforts by Dean Foods.
So you say you're a vegetarian? Have you fact-checked that? (27 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) We all have certain ways of eating and the reasons that propel those choices vary. Some of us never use the microwave because of studies that show how it changes the properties of foods, making it toxic. Many of us are raw foodists, enjoying the benefits of foods in their most natural, unheated, non-processed state. A few of us like monofruiting, believing that focusing on one kind of fruit for extended periods of time does our bodies good. And then there's the whole vegetarian thing.
Many individuals refrain from eating meats and foods that don't have animal byproducts. They love their healthy choices from both a moral, animal-friendly and a healthy, body-friendly standpoint. The horrific conditions that animals live in, not to say anything of the manner in which they are slaughtered (and naturally, the fact that they are slaughtered in the first place) just for the enjoyment of a summer sizzle on the grill, is upsetting and harmful for our bodies. We get that. But, my vegetarian friends, I'm sorry to say that while you've been diligently doing your part to keep the cow bells echoing on sunny pastures throughout the world, you may have overlooked something that has rendered you, well, not so much of a vegetarian after all.
Rennet: a cheese-making enzyme and the surprising place it comes from
Here's the deal: if you've been eating cheeses labeled as having no rBST hormones and the like, don't think for one minute that this means those farm-grazing cuties have been spared. Time to become familiar with the word, "rennet." It's an enzyme that helps to separate the milk into solid curds and liquid whey during the cheese-making process and it's in lots of cheeses, even your beloved ones with labels that come with an rBST or rBGH-free promise.
Where does that enzyme come from? The lining of calves' (and sometimes lambs') stomachs. So if the little darling doesn't become a breaded dinnertime cutlet or something to be enjoyed with mint jelly, chances are, it ends up as the ideal source for some nasty stomach-scraping all in the name of speeding up the way cheeses are made. Yikes.
Fordham University mumps outbreak affecting only vaccinated students; school bans unvaccinated students anyway (27 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) One of New York's lesser-known institutions of higher learning is making headlines after 13 confirmed cases, and counting, of mumps emerged on two of its campuses, prompting school officials to impetuously ban all unvaccinated students from attending classes. But these same reports clearly indicate that all affected students had already been vaccinated for mumps, proving once again the utter uselessness of vaccines and the imbecilic tendencies of organizations chained to the vaccine status quo.
According to reports, concerns first arose after several Fordham University students suddenly came down with flu-like symptoms in recent weeks, which later turned out to be adult mumps in every case. The infection numbers continued to swell, prompting an inquiry into the vaccination records of the affected students. But this inquiry revealed that not a single unvaccinated student had contracted the mumps -- only those who had previously been vaccinated for mumps developed the disease.
Nevertheless, Fordham officials have decided to prohibit all unvaccinated students, none of whom have contracted the disease thus far, from attending classes unless or until they agree to provide proof of vaccination. At the same time, all the vaccinated students who contracted mumps are being allowed to continue attending classes after exceeding the supposed contagious stage, a completely irrational policy move that only unfettered adherence to mainstream vaccine dogma.
"All of the students who were tentatively diagnosed with mumps had been vaccinated," ABC News reported. "Vaccinations do not offer 100 percent protection."
New Google Street View project lets you hang out with polar bears (27 February 2014)
Google Street View published a project today that lets you hang out with polar bears. I mean, not in real life, but there is this nice video...
Saline solution: When de-icing roads, we may want to pass on the salt (27 February 2014)
It's no secret that Americans love salt. But our uses for it extend well beyond the kitchen: It turns out we dump so much of the stuff on our roads that a lot of it ends up in our freshwater rivers and streams. Thanks again polar vortex.
See, sodium chloride's not only our favorite rock to eat, it's still the best way to deal with slick sidewalks and streets in the face of the dreaded wintry mix. Salt is cheaper and just works better at unsealing the bond between road and pavement than alternatives like calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, or potassium chloride. After getting pounded with storm after storm this winter, municipalities in the Northeast and Midwest had little freak-outs when they thought they wouldn't be getting enough of the stuff (you know things are getting desperate when towns turn to cheese brine, beet juice, or, heaven forfend, pickle juice for alternatives, not to mention when 80 tons of salt crystals mysteriously "disappear").
But the subtext behind the salt shortage is that we've used more of it this year than we normally do. And when our total last year came to 17 million tons -- 109 pounds per person in the U.S. -- well, that's more than just a dash.
And what goes on to our roads must end up ... where? That's a question that no one thought to ask until a few years ago. The answer's not pretty: In 2009, one group of scientists reported that 70 percent of the road salt applied in the Twin Cities gets retained in their watershed, leaving freshwater critters in increasingly saline situations. And similar studies conducted in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Indiana show the problem to be relatively widespread.
The Poisons of Extreme Wealth and Inequality (27 February 2014)
Wealth, poverty, and inequality are all - in excess - poisonous to our nation. They poison our economy, political system, education system, justice system and our culture.
As demonstrated over and over, those with excess wealth are keen to protect that wealth and to add more. One of their favored investments is real estate, but available and suitable properties are limited. Excess wealth chasing limited supplies drives up prices so the average young family must scrimp and save for years before they can buy their own home. For many, the American dream will fizzle out.
If you rent, know your rent is being jacked up in proportion to increased real estate prices. The wealthy do not buy real estate except to speculate or to get a good return on investment.
The wealthy elite can and will gamble by, for example, investing in derivatives. According to The Economist magazine as of June 2011 the OTC and exchange derivatives market was about $783 trillion. By comparison, the world annual gross domestic product is about $65 trillion. The resulting volatility, as we saw in 2008, creates a serious risk to the world economy. We may be at risk for another "too big to fail" bailout.
