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DEVIL IN THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Climate change is likely to make existing ocean dead zones…deader, according to a new study by the Smithsonian. Warmer water holds less oxygen, and the researchers found that 94 percent of the world’s dead zones are in areas expected to see a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius or more by the end of the century. Back in August, Brian Palmer looked at what causes dead zones and how many are out there.

A stretch of the Gulf of Mexico spanning more than 5,000 square miles along the Louisiana coast is nearly devoid of marine life this summer, according to a study released this week. Caused largely by nutrient runoff from farm fertilizer, this oxygen-deprived “dead zone” is approximately the size of Connecticut.

Although slightly smaller than last summer’s edition, the Gulf dead zone is still touted by some as the largest in the United States and costs $82 million annually in diminished tourism and fishing yield. Which makes you wonder…

HOW MANY OTHER DEAD ZONES ARE OUT THERE?

Probably around 200 in U.S. waters alone. After reviewing the academic literature on “hypoxic zones” in 2012, Robert Diaz, professor emeritus at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, identified 166 reports of dead zones in the country. Coastal waters contain the vast majority, though some exist in inland waterways. A handful of the 166 dead zones have since bounced back through improved management of sewage and agricultural runoff, but as fertilizer use and factory farming increase, we are creating dead zones faster than nature can recover.

There are more than 400 known dead zones worldwide, covering about 1 percent of the area of the continental shelves. That number is almost certainly a vast undercount, though, since large parts of Africa, South America, and Asia have yet to be adequately studied. Diaz estimates that a more accurate count is 1,000-plus dead zones globally.

WHAT CAUSES THESE THINGS?

Agricultural practices are the biggest culprit in the United States and Europe. Rains wash excess fertilizer from farms into interior waterways, which eventually empty into the ocean. At the mouths of rivers, such as the Mississippi, the glut of phosphorous and nitrogen intended for human crops instead feeds marine phytoplankton. A phytoplanktonic surge leads to a boom in bacteria, which feed on the plankton and consume oxygen as part of their respiration. That leaves very little dissolved oxygen in the subsurface waters. Without oxygen, most marine life cannot survive.

Sewage causes the majority of dead zones in Africa and South America. That’s a good thing, in a way, because engineers have been working for hundreds of years on sewage management solutions. In the early 19th century, London built a sewer system to divert waste from newfangled flush toilets into the Thames. With this influx of nutrients—one creature’s sewage is another’s sustenance—bacterial populations multiplied and depleted the river’s oxygen. The circumstances chased off aquatic life and enveloped the city in a horrific stench, culminating in the Great Stink of 1858. Sewage treatment and managed releases remedied the situation back then, and similar infrastructure investments could likely alleviate the excrement-fueled dead zones of the modern world.

Airborne nitrogen also contributes to the world’s dead zones. When cars, trucks, and power plants burn fossil fuels, they emit nitrogen into the air. These particulates eventually settle into waterways and head for the sea. Nitrification is a special problem in Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay, which have absorbed large amounts of nitrogen from coal-burning power plants in the Midwest.

DO I LIVE NEAR A DEAD ZONE?

The largest U.S. dead zones are in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Oregon. But, as this map illustrates, everyone in the eastern and southeastern United States lives close to a dead zone of some size.

There are two reasons for the density of dead zones along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. First, look at a heat map of U.S. population density. There is an astonishing concentration of people, as well as animals and farms to feed them, in the East.

Second, there simply aren’t that many rivers draining into the Pacific Ocean. With fewer rivers to carry farm runoff to the sea, fewer dead zones form.

The eastern portion of Long Island Sound, has suffered dead zones nearly every year for the last two decades. Even halfway across the Sound—more than 50 miles from the most densely populated parts of New York City—the waters have been hypoxic in at least 10 of the last 20 summers.

The Chesapeake Bay hosts several dead zones, each from the drainage of a different river. According to Diaz, agricultural runoff and sewage account for about three-quarters of the problem. The other quarter is the result of airborne nitrogen.

You needn’t live near a coast to have a dead zone. Lake Erie is likely in for a serious case of hypoxia this summer. The cyanobacteria that contaminated Toledo’s drinking water over the weekend will soon die and sink to the bottom, where other bacteria will feast on their remains and consume the lake’s dissolved oxygen.

ARE HUMANS SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR DEAD ZONES?

No, but we almost always play a role. Natural processes, such as the churning of ocean waters, can form dead zones on their own. The massive dead zone born in 2002 near the coast of Oregon—which rivals the Gulf of Mexico dead zone in area—is the result of the upwelling of nutrients that fed an algal bloom. As the algae died and settled, they created a hypoxic area. Not all scientists think the dead zone was entirely natural, though. Many believe changes in wind circulation related to global warming played a part.

CAN DEAD ZONES BE BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE?

Absolutely. The Black Sea once hosted one of the largest hypoxic zones in the world, stretching 15,000 square miles. When agricultural subsidies from the Soviet Union collapsed in the late 1980s, fertilizer runoff dropped by more than 50 percent. The waterways took three years to recover, and international support for runoff management has helped keep the Black Sea alive and well ever since.

There’s no reason the United States can’t adopt those practices, too—we simply need to implement the science that we already have. Agricultural researchers have made countless recommendations to minimize farm runoff, but the advice hasn’t been heeded. Other property owners can help by taking it easy on the fertilizer and resisting the urge to install impermeable surfaces like concrete. And we already have plenty of other reasons to retire coal-fired power plants—dead zones are just one more. After all, it needn’t take the fall of an empire to improve a nation’s coastal areas.

 

BY BRIAN PALMER, On Earth Magazine

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8 Things The History Books Don’t Tell Us About Native People

Do history books written by white folks tell the truth about Natives in the US? We think not.

Here are just some of the things they fail to mention.

1. Columbus NEVER landed in the Upper 48—Ever

Every year across the country countless elementary school students recite: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and many perform a play about him discovering Indians in America.

The thing is, Columbus never landed in what would become the United States. He actually landed in the Caribbean.

2. Basically Everything About Pocahontas

Pocahontas was about 8 years old when John Smith arrived, and was later married to another young Indian warrior. She also had a child that was given away before she was kidnapped by the English and then married to John Rolfe.

Sorry Disney, and many incorrectly written textbooks, Pocahontas never fell in love with John Smith.

According to tribal oral histories as well as The True Story of Pocahontas by members of the Mattaponi Tribe, Pocahontas’ original young Native husband was killed and Pocahontas’ newborn was given to relatives before she was forced into captivity at about 15 or 16 years of age.

3. The First Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was named after an entire tribe’s massacre — not a peaceful meal between pilgrims and Indians.

In 1621, Wampanoag Indians investigated gun and cannon fire at a Pilgrim settlement to see them celebrating a successful harvest. The Indians — all male warriors, were fed as a gesture of peace. The act was not repeated annually.

In 1636, when a murdered man was discovered in a boat in Plymouth, English Major John Mason collected his soldiers and killed and burned down the wigwams of all the neighboring Pequot Indians who were blamed for the murder.

The following day, Plymouth Governor William Bradford applauded the massacre of the 400 Indians, including the women and children. The Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, William Newell, proclaimed: “From that day forth, shall be a day of celebration and thanks giving for subduing the Pequots.”

For the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.

4. What is a Redskin?

“It was only five generations ago that a white man could get money for one of my grandfather’s scalps,” wrote 1491’s comedian Dallas Goldtooth on Facebook. “At this time… it was ‘Redskin’ that was used to describe us.”

In his post, Goldtooth also included a newspaper clipping from after the U.S. Dakota Wars of 1862: “The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.”

5. Lincoln Ordered a Mass Execution

In the fall of 1862, Native tribes in Minnesota waged war on white settlers out of frustration from starvation, mistreatment and harsh conditions.

After soldiers captured over 300 Indians, President Abraham Lincoln approved the largest mass execution in U.S. history on 38 Dakota men.

On the day of their hanging, an estimated 4,000 spectators watched them hung. Their bodies were later taken and used as medical cadavers.

6. Hitler Studied Reservations

There are many accounts of the Nazis and Hitler studying Indian reservations for guidance in planning encampments for the Jewish. Perhaps Lia Mandelbaum says it best in her article found in the Jewish Journal entitled “Hitler’s Inspiration and Guide: The Native American Holocaust.”

From 1863 to 1868, the U.S. military persecuted and imprisoned 9,500 Navajo (the Diné) and 500 Mescalero Apache (the N’de). Living under armed guards, in holes in the ground, with extremely scarce rations, it is no wonder that more than 3,500 Navajo and Mescalero Apache men, women, and children died while in the concentration camp.

During the film I learned about something that shook me to my core that I had not heard before. I learned that the genocidal mentality and actions of the U.S. policy makers would find similar expression years later when the Nazis, under Hitler, studied the plans of Bosque Redondo to design the concentration camps for Jews.

7. There Are 566 Federally Recognized Tribes in the U.S.

When I was a student in high school, I learned that George Washington saw Indians in Virginia and possibly heard once or twice about the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

But in 18 years of public school (and a few of private Catholic School) — not once did I learn about the multitude of tribes, languages or cultures involved in this country.

NOT ONCE.

8. Unwritten History of African Americans and Natives

Dr. Arica L. Coleman is the assistant professor of Black American Studies at the University of Delaware. She is African American and Native American (Rappahannock).

Due to her ancestry, she has done a lot of thinking about the relations and interactions of Blacks, Indians and whites on the East Coast, primarily in Virginia.

According to Coleman, who turned her Ph.D. dissertation into a book titled That the Blood Stay Pure, there was Indian slavery in Virginia.

“The first slaves in the Americas were Native American and this business that the Native Americans died off as a result of disease and war [is inaccurate]—those were not the only reasons for their demise, there was the Indian slave trade, which is something we do not discuss a lot,” she writes.

Coleman also writes about Walter Plecker, a man who once worked as the first registrar of Virginia’s Bureau of Vital Records. A man who literally changed races in Virginia’s birth records. His actions have been coined as “pencil genocide.”

Similarly, William Loren Katz, the author of Black Indians has written how entire cities of blacks and Indians came together as a strong force against European settlers including huge factions of black Seminoles who created nearly impenetrable forces against those soldiers foolish enough to try and break into Florida, and suffered miserable defeats over several years.

Vincent Schilling
Originally published on Indian Country Today Media Network.

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Michigan Court Rules That State Has No Obligation To Provide Children With Education

Many days, it seems that all the advances our country has made are being dismantled one court decision at a time. A recent decision in Michigan, which has largely flown under the radar, should it hold up on a national level, could mean that poor children will have no access to education.

On November 7, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that one poverty-stricken school district didn’t have to provide a quality education to children.

A 2-1 decision reversed an earlier circuit court ruling that there is a “broad compelling state interest in the provision of an education to all children.” The appellate court said the state has no constitutional requirement to ensure schoolchildren actually learn fundamental skills such as reading — but rather is obligated only to establish and finance a public education system, regardless of quality. Waving off decades of historic judicial impact on educational reform, the majority opinion also contends that “judges are not equipped to decide educational policy.”

“This ruling should outrage anyone who cares about our public education system,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the American Civil Liberties of Michigan. “The court washes its hands and absolves the state of any responsibility in a district that has failed and continues to fail its children.”

Source: Michigan Citizen.com

It might surprise many people to know that there is no constitutional right to an education, but free education for children is as old as the country itself. It’s always been assumed to fall under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power of taxation and to provide for the general welfare of the people.

On the other hand, education has always more or less been left up to the states, but with a big helping hand from the feds.

During the first century of our new nation, Congress granted more than 77 million acres of the public domain as an endowment for the support of public schools through tracts ceded to the states.  In 1841, Congress passed an act that granted 500,000 acres to eight states and later increased land grants to a total of 19 states. The federal government also granted money, such as distributions of surplus federal revenue and reimbursements for war expenses, to states. Though Congress rarely prescribed that such funds be used only for schools, education continued to be one of the largest expenses of state and local governments so the states used federal funds whenever possible for education.

Source: League of Women Voters

One shouldn’t have to be a liberal to believe that an educated populace is good for the welfare of the country. It will be educated people who eventually cure Ebola or send humans to Mars. It is educated people who keep building better and more fuel efficient cars.

More and more, however, our country is becoming a nation of service employees. With that in mind, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the company most in need of under-educated employees, Walmart, is behind much of the effort to destroy, or as they say, reform, our school systems.

Since 2000, members of the Walton family have spent at least $24 million dollars funding politicians, political action committees, and ballot issues at the state and local level that favor their corporate approach to school reform. At local levels of government,  where fundraising totals are smaller than those at the federal level, Walton largesse can go a very long way toward shaping public policy.

