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Friday, 05 February 2016 08:02

Pro-GMO Group Crosses Ethical Line

KEN ROSEBORO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDNA(Photo: Thomas Splettstoesser)The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) has been accused of unethical journalistic practices after it published personal information about individuals opposed to genetically modified food and changed the text of an article without the author’s permission.

GLP is an organization that heavily promotes genetic engineering of foods and attacks critics of the technology.

GLP has posted phone numbers, email and home addresses and other personal information about GMO critics. According to David Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, GLP posted the phone number and email and home addresses of Don Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University. Murphy contacted GLP asking them to remove the information, which they did, but shortly after GLP posted Murphy’s cell phone number and home address.

“It’s one thing to have a public disagreement with highly trained scientists and activists on a controversial subject like GMO safety, but publishing personal information, home addresses and cell phone numbers, is a new low, even for Monsanto’s smear merchant,” Murphy said. “Does Monsanto really want us publishing their CEO and top scientists like Robb Fraley’s home addresses? One wonders what they really have to hide if they’re willing to employ such slimeball tactics against their critics.”

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaMonsantoWheatHarvest(Photo: USDA)Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the Monsanto’s flagship product Roundup, is now the “most widely applied pesticide worldwide,” according to a report published today in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe.

The paper, Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally, reveals that since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S., making up 19 percent of the 8.6 billion kilograms (or 18.9 billion pounds) of glyphosate used around the world.

Globally, glyphosate use has risen almost 15-fold since “Roundup Ready” crops were introduced in 1996, the paper noted. These crops, such as soy, corn, canola, alfalfa and cotton, are genetically engineered to withstand direct applications of Roundup, as the product kills only the weeds.

“Genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops now account for about 56 percent of global glyphosate use,” agricultural economist Charles M. Benbrook, PhD, and author of the study wrote in his paper. “In the U.S., no pesticide has come remotely close to such intensive and widespread use.”

According to the study, two-thirds of the total volume of glyphosate applied in the U.S. from 1974 to 2014 has been sprayed in just the last 10 years.

“The dramatic and rapid growth in overall use of glyphosate will likely contribute to a host of adverse environmental and public health consequences,” Benbrook claimed.

Published in Guest Commentary

JANE STILLWATER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaCruzCanadian(Photo: Michael Vadon)Good grief, talk about your hypocrites.  For the past eight years, America has been forced to listen to Birthers, the GOP, Fox News and various Tea Party crazies go on and on about how Barack Obama shouldn't be our President because they claim that he was born in Kenya, right? Eight years of odious blather that we can never get back again.

Enter Ted Cruz. "I was born in Canada but I have an American mother," he tells us, "and therefore I am qualified to be President." But wait. Obama had an American mum too, and Obama was born in the United States in Hawaii.

Obama was born in Honolulu. Cruz was born in Calgary, Canada. So why does the Tea Party have its knickers all in a twist over Obama's having in their imaginations been born in Kenya -- but doesn't give a flying freak that Cruz was actually born in another nation? Hypocrisy, right?

But Obama and Cruz have somethin in common.  For the past eight years Obama has been perfectly okay with Americans like you and me going into deep and endless debt so that the Pentagon could afford to manufacture cause endless death in the Middles East. And Cruz is okay with that policy too, even proposing carpet-bombing ISIS and others in the Middle East.

Published in Guest Commentary

WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaAngryElephant(Photo: Mister-E)By May, there will be no more elephants in the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus.

The circus management had originally said it would cease using elephants by 2018, but revised its estimate by two years. Management said the cost to retire the elephants to the Ringling Brothers Center for Animal Conservation in Florida is less than it had first anticipated. The 13 Asian elephants on tour will join 30 others at the 200 acre facility, which has a $2.5 million annual budget.

“Our family’s commitment to save the majestic Asian elephants will continue through our breeding program, research and conservation efforts at the Center,” said Alana Feld, executive vice-president of Feld Entertainment.