Quebec history courses should be rewritten with nationalist focus, report suggests (27 February 2014)
MONTREAL--Quebec's sovereigntist government plans to replace a high school history program that promotes citizenship and diversity with one that will teach students through the lens of French Canada's unique travails, including its struggle for nationhood.
With an election call expected as early as next week, a new report endorsing the changes has given the green light to move forward with a 2012 Parti Québécois campaign pledge.
The new curriculum, with its recommended focus on "Quebec's singular experience" in Canada, will be rolled out for a trial this September in 90 classes across Quebec. It could touch on cultural trends unique to the province, such as higher rates of union membership, relations between ethnic groups, the role of the Catholic Church or the women's movement.
But the red meat for nationalists and separatists is the decidedly French-Canadian spin on the founding of New France, the takeover by the British, the founding of Canada in 1867, the two world wars and a half-century of independence and national unity struggles, including two losing sovereignty referendums.
U.S. House Republican unity tested on Obamacare alternative (27 February 2014)
(Reuters) - A month after Republicans rallied around offering an alternative to President Barack Obama's healthcare law in an election-year move to broaden their appeal to voters, divisions are surfacing over the issue in the U.S. House of Representatives.
House Speaker John Boehner has not committed to voting this year on legislation to replace Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act. Different ideas are circulating among Republicans, ranging from those who want broad legislation to others who seek targeted measures.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor brought together committee chairmen and other Republican leaders, who have controlled the House since January 2011, to discuss healthcare legislation on Friday.
"It was a beginning discussion," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said in an interview after the meeting.
As bitcoin exchange MtGox collapses, man who predicted the crash implores bitcoin holders to stop being suckered into a digital Ponzi scheme (27 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) In April of 2013, I warned Natural News readers about investing in Bitcoin, saying on the record:
"The bitcoin infrastructure is subject to the whims of just one person running MTGox who can arbitrarily decide to shut it down whenever he thinks the market needs a 'cooling period.' This is nearly equivalent to a financial dictatorship where one person calls the shots."
Just two days ago, the largest bitcoin exchange MTGox suddenly and without warning shuttered its doors, blocking all customers from accessing their accounts which are collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The entire MTGox website now reads...
Janet Yellen: Federal Reserve has no authority to regulate Bitcoin (27 February 2014)
The Federal Reserve has no authority to supervise or regulate Bitcoin, chair Janet Yellen told Congress on Thursday.
Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee in the week that the controversial digital currency's largest exchange collapsed, Yellen was asked about Bitcoin's potential impact by senator Joe Manchin.
On Wednesday, Manchin wrote to the Fed, Treasury and other regulators warning that the currency was "disruptive to our economy" and calling for its regulation.
"Bitcoin is a payment innovation that's taking place outside the banking industry. To the best of my knowledge there's no intersection at all, in any way, between Bitcoin and banks that the Federal Reserve has the ability to supervise and regulate. So the Fed doesn't have authority to supervise or regulate Bitcoin in anyway," said Yellen.
Obama Preps for Complete US Withdrawal From Afghanistan (26 February 2014)
President Obama spoke with Afghan President Hamid Karzai by phone on Tuesday, for the first time since late June, and finally issued a long-rumored ultimatum: the United States will prepare plans to withdraw all 37,000 US troops from the country in the event a bilateral security agreement isn't signed.
Karzai has resisted signing that agreement, which a leaked draft indicated would keep a non-trivial US troop presence in the country (rumored to be anywhere between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers) through "2024 and beyond." The troops would serve in a support capacity, but would be authorized to conduct "counter-terror" operations as needed. Ultimately, Karzai punted on signing the BSA and said it would be up to his successor, who will be elected sometime this year.
Obama's ultimatum to sign the BSA or risk a total US troop pullout comes amidst a widening debate in Washington over the war, which is now both the longest and least-popular in US history.
Even the administration is internally divided, according to reports. The Hill asserted in January that a fight was "raging" between the White House, State Department, and Department of Defense over whether to pull all US troops from Afghanistan after 2014.
Low vitamin D levels increase risk of preeclampsia during pregnancy (26 February 2014)
If the pregnant mother is not getting enough vitamin D for herself, then the baby may not be getting any at all. This is something crucial to consider. Does the breast milk still contain vitamin D? How is vitamin D removed from typical American diets and common foods that would otherwise contain it and provide it in a useful form to humans? Most women in the U.S. do NOT get enough vitamin D when they are pregnant, and that is a cold, hard fact. If a pregnant women is obese, spends a lot of time indoors or covers up well outside in the sun, or if she is dark-skinned, her chances go way up for vitamin D deficiency. If the baby could hold up a little sign for the sonogram, it would say, "Mom please take more vitamin D!" (http://wn.com)
What exactly is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, sometimes with fluid retention and abnormal quantities of protein in the urine, which can indicate damage to the kidneys. Even a slight increase in blood pressure may be a sign of preeclampsia and, if left untreated, can lead to complications for both mother and baby, even fatal complications. Preeclampsia is most common during the first pregnancy.
Women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30% are more susceptible, and those over 40 or under 18 years of age. Preeclampsia affects between 5 and 8% of pregnancies and may be responsible, along with other related disorders, for the deaths of over 75,000 mothers and half a million babies per year. It is typically rapidly progressing, and many care providers wait too long to address the problem appropriately, if ever. Maybe a naturopathic physician would be better suited to meet with expecting mothers and talk about preeclampsia concerns and organic vitamin D levels for the mother AND her baby that's on the way. (http://www.fao.org)
Radiation Levels Fall after Nuclear Waste Leak in New Mexico (26 February 2014)
Radiation levels within and around the United States' only deep-underground nuclear waste facility continue to drop, nearly two weeks after a mysterious leak triggered alarms and shut down the facility, according to data released this week by the US Department of Energy and an independent air-monitoring group.