Walmart admits that the reason they are so interested in education is that they are having trouble finding qualified entry level employees. If these words came from NASA or Apple or Microsoft, these words might be encouraging. But for Walmart, an educated workforce can negatively impact their bottom line. Educated employees tend to expect more money and better benefits than most entry level employees at Walmart earn.
Or as Walmart1Percent.org says:

The Waltons and the Walton Family Foundation have gargantuan financial resources and can exert undue influence on politicians and public policy issues of their choosing. No matter where people come down on the issues of education reform or school choice, we can all agree it is unfair that the Walton family gets to dictate the future of public education because of the amount of money at its disposal, and to do so in a way that is unaccountable to the public.

Remember, too, that the Waltons—white, rural, and mind-bogglingly wealthy—pursue their education reform goals in low-income, urban communities where the student populations consist largely of children of color. When a profoundly privileged family seeks to engage in philanthropy in historically marginalized communities that they are not part of, the lack of accountability is even more troubling.

The Waltons and their foundation have reaped billions and billions of dollars from a ruthless business model that relies on Walmart jobs being insecure and unstable jobs, with low wages, skimpy benefits, and little respect in the workplace. Their company has helped create a world where parents have to work two or more jobs, with unstable hours to make ends meet.  They’ve helped create a world where parents struggle with choices like paying rent, putting food on the table or taking a sick child to the doctor. And now the Waltons want to tell us how to fix our schools? The Walmart model has made its impact on much of the world. But, for many, the Walmartization of our schools is one step too far.

And now, with Michigan ruling that the state has no business guaranteeing a quality education, be prepared for Walmart or the Koch brothers to be writing Michigan’s curriculum.
Wendy Gittleson, Addicting Info

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Harvard Students Take 1964 Literacy Test Black Voters Had To Pass Before Voting — They All Failed

Recently, a group of Harvard students were asked to take the 1964 Louisiana Literacy Test — one of the extreme efforts to stop African Americans from voting that eventually led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act. Since racism is no longer a thing in America, according to the Supreme Court, and the Voting Rights Act has been effectively gutted, it might be time for a lesson from the past.

The test required those who took it to correctly answer 30 questions in 10 minutes — something even a group of Harvard students could not do today. The students were recorded struggling with the vaguely-worded questions. Under Louisiana law at the time these students would each require a 100% score on the test to be able to vote.

Carl Miller, a resident tutor at Harvard who administered the test, says that the purpose of the students’ participation was to teach them how unjust the electoral process was toward African Americans.

“Exactly 50 years ago, states in the American South issued this exact test to any voter who could not ‘prove a fifth grade education,’” said Miller. “Unsurprisingly, the only people who ever saw this test were blacks and, to a lesser extent, poor whites trying to vote in the South.”

Miller said he hoped to “see if some of the ‘brightest young minds in the world” could pass a test that was intended to “prove” someone had at least a fifth-grade education, according to the Daily Mail.

“Louisiana’s literacy test was designed to be failed. Just like all the other literacy tests issued in the South at the time, this test was not about testing literacy at all. It was a legitimate sounding, but devious measure that the State of Louisiana used to disenfranchise people that had the wrong skin tone or belonged to the wrong social class,” Miller said. “And just like that, countless black and poor white voters in the South were disenfranchised.”

Because the test was designed to allow officials to conveniently interpret any and all answers as wrong, not a single student passed.

Since the Voting Rights Act was gutted, we have seen a wave of voter ID legislation across red states. While these laws are purportedly intended to prevent fraud, the effects are the same as the literacy tests in the south. For the midterm elections, the state of Texas passed some of the most restrictive identification legislation in the country’s history. While this was initially blocked because a federal judge deemed it to be a poll tax, the law was later reinstated.

The result? According to MSNBC, no one knows how many voters the law disenfranchised. However, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the law had a very negative impact.

For starters, turnout dropped to 33.6%, down from 37.5% in 2010 — a decline of 271,000 voters. That happened despite a high-profile governor’s race, and an increase of 700,000 in the number of registered voters.

And even though turnout was lower, the number of provisional ballots doubled. That might be attributable to voters who lacked acceptable ID, since the law allows such voters to cast a provisional ballot. (In order to make those ballots count, the voter needs to return soon with valid ID, something few would be likely to do.)

MSNBC does note, however, that “turnout declined everywhere. The national drop — from 40.9% in 2010 to 36.4% this year — wasn’t much different from Texas’ decline.”

No matter what, some people were definitely affected. At least some instances of voters — including those who have voted successfully their entire lives — being turned away at the polls have been widely publicized. One notable example was a 93-year-old veteran whose driver’s license had expired, and who had not gotten a veteran’s identification card. He was able to vote without any issues until the midterm election.

“What’s clear now, though, is that the law deprived some voters — very plausibly a number in the tens of thousands, if not more — of their most basic democratic right,” MSNBC said. “That’s a reason for enormous concern, no matter how many people, or election results, were affected.”

 

via DailyMail

via DailyMailvia DailyMail

via DailyMail

 

Valerie Beaumont, Addicting Info

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Tens Of Thousands Want ’19 Kids And Counting’ Canceled Over Anti-LGBTQ Remarks

There is currently a petition by Jim Wissick of San Jose, California gaining steam on Change.org. The petition is requesting that TLC cancel 19 Kids And Counting over ongoing and increasing anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

According to the petition:

Michelle Duggar of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting is warning Fayetteville residents that transgender people are child predators and that the law will somehow protect that predatory behavior.

Michelle Duggar is sending out a recorded robocall to local residents that says:

“Hello, this is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of Northwest Arkansas women and children.”

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes I said men – to use womens and girls restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

Here’s the thing — she’s fear-mongering. Her claims are pure hyperbole.
The petition continues:

Duggar’s words reek of ignorance and fear-mongering. Just because someone is transgendered doesn’t mean they are a child predator or a rapist. The claim that this ordinance would provide predators with access to women’s restrooms in order to assault or leer at girls or women is nothing more than fear-mongering and spreading ignornace and hatred.

Transgender people — who are far more likely to be the victims of harassment and violence if forced to use a bathroom that is inconsistent with their gender identity or expression— deserve to have the ability to use the bathroom in peace and safety.

The petition currently has around 40,000 signatures and is steadily climbing with hopes of reaching 100,000.

This isn’t the first time the Duggars have gotten into hot water over anti-LGBTQ actions. The eldest of the Duggar Clan, Josh Duggar, heads up the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Family Research Counsil.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar also recently posted a picture of themselves kissing on Facebook to show an example of a happily married couple, and they asked their fans to post their own pictures in the comment section, but when John Becker of The Bilerico Project (an LGBT blog) put a photo of himself with his husband it was deleted and he was banned from the page.

It would be nice if TLC looked past their long-running relationship with the Duggars and recognized that they are pushing hate, fear, and misinformation on the supposed “Learning Channel” — Learning what? Some may ask.

In an era of enlightenment, it is one thing to show different models of family units, it’s another to profit off of a family who purposefully goes out of their way to spread hyperbole and fear because they don’t happen to agree that other people should seemingly live on the planet who aren’t just like them. Their messages are dangerous and disingenuous.

From ADDICTING INFO

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Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of

In 2011, an ecologist released an alarming study showing that tiny clothing fibers could be the biggest source of plastic in our oceans. The bigger problem? No one wanted to hear it

Ecologist Mark Browne knew he’d found something big when, after months of tediously examining sediment along shorelines around the world, he noticed something no one had predicted: fibers. Everywhere. They were tiny and synthetic and he was finding them in the greatest concentration near sewage outflows. In other words, they were coming from us.

In fact, 85% of the human-made material found on the shoreline were microfibers, and matched the types of material, such as nylon and acrylic, used in clothing.

It is not news that microplastic – which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as plastic fragments 5mm or smaller – is ubiquitous in all five major ocean gyres. And numerous studies have shown that small organisms readily ingest microplastics, introducing toxic pollutants to the food chain.

But Browne’s 2011 paper announcing his findings marked a milestone, according to Abigail Barrows, an independent marine research scientist based in Stonington, Maine, who has helped to check for plastic in more than 150 one-liter water samples collected around the world. “He’s fantastic – very well respected” among marine science researchers, says Barrows. “He is a pioneer in microplastics research.”

By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, Browne estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans.

microfibers
Tiny plastic fibers taken from a water sample in Blue Hill Bay in the gulf of Maine.   Photograph: Marine Environmental Research Institute

Alarmed by his findings, Browne reached out to prominent clothing brands for help. He sought partnerships to try to determine the flow of synthetic fibers from clothing to the washing machine to the ocean. He also hoped his research might help develop better textile design to prevent the migration of toxic fibers into water systems.

The reaction wasn’t what he expected.

He contacted leaders in the outdoor apparel industry – big purveyors of synthetic fabrics – including Patagonia, Nike and Polartec. But none of these companies agreed to lend support.

“Perhaps it’s my pitch,” Browne joked. “We want to look for new, more durable materials that do not emit so much microplastic.”

In 2013, Brown presented his vision for a program called Benign by Design, backed by a team of engineers and scientists from academic institutions around the world as well as from the Environmental Protection Agency. The group’s goal is to help the industry tackle the problem of synthetic microfiber migration into waterways and marine ecosystems. He proposed creating a range of working groups where scientists and industry representatives would work together to develop synthetic materials that do not shed synthetic fibers – or do so minimally but are still cost-effective, high-performing and, if possible, rely on recycled materials.

Only one firm, women’s clothing brand Eileen Fisher, offered to support him. The company’s $10,000 grant has supported a section of Browne’s research over the past year.

“Any lifecycle issue, especially when it’s about a huge consumer product like clothing, is important,” says Shona Quinn, sustainability leader with Eileen Fisher. “[Browne] is raising an issue no one else has been studying.”

While Browne sees the grant as a validation of his efforts, 90% of the products Eileen Fisher sells are made of natural fibers. He’s still hoping to find a clothing company that will collaborate on research and development of new synthetic fabrics that will not shed microfibers.

While pitching his idea at the Launch innovation conference, Browne spoke to Jim Zieba, vice president of Polartec’s advanced concepts and business development group. In a follow-up email, Browne asked if Zeiba could provide him with polymers from Polartec textiles so that Browne could grow the database of materials he maintains to help discern the unidentified fibers in his samples. He did not hear back from Zeiba.

Allon Cohne, global marketing director at Polartec, says he’s familiar with Browne and his research, but that Polartec has already done an internal study to analyze the effluent at its Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing plant. Aside from characterizing the amount of microfibers contained in the effluent as “minimal”, Cohne said he could not publicly share the study or any details – such as what minimal means.

Browne says he’s glad to hear that Polartec conducted a study, but maintains that any truly scientific study would be open to peer review. (As it happens, the words “Committed to Science” are currently presented on Polartec’s website, above a video describing Polatec’s approach to fabric innovation.)

Patagonia, a company known for its strong environmental ethic and sustainable manufacturing processes, has also declined to work with Browne. The company’s strategic environmental responsibility manager, Todd Copeland, says the company considers Browne’s findings too preliminary to commit resources directly to a project like Benign by Design, until it sees more solid evidence that specific types of products or materials, such as fleece jackets or polyester base layers, are contributing to a major environmental threat. “I don’t know how much effort we want to spend looking for the solution before we know where the problem is,” Copeland says.

Browne says that, without industry support, he doesn’t know how he can move ahead with his efforts to address microfiber migration from textiles at their source.

“I think [clothing companies] have all put a lot of marketing money into environmental programs, but I’ve not seen evidence that they’ve put much money into research,” says Browne.

In fact, Patagonia maintains a policy to not directly support research, its spokesman Adam Fetcher told me. Instead, it supports non-profit groups doing environmental advocacy work. Over the past five years, Patagonia has awarded close to $70,000 in grants to groups focused on the microplastics pollution issue. These include Algalita Marine Research Foundation (founded by captain Charles Moore, who first raised the issue of microplastics in oceans), 5 Gyres, and Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), with whom Abigail Barrows works to collect surface water samples from around the world for her research into microfibers.

Abigail BarrowsMicroplastic researcher Abigail Barrows draws water samples from a lobster boat.   Photograph: Veronica Young

Perhaps Browne would have more luck if he were an environmental advocate rather than a scientist.

Still, Gregg Treinish, ASC executive director, says he would need to raise a great deal more money to fund the level of research he feels microfibers deserve. “Determining what type of plastic is in the water is hard and expensive – up to $1000 per sample.”

Bad chemistry

Browne’s difficulty in finding companies to cooperate might be compounded by the fact that the industry that is already under scrutiny for different environmental issues. According to the World Bank, textile manufacturing generates up to 20% of industrial wastewater in China, and a number of environmental groups, chiefly Greenpeace, have launched campaigns to pressure clothing makers to rid their supply chains of toxic chemicals, such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in textile processing. PFCs are linked to environmental toxicity and human health problems, and Kevin Brigden, a chemist and Greenpeace honorary research fellow, says some manufacturers are finally beginning to phase them out.