P.T. Barnum first used an elephant in his circus in 1882, having purchased Jumbo from a London zoo. Since then, most circuses have toured with performing elephants, most of them Asian females because of the difficulty to train male elephants after they reach maturity. (Almost no circuses use the larger African elephants.)

Why Ringling Bros. is removing its elephants from the touring company is because of increasing public pressure and charges of animal cruelty, much of it leveled by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal rights groups.

“We were very pleased that the elephants with Ringling Bros. will no longer suffer a miserable life on the road where they spend a great deal of time in boxcars and perform grueling circus tricks under the threat of punishment,” says Nicole Paquette, HSUS vice-president for wildlife protection. The circus, says Paquette, “had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal abuse, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”

Published in Guest Commentary

PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaStrikeFist(Photo: Ralph Chaplin)Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance -- or, more accurately, downsizing -- of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.

First, the Neoliberal Explanation: It's Not Really Happening

Business writer Robert Samuelson calls the post-recession low-wage recovery a "myth." To support his claim he cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute which, according to Samuelson, proves that "the economy’s employment profile — the split between high- and low-paying jobs — hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century."

But the EPI analysis is based on average wages within industries, rather than on the median, which reflects unequal growth. If the median had kept up with the average over the past 15 years, the current median wage would be $1/hour higher, or about $2,000 per year. The employment profile has actually changed a great deal since the year 2000.

There's more. The EPI analyst claims that "jobs are being added relatively in proportion to their share." But she only considers one year's data, after much of the damage had already been done. Even so, the EPI figures show that the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in 2014 was 6.3 percent less than the overall percentage of middle-wage jobs (42.7% to 40%) -- a rather dramatic change for a single year.

Published in Guest Commentary

COLE MELLINO OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaErin(Photo: Eva Rinaldi)Environmental activist Erin Brockovich appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about the Flint water crisis. Brockovich said members of the Flint community reached out to her a year ago because they were concerned about how their water looked, tasted and smelled. She sent a team of experts to Flint to investigate and even drafted a protocol for how the city should deal with the problem.

She explained to the audience what went wrong in Flint and what the city needs to do to provide residents with potable water. Colbert then asked Brockovich if Flint was the tip of the “leadberg.” Are there other communities facing similar problems?, he asked.

Brockovich answered with a resounding yes. “I can tell you that Flint, Michigan is the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “I can tell you for certain that this is a national crisis that we are not getting ready to face. The crisis is already here. Even since Flint has hit the national stage, we’ve found out that Sebring, Ohio has the same problem … The same thing is happening in Louisiana, and we’re just now hearing rumors—I haven’t verified it before I came out—we’re having the same situation in Wisconsin.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaClimateWarm(Photo: NASA)In 1996, the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, then only twelve years old, launched a revolutionary project called PolicyFax, which combined conservative advocacy with then state-of-the-art technology to become one of the right’s leading information clearinghouses. In the environmental section of PolicyFax’s 300-page paper catalogue, hundreds of articles were listed, covering a broad range of issues including: air quality, chemicals, endangered species, energy, environmental justice, forestry, free-market environmentalism, global climate change, ozone depletion, regulatory reform, and sustainable development.

PolicyFax was accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and was absolutely free to every elected official in the United States (regardless of position), every significant media worker, and researchers from many other think tanks. Heartland’s complete set of resources would be delivered directly to their desks. In many ways, Heartland’s PolicyFax helped seed the conservative movement’s long-lived project denying global warming; a project that continues unabated to this day.

A report prepared in 2000 – covering the period from 1990-1997 -- titled Challenging Global Warming as a Social Problem: An Analysis of the Conservative Movement’s Counter-Claims, “was the first comprehensive look at how conservative think tanks were trying to shape the conversation on climate,” Heather Smith recently reported in Grist, the very essential online environmental magazine.