The sharp spike and subsequent decline in radiation are suggestive of a single release of contamination on 14 February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is the first reported leak at the WIPP, which is a permanent repository for nuclear waste that has been carved out of ancient salt beds 655 metres underground. Contamination escaped the facility, but officials say that the levels are low and pose no health threat. Because no one was underground when the radiation alarms went off, it remains unclear what caused the release.
One possibility is that a large chunk of salt fell from the ceiling of the repository and damaged one of the metal storage drums, says Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center at New Mexico State University, which independently monitors radiation at the site. "But until they get underground and find out what happened, it's really all just speculation at this point," he says.
The WIPP opened in 1999 and has since taken in more than 80,000 cubic metres of material -- including work gloves, tools and machinery -- that is contaminated with radioactive elements such as plutonium as well as hazardous chemicals. On 16 February, two days after the initial release, Hardy's centre detected plutonium and americium contamination at an air-monitoring station 1 kilometre away from an exhaust shaft leading from the facility. The centre's latest results, released on 25 February based on samples collected four days after the leak, identified no plutonium and sharply lower levels of americium. Hardy says that the centre's data align with reports from the US Department of Energy. The agency estimated that a person at one of its above-ground monitoring stations would have sustained a cumulative radiation exposure of 1 millirem -- ten times less radiation than that delivered during a typical chest X-ray.
Although no data were released from real-time radiation detectors within the facility this week, the Department of Energy says that radiation levels are dropping and seem to be limited to one section of the facility. Energy Department spokeswoman Deb Gill says that the agency and its contractors -- an industry consortium led by the San Francisco-based URS Corporation -- are still working on a plan to re-enter the facility.
Regulators hike restrictions for oil trains (25 February 2014)
HOUSTON -- Regulators ratcheted up restrictions for oil trains in an emergency order on Tuesday, requiring crude from North Dakota and elsewhere to be tested before it is shipped by rail.
The Department of Transportation's emergency order was the fourth issued in the last year because of derailments of trains carrying crude. It will require oil shippers to test crude oil in order to categorize it in one of the two highest risk groups of hazardous materials.
Higher risk materials have lower flash points and boiling points. Recent derailments of trains carrying crude, including one in Lac-Megantic, Quebec that killed 47 people, involved crude oil that was inappropriately labeled as a lower risk material, according to Canadian authorities.
"Today we are raising the bar for shipping crude oil on behalf of the families and communities along rail lines nationwide -- if you intend to move crude oil by rail, then you must test and classify the material appropriately," Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a written statement. "And when you do ship it, you must follow the requirements for the two strongest safety packing groups."
Canadian crude now moving through Keystone XL's southern leg (26 February 2014)
BEAUMONT -- The Keystone XL southern leg has delivered its first barrels of Canadian oil to the Texas coast, even though the project still lacks its planned northern leg into Canada, TransCanada CEO Russell Girling said in an interview Wednesday.
The crude moved through TransCanada's existing pipelines, including the original Keystone pipeline that began operation in 2010.
The oil then made its way from Cushing, Okla., to Nederland, Texas, on the recently completed $2.3 billion southern portion of Keystone XL, also called the Gulf Coast Project, he said. It arrived at the end of the line last week. TransCanada began moving oil into the pipeline on Jan. 2 and made its first deliveries to refiners on Jan. 22.
The movement of Canadian crude illustrates the capabilities of TransCanada's Keystone pipeline system, even without the controversial northern leg that would extend from Hardesty, Alberta, and traverse the Bakken Shale region of North Dakota and Montana before connecting with other lines, Girling said.
Japan, U.S. Move to Expand Nuclear Power Programs Despite Contamination at Fukushima & New Mexico (26 February 2014) [DemocracyNow.org]
EDWIN LYMAN: Well, the main lesson is you have to accept the fact that any nuclear power plant is going to be vulnerable to a large natural disaster and that there's no way to completely eliminate the dangers of nuclear power. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk, but we're afraid that here in the United States the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry are not going as far as they need to go to really reduce the risk to the American people.
AMY GOODMAN: What are the stories, Susan Stranahan, that this country is missing? You were the lead reporter on the coverage of Three Mile Island. Young people weren't even born, who are watching or listening to this show right now. They might not even know what Three Mile Island is.
SUSAN STRANAHAN: Well, I think the parallels from Three Mile Island in '79 and Fukushima are that the industry regulators and the American public were not prepared for what happened. And what we point out in the book is that it's been 35 years since Three Mile Island, and fundamental lessons remain unlearned. And fundamental mindsets exist, that were prevalent in 1979, are prevalent today. And as Ed said, we haven't learned the lessons from Fukushima. We need to learn those and then move forward.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what the lessons from Three Mile Island and Fukushima are.
Chokwe Lumumba: Remembering "America's Most Revolutionary Mayor" (26 February 2014) [DemocracyNow.org]
AMY GOODMAN: The city of Jackson, Mississippi, is grieving today following the sudden death of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, less than a year after he was elected. He suffered from heart failure Tuesday. He was 66 years old.