But Brigden fears microfibers released from synthetic fibers could just as chemically hazardous. “Some chemicals are very water soluble, so they wash out [into wastewater during textile manufacturing],” Brigden says. “Others are less soluble so they take time to wash off. If fabrics break down then [microfibers] are another pathway for those [chemicals into the environment].”

Those fighting the use of microbeads in beauty products are finding more traction, Barrows says, because phasing them out is straightforward. Getting rid of synthetic fibers, on the other hand, would be extremely difficult. Not only are synthetic fabrics durable and versatile, but they can have smaller water and energy footprint than natural fabrics. “Synthetic fabrics have many great applications,” Barrows concedes, and determining how to measure their environmental impacts is an overwhelming challenge.

Other sources, other solutions

Polartec’s Cohne argues that too much emphasis is being placed on the clothing industry and that carpet and upholstery manufactures ought to be considered as equally important sources of synthetic microfiber runoff in the industrial sector. Professional carpet cleaners might be another vector.

Cohne also believes more onus should be put on washing machine manufacturers to find ways to capture the clothing fibers so that they do not ultimately enter wastewater treatment systems.

Browne has reached out to appliance manufacturers Siemens, Dyson (which sells washing machines in Europe), and LG, hoping to engage their design or research teams in a discussion about how they might be able to develop microfiber filters to prevent them from entering the water.

None has responded.

However, a Canadian tinkerer turned entrepreneur named Blair Jollimore is working on a solution. After his septic tank backed up and flooded his home, he discovered the main culprit was lint from his washing machine. So the former airplane engine mechanic, based in Nova Scotia, created a filter for his home laundry machine. “I’m a mechanical engineer, so I modified a water filter and added stainless steel screen,” says Jollimore. “I’ve been using it for 14 years.”

In 2003, some of his neighbors who were also having septic tank problems asked if he could make filters for their machines, too, and a home business was born. Jollimore has sold more than 1,000 of his filters to homeowners from England to Hawaii and now, with Browne’s encouragement, is preparing to pitch his filter to appliance makers as a way to rid wastewater of microfibers.

While he has found a screen that would capture strands down to 1 micron – necessary to stop all microfibers – he is still experimenting with what forcing water through such a fine filter could do to laundry machine function. “Every bit of dirt in your laundry would be captured, so it would back up the process,” he says.

As for capturing the fibers at their next stop, wastewater treatment plants, Browne is not optimistic. He says he has conferred with many engineers who work in sewage treatment and none of them thinks removing fibers – or microbeads, which enter wastewater through residential plumbing – is viable. Besides, he says, even if those microplastics were removed from the liquid waste, they would end up in sludge, which in some places ends up being turned into fertilizers. In those cases, the plastics would still enter the ecosystem, and conceivably the food chain.

Browne concedes that more research is required to better understand the sources and impacts of synthetic microfibers in the environment, and he wishes he could get the clothing companies on his side. “The [textile] people I’ve talked to have not been trained environmental scientists, they’re more often marketing people.”

“Industry is saying, ‘you just have to do more work on it’. But that will require someone to support it,” he says. “It seems to be a way of avoiding dealing with the problem.”

From The Guardian, Mary Catherine O’Connor.  O’Oconnor is an independent reporter and co-founder of Climate Confidential.

 

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Which Country Searches Google For The Most Gay Porn?

Google analyzed its data to report on gay porn search habits. Can you guess which countries found themselves in the top five searchers of gay porn on Google, according to the report? If you answered “countries that criminalize homosexuality,” you’d be mostly right! Except for South Africa, all of the top five countries that search for gay porn throw their gay people in prison — or worse.

Kenya, which took the tiara in the report, criminalizes homosexuality with prison sentences between five and 14 years.

Countries more tolerant of their LGBT citizens don’t appear until the latter half of the Top 10, starting with Australia and the U.S. at numbers seven and eight, respectively.

Does this report prove that criminalizing being gay doesn’t actually “rid” a country of homosexuality?

 

Jonathan Higbee, Instinct

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Charles Schwab Files Libel, Defamation Lawsuits against Beverly Hills Law Firm for Bogus Websites

Law Firm Steiner & Libo, Partner Leonard Steiner, Plaintiff Nicholas Behunin Sued by Charles Schwab Family For Libel

San Francisco-The Los Angeles law firm Steiner & Libo and one of its clients is being sued for defamation and libel for creating bogus websites as part of a plot to extract money from the family of respected investment advisor Charles R. Schwab, according to lawsuits filed today in Superior Court.

Legal complaints from Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael Schwab were filed against Steiner & Libo, partner Leonard Steiner, and plaintiff Nicholas Behunin of Los Angeles, Calif.

The lawsuits claims the law firm and its client knowingly made false claims on defamatory websites to purposely harm the reputation of the Schwab family in retaliation for not settling a lawsuit, which itself was an effort to shakedown the family.

The Charles R. Schwab lawsuit alleges the sites were “a tool for the extortion of Schwab” by creating the false impression that Mr. Schwab, his son, and family did business with a brutal dictator.

The defamatory sites state that Mr. Schwab sought to do business with the family of the late Indonesian dictator Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto, a convicted murderer. The sites advertise that Mr. Schwab can provide advice to investors on “how to profit from a brutal dictator” and methods to “launder money overseas.”

The Schwab lawsuits unequivocally state that neither Mr. Schwab nor his son Michael ever met President Suharto or Tommy Suharto or had any business dealings with them.

“The only reason to create these fraudulent websites was to besmirch the good name and reputation of Charles R. Schwab and his son Michael. Not one claim on the landing page of the site is true or correct and the guilty parties were aware of that prior to making the defamatory statements,” said attorney Robert R. Moore of the law firm of Allen Matkins, representing Charles R. Schwab.

The lawsuit claims “In sum, (Leonard) Steiner (Steiner & Libo and Nicholas Behunin) used the Websites as a tool for the extortion of Schwab.  The Website’s clear objective was, and is, to publicly embarrass and shame Schwab and then to leverage that public embarrassment into litigation advantage in Behunin’s lawsuit against Schwab.”

“The Defendants agreed to a scheme that included providing false and defamatory information to third parties who would post articles or blogs on the internet repeating the false and defamatory statements provided to them by Defendants…creating the impression that the false statements on the websites had been independently corroborated by the third-party posters,” according the lawsuit by Michael Schwab filed by his attorney David H. Schwartz.

Schwartz pointed to a false and defamatory story by HuffingtonPost.com blogger Bruce Fein entitled “Does This Schwab Charity Satisfy the IRS Perfume Test?<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/does-this-schwab-charity-_b_5978502.html>” which is based on the libelous and defamatory statements from the bogus websites.

The Schwab’s attorneys said the bogus websites were posted after they refused to pay $25 million to Nicholas Behunin, who, through his attorney Leonard Steiner, threatened to sue unless the payment was made.   When no payment was made, Behunin sued the Schwabs on May 28, 2014, to recover his purported ownership interest in a real estate development venture with Michael Schwab. (The case is Sealutions LLC et al. case number BC546925, in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles).

“The only purpose and intent of this scheme was to force a settlement through the implicit threat that Defendants would continue to disseminate such false and defamatory statements to the public unless and until Plaintiff and/or his father agreed to a settlement of the pending action,” according to the suit by Michael Schwab.

The Schwab legal filings claim that they initially contacted attorney Steiner in early October to inquire if he or his client was responsible for the websites. Steiner told them he had no knowledge of the sites, according the lawsuits.  The websites were registered anonymously. After further investigation, the Schwab’s attorneys found the sites were registered to Levick Strategic Communications public relations.  Later, after notifying attorney Steiner again, he still denied knowledge of them. After that contact with Steiner, the Schwab lawsuit says, the website was changed to include the name of Steiner & Libo law firm. In the past few days, the firm removed its name and now the site lists its owner as: N. Behunin.

Charles R. SchwabCharles R. Schwab

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3-Month-old Baby Shoots Texas Man In The Face

This totally never happens except when it does. After another apparent accidental shooting, Houston police are investigating. This time, the culprit is a 3-month-old baby. You see, the baby had access to his binkie, a blankie and of course, a gun.

20-year-old Patrick Sanders was shot on Saturday after a gun fell out of his pocket during a nap and landed in the hands of an infant, according to Houston Press Blogs.

Sanders was napping on the couch in the living room of his apartment, according to the police report, when the gun stashed in his pocket slipped out and onto the floor.

What could go wrong?

Well, when the man awoke, he found his firearm in the hands of the three-month-old boy, HPD Homicide Division Sergeant R. Rodriguez and W. Gilbert said.

You know how babies are. Oh look, a shiny thing!

Sanders tried to grab the gun from the infant, which caused the gun to fire, resulting in the man being shot in the face.

The baby was not injured during the incident, according to the police report.

Sanders was transported to a local hospital where he is listed in critical condition. It’s not clear as to whether Sanders is the3-month-old shooter’s father or not.

On the plus side: At least the baby didn’t put the gun in its mouth. Babies tend to put everything in their mouths, like shiny things, for example.

As far as I know, the gun survived the incident and is ready for the next. I’m sure the NRA would support gun owners teaching little babies proper gun safety. “More guns” is totally the answer.

From Libraland

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By the Numbers: How Canada’s Gun Laws Compare to Ours

The Ottawa shootings at the National War Memorial and inside Parliament shone a light on our northern neighbor’s laws, which have often been credited with helping Canada avoid the multitudes of mass shootings the U.S. has seen.

Annual homicides by gun:

Canada had 173 homicides by gun, according to a 2012 report.
The U.S. had 9,146 that year.

Total number of civilian guns:

Canada has 9,950,000.
The U.S. has more than 27 times as many: 270,000,000.

Guns per person:

Canada reports 30.8 firearms per 100 people. The country ranks 13 worldwide for firearms per capita, according to a report published by The Washington Post in September
The U.S. has 88.8. It ranks No. 1.

Waiting period to purchase a gun:

Canada requires a 60-day waiting period.
There is no federally mandated waiting period.
In the U.S. Residents can receive a gun after a background check.

Largest mass shootings:

Canada’s largest mass shooting was in 1989, when 25-year-old Marc Lepine killed 14 people at Montreal’s École Polytechnique.
The U.S. has had 160 mass shooting incidents between 2000 and 2013, CNN reports from a study released by the FBI. The largest U.S. shooting was at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 23-year-old student Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people. In 2012, twenty children and seven adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

License and registration requirements:

To own a gun in Canada, residents must take a safety course and pass both a written and a practical exam. The license expires in five years. Residents have to register restricted firearms, such as handguns and automatic weapons, with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Canadian Firearms Program.
In the U.S., license and registration laws vary from states to state, often with no such requirements. There is no mandatory course or exam.

Background checks:

Canada requires a background check that focuses on mental health and addiction. Agents are required to inform an applicant’s spouse or family before granting a license.
The U.S. requires a federal background check for all those buying guns from licensed dealers but does not require one in private transactions such as at gun shows.

 

(Information is gathered from data collected by the Small Arms Study, The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, and the Canadian Firearms Program).

Samantha Cowen, TakePart

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CA School to Become First Vegan School in the Country

The United States will have its first ever all vegan school in 2015.

MUSE School CA was founded by environmental activist Suzy Amis Cameron (aka wife of James Cameron) and her sister Rebecca Amis back in 2006. Since then, kids have been encouraged to “live consciously within themselves” and with solar panels across the school, classrooms built with recycled materials and 160 raised boxes for planting produce on site, the school has been doing the same. Now, getting rid of meat for good is the next eco-friendly move.

“Each year since I’ve been here, we’ve eliminated one or two days of meat to the point where now we’re just serving one meat meal a week,” said Kayla Webb, who started working at the school three years ago when it served organic meat at lunch for students and staff every day of the week. “Starting next year, it’s going to be completely plant-based eating.”

 

vegan school

In a recent interview with Ecorazzi, Amis Cameron said earlier this year that the switch was a goal for the school but was also a sensitive subject to discuss with the parents.

“If the families have an issue with it, depending on what they want to do in their own homes, it’s a lunch and a snack. It will be up to them if they want to feed their children differently for breakfast and dinner [and on weekends]. MUSE is an environmental school and we walk our walk in every other respect. This was just one of those ah-hamoments, which made us realize we aren’t walking our walk 100 percent if we’re still serving animal products,” she explained.

To make sure the transition to a completely plant-based meal plan went smoothly, MUSE offered a speaker series with doctors and cookbook authors that was also open to the public. Now the school doesn’t offer any meat, dairy or soy products and instead of soda, the 175 people on the two campuses get to drink water and tea.

“By 175 people eating one meal a day, we have begun to reduce our carbon footprint by over half a ton per person, which over a nine month period, is the equivalent of taking 25 cars off the road which would have driven 300,000 miles,” said Dr. Reese Halter, chair of mathematics and science at MUSE.