According to the report -- prepared by Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlop, two Washington State University sociologists – information about global warming on the web sites of major conservative think tanks centered around three points: “the evidentiary basis of global warming [w]as weak, if not entirely wrong: if global warming exists, it could “have substantial benefits”; and, “the movement warned that proposed action to ameliorate global warming would do more harm then good.”  

Published in Guest Commentary

TED GLICK OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaKinderProtest(Photo: EcoWatch)Over a seven day period last week there was a flurry of step-it-up activity on the East Coast in opposition to the planned expansion of fracking and fracking infrastructure.

It began with a three-day walk over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in sub-freezing, wintry weather in rural western Massachusetts against Kinder Morgan’s proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline. Upwards of 200 people took part in the walk, with an average of about 80 people walking 11-12 miles each day. The spirit and energy of the group was powerful.

It continued on Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with a successful disruption of the last meeting of Gov. Tom Wolf’s gas-industry-stacked pipeline infrastructure commission. The commission was set up to sell the plan to build even more gas pipelines and expand fracking in the state.

And it ended on Thursday in Washington, DC with the 15th consecutive Beyond Extreme Energy disruption of the monthly Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioners’ meeting. This action was followed by one right near the White House at a Bank of America branch. Bank of America is a major funder of the being-built Cove Point, Maryland Liquified Natural Gas export terminal.

Also this past week, on Monday, seven people were arrested at the latest blockade organized by We Are Seneca Lake in Ithaca, New York at the Crestwood gas storage facility; many hundreds have been arrested over the last year and a half in a campaign that shows no signs of letting up.

Published in Guest Commentary

LORRAINE CHOW OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaDamonFlint(Photo: EcoWatch)Matt Damon has joined the escalating outrage over Gov. Rick Snyder’s handling of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and has called on embattled governor to step down from his post.

“At the very least he should resign! At the very least,” the Hollywood actor and co-founder of the nonprofit Water.org told The Daily Beast at the Sundance Film Festival on Saturday.

“Listen, everybody’s entitled to a fair trial in the United States of America, but that man should get one. And soon. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Flint’s water disaster started back in April 2014, when an unelected state official switched the city’s main water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River to save money. This ill-fated move has corroded Flint’s aging pipelines and exposed the city’s 102,000 residents—especially children—to the potentially crippling effects of lead poisoning and led to two outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease that has killed 10 people.

To make matters worse, emails released last week revealed that Gov. Snyder and his administration knew about Flint’s water quality issues as early as February 2015 but his administration said the problems would eventually “fade in the rearview.”

Published in Guest Commentary

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaGuteBible(Photo: Mactographer)On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Donald Trump made a pilgrimage to the late Rev. Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Liberty is the largest Christian University in the world, and is now run by his son Jerry Falwell Jr. At Liberty, Trump said that it was an honor to be compared to the Rev. Jerry Falwell, and he assured the 13,000 people in attendance that he would "protect Christianity."

"Christianity is under siege," Trump added. "Very bad things are happening ... Somehow we have to unify, we have to band together, we have to do really in a really large version what they've done at Liberty ... You band together, you've created one of the great universities, colleges anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, and that's what our country has to do around Christianity."

Raw Story reported that Trump "was ridiculed by some religious leaders after his appearance at Liberty on Monday, during which he tried to shoehorn a Biblical reference into his usual stump speech."

Trump speaking at Liberty University is pretty remarkable given that Trump has never had a close connection to, or even a passing relationship with, the Christian evangelical community. That combined with the fact that back in the day, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was an outspoken critic of Martin Luther King Jr. and what he termed the "so-called freedom movement," certainly made for an unusual cultural moment. To be fair to the late Rev. Falwell, he did eventually repudiate his segregationist past, although he never embraced Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights/freedom struggle during his career.

Trump's appearance at Liberty was followed by his receiving the endorsement of Sarah Palin, which, given her standing in the evangelical Christian community, could nudge a few more evangelical Christians into his column.

Published in Guest Commentary
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