A longtime black nationalist organizer and attorney, Lumumba had been described as "America's most revolutionary mayor." Working with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Lumumba advocated for participatory democracy and the creation of new worker-run cooperatives in Jackson. Over the past four decades, Lumumba was deeply involved in numerous political and legal campaigns. As an attorney, his clients have included former Black Panther Assata Shakur, as well as her godson, the late hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur. As a political organizer, Lumumba served for years as vice president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization which advocated for "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern United States and reparations for slavery. He also helped found the National Black Human Rights Coalition and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
In June, Juan González and I interviewed Chokwe Lumumba just after he was elected. We began by asking him how he was able to win the mayoral election in a place like Jackson, Mississippi, given its history and his history as a radical activist in the black liberation struggle.
CHOKWE LUMUMBA: Thank you for having me, and a shout out and thank you to your listening audience.
I attribute the victory that we had this last week to the people, the people of Jackson, who were more than ready to have leadership that was forward-looking and ready to raise Jackson to a different level of development, ready to embrace the ideas that all government should do the most to protect the human rights of the people in that jurisdiction. And we were very pleased with the outcoming of people to vote, with their participation, and with their continued support.
The Town Los Angeles Drank (26 February 2014)
Hood, California, is a farming town of 200 souls, crammed up against a levee that protects it from the Sacramento River. The eastern approach from I-5 and the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove is bucolic. Cows graze. An abandoned railroad track sits atop a narrow embankment. Cross it, and the town comes into view: a fire station, five streets, a tiny park. The last three utility poles on Hood-Franklin Road before it dead-ends into town bear American flags.
I've come here because this little patch of land is the key location in Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $25 billion plan to fix California's troubled water transport system. Hood sits at the northern tip of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, a network of manmade islands and channels constructed on the ruins of the largest estuary from Patagonia to Alaska. Since the 1950s, the Delta has served as the great hydraulic tie between Northern and Southern California: a network of rivers, tributaries, and canals deliver runoff from the Sierra Mountain Range's snowpack to massive pumps at the southern end of the Delta. From there, the water travels through aqueducts to the great farms of the San Joaquin Valley and to the massive coastal cities. The Delta, then, is not only a 700,000-acre place where people live and work, but some of the most important plumbing in the world. Without this crucial nexus point, the current level of agricultural production in the southern San Joaquin Valley could not be sustained, and many cities, including the three largest on the West Coast--Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose--would have to come up with radical new water-supply solutions.
Too much is being asked of the Delta. The levees that define the region's water channels are aging, and geologists and climate scientists worry that earthquakes or rising sea levels could rupture them. More immediately, the Delta ecosystem is collapsing. Native fish species are on the brink of extinction in part because of this massive water-transfer apparatus. The unnatural flows disrupt their natural habitat, and when they reach the pumps--which they often do, despite the state's efforts--they die. The Delta smelt population, for instance, has gone from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands in the last few decades.
Brown's father, Pat, oversaw the completion of this productive, destructive system, and Jerry Brown himself tried to fix it during his first round as governor 30 years ago. A statewide vote thwarted him then, but he's ready to try again. His proposal, the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, would bore two tunnels longer than the English-French Chunnel underneath the Delta, while simultaneously restoring thousands of acres of wetland.
The water intakes for the tunnels would flank Hood: two to the north, one to the south. Water that would have flowed down through the Delta, then sent south, will be diverted here instead. If the water goes underground at Hood, passing through new, high-tech fish screens, it will pick up fewer endangered creatures on the way to the south Delta pumps. State officials hope that means federal environmental agencies will stop interfering in their water delivery operations.
RIVERSIDE: DOD to digitize historic images (26 February 2014)
Sitting in front of a console in a small, white-walled computer room, Steve Gunby watches images of military trucks, personnel and helicopters flash across his screen.
It's content from one of more than a half-million videos, photos, film and other visual material that he is helping to transfer into digital data.
The Defense Imagery Management Operation Center recently received $5 million to digitize its vast archives. The effort is expected to take five years, and may perhaps continue after that. The center is just east of March Air Reserve Base.
"This is a big deal for us," said Gregg Porter, the center's director. "This means we're now about to make the media available to the public."
Gunby works for T3Media, a company that signed a contract with the Operation Center to complete the project. Material that is archived will be available to the public through a website managed by T3Media. The database will be searchable.
Rare, polio-like disease afflicting California kids mystifies health officials (25 February 2014)
An extremely rare, polio-like disease has appeared in more than a dozen California children within the past year, and each of them suffered paralysis to one or more arms or legs, Stanford University researchers say. But public health officials haven't identified any common causes connecting the cases.
The illness is still being investigated and appears to be very unusual, but Dr Keith Van Haren at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University warned Monday that any child showing a sudden onset of weakness in their limbs or symptoms of paralysis should be immediately seen by a doctor.
"The disease resembles but is not the same as polio," he said. "But this is serious. Most of the children we've seen so far have not recovered use of their arm or their leg."
But doctors are not sure if it's a virus or something else, he said. Van Haren said he has studied five cases from Monterey up through the San Francisco Bay Area, including two that were identified as the disease enterovirus-68, which is from the same family as the polio viruses. He said there have been about 20 cases statewide.
Harvard research links fluoridated water to ADHD, mental disorders (25 February 2014)
(NaturalNews) A leading cause of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and autism in children could be the hidden chemicals lurking in the foods we eat, the water we drink and the products we consume, says a new study recently published in The Lancet. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) found that, among other things, the fluoride chemicals added to many public water systems in North America directly contribute to both mental and behavioral disorders in children.
Building upon earlier research published in 2006 that dubbed fluoride as a "developmental neurotoxicant," the new review included a meta-analysis of 27 additional studies on fluoride, most of which were from China, that linked the chemical to lowered IQ in children. After thorough analysis, it was determined that fluoride obstructs proper brain development and can lead to autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, ADHD and other health conditions, a "silent epidemic" that many mainstream health authorities continue to ignore.