It was that environmental impact in addition to all health benefits that initially made Cameron and her husband go vegan. The multi award winning director has lost weight and claimed he has more energy since going on the plant based diet.

Across the country, in Queens, where Public School 244 made the choice in January to go vegetarian, the same results have been witnessed so far. School officials said that kids are not only loving the new menu but the healthier foods have led to higher attention spans and test scores.

From Ecorazzi

 

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Koret Foundation Criticized for Sexism in Lawsuit Against Susan Koret

Koret Foundation Should Apologize for Statements Against Immigrant and Domestic Workers

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

 

Anita Friedman, JFCS

Anita Friedman, JFCS

 

San Francisco—A diverse group of immigrant, domestic worker, labor and Jewish advocates demanded the Koret Foundation apologize for and withdraw negative comments directed against Susan Koret, the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret, who sued for the Foundation for misdirecting and misusing monies from her husband’s fortune that were meant for the poor.

“The comments by the Koret Foundation and its spokesperson denigrate not only Ms. Koret, but they demean people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others,” said Alysabeth Alexander.

At issue was a statement by official Koret Foundation spokesman Nathan Ballard who told the media, in response to Ms. Koret’s lawsuit, that “Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period.” Mr. Ballard is also the spokesman for the Golden State Warriors NBA basketball team.

The group said Ballard’s “denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.”

The group also wrote the Foundation in its letter, saying “While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.”

The letter was sent to the entire Koret Foundation board, including real estate investor Tad Taube; Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh; Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco; Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The Koret Board is expected to attend  the opening next week in Warsaw, Poland, of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. There may be protests in Warsaw against the Koret Foundation because of  the alleged misdirection of Koret funds to the museum by Taube and the Koret Board and their alleged discrimination against Mrs. Koret.

The full text of the letter is below:

 

Open Letter to the Koret Foundation Board of Directors

October 17, 2014

It is with great concern we write to you regarding comments made by your spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 8th about Susan Koret.

“Susan was a housekeeper to Joe Koret and his first wife, Stephanie, and was only married to him for a brief period. Susan is an incompetent director who lacks even a basic understanding of the foundation and its operations.”

Mr. Ballard’s denigration of Susan Koret’s background as a housekeeper in an attempt to discredit her is both sexist and classist and should have no place in the public discourse in San Francisco. His statement and language is purposely designed to demean and denigrate women, immigrants, and domestic workers and is unacceptable under any circumstance.

From reports, we understand that Susan Koret is an immigrant from Korea who began her career as a housekeeper. While we can’t speak to her personal experience or to the legal dispute at the Koret Foundation, we know that the contributions of millions of immigrant women–a great many of whom are domestic workers–should never be slighted.

Domestic workers care for our children, our parents, our elderly, and our communities. Many of us in San Francisco have fought to get the importance of domestic work recognized, so that the workers can enjoy many of the same right that the rest of us take for granted. With a significant legislative victory this year in Sacramento, now is not the time to go backwards.

We know that millions of immigrant women work tirelessly to improve the lives of their families and communities. This experience provides a critical perspective that is often-times missing when important decisions are made.

While we cannot speak to Ms. Koret’s service on your Board of Directors, we can say that some of the Koret Foundation’s contributions to conservative, right-wing causes that were highlighted in recent news articles are anathema to those of us who work every day to lift up low-wage workers, immigrants, women, and communities of color.

We demand that the Board of Directors and Nathan Ballard immediately apologize for and withdraw the negative comments directed against Ms. Koret that demean all people of color, women, and those workers who tirelessly give their lives to improving the lives of others.

Sincerely,

National Domestic Worker Alliance

Alysabeth Alexander, Vice-President of Politics, SEIU Local 1021*

Juanita Flores, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Katie Joaquin, Campaign Director, CA Domestic Workers Coalition

Hene Kelly, Jewish Labor Committee*

Andrea Lee, Co-Director, Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Shaw San Liu, Tenant and Workers Organizing Center, Chinese Progressive Association*

Kay Vasilyeva, Former Board Member, SF Women’s Political Committee*

*organization listed for identification purposes only — does not imply organizational endorsement

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Judge tosses S.F. law meant to shield evicted tenants

San Francisco apartment owners scored a major victory Tuesday when a federal judge declared unconstitutional the city’s attempt to shield evicted tenants from soaring rents by substantially increasing the relocation fees the tenants must be paid by landlords who decide to get out of the rental business.

The law, which took effect in June, requires property owners to pay displaced tenants the difference for two years between the current rent and the amount needed to rent a comparable unit in the city at market rates — more than $100,000 in most cases. That violates property rights, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, because it requires owners to pay for conditions they didn’t cause — the skyrocketing prices of rental housing, and the gap between market rates and maximum charges under the city’s rent-control law.

The ordinance “seeks to force the property owner to pay for a broad public problem not of the owner’s making,” said Breyer, who held a one-day trial in the case this month. “A property owner did not cause the high market rent to which a tenant who chooses to stay in San Francisco might be exposed, nor cause the lower rent-controlled rate the tenant previously enjoyed.”

He said the city’s claim of a causal link between a landlord’s actions and the relocation fees was further weakened by the fact that the ordinance did not require tenants to spend the fees on replacement housing in San Francisco, or anywhere else.

Breyer stayed his ruling until Friday to give the city time to ask a federal appeals court to intervene. Gabriel Zitrin, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, said Herrera was “very disappointed” by the ruling and would decide whether to appeal in the next few days.

Previous ordinance

An earlier city ordinance, enacted in 2005 and upheld by the courts, required landlords to pay displaced tenants $4,500 plus inflation adjustments, an amount that Breyer said was roughly equal to the expenses they face in moving out. But tenant advocates said it came nowhere near the actual costs of finding new housing.
The author of the new ordinance, Supervisor David Campos, urged Herrera to continue defending it.

“When you stand up against powerful special interests like San Francisco did, by demanding fair payments to tenants evicted under the Ellis Act, you can expect those interests to fight back,” Campos said in a statement. “That’s what we’re seeing right now. This is not a permanent setback.”

Dean Preston, executive director of Tenants Together, a statewide advocacy organization that filed arguments in support of the ordinance, criticized the ruling. He said the Ellis Act, a state law allowing property owners to evict all their tenants without cause when they leave the rental business, contemplated that local governments could pass laws to reduce the impact on tenants.

“There’s no reason why the city can’t tie that (landlord’s decision) to the cost of displacement,” Preston said.
But J. David Breemer of the Pacific Legal Foundation, a lawyer for landlords who challenged the ordinance, called the ruling “a great win for property rights.”

‘Pay a ransom’

Campos’ measure “requires property owners to pay a ransom simply to stop being landlords and use their own property,” Breemer said. “Property owners didn’t cause the affordable housing crisis. The public should address it, not put it on the backs of property owners.”

The lead plaintiffs, husband and wife Daniel and Maria Levin, bought a two-unit North Beach building in 2008 with a single downstairs tenant. The Levins, who lived upstairs, filed an Ellis Act eviction in December, saying they wanted to use the lower unit for family members. The eviction was still pending when the new ordinance took effect, requiring the couple to pay their tenant nearly $118,000, the difference between the current rent and two years’ payments on a comparable unit elsewhere.

Breyer said the ordinance was unprecedented and violated a constitutional principle: When the government confiscates private property, by condemning land or exacting a fee for owners’ use of their property, the price must be at least “roughly proportional” to the impact of the owners’ actions.

Judge’s assessment

“The ordinance requires an enormous payout untethered in both nature and amount to the social harm actually caused by the property owner’s action,” the judge said. He said Ellis Act evictions — just over 200 in a recent 12-month period, in a city with more than 230,000 rental units — have little impact on the housing crisis or on tenants’ relocation costs.

“San Francisco’s housing shortage and the high market rates that result are significant problems of public concern, and the city (supervisors’) attempts to ameliorate them are laudable,” Breyer said. “But there are outer limits to how this may be done.”

By Bob Egelko, SF Chronicle

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Isis fighters ‘crucify’ 17-year-old boy in Syria

Isis fighters have reportedly executed a 17-year-old boy and left his body on display on a cross in Syria.

Pictures being shared online show a banner attached to the teenager’s chest saying the boy has been crucified for taking photos of Isis military bases, as well as receiving “500 Turkish lira” for any footage taken.  

The message describes the ruling for the alleged crime as “apostasy” and states the teenager has been “killed and crucified for a period of three days” as the punishment.

The alleged execution comes after it emerged Isis militants had beheaded their own fighters for spying and espionage.

It is not known who took the picture, which was circulated across social media by some Isis supporters on Friday.

Charlie Winter, Programs Officer at counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said crucifixion is a prescribed punishment meted out by Isis for specific crimes.

He told The Independent: “Crucifixion has been used many times before – it’s an age-old punishment dealt out to people who have committed treason.”

He said this punishment arises from Isis’s fundamentalist interpretation of Verse 33 of the fifth book of the Koran, which reads: “Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land.

“That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.”

However, he said the next very next verse emphasises forgiveness and removes the imperative to use such a punishment, saying: “Except for those who return [repenting] before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Mr Winter said the apostasy ruling suggested a fusion of theological and statutory terms.

The recent killing follows a series of executions in Raqqa in May believed to have been committed by Isis militants, where bodies were left suspended on wooden crosses for two days.

In March, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Isis crucified a man for “purposefully killing a Muslim to take his money”.

 

From The Independent

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First Gay Couples In Arizona Get Married, Gov. Jan Brewer Losing Her Shit by Dan Avery

Karen Bailey and Nelda Majors, who have been together for 58 years, became the first same-sex couple to get married in Arizona after a federal judge declared the state’s ban on marriage equality unconstitutional.

They met in college, where they lived in the same dorm, and started out as friends. But things blossomed a few months later: “I came back from spring break and told Nelda I loved her,” Bailey revealed to Why Marriage Matters Arizona, “It was all so new and amazing for me.”

Outside the Maricopa County Superior Court today, Majors, 76, said, “I have no words to express how I feel. It’s wonderful!”

Another couple—David Larance, 36, and Kevin Patterson, 31—married outside the county clerk’s office in downtown Phoenix. Patterson rushed straight from the gym when the verdict was announced and was so excited he forgot to bring a ring.

“I feel a lot of gratitude that this day finally came,” he told The Republic.

One Arizonan who’s not feeling gracious, however, is Governor Jan Brewer. (You know, the lady shook a pointed finger at President Obama on an airport tarmac with armed Secret Service only a few feet away.)

She’s furious that gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to marry in her state, now that Attorney General Tom Horne revealed he wouldn’t appeal today’s ruling.

arizona jan brwer

In a press release Brewer ranted that “the federal courts have again thwarted the will of the people” and eroded individual states’ rights.

It is not only disappointing, but also deeply troubling, that unelected federal judges can dictate the laws of individual states, create rights based on their personal policy preferences and supplant the will of the people in an area traditionally left to the states for more than 200 years.

As Justice Scalia opined, such action is tantamount to ‘an assertion of judicial supremacy over the people’ and is an image of the judiciary ‘that would have been unrecognizable to those who wrote and ratified our national charter.’

Brewer insisted that determining who can get married “is not the role of the judiciary.”

Perhaps she’s forgotten landmark cases like Loving v. Virginia? Or maybe it’s just more convenient to ignore them.

Regardless, congratulations to all the lucky couples today!

 

 

by Dan Avery, Logo TV

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Ann Coulter: ‘Give Ebola to Migrant Children’

Ann Coulter suggested today that America should infect migrant children with ebola in order to discourage illegal immigration.

In an interview this morning on Fox News, the controversial conservative commentator was asked how she would handle the growing humanitarian crisis caused by the arrival of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America.

“First thing I would do is infect every one of those kids with the ebola virus,” she told host Sean Hannity. “The reason why people come to this country is because the government gives illegal immigrants free goodies like welfare.

“I say we give them a free case of hemorrhagic fever instead. If we pump every illegal child in this country full of ebola, parents would think twice before sending their kids to U.S. shores.

“This is just a classic case of making lemonade out of lemons. Whether we like it or not, this disease has arrived in America. So let’s put it to good use.”

An estimated 70,000 unaccompanied children from Central America will arrive at the United States’ southern border this year. Most are fleeing violent gangs in their home countries who fund their operations by smuggling drugs to the U.S.

Their sheer numbers are overtaxing America’s ability to provide for their basic needs while they await immigration hearings. Efforts to expedite the process have been bogged down in Congress amid a border debate about immigration levels and border security.

The crisis coincides with the worst outbreak of the Ebola virus in history. Over 900 people have died in West Africa this year from the disease, which carries a mortality rate between 50-90 percent.

Infecting the migrants with such a deadly virus may seem like an extreme solution. However, Coulter explained that her plan goes far beyond simply killing a few thousand innocent children.

“The best part is that once the children are infected, we can deport them back to Central America where they can infect the rest of the population,” she explained. “Once all the taco jockeys in Central America are dead we’ll colonize the territory with Americans.