According to the two main researchers involved in the study, Philippe Grandjean from HSPH and Philip Landrigan from ISMMS, incidences of chemical-related neurodevelopmental disorders have doubled over the past seven years from six to 12. The reason for this is that an increasing number of mostly untested chemicals are being approved for use without the public being told where and in what quantities such chemicals are being used.
"[S]ince 2006, the number of chemicals known to damage the human brain more generally, but that are not regulated to protect children's health, had increased from 202 to 214," writes Julia Medew for The Sydney Morning Herald. "The pair said this could be the tip of the iceberg because the vast majority of the more than 80,000 industrial chemicals widely used in the United States have never been tested for their toxic effects on the developing foetus or child."
FDA panel debates technique that would create embryos with three genetic parents (25 February 2014)
The provocative notion of genetically modified babies met the very real world of federal regulation Tuesday, as a government advisory committee began debating a new technique that combines DNA from three people to create embryos free of certain inherited diseases.
The two-day meeting of the Food and Drug Administration panel is focused on a procedure that scientists think could help women who carry DNA mutations for conditions such as blindness and epilepsy. The process would let them have children without passing on those defects.
The debate over whether the technique -- nicknamed "three-parent IVF" -- should be allowed to proceed to human tests underscores how quickly the science of reproductive medicine is evolving. Scientists argue that this technology, like cloning and embryonic stem cell research, has huge potential to help people. But it is also highly sensitive, touching ethical and political nerves.
The technology involves taking defective mitochondria, the cell's powerhouses, from a mother's egg and replacing them with healthy mitochondria from another woman. After being fertilized by the father's sperm in a lab, the egg would be implanted in the mother, and the pregnancy could progress normally.
Teacher charged in assault on Toscano's wife (26 February 2014)
A woman attacked House Minority Leader David J. Toscano's wife at their Charlottesville home Monday night, police said Tuesday.
City police early Tuesday arrested family acquaintance and Greene County Public Schools science teacher Claire L.K. Kennedy Ogilvie, 35, at her Charlottesville apartment, less than a mile from Toscano's home.
In a news release, Toscano said his wife, Nancy Tramontin, was struck in the head "several times but never lost consciousness." She was treated at Martha Jefferson Hospital and released, and now is "resting comfortably," Toscano said.
A former Washington, D.C.-area lawyer, Ogilvie is now being held without bond on charges of burglary, abduction and malicious wounding, all felonies. Greene school officials said Ogilvie has been suspended from her job at William Monroe High School.
Dozens of students killed in attack on Nigerian school (25 February 2014)
YOLA, Nigeria -- Suspected Islamic militants killed dozens of students in a predawn attack on a northeast Nigerian college, survivors say, setting ablaze a locked hostel and shooting and slitting the throats of those who escaped through windows. Some were burned alive.
Adamu Garba said he and other teachers estimate 40 students died in the assault that began around 2 a.m. Tuesday at the Federal Government College Buni Yadi.
Military spokesman Capt. Eli Lazarus said soldiers still are gathering corpses so he could not give an exact toll.
It is the latest in a string of attacks blamed on Boko Haram -- the name means Western education is forbidden -- that has caused regional officials to charge the military is losing its war to halt an Islamic uprising in Africa's biggest oil producer.
Spies of Mississippi: New Film on the State-Sponsored Campaign to Defeat the Civil Rights Movement (25 February 2014) [DemocracyNow.org]
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jerry Mitchell, what were you most surprised by in the documents that you got?
JERRY MITCHELL: Well, lots of things--the fact that they had spied on so many activists, the fact they had spied on Medgar Evers and later tried to help basically acquit the killer in that case, as well as reports on my own newspaper from back in the '50s and '60s. So, that was interesting, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Dawn Porter, why did you decide to turn this into a film?
DAWN PORTER: You know, when I first heard this story, that there was not only a spy agency, government spy agency, but that there were also African-American activists who were involved in the spying, I thought that's a piece of civil rights history that isn't widely known, but it fills in a lot of the missing--connects the dots in a lot of ways. And I thought people would be interested in it. And I just was fascinated by the lengths that state government will go to subvert democracy.
Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox goes dark in blow to virtual currency (25 February 2014)
(Reuters) - Mt. Gox, once the world's biggest bitcoin exchange, abruptly stopped trading on Tuesday and its chief executive said the business was at "a turning point," sparking concerns about the future of the unregulated virtual currency.
Several other digital currency exchanges and prominent early-stage investors in bitcoin responded with forceful statements in an attempt to reassure investors of both bitcoin's viability and their own security protocols.
The website of Mt. Gox suddenly went dark on Tuesday with no explanation, and the company's Tokyo office was empty - the only activity was outside, where a handful of protesters said they had lost money investing in the virtual currency.
Hours later, Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles told Reuters in an email: "We should have an official announcement ready soon-ish. We are currently at a turning point for the business. I can't tell much more for now as this also involves other parties." He did not elaborate on the details or give his location.
Bitcoin has gained increasing acceptance as a method of payment and has attracted a number of large venture capital investors. At a current price of about $517, the total bitcoins in circulation are worth approximately $6.4 billion.
Alberta doctor to meet U.S. senators to discuss health effects of oilsand development (25 February 2014)
EDMONTON - Dr. John O'Connor, who drew fire as an advocate for health concerns in Fort Chipewyan, is heading to Washington, D.C. to brief some U.S. senators looking at the health impacts of oilsands development.
O'Connor said he was invited to speak to members of the U.S. Senate committee on environment and public works and he will take the same message south that he tells in Alberta -- that there is an urgent need to study health impacts of oil and gas extraction.
O'Connor's appearance Wednesday at the briefing with California Senator Barbara Boxer, the ranking Democrat and chairwoman of the committee, comes at a sensitive time as Alberta awaits the U.S. decision on the Keystone XL pipeline to take oilsands bitumen south.
O'Connor stressed he's not going to "preach anti-pipeline. That's not remotely my goal" and not his expertise.
Japan unveils draft energy policy in wake of Fukushima (25 February 2014)
Japan has unveiled its first draft energy policy since the Fukushima meltdowns three years ago, saying nuclear power remains an important source of electricity for the country.
The draft, presented to the cabinet on Tuesday for approval expected in March, says Japan's nuclear energy dependency will be reduced but that reactors meeting new safety standards set after the 2011 nuclear crisis should be restarted.
Japan has 48 commercial reactors, but all are offline until they pass the new safety requirements.
The draft of the Basic Energy Plan says a mix of nuclear, renewables and fossil fuel will be the most reliable and stable source of electricity to meet Japan's energy needs.
The government had planned to release the draft in January but a recommendation submitted by a panel of experts was judged to be too pro-nuclear. Tuesday's draft added more emphasis on renewable energy.
Guerrillas, gorillas and oil: A toxic mix? (25 February 2014)
RUMANGABO, Democratic Republic of Congo -- Emmanuel de Merode knows exactly when his passion began. He was a curious young man with a dream of becoming a park ranger when he first saw the mountain gorillas, giant beasts with an intelligent, surprisingly disarming nature.
He was smitten.
"Every time you go into a group of gorillas, you're blown off your feet," said de Merode, who is now the director at Virunga National Park, home for 220 of the endangered animals. "It's like being married to somebody you adore. Whether you're 20 or 90. It's the same thing with the mountain gorillas."
Howard Buffett shares that passion, and the American philanthropist has joined de Merode in an unlikely partnership aimed at transforming Virunga, a UNESCO World Heritage site in one of the world's deadliest war zones, into a generator of jobs and tax revenues. The Virunga Alliance, as it is called, is a 10-year plan built around tourism, agri-business, fisheries and energy.
Already a daunting task, tensions have been raised considerably by the introduction of oil to this highly volatile situation. No one knows how large the reserves are beneath the park, but lucrative discoveries in neighboring Uganda have sparked a regional feeding frenzy.
Oil is spilling from trains, pipelines ... and now barges (25 February 2014)
The oil industry is a champion of innovation. When it comes to finding new ways of sullying the environment, its resourcefulness knows no bounds.
An oil-hauling barge collided with a vessel pushing grain in the Mississippi River on Saturday, causing an estimated 31,500 gallons of crude to leak through a tear in its hull. The accident closed 65 miles of the already disgustingly polluted waterway upstream from the Port of New Orleans for two days while workers tried to contain and suck up the spilled oil.
The accident highlighted a little-noted side effect of the continent's oil boom. Not only is crude being ferried from drilling operations to refineries in leaky pipelines and explosion-prone trains -- it's also being moved over water bodies with growing frequency. Bloomberg reports:
"We're facing the imminent risk of a barge disaster or a rail disaster" as more oil is shipped to the Gulf of Mexico for refining, Jonathan Henderson, a spokesman for the New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network, said by phone after attending a meeting with U.S. Coast Guard officials. ...
Algonquin Park cottagers put ecosystems at risk: study (25 February 2014)
Cottagers hoping to get leases extended at Algonquin Park have been rained on by a government study indicating they put fish habitats and water quality at risk.
"Cottages in Algonquin Park contribute cumulatively to the pressures on the park's ecosystems," says the scientific study, commissioned by Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources.
The findings are an embarrassment for the ministry, which is proposing to extend cottage leases in the provincial park for another 21 years.
"The most significant pressures exerted by cottagers are those that degrade water quality, alter (riverbank) and near-shore habitats and increase the risks of invasive species introduction," says the report, dated last August but only recently posted on the ministry website.
"The Paragraph Began to Self-Delete": Did NSA Hack Computer of Snowden Biographer & Edit Book Draft? (24 February 2014) [DemocracyNow.org]
We turn now to the remarkable story of British journalist Luke Harding, who says he became the target of surveillance himself while reporting on Edward Snowden. Harding recently published The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man. On Friday, he revealed that while he was writing the book on his computer, paragraphs of the book would begin to self-delete. He repeatedly saw the cursor move rapidly from the left, gobbling text. And that wasn't the only time he felt he was being monitored. Luke Harding joins us now via Democracy Now! video stream from The Guardian newsroom in London.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Luke. Tell us what happened.
LUKE HARDING: Well, before I do that, I think you have to understand the context, which is that the first few months of last year after Snowden's leaks, both the U.S. and the British governments were scrambling to find out what he'd taken, how much he'd taken, why he'd taken it, and were really kind of clueless. And so, I think in that context it's hardly surprising that the small number of journalists who were working on this material, including me, would have been targeted.
What happened was that I was writing my book. I was about halfway through. I had been to see Glenn Greenwald in Rio, in Brazil, to interview him, which was a kind of curious experience because Gleen is clearly very heavily surveilled by, I think, all sorts of people. Back at my home in the English countryside, I was writing kind of rather disparagingly, rather critically, about the NSA and its--the damage these revelations had done to Silicon Valley. And I was sitting back, working offline, I have to say, and, as you say, the text began rapidly deleting. And I thought, "Oh, my goodness! What is going on here?" This happened four or five times over a period of a month, to the point where I was actually, almost kind of jokingly, leaving little notes every morning to this kind of mysterious reader. And then, at one point, one of my colleagues mentioned this in a newspaper interview in Germany, and it suddenly stopped. So, I wrote this piece not because this was an especially sinister experience, but merely to kind of lay out the facts in what was another curious episode in an already quite surreal tale.