“We could put up a few McDonalds, Wal-Marts and Home Depots. Maybe build a Disneyland. It would be a paradise.”

Ann Coulter the author of Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. She is well-known for hyperbolic statements designed to increase her book sales.

 

From The Daily Current

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Koret Foundation Sued by Widow Who Claims Board Members Uses Charity as “Personal Piggy Bank”

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

Anita Friedman Jewish Family and Children’s Services

President of Koret Foundation

Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

Board Member and Silicon Valley Real Estate Investor Tad Taube, San Francisco Attorney Richard L. Greene, JFCS Director Anita Friedman, Other Board Members Shun the Poor, Bay Area, Jewish Causes—in Favor of Spending Foundation Resources on Conservative and Pet Projects at Half-Billion Dollar Charity

 

San Francisco—The Jewish community from San Francisco to Poland was rocked this week when the widow of Koret Foundation founder Joseph Koret filed a lawsuit against the Koret Foundation and its Board of Directors for conflicts of interest and self-dealing.  The lawsuit says the Koret Board is illegally funding pet projects that include right-wing conservative causes in the United States to wrongly spending $10 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The lawsuit said the wrongdoing is being orchestrated by Koret Foundation President Tad Taube, a native of Poland and well-known right wing conservative Republican.  The suit also lays blame on Taube’s personal attorney and Board member Richard L. Greene of Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh LLP and Anita Friedman, the executive director of director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services in San Francisco as well as board member Richard Atkinson, former president of the University of California; board member Michael J. Boskin, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and board member Abraham D. Sofaer, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

The suit filed October 7, 2014 in San Francisco Superior Court by Mrs. Koret alleges that under Taube’s direction the board has ignored the priorities established by her late husband to help the poor and assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

Instead, her suit claims, the Koret board is using foundation funds to promote programs closely affiliated with individual board members and is purposely confusing the public by putting signage that prominently features Taube’s name alongside the Koret Foundation name on buildings and grants for which the Koret Foundation is the principal funder.

“Defendants’ duty of loyalty to the Foundation has been corrupted by these directors’ close affiliations with many of the Foundation’s recent grants, resulting in tens of millions of dollars distributed due to self-interest,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit demands the removal of the Koret board members and calls for their replacement with the appointment of an independent board with a majority of Jewish directors.

“Taube says publicly that giving to the poor is “a bottomless pit.” Instead he has led the Koret Foundation by focusing its giving to organizations identified with him, creating a corporate culture of directors who rubber stamp his decisions as long as their favored organizations are also supported.  “In elevating their own and affiliated interests while ostensibly making decisions for the Koret Foundation, defendants are breaching duties of loyalty that require them to serve faithfully the interests of the Koret Foundation” the lawsuit claims.

“Alleviating suffering and misfortune were my husband’s top priorities,” said Mrs. Koret. “Joe and Stephanie’s money shouldn’t be used for Tad Taube’s pet projects in Poland or to help conservative economic and policy think tanks–not when so many in the Bay Area go to bed hungry every night and Jewish causes need support.”

Supporting her lawsuit is Joe and Stephanie Koret’s closest surviving family member, nephew Merv Brown of Walnut Creek, who worked with the Korets for decades.  He said about the suit:

“With all respect to Mr. Taube, if he wants to spend money on Poland, he should use his own money–not my uncle’s and my aunt’s–to assist his homeland. I am proud to stand with Susan Koret to support and endorse the directions and wishes of my family that their fortune be spent as Uncle Joe wished: to help the poor and Jews in Israel and the Bay Area.”

The San Jose Mercury News reported that: “Mrs. Koret is doing a favor for the entire Bay Area community with her lawsuit,” said longtime friend Julie Goodman. “She has a lot of courage. No one else has had the guts to take on Mr. Taube, who has used his power, plus his and the Koret Foundation’s money, to bully a lot of people and organizations into subservience.”

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit alleges that others, including “philanthropic civic leaders and former and current staff members will support Mrs. Koret in her efforts to restore the Koret Foundation’s purpose and dignity free of the control of Mr. Taube.”

The lawsuit claims that, at Taube’s direction, the Koret Foundation has donated approximately $9 million to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a pet project of Taube, who was born in Poland.  “

While the Polish Museum commemorates significant Jewish history, the diversion of Koret funds to Poland is not in keeping with my husband’s charitable mission…and in effect drains funds that could benefit the needy in communities in the Bay Area and Israel,” the lawsuit states.

Sam Singer of Singer Associates, Inc., who is acting as a spokesman for Mrs. Koret in the lawsuit, said the lawsuit will attempt to claw back the $9 million in money from Taube that was given to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and return it to the Koret Foundation. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews is scheduled to open Oct. 28 in Warsaw. The Museum is reported facing financial difficulties, according to Polish media reports.

Mrs. Koret noted her husband was a native of Odessa, Russia, who immigrated to America, struggled growing up poor in the U.S., and then struck it rich later in life in clothing and real estate. He was deeply committed to humanitarian causes such as alleviating hunger,  and would “be deeply angered and offended by Tad Taube and the board’s strong support of conservative  causes and grants that divert money needed for the local community and Jewish causes.”

The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the spending down of the Foundation’s assets by Taube and the board members with whom he has surrounded himself and allow the appointment of a new, independent board to carry out its mission and save the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret was named a lifetime director and chairwoman of the Foundation prior to her husband’s death in 1982. She was entrusted by her late husband to carry out the family legacy of caring for the poor and supporting Jewish and community causes through the Koret Foundation, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also recites that the board has rejected a series of Asian and African-American candidates for board membership, including their rejection last month of former Mayor Willie Brown as president of the Foundation.

Mrs. Koret said she has been marginalized as Taube, a Silicon Valley real estate investor, and his hand-picked supporters on the board steer donations toward causes in which they have affiliations.

Mrs. Koret said she filed the suit as a last resort after her efforts to diversify the board, get independent legal advice, confirm the perpetual nature of the Foundation and redirect funds back to her late husband’s mission were rebuffed.  She fears the Koret Foundation is facing destruction of its mission and eventual collapse unless changes are made.

She said in the last 12 months, Taube has undertaken three major real estate transactions:  the sale of the Foundation’s largest real estate asset; marketing of another Foundation property; and refinancing a significant loan on a third Foundation property. The collective value of the real estate involved in these transactions is several hundred million dollars, according to the lawsuit.

“Over Mrs. Koret’s objections, defendants approved engaging a broker associated with defendant Taube’s real estate businesses to sell, market and refinance the Foundation’s properties and split its commission with Taube Investments, without disclosing the percentage commission split.  This conduct violates state and federal law and is breach of fiduciary duty,” the lawsuit states.

The Foundation’s general counsel and Taube attorney Richard L. Greene, over Mrs. Koret’s objection, failed to advise that an independent appraisal or broker was needed to market the Foundation property and refinance the loan, even though the same broker associated with Taube’s businesses was engaged for both these real estate transactions, according to the suit.

“Greene’s conduct … may expose the Foundation to claims of self-dealing, is contrary to California professional rules for attorneys in avoiding conflicts of interest, and causes economic injury to the Foundation,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that Taube is a shameless self-promoter who has personally selected board members to rubber stamp his decisions in exchange for support of their own pet projects. Additionally, the suit says Taube established his own foundation, called Taube Philanthropies, but uses money and staff from the Koret Foundation to pay for and enhance joint projects of Taube Philanthropies and the Koret Foundation.   A review of the Koret Foundation’s public filings shows reported annual salaries and compensation of officers exceeded $1.9 million in 2011, while Taube Philanthropies showed no such expenses for the same period, according to the lawsuit.

Mrs. Koret’s lawsuit charges that out of the $64 million gifted by the Koret Foundation between 2010 and 2012, nearly 60 percent was spent on causes outside the stated mission of her husband, the late Joseph Koret.

The lawsuit claims conflicts of interest, self-dealing, and breaches of duty abound on the board:

  • The Koret Foundation’s Executive Director Jeffrey Farber provides no independent management, reaps a large salary and perks at the Foundation, has little involvement in grant-making and does only what Taube asks him to do.  Farber is also a member of the Taube Philanthropies board, creating a serious conflict of loyalty and duty.   His wife works for Koret Board member Anita Friedman at Jewish Family and Children’s Services, yet another conflict.

Koret Board Member Anita Friedman, director of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, JFCS, sits on the Taube Philanthropies board as a director. Friedman makes up to $380,000 per year as executive director of JFCS, which is a major recipient of Koret funds. During September’s Koret Foundation meeting, she oversaw and participated in a vote granting $1.2 million to the Shalom Hartman Institute, where she also sits on the board.

While JFCS and Shalom Hartman are worthwhile causes, Friedman has failed to recuse herself in any discussions of massive grants to entities where she is on the board or employed. Friedman sees no conflict in directing millions in additional funds to entities where she has other interests and has no inclination to resign her JFCS position. Friedman has voted against every initiative by Mrs. Koret over the past two years seeking to bring independence, balance and transparency to the Koret board.

  • Michael J. Boskin is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, which has received millions from the Koret Foundation over the years. Earlier this month, the board approved another $280,000 grant to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research where Boskin is also a Senior Fellow and former director. Since 1992, Koret has approved grants totaling $4.5 million to support SIEPR, and millions to Hoover through Stanford.

 

  • Abraham Sofaer is another interlocking director on the board of Taube Philanthropies, and is also a Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Hoover Institution, based at Stanford University.  From 2010-2012, the Koret Foundation’s funding to Hoover and Stanford of nearly $4 million was about equal to its total support of all social welfare causes in the Bay Area combined.

 

In the lawsuit, Taube, a member of the Board of Overseers and the Executive Committee of the Hoover Institution, is alleged to have misused Foundation money to pay consultants to write editorials opposing Obama administration policies and to attend trips in support of Hoover.

The lawsuit also alleges that Taube:

  • Reduced funds targeted for Koret Foundation grantees and increased funds to organizations that are his personal favorites.

 

  • Used Koret funds to pay millions of dollars to entities affiliated with him or his close associates to manage the Foundation’s real estate holdings.

 

  • Without board approval, commissioned and installed a life-size mural depicting himself and now hung inside the Koret Foundation’s new headquarters in San Francisco at a cost to the Foundation of $80,000.

 

  • Paid more than $75,000 in Foundation money for promotional materials about himself, including booklets and newspaper advertisements.

 

  • Subsidized the operating costs of Taube Philanthropies by using Koret staff and resources for joint grant projects, and used Koret Foundation resources for travel, marketing and personal expenses.

 

  • Terminated a $35,000 contract of an independent publisher of a book about the life of Joseph and Stephanie Koret, the founder’s first wife. Taube was reportedly angry that the book was not about him or his contributions.

 

  • Along with counsel and board member Richard L. Greene, discriminated against and ridiculed Mrs. Koret and prevented her from speaking with Foundation staff.

Mrs. Koret in her lawsuit pledges to maintain the priorities of her husband by broadening the Koret board to include community leaders while maintaining a majority of Jewish directors.  She is committed to maintaining support for the anchor institutions in the Bay Area that Koret has supported over many years and to prevent any continued diversion of funds to out of mission organization and countries.

 

Jewish  Family and Children's Services

SUED: Anita Friedman, Jewish Family and Children’s Services

Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

SUED: Richard L. Greene, Partner of the San Francisco law firm Greene, Radovsky, Maloney, Share & Hennigh

President of Koret Foundation

SUED: Tad Taube, President of Koret Foundation

 

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These six diseases should worry you more than Ebola

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain  Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

13-year-old Will Cornejo was admitted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver on September 5 for enterovirus 68. The outbreak has shown up in 628 cases in the U.S. to date, some of which show disconcerting similarities to polio. Photo courtesy Getty/Denver Post/Cyrus McCrimmon.

Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen visiting the U.S., died this morning. He was the first and so far only patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. It’s important not to trivialize his death, but it’s also important to put it in perspective. In Africa, the virus has claimed the lives of at least 6,871 people and sickened more than 8,100 others, according to the World Health Organization.

But that one case has captured the news, inspiring headlines like “The ISIS of Biological Agents” and “U.S. has left itself open to Ebola outbreak.”

Meanwhile, in our country, the enterovirus 68 has infected at least 628 people since August, most of them small children.

“When people are anxious about a threat like Ebola, it doesn’t necessarily matter if they look at numbers, facts and probabilities,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar.”

As anxiety about Ebola mounts, we asked the experts which U.S. diseases we shouldbe worried about, or at least more worried about than Ebola. Here are six, in no particular order.

ENTEROVIRUS D-68

Last month a 4-year-old boy in New Jersey went to sleep and never woke up. This week, the CDC confirmed that the boy was infected with the airborne enterovirus 68, or EV-D68. That same week a 10-year-old girl who also tested positive for the virus died 24 hours after being admitted to a hospital in Rhode Island.