In John Dingell's departure, a changing of the guard and the end of an old style of power (24 February 2014)
In the arc of Rep. John D. Dingell's storied legislative career, it is easy to discern the fading trajectory of power in Washington over the past six decades.
He was the last of the true committee barons, one who muscled for legislative turf and who had been known to pound his gavel so hard it shattered.
But this is a city where no one seems to have the clout to make things happen anymore, and where even the most junior members of Congress have the ability to stop those who try.
Which is why it is no longer John Dingell's Washington. And why he has decided to hang it up when his term ends.
Dingell is still up to the job, he insisted, though he is a frail 87 years old. The problem, he said, is Congress itself.
Tylenol use during pregnancy linked to ADHD in kids, study finds (24 February 2014)
Facing a world full of potential dangers for the babies they carry, pregnant women hear regularly that acetaminophen can be trusted to reduce fevers and relieve aches and pains without causing harm to a developing fetus. But a new study reports that the children of women who took the drug during pregnancy were about 40% more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children of mothers who took none.
Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and Panadol and is also a component of Excedrin, among other common pain relievers.
The probability of a child developing ADHD symptoms severe enough to require medication increased the most -- by 63% -- when his or her mother took acetaminophen during the last two trimesters of pregnancy, researchers found. It also rose by about 28% when acetaminophen was used in the third trimester alone. The added risk was smallest -- about 9% -- when a pregnant woman reported taking the drug only during her first trimester of pregnancy.
The latest study, published Monday by the journal JAMA Pediatrics, does not establish that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen caused the observed increase in diagnosed hyperactivity disorders, prescriptions for ADHD medications, or emotional problems in children reported by parents. But the research was designed to avoid many of the pitfalls of studies that find an association between an environmental exposure and the appearance of a specific outcome many years later.
Cleveland House of Horrors victims reunite for moving awards ceremony as lawmakers give them TWO MINUTE standing ovation (24 February 2014)
The three women who survived their decade-long captivity in Ariel Castro's Cleveland House of Horrors shared a stage together in public for the first time on Monday night.
Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 24, and Michelle Knight, 33, were honored by Ohio Governor John Kasich at his annual courage awards - where they received a two-minute standing ovation.
Kasich called the women's story one of hurt beyond imagination, but also a story that didn't end there.
'It is also a story of three women who found an inner strength and a courage that brought them through and sustained them,' Kasich said near the end of his annual State of the State speech.
Closing ceremony of Winter Olympics - beautiful photo collection from the Daily Mail (24 February 2014)
From the opening ceremony with a malfunctioning ring, to police officers singing Get Lucky, the Sochi Winter Olympics have been a games to remember.
But tonight marks the end for the highly controversial games, which are also the most expensive in Olympic history.
Showing that the country has a sense of humour, dancers during the opening section of the show mocked the moment a ring failed to open during the opening ceremony.
The joke was followed by an opulent show of ballet, circus performances and classical music, an ode to the country's rich literary history - before the Olympic flame was finally extinguished.
Ocean bottomliner: Why Mike Bloomberg is investing in fish (24 February 2014)
Last month, Michael Bloomberg did a lot of things. He stopped being mayor of New York and started being U.N. envoy for cities and climate change. He promoted immigration reform before Congress. He freaked out over the True Detective pilot like the rest of us (we assume). But the thing that really got our attention was when decided to throw several million dollars into the sea.
Over the next five years, Bloomberg Philanthropies will dish out $53 million to three nonprofits -- Oceana, Rare, and EKO -- each of which will lead one charge of a three-pronged attack plan that, appropriately, reminds us of a trident. It's called the Vibrant Oceans Initiative.
These three groups will work together in three heavyweight countries for fishing: Chile, Brazil, and the Philippines. (With so many threes in the mix, you can't help but wonder how many numerologists Bloomberg employs. I have a guess.) These are not the largest fishing nations in the world, but are still significant: Together they make up about 7 percent of global seafood catch and serve as a solid laboratory for policies and practices that may be extended to other countries later.
Basically, the major causes of overfishing are (you guessed it) three-fold. First, high or nonexistent catch quotas allow fishermen to take so many fish from the sea that it depletes the breeding stock beyond what it can recover from in a year. Second, habitat-destroying behaviors like bottom trawling wipe out shallow nursery habitats where baby fish go to turn into big fish. And third, bycatch kills tons upon tons of unwanted fish or sea turtles or dolphins or insert-your-favorite-charismatic-aquatic-animal-here along with whatever the fishermen were aiming for.
States struggle to tackle backlog of untested rape kits (23 February 2014)
With possibly hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested across the country, a number of states are proposing legislation to address backlogs that in at least one case dates back nearly three decades.
In Memphis, Tenn., alone, there are more than 12,000 untested rape kits, going back to the 1980s, according to the New York--based Rape Kit Action Project, which has been tracking the backlogs nationwide. In Texas the group has found about 16,000 untested kits collecting dust in police evidence rooms.
In Cleveland, Ohio, there are about 3,000 kits awaiting testing, and in Detroit, more than 11,000 are backlogged, according to NPR.
Nationwide, the Department of Justice estimates, 400,000 rape kits have gone untested. Last year Congress recognized the backlog of untested rape kits as a national problem in passing the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, or SAFER, which seeks to provide data on the number of unsolved rape cases awaiting testing and establish better standards for the tracking, storage and use of DNA evidence in sexual assault cases.
Ethiopia: 'Humanitarian Crisis' for Ogaden Living Near Ethiopia's Oil Fields (23 February 2014)
Reports of forced evictions and human rights abuses in the vicinity of oil and gas fields is creating a new wave of grievances against the government in local communities.
"The army came to our community and burnt our homes and our crops. Our situation is getting worse as the military want many villages removed because of the search for gas.
"Many people in this area have been arrested. We don't know where they are or if they are alive. Our situation is very bad," one Ogaden man, who asked to remain anonymous, told IPS.
The confirmation of huge oil and gas reserves in the Ogaden basin is set to spike Ethiopia's wealth as investment starts to pour in from foreign energy companies.
Gas deposits in the Ogaden basin are estimated at 2.7 trillion cubic feet over an area of 350,000 square kilometres.
BP gets slick in trying to undermine gulf oil spill settlement (23 February 2014)
But it's what BP is displaying these days toward a class-action settlement it reached in 2012, covering individuals and businesses that claimed economic losses from the oil spill -- hotels and restaurants, seafood businesses, property owners and many others. The settlement aimed to streamline the claims process, so these victims wouldn't each have to bring their cases before a judge and jury. The company "wanted to do the right thing," it says.
But in recent months BP has mounted a frontal assault on the settlement. The firm has placed full page ads in major newspapers, ridiculing supposedly fraudulent claims blithely paid by the settlement administrator, Louisiana lawyer Patrick Juneau -- including $8 million to "celebrity chef" Emeril Lagasse.
Last week BP turned up the heat by sponsoring the daily Playbook web page and email blast aimed at Washington opinion makers, among many other people, by the Politico news website. Each day's Playbook message from BP pinpoints a different, ostensibly absurd case with the tag line, "Would you pay these claims?" Sample: a $173,000 award to an "adult escort service." (What, an escort service can't be harmed by a fall-off in tourism?)
But that's just the PR side of things. The company also has mounted an intensive legal attack on Juneau in federal court in Louisiana. It has obtained a restraining order preventing further payments for the moment and is seeking a permanent injunction so that the policies governing the settlement awards can be recrafted.
Chevron's Lobbyist Now Runs the Congressional Science Committee (23 February 2014)
For Chevron, the second-largest oil company in the country with $26.2 billion in annual profits, it helps to have friends in high places. With little fanfare, one of Chevron's top lobbyists, Stephen Sayle, has become a senior staff member of the House Committee on Science, the standing congressional committee charged with "maintaining our scientific and technical leadership in the world."
Throughout much of 2013, Sayle was the chief executive officer of Dow Lohnes Government Strategies, a lobbying firm retained by Chevron to influence Congress. For fees that total $320,000 a year, Sayle and his team lobbied on a range of energy-related issues, including implementation of EPA rules under the Clean Air Act, regulation of ozone standards, as well as "Congressional and agency oversight related to offshore oil, natural gas development and oil spills."
Sayle's ethics disclosure, obtained by Republic Report, shows that he was paid $500,000 by Chevron's lobbying firm before taking his current gig atop the Science Committee.
In recent months, the House Science Committee has become a cudgel for the oil industry, issuing subpoenas and holding hearings to demonize efforts to improve the environment. Some of the work by the committee reflect the lobbying priorities of Chevron.
In December, the Science Committee, now chaired by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), held yet another hearing to try to discredit manmade global warming. In August, the committee issued the first subpoena in twenty-one years, demanding "all the raw data from a number of federally funded studies linking air pollution to disease."
Maureen McDonnell at heart of gift scandal (23 February 2014)
"I know her as a very, very nice, unassuming person, and a very frugal-living person -- a very hardworking person," said Kubiak, whose attorney husband worked and socialized with the ex-governor.
That is not how the U.S. Department of Justice sees it.
Barely a week after McDonnell left office last month, a federal grand jury indicted him and his wife on 14 counts each of trading on their influence to enrich themselves and family members. And while investigators say the once-rising Republican star accepted lavish gifts, golf outings and other favors in exchange for boosting businessman Jonnie Williams and his company, Star Scientific, the 43-page indictment paints Maureen McDonnell as the one who had her hands outstretched the most.
What started with a request for help purchasing a designer gown for her husband's inauguration in 2009 ballooned into gifts of designer clothes and accessories, personal loans, a Rolex watch and a large check for her daughter's wedding reception, prosecutors allege. In return, they say, Williams got special access to state officials, a reception at the executive mansion and McDonnell's endorsement for what was to be Star Scientific's breakthrough product : Anatabloc, an anti-inflammatory.
California almond farmers face tough choices (23 February 2014)
FIREBAUGH, Calif. (AP) -- With California's agricultural heartland entrenched in drought, almond farmers are letting orchards dry up and in some cases making the tough call to have their trees torn out of the ground, leaving behind empty fields.
In California's Central Valley, Barry Baker is one of many who hired a crew that brought in large rumbling equipment to perform the grim task in a cloud of dust.
A tractor operator drove heavy steel shanks into the ground to loosen the roots and knock the trees over. Another operator, driving a brush loader equipped with a fork-like implement on the front, scooped up the trees and root balls and pushed them into a pile, where an excavator driver grabbed them up in clusters with a clawing grapple. The trees were fed into a grinder that spit wood chips into piles to be hauled away by the truckload and burned as fuel in a power plant.
Baker, 54, of Baker Farming Company, has decided to remove 20 percent of his trees before they have passed their prime. There's simply not enough water to satisfy all 5,000 acres of almonds, he said. "Hopefully, I don't have to pull out another 20 percent," Baker said, adding that sooner or later neighboring farmers will come to the same conclusion. "They're hoping for the best. I don't think it's going to come."
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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