Enterovirus 68 fits into a class of viruses that includes hand-foot-and-mouth disease and polio. Every year, 10 to 15 million people pick up an enterovirus, Schuchat said, but enterovirus 68 is an entirely new outbreak.

While enterovirus 68 was first discovered in 1962, this is its first outbreak. Dr. Mary Anne Jackson is director of infectious diseases at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The first cases of enterovirus 68 — children with asthma-like symptoms — were admitted to her hospital early August. By month’s end, the hospital was admitting to 30 to 35 cases a day.

Just as doctors are learning how to diagnose the virus, it is evolving. In Colorado, 10 patients developed polio-like symptoms, with limb paralysis and difficulty breathing. Four of those patients tested positive for enterovirus 68. Similar cases have been reported across the country, from Boston to San Diego. It’s still unclear whether limb paralysis is linked to enterovirus 68, but researchers are studying the possibility of a connection.

“It spreads just like the common cold, but we don’t know how many will get a cold and how many will need hospitalization and how many will end up with polio-like illness,” Jackson said. “In terms of what’s at our feet right now, EV-D68 has become the most important virus.”

How to protect yourself: Wash hands often with soap and water for more than 20 seconds before touching eyes, nose or mouth. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Cover your coughs and sneezes with something that’s not your hands. Disinfect surfaces, like toys and doorknobs. Stay home if you’re sick.

MEASLES

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

This child displays a typical measles rash, four days into the illness. Before widespread vaccination, 90% of children and babies contracted the measles. The number dropped to fewer than 1,000 cases a year, and was nearly eradicated in the U.S., until parents stopped vaccinating their children. Photo courtesy CDC/NIP/Barbara Rice

Measles, a virus that causes an infection of the respiratory system, was nearly eradicated in the United States after a vaccine became widespread in the early 1960s. In the years since, the virus became so rare here that its symptoms — irritability, high fever and a rash — were mostly forgotten, as was the rate of infection. Before routine vaccinations, each case of measles created 17 new secondary cases, the New York Times recently reported.

But in 2008, due to a combination of international travel and unvaccinated populations — most from parents opting out of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine for their children — the virus resurfaced in the U.S.

Babies of unvaccinated mothers are at the greatest risk. They are too young for the vaccine and lack immunity from their mothers. So far in 2014, there have been more than 600 measles cases, nearly all of them children.

“That’s astounding for 2014 to think that there are that many cases for a disease that should have gone away in the U.S.,” Jackson said.

Measles is rarely fatal — one person in every 1,000 cases dies from it — but it requires a great deal of hospital resources to treat. Many children with the measles will need oxygen or ventilators, and are at a greater risk of developing pneumonia and other bacterial infections. Measles can also cause deafness and permanent brain damage.

In rare cases, children with the measles go on to develop subacute sclerosing panencephalitis. SSPE is a rare neurological disease that develops years after a measles infection. It starts as sleeplessness and forgetfulness, but it devolves into hallucinations and seizures. Most SSPE patients die within one to three years of diagnosis.

How to protect yourself: For best protection, the CDC recommends vaccinating your children twice: once when they are 12-15 months old, and again when they are 4-6 years old.

WHOOPING COUGH

This is the bacteria that causes pertussis, or whooping cough. The current vaccine for disease loses efficacy after 5 years. Missed booster shots means the disease is showing up more often in the U.S. Photo courtesy Sanofi Pasteur/Alain Grillet via Flickr

Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have risen sharply since 2004. In 2012, 48,277 cases were reported in the U.S. That’s the largest number since 1955. Pertussis is caused by a bacteria, and starts with cold-like symptoms. The dry, hacking cough can last for up to 10 weeks. Some patients turn blue gasping for air.

“In my 30 years of practice, hardly a week has gone by that I haven’t diagnosed a case [of pertussis],” Jackson said.

Children between 7 and 10 years old are hardest hit, she said, and it’s especially dangerous for infants. But deaths in the U.S. from pertussis are rare. There were 20 deaths among the 48,277 cases in 2012, for example.

“Deaths are low — 20 to 30 a year,” Jackson said. “Those are 20 to 30 deaths that we shouldn’t have.”

There is a vaccine for pertussis, but it’s not as effective as it once was, Jackson said. In the 1950s, the U.S. relied on a whole-cell pertussis vaccine, one that used full strains of the bacteria. But the whole-cell vaccines had side effects, from swelling at the injection site to fever. In the 1990s, industrialized nations shifted to using an acellular vaccine containing only parts of the bacteria. But after five years, immunity from the acellular vaccine wanes. Then around 2004, the bacteria mutated, and cases took off in the U.S.

NewsHour’s Betty Ann Bowser reported on the outbreaks in 2012:

 

How to protect yourself: Regular booster shots help, Schuchat said, especially for pregnant women who want to protect their newborns. Mothers can pass immunity on to their babies, which helps them through their first months. In fact, a whooping cough booster shot in the third trimester protects 90 percent of babies in their first year of life, according to the CDC.

DRUG-RESISTANT BACTERIA

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has spread beyond hospitals. The deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacteria is found on every two out of 100 people in the U.S. Photo courtesy CDC/James Gathany

More than 2 million people in the U.S. each year develop an infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The CDC estimates at least 23,000 people die from those infections each year.

With an overuse of antibiotics, several types of bacteria have become immune to the drugs that once eliminated them. Infections and diseases that were once cured by a single medication now require stronger antibiotics to treat. Doctors have seen rises inantibiotic resistant tuberculosis, staph infections, gonorrhea and pneumonia, to name a few. It means long, painful and expensive hospitalizations while doctors find a way to kill the superbugs. When second- and third-tier antibiotics can’t cure the infection, the last resort is removing infected tissue.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is one of the most virulent. The CDC estimates that there are 80,000 MRSA cases every year, and 11,000 people die from the infection each year. MRSA can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and contact with infected materials, like surgical tools or breathing tubes. It’s a scourge in hospitals, and it is spreading beyond clinics.

But there has been a decline in MRSA deaths. In 2011, there were 9,000 fewer MRSA deaths than in 2005, the CDC estimates, thanks to better hospital practices to prevent the spread of the bacteria. But two in every 100 people carry MRSA.

How to protect yourself: Protect yourself with handwashing, proper sanitation and appropriate use of antibiotics, Schuchat said.

RESPIRATORY SYNCYTIAL VIRUS

Chest x-ray of a 16-day old infant with a lung injury due to respiratory syncytial virus. Almost every child contracts the disease by age 2. Photo courtesy Wikimedia.

 

By age 2, almost every child in the U.S. has had respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, Jackson said. It’s a lung infection, causing babies to cough, wheeze and have a fever. RSV is transmitted like a common cold via droplets from sneezes and coughs. Like the flu, it appears every winter like clockwork, Jackson said.

For most babies, RSV isn’t serious, but 125,000 babies every year are hospitalized for the virus. Premature babies or children with heart or respiratory problems can develop more severe symptoms and require ventilators or oxygen to breathe. Overall, the death rate from RSV is low considering how high the infection rate is — approximately 250 deaths a year, Jackson said.

So why is RSV a big problem? Unlike influenza, there’s no vaccine or antiviral to treat it. The virus stays on surfaces for as long as eight hours, spreading quickly through daycares and households. For the elderly and older smokers, RSV can cause pneumonia, which can be deadly.

“The vast majority of babies do fine, but it has a very high burden of disease,” Jackson said.

How to protect yourself: Wash your hands frequently. Disinfect surfaces. High-risk children should not interact with people with cold-like symptoms.

From the CDC: A drug called palivizumab (say “pah-lih-VIH-zu-mahb”) is available to prevent severe RSV illness in certain infants and children who are at high risk. The drug can help prevent development of serious RSV disease, but it cannot help cure or treat children already suffering from serious RSV disease and it cannot prevent infection with RSV.

INFLUENZA AND PNEUMONIA

In January 2013, New York City declared a public health emergency as influenza swept the state, with nearly 20,000 people infected.  Photo by Getty Images/Mario Tama

Influenza and pneumonia go hand-in-hand, and are more likely to kill you than any infectious disease. Flu ranks number seven on the CDC’s list of 10 top killersMore than 53,000 people died from influenza and pneumonia in 2010 according to the CDC — and that’s just in the United States.

“The common cold is miserable, but this is beyond miserable. It’s a high fever, severe muscle aches…people remember the minute it hits them,” Jackson said. “It runs its course over seven days, and an antiviral can ratchet it down, but (the flu) is still a very severe illness with whole list of complications” — ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.

And while the flu virus itself can be deadly, more lethal is the pneumonia that sometimes follows, she said. Most healthy people, about one-third of the population, carry the bacteria that causes pneumonia in their noses. But when an infection like the flu takes over the body, the bacteria migrates into the bloodstream and ends up in the lungs.

Millions are hospitalized for the illness, Schuchat says, but babies, young children and the elderly are at the greatest risk. That’s why the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old gets the annual flu vaccine.

“Last year, more than 100 kids died from flu in the U.S. And that’s something that we do have vaccines for,” Schuchat said. “It may seem familiar, but even healthy children get influenza and can die from it.”

Ebola requires contact with bodily fluids like vomit, blood, saliva or urine to transfer from person to person. But influenza is easily airborne on droplets projected from coughs and sneezes that fly through schools, offices and households. The tragedy is that many of these influenza deaths could have been prevented with the annual flu vaccine, Jackson said.

“We have a vaccine and an antiviral medication for influenza, and it still causes deaths,” she said. “We have Americans afraid of ebola, but fewer than 50 percent of Americans take advantage of the flu vaccine, and it’s something that’s going to be here. It’s coming.”

How to protect yourself: The CDC recommends that caregivers and infants six months and older get a flu vaccine. Also, cover your coughs and sneezes and wash hands frequently. If you’re sick, stay home from work or school.

 

BY REBECCA JACOBSON, PBS

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Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto

When you take a moment to reflect on the history of product development at Monsanto, what do you find? Here are twelve products that Monsanto has brought to market. See if you can spot the pattern…

#1 – Saccharin

Did you know Monsanto got started because of an artificial sweetener? John Francisco Queeny founded Monsanto Chemical Works in St. Louis, Missouri with the goal of producing saccharin[1] for Coca-Cola. In stark contrast to its sweet beginnings, studies performed during the early 1970s[2],* including a study by the National Cancer Institute in 1980[3], showed that saccharin caused cancer in test rats[4] and mice.

After mounting pressure from consumers, the Calorie Control Council[5], and manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, along with additional studies[6] (several conducted by the sugar and sweetener industry) that reported flaws in the 1970s studies, saccharin was delisted from the NIH’s Carcinogen List. A variety of letters from scientists advised against delisting[7]; the official document includes the following wording[8] to this day: “although it is impossible to absolutely conclude that it poses no threat to human health, sodium saccharin is not reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen under conditions of general usage as an artificial sweetener.” (*Read the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s History of Saccharin[9] here.)

#2 – PCBs

During the early 1920s, Monsanto began expanding their chemical production into polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to produce coolant fluids for electrical transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Fifty years later, toxicity tests[10] began reporting serious health effects[11] from PCBs in laboratory rats exposed to the chemical.

After another decade of studies, the truth could no longer be contained: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a report[12] citing PCBs as the cause of cancer in animals, with additional evidence that they can cause cancer in humans. Additional peer-reviewed health studies showed a causal link between exposure to PCBs and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, a frequently fatal form of cancer.

In 1979, the United States Congress recognized PCBs as a significant environmental toxin and persistent organic pollutant, and banned its production in the U.S.  By then Monsanto already had manufacturing plants abroad, so they weren’t entirely stopped until the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants banned PCBs globally in 2001.

And that’s when Monsanto’s duplicity was uncovered: internal company memos[13] from 1956 surfaced, proving that Monsanto had known about dangers of PCBs from early on.

In 2003, Monsanto paid out over $600 million to residents of Anniston, Alabama, who experienced severe health problems including liver disease, neurological disorders and cancer[14] after being exposed to PCBs — more than double the payoff that was awarded in the case against Pacific Gas & Electric made famous by the movie “Erin Brockovich.”

And yet the damage persists: nearly 30 years after PCBs have been banned from the U.S., they are still showing up in the blood of pregnant women, as reported in a 2011 study[15] by the University of California San Francisco.

#3 – Polystyrene

In 1941, Monsanto began focusing on plastics and synthetic polystyrene, which is still widely used in food packaging and ranked 5th in the EPA’s 1980s listing of chemicals[16] whose production generates the most total hazardous waste.

#4 – Atom bomb and nuclear weapons

Shortly after acquiring Thomas and Hochwalt Laboratories, Monsanto turned this division into their Central Research Department[17]. Between 1943 to 1945, this department coordinated key production efforts of the Manhattan Project[18]—including plutonium purification and production and, as part of the Manhattan Project’s Dayton Project[19], techniques to refine chemicals used as triggers for atomic weapons (an era of U.S. history that sadly included the deadliest industrial accident[20]).

#5 – DDT

In 1944, Monsanto became one of the first manufacturers of the insecticide DDT to combat malaria-transmitting mosquitoes. Despite decades of Monsanto propaganda insisting that DDT was safe, the true effects of DDT’s toxicity were at last confirmed through outside research and in 1972, DDT was banned throughout the U.S.

#6 – Dioxin

In 1945, Monsanto began promoting the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture with the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T (one of the precursors to Agent Orange), containing dioxin. Dioxins are a group of chemically-related compounds that since become known as one of the “Dirty Dozen[21]” — persistent environmental pollutants that accumulate in the food chain, mainly in the fatty tissue of animals. In the decades since it was first developed, Monsanto has been accused of covering up or failing to report dioxin contamination in a wide range of its products.

#7 – Agent Orange

During the early 1960s, Monsanto was one of the two primary manufacturers of Agent Orange, an herbicide / defoliant used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War. Except Monsanto’s formula had dioxin levels many times higher than the Agent Orange produced by Dow Chemicals, the other manufacturer (which is why Monsanto was the key defendant in the lawsuit brought by Vietnam War veterans in the United States).

(Pictured at left, Anh and Trang Nhan, with their father, when they first arrived at the Hoi An Orphanage; below are the same brothers shortly before Trang’s death. Source: Kianh Foundation Newsletter, Dec. 2011[22])

As a result of the use of Agent Orange, Vietnam estimates that over 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 children were born with birth defects, and up to 1 million people were disabled or suffered from health problems—not to mention the far-reaching impact it had on the health of over 3 million American troops and their offspring.

Internal Monsanto memos show that Monsanto knew of the problems of dioxin contamination of Agent Orange when it sold it to the U.S. government for use in Vietnam. Despite the widespread health impact, Monsanto and Dow were allowed to appeal for and receive financial protection from the U.S. government against veterans seeking compensation for their exposure to Agent Orange.

In 2012, a long 50 years after Agent Orange was deployed, the clean-up effort has finally begun[23]. Yet the legacy of Agent Orange, and successive generations of body deformities[24], will remain in orphanages[25] throughout VietNam for decades to come.

(Think that can’t happen here? Two crops were recently genetically engineered[26] to withstand a weedkiller made with one of the major components of Agent Orange, 2,4-D[27], in order to combat “super weeds” that evolved due to the excessive use of RoundUp.)

8 – Petroleum-Based Fertilizer

In 1955, Monsanto began manufacturing petroleum-based fertilizer after purchasing a major oil refinery. Petroleum-based fertilizers can kill beneficial soil micro-organisms[28], sterilizing the soil and creating a dependence, like an addiction, to the synthetic replacements. Not the best addiction to have, considering the rising cost and dwindling supply of oil…

#9 – RoundUp

During the early 1970s, Monsanto founded their Agricultural Chemicals division with a focus on herbicides, and one herbicide in particular: RoundUp (glyphosate). Because of its ability to eradicate weeds literally overnight, RoundUp was quickly adopted by farmers. Its use increased even more when Monsanto introduced “RoundUp Ready” (glyphosate-resistant) crops, enabling farmers to saturate the entire field with weedkiller without killing the crops.

While glyphosate has been approved by regulatory bodies worldwide and is widely used, concerns about its effects on humans and the environment persist. RoundUp has been found in samples of groundwater[29], as well as soil[30], and even in streams and air[31] throughout the Midwest U.S., and increasingly in food. It has been linked to butterfly[32] mortality, and the proliferation of superweeds[33]. Studies in rats have shown consistently negative health impacts ranging from tumors, altered organ function, and infertility, to cancer and premature death. Reference the above “GMO Risks[34]” page which includes countless references to support these statements.

#10 – Aspartame (NutraSweet / Equal)

An accidental discovery during research on gastrointestinal hormones resulted in a uniquely sweet chemical: aspartame. During the clinical trials conducted on 7 infant monkeys as part of aspartame’s application for FDA approval, 1 monkey died and 5 other monkeys had grand mal seizures—yet somehow aspartame was still approved by the FDA in 1974. In 1985, Monsanto acquired the company responsible for aspartame’s manufacture (G.D. Searle) and began marketing the product as NutraSweet. Twenty years later, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report listing 94 health issues[35] caused by aspartame.

#11 – Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH)

This genetically modified hormone was developed by Monsanto to be injected into dairy cows to produce more milk. Cows subjected to rBGH suffer excruciating pain due to swollen udders and mastitis[36], and the pus[37] from the resulting infection enters the milk supply[38] requiring the use of additional antibiotics. rBGH milk has been linked to breast cancer[39], colon cancer[40], and prostate cancer[41] in humans.

#12 – Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs

In the early 1990s, Monsanto began gene-splicing corn, cotton, soy, and canola with DNA from a foreign source to achieve one of two traits: an internally-generated pesticide, or an internal resistance to Monsanto’s weedkiller RoundUp. Despite decades of promises that genetically engineered crops would feed the world with more nutrients, drought resistance, or yield, the majority of Monsanto’s profits[42] are from seeds that are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s RoundUp—an ever-rising, dual income stream as weeds continue to evolve resistance to RoundUp[43].

Most sobering however, is that the world is once again buying into Monsanto’s “safe” claims.

Just like the early days of PCBs, DDT, Agent Orange, Monsanto has successfully fooled the general public and regulatory agencies into believing that RoundUp, and the genetically modified crops that help sell RoundUp, are “safe.”

Except Monsanto has learned a thing or two in the past 100+ years of defending its dirty products: these days, when a new study proving the negative health or environmental impacts of GMOs emerges, Monsanto attacks the study and its scientist(s) by flooding the media with counter claims from “independent” organizations, scientists, industry associations, blogs, sponsored social media, and articles by “private” public relations firms—frequently founded, funded and maintained by Monsanto.

Unfortunately, few of us take the time to trace the members, founders, and relationships of these seemingly valid sources back to their little Monsanto secret.

Fooling the FDA[44] required a slightly different approach: click on the below chart compiled by Millions Against Monsanto[45] to see how many former Monsanto VPs and legal counsel are now holding positions with the FDA. And don’t forget Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney who is now a Supreme Court Justice, ruling in favor of Monsanto in every case brought before him.

A Baker’s Dozen: #13 – Terminator Seeds

In the late 1990s, Monsanto developed the technology to produce sterile grains unable to germinate. These “Terminator Seeds[46]” would force farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto year after year, rather than save and reuse the seeds from their harvest as they’ve been doing throughout centuries. Fortunately this technology never came to market. Instead, Monsanto chose to require farmers to sign a contract agreeing that they will not save or sell seeds from year to year, which forces them to buy new seeds and preempts the need for a “terminator gene.” Lucky for us… since the terminator seeds were capable of cross-pollination and could have contaminated local non-sterile crops.

What’s the Result of our Monsanto Legacy?

Between 75% to 80% of the processed food[47] you consume every day has GMOs inside, and residues of Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide outside. But it’s not just processed food—fresh fruit and vegetables are next: genetically engineered sweet corn[48] is already being sold at your local grocer, with apples and a host of other “natural” produce currently in field trials.

How is it that Monsanto is allowed to manipulate our food after such a dark product history? How is it they are allowed to cause such detrimental impact to our environment and our health?

According to the Organic Consumers Association[49], “There is a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the $2 trillion the U.S. spends annually on medical care, namely an epidemic of diet-related chronic diseases.

Instead of healthy fruits, vegetables, grains, and grass-fed animal products, U.S. factory farms and food processors produce a glut of genetically engineered junk foods that generate heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer—backed by farm subsidies[50]—while organic farmers receive no such subsidies.

Monsanto’s history reflects a consistent pattern of toxic chemicals, lawsuits, and manipulated science. Is this the kind of company we want controlling our world’s food supply?

P.S. Monsanto’s not alone. Other companies in the “Big Six” include Pioneer Hi-Bred International[51] (a subsidiary of DuPont), Syngenta AG[52], Dow Agrosciences[53] (a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, BASF[54] (which is primarily a chemical company that is rapidly expanding their biotechnology division, and Bayer Cropscience[55] (a subsidiary of Bayer).

From Fractured Paradigm
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Nestle CEO: Water Is Not A Human Right, Should Be Privatized

Is water a free and basic human right, or should all the water on the planet belong to major corporations and be treated as a product? Should the poor who cannot afford to pay these said corporations suffer from starvation due to their lack of financial wealth? According to the former CEO and now Chairman of the largest food product manufacturer in the world, corporations should own every drop of water on the planet — and you’re not getting any unless you pay up.

The company notorious for sending out hordes of ‘internet warriors’ to defend the company and its actions online in comments and message boards (perhaps we’ll find some below) even takes a firm stance behind Monsanto’s GMOs and their ‘proven safety’. In fact, the former Nestle CEO actually says that his idea of water privatization is very similar to Monsanto’s GMOs. In a video interview, Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe states that there has never been ‘one illness’ ever caused from the consumption of GMOs

The way in which this sociopath clearly has zero regard for the human race outside of his own wealth and the development of Nestle, who has been caught funding attacks against GMO labeling, can be witnessed when watching and listening to his talk on the issue. This is a company that actually goes into struggling rural areas and extracts the groundwater for their bottled water products, completely destroying the water supply of the area without any compensation. In fact, they actually make rural areas in the United States foot the bill.

As reported on by Corporate Watch, Nestle and former CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe have a long history of disregarding public health and abusing the environment to take part in the profit of an astounding $35 billion in annual profit from water bottle sales alone. The report states:

“Nestlé production of mineral water involves the abuse of vulnerable water resources. In the Serra da Mantiqueira region of Brazil, home to the “circuit of waters” park whose groundwater has a high mineral content and medicinal properties, over-pumping has resulted in depletion and long-term damage.”

Nestle has also come under fire over the assertion that they are actually conducting business with massive slavery rings. Another Corporate Watch entry details:

“In 2001, Nestlé faced criticism for buying cocoa from the Ivory Coast and Ghana, which may have been produced using child slaves.[58] According to an investigative report by the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children in Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo were being purchased from their destitute parents and shipped to the Ivory Coast, to be sold as slaves to cocoa farms.”

So is water a human right, or should it be owned by big corporations? Well, if water is not here for all of us, then perhaps air should be owned by major corporations as well. And as for crops, Monsanto is already working hard to make sure their monopoly on our staple crops and beyond is well situated. It should really come as no surprise that this Nestle Chairman fights to keep Monsanto’s GMOs alive and well in the food supply, as his ideology lines right up with that of Monsanto.

Credits: Natural Society, where this was originally featured.

Via: TrueActivist

 
 
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Archbishop Says He ‘Wasn’t Sure’ It Was Illegal To Have Sex With Children

The Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson, testified just last month that didn’t actually know it was illegal for priests to have sex with children.

This, he said in an effort to explain why it was he did nothing to stop such crimes while he served as the chancellor of the St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese.

Carlson gave a deposition to this effect in a lawsuit that against the Minnesota archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona. The suit claims that both were responsible for, in part for crimes committed against children – and were guilty of being a public nuisance – due to their refusal to release information on abusive priests.

Today, Carlson is 69-year-old. He is facing an additional clergy abuse lawsuit in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, where he has served as archbishop since 2009.

Court documents reveal that as many as 100 priests and church employees were accused of sexual abuse and Carlson helped to cover it all up.

Now the Missouri Supreme Court has ordered the archdiocese to turn over all of the names related to these cases of abuse, under seal.

Carlson tried to defend his actions, not coming forward until compelled to under court order. In his bizarre statement in response to the Minnesota lawsuit that was filed by a man who says that he was abused by a priest since the 1970s, Carlson told the plaintiff’s attorneys that he simply didn’t know that sex with children was illegal.

“I’m not sure whether I knew it was a crime or not,” Carlson tried to convince the attorneys. “I understand today it’s a crime.”

When asked specifically if he understood it was a crime in 1984, he said “I’m not sure if I did or didn’t.”

“While not being able to recall his knowledge of the law exactly as it was many decades ago, the archbishop did make clear that he knows child sex abuse is a crime today,” spokesman Gabe Jones said of Carlson. “The question does not address the archbishop’s moral stance on the sin of pedophilia, which has been that it is a most egregious offense.”

 

(Article by R. Abraham and Jackson Marciana, COUNTERCURRENT NEWS)

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By most fair measures, Iowa’s Joni Ernst (R) is arguably the most right-wing U.S. Senate candidate in the nation, though she and her party have gone to considerable lengths to pretend otherwise. After the state senator won the Republican primary, George Will said she adopted a “less exotic persona,” which has led some to suggest Ernst isn’t quite as radical as she seems.

But sometimes, a candidate has trouble running from their extremism, no matter how hard they try. Daniel Strauss ran this stunning report today:
State Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, once said she would support legislation that would allow “local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement” Obamacare.

Ernst voiced her support for that, as well as supporting legislation that would “nullify” Obamacare in a Iowa State Legislative Candidates survey for Ron Paul’s libertarian-aligned Campaign for Liberty in 2012.
There’s no credible way to spin a revelation like this. Ernst answered this questionnaire and chose to put herself on the farthest fringes of modern American thought.

Indeed, a few months ago, when evidence emerged that Ernst believes states could “nullify” federal laws they don’t like – a ridiculous argument resolved by the U.S. Civil War – her aides and supporters dismissed the allegations as baseless. And yet, here we have additional proof: Ernst specifically endorsed “legislation to nullify Obamacare” and expressed support for a provision that said local law enforcement could arrest federal officials “attempting to implement” federal health care law in Iowa.

On any ideological spectrum, we can find policymakers that belong on the far left or far right, but Ernst has taken positions that put her squarely in the bonkers wing of the contemporary Republican Party.

Remember, it’s not just this one questionnaire.

Ernst has endorsed banning abortions and many forms of birth control; privatizing Social Security; and impeaching President Obama. She’s argued that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and people on Medicaid “have no personal responsibility for their health.” She’s dismissed the very existence of a federal minimum wage as “ridiculous” and credits the Koch brothers for the strength of her candidacy. She’s endorsed enough conspiracy theories to qualify her as the head of a Glenn Beck fan club.

If Ernst is elected – and she currently leads in nearly every poll – she will immediately become one of the most radical members of the U.S. Senate in recent history.

The conventional wisdom holds that Republicans were far more cautious in 2014 than they were in 2010 and 2012. GOP voters nominated plenty of far-right candidates, but balked at the truly nutty fringe represented by recent Senate candidates like Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, and Christine O’Donnell – all of whom drew visceral opposition from the American mainstream.

But as we talked about the other day, Joni Ernst, perhaps more than any other statewide candidate this year, comes from the Akin-Angle-Mourdock-O’Donnell wing of the Republican Party, representing an often-bizarre combination of discredited conspiracy theories and fringe policy ideas.

By Steve Benen, Maddow Blog

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Physicists Say Fukushima Reactors Pose Eternal Threat to Humanity

The three molten cores at Fukushima plant, each weighing a hundred tons, are so radioactive, that no one can approach them, including robots, which melt down immediately, Dr. Helen Caldicott, the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, physician and anti-nuclear advocate, states in an interview to Radio VR:

“And no one ever will, and the contamination will go on for hundreds of years,” Ms. Caldicott cites top physicists as saying.

Initially, TEPCO, the Japanese power provider wanted to erect an ice wall around the perimeter of the Fukushima complex, as ground water  underneath the reactor is absorbing radiation and then flowing into the ocean.

An ice wall is a silly idea given the circumstances, remarks the expert, as it would have to last at least a hundred years. Moreover, you would have to have electricity running all the time to keep the ground frozen, explains Ms. Caldicott.

Surprisingly enough, TEPCO is not consulting with anyone, says the expert, neither with Russia, after it survived the Chernobyl catastrophe, nor Bechtel, a US major engineering company. It is, conversely, “saving money, using paper coming from homeless shelters”, and the Japanese mafia Yakuza is hiring people to do this work.

The expert stresses they are witnessing an absolute catastrophe: 300-400 tons of radioactive water pour daily into the Pacific, and this has been going on for over three years now contaminating the ocean and its ecology.

Radiation cannot be diluted, as many isotopes, namely strontium, are concentrated in food chains, in algae for instance. The contamination then passes on to bigger fish typically caught on the east coast from Fukushima. Radiation in the ocean and its ecology has been detected as far away as the America West Coast. TEPCO has stated more than once, the expert says, that they know radioactive water is seeping into the ocean, however, they keep assuring that it is not at levels high enough to cause a significant threat.

Another VR expert, Thomas Drolet, who is Chairman, CEO and President at GreenWell Renewable Power Corporation, sounds less pessimistic, stating the radiation can essentially be done away with as time passes:

“As a technician and nuclear reactor engineer I can say that they will eventually succeed.”

Conditions on the site are difficult, though, he adds. Two big problems arose from the very start: for one thing, there’s water that originated in the reactor, which flowed through the damaged fill and went to the lower levels. Secondly, there is the ground water that naturally flows from higher elevations to the west, through the ground system, picks up radioactivity around the basement areas of the damaged reactors and flows on to the sea and to the bottom parts of the damaged reactors, Mr. Drolet says.

“The way it can eventually be solved is that of removing the water that is in the basement areas of the turbine building (and they are working on unit 2 right now) and getting it pumped out,” points out Mr. Drolet citing sophisticated filtration systems now being employed. “They can absorb the radiation and hold it.”
Engineer brigades are currently aiming to block a particular pass so that work could be done inside the building to get the contaminated water sucked out.

Still, the complex radiation fields make the surrounding environment hard enough to handle, with people at all times wearing thick suits to protect them from “external radiation inhalation”. This further complicates specialists’ day to day life on the site. Mr. Drolet clearly differentiates between the site as is and the exclusion zone, comprised of small towns and roads lying nearby, within 18 kilometers from the place. The latter can be cleaned up in the next several years, the expert argues. The work consists in finding hot spots in terms of increased radiation, taking off the top layer of the soil, in other words, “taking down some of the radioactivity near the surface and on the surface” and rehabilitating that exclusion zone.

The reactor itself is by far “the most difficult issue,” Mr, Drolet states. Each of the three damaged reactors has two main areas of broken fuel: in the spent fuel base, which is up high, and the reactor core. “Slowly and identically they have to remove that fuel, some of it damaged, some of it whole”, using the robotic equipment to a great extent, and move it off site to the repository. Only once the excessive fuel is removed can they move to what the expert calls “nitty gritty of decommissioning” of the reactors themselves, which might span for another decade, before the engineers could turn the site to the so-called brown field condition. As compared to the green field condition, it means the area is safe, clean and cannot be reused, the expert concludes.

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake swept across the Japanese coast in March 2011, triggering a devastating tsunami and killing more than 15,000 people and injured 6,000. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant consequently faced meltdowns at three reactors heavily damaged in the tsunami, which led to masses of contaminated water pouring into the ocean.

From RIA Novasti

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Half of World’s Animals Have Disappeared Since 1970

Half of the animals in the world have disappeared since 1970 because of uncontrollable human expansion, shocking new figures have shown.

A report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined on average by 52 per cent in the last 40 years.

And for freshwater creatures the situation is even bleaker, with population collapse of more than three quarters over the same period.

Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.

Anyone born in in 1970 or before would have lived in a world teeming with animals compared to life today.

In Britain, the turtle dove has declined by 95 per cent, while seals, toads, red squirrels, moths, dormice, hedgehogs and hares are also suffering.

The WWF said the report was a ‘wake-up call’ and urged people to cut down on consumption.

“It’s certainly very concerning,” said Mike Barrett, Director of Science and Policy at the WWF, “And if it carries on at the present rate we will continue to lose even more animals.

“People in Britain need to realise they are not just impacting their own country. The footprint of western societies is seen in every other part of the world.

“But we are not despairing, because we are able to say why we are losing these animals; we are seeing a loss of their habitats. We know what the problem and we are perfectly capable of putting it right.

“We need political agreement so a global climate deal can be reached and policies which take account of natural capital. And we need to start thinking about our own consumption.”

The WWF’s Living Planet Report looked at 10,380 populations of 3,038 species across the globe.

The situation is worst in low-income countries, where wildlife populations have declined by 58 per cent on average between 1970 and 2010. Latin American has the biggest declines, with 83 per cent of animals lost in 40 years.

Examples of wildlife that are suffering serious population collapse include forest elephants in Africa, which are facing habitat loss and poaching for ivory and could become extinct within our lifetime, and marine turtles which have seen an 80 per cent drop in numbers.

African Elephants are under threat from poaching and habitat destruction (ALAMY)

In the UK farmland birds have been badly hit by habitat degradation, with major declines in species such as corn buntings and grey partridge. However there is better news for red kites and otters which have seen numbers increase with conservation efforts, experts said.

The Living Planet Report also warned that human activity is outstripping the resources the Earth can provide, cutting down forests too quickly, overfishing and putting out more carbon dioxide than the planet can absorb, leading to climate change.

It is estimated Earth would need to 1.5 times larger to soak up the damage caused by man.

 

An estimated 110 tigers are killed every year for trade (ALAMY)

Professor Ken Norris, director of science of the Zoological Society of London, which updates the species database, said: “The scale of biodiversity loss and damage to the very ecosystems that are essential to our existence is alarming.

“This damage is not inevitable, but a consequence of the way we choose to live. Although the report shows the situation is critical, there is still hope. Protecting nature needs focused conservation action, political will and support from businesses.

“We need to explain to the public that what they do is directly behind the trends we are seeing.

“There is an enormous disconnect between going to the supermarket and putting fuel in your car and the global statistics we’re talking about here.”

The report calls on consumers to change shopping habits and only buy sustainable products such as fish with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and timber with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifications.

2.7 billion people live in river basins that experience severe water shortages at least one month a year (ALAMY)

The WWF also advises ditching the car in favour of public transport, increasing recycling and reducing consumption of meat and dairy products to cut down on the amount of land being deforested for farming.

And the charity is calling for measures including expanding protected areas, scaling up renewable energy production, and diverting investment from damaging activities, making consumption patterns more sustainable – all the more necessary as the human population grows.

David Nussbaum, chief executive of the WWF in the UK said: “The scale of destruction highlighted in this report should be a wake-up call to us all.

“We all, politicians, businesses and people, have an interest, and a responsibility, to act to ensure we protect what we all value: a healthy future for both people and nature.”

Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL, said people should think about everything they do, from recycling to putting pressure on political and industry leaders, supporting sustainable businesses and getting their children outside to reconnect with nature.

 

By , Science Correspondent, The Telegraph

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Age of Ignorance

Widespread ignorance bordering on idiocy is our new national goal. It’s no use pretending otherwise and telling us, as Thomas Friedman did in the Times a few days ago, that educated people are the nation’s most valuable resources. Sure, they are, butdo we still want them? It doesn’t look to me as if we do. The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there’s more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.

It took years of indifference and stupidity to make us as ignorant as we are today. Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Even regional history has gotten a short shrift. Students who come from old New England mill towns, as I have discovered, have never been told about the famous strikes in their communities in which workers were shot in cold blood and the perpetrators got away scot-free. I wasn’t surprised that their high schools were wary of bringing up the subject, but it astonished me that their parents and grandparents, and whoever else they came in contact with while they were growing up, never mentioned these examples of gross injustice. Either their families never talked about the past, or their children were not paying attention when they did. Whatever it was, one is confronted with the problem of how to remedy their vast ignorance about things they should have already been familiar with as the generations of students before them were.

If this lack of knowledge is the result of the years of dumbing down of high school curriculum and of families that don’t talk to their children about the past, there’s another more pernicious kind of ignorance we confront today. It is the product of years of ideological and political polarization and the deliberate effort by the most fanatical and intolerant parties in that conflict to manufacture more ignorance by lying about many aspects of our history and even our recent past. I recall being stunned some years back when I read that a majority of Americans told pollsters that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11 terrorist attacks. It struck me as a propaganda feat unsurpassed by the worst authoritarian regimes of the past—many of which had to resort to labor camps and firing squads to force their people to believe some untruth, without comparable success.

No doubt, the Internet and cable television have allowed various political and corporate interests to spread disinformation on a scale that was not possible before, but to have it believed requires a badly educated population unaccustomed to verifying things they are being told. Where else on earth would a president who rescued big banks from bankruptcy with taxpayers’ money and allowed the rest of us to lose $12 trillion in investment, retirement, and home values be called a socialist?

In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth:

Christians are persecuted in this country.
The government is coming to get your guns.
Obama is a Muslim.
Global Warming is a hoax.
The president is forcing open homosexuality on the military.
Schools push a left-wing agenda.
Social Security is an entitlement, no different from welfare.
Obama hates white people.
The life on earth is 10,000 years old and so is the universe.
The safety net contributes to poverty.
The government is taking money from you and giving it to sex-crazed college women to pay for their birth control.

One could easily list many more such commonplace delusions believed by Americans. They are kept in circulation by hundreds of right-wing political and religious media outlets whose function is to fabricate an alternate reality for their viewers and their listeners. “Stupidity is sometimes the greatest of historical forces,” Sidney Hook said once. No doubt. What we have in this country is the rebellion of dull minds against the intellect. That’s why they love politicians who rail against teachers indoctrinating children against their parents’ values and resent the ones who show ability to think seriously and independently. Despite their bravado, these fools can always be counted on to vote against their self-interest. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is why millions are being spent to keep my fellow citizens ignorant.

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