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GMO Corn Found to Be Toxic (Duh)

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A team of Egyptian scientists has found that Monsanto’s GMO (Bt toxic) corn is not substantially equivalent to its non GMO parent as Monsanto claims.

While Monsanto also insists there is no evidence of toxicity in its voluntary safety assessments, these independent scientists tell us otherwise. By the 91st day of their studies, they found evidence of kidney, liver, and intestinal toxicity, as well as male infertility in laboratory animals fed the GMO corn.

The results were published in the Journal of American Science 2012; 8(9).

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MONSANTO USES DECEIT TO FURTHER THE DARK ACT

The following is part of a letter sent to organic activists by Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

“When the first email came in describing Monsanto’s latest campaign of trickery and deception, I thought it sounded far-fetched,” Cummins writes. “But then other activists chimed in, and I realized it was true.

“According to reports from our activists on the ground in California, Washington State, and Oregon, Monsanto is organizing its own powerful ‘astroturf’ movement.” (An astroturf movement is a fake grass roots movement used to achieve political goals.)

“It’s no amateur campaign.

“In a detailed email, with pdf images of documents sent to one of our activists from a Monsanto astroturf leader, we’ve learned that Monsanto is calling moms who are pro-labeling, pretending to be on their side, then rushing overnight documents to them that include letters containing their personal stories, addressed to their members of Congress, asking them to support H.R. 1599.

“It’s a direct attempt to deceive and confuse busy moms, and deluge Congress members with letters of support for a federal bill that would not only ban labeling forever, but also preempt bans on GMO crops, preclude pre-market safety testing of GMO foods,, and take away food companies’ right to voluntarily obtain independent GMO-free certification.

“Monsanto is spending millions to create its fake grassroots movement. We need to fight back. Because if Congress passes H.R. 1599, the Mother of all Monsanto Protection Acts, the GMO labeling movement will effectively be shut down.

“For decades, I’ve been working to defend our soil and our food from the onslaught of Monsanto’s toxic chemicals. By now, you’d think that nothing would surprise me.
And yet . . . this fight has now moved to defending not only our health and the right to know what’s in our food, but our very democracy.

“H.R. 1599 takes ‘attack on democracy’ to new heights. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791. It outlines the principle of federalism, the basis for the original Constitution, by stating that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.
States’ rights, and your rights, will be obliterated if Congress passes H.R. 1599. Monsanto will stop at nothing to pass this bill.”

H.R. 1599 is known among organic activists as the DARK Act, or Deny Americans the Right to Know.

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SOCIAL ACTIVIST AND CATHOLIC CARDINAL TEAM UP ON CLIMATE CHANGE

From The Guardian:

She is one of the world’s most high-profile social activists and a ferocious critic of 21st-century capitalism. He is one of the pope’s most senior aides and a professor of climate change economics. But this week the secular radical will join forces with the Catholic cardinal in the latest move by Pope Francis to shift the debate on global warming.

Naomi Klein and Cardinal Peter Turkson are to lead a high-level conference on the environment, bringing together churchmen, scientists and activists to debate climate change action. Klein, who campaigns for an overhaul of the global financial system to tackle climate change, told the Observer she was surprised but delighted to receive the invitation from Turkson’s office.

“The fact that they invited me indicates they’re not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he’s wrong on the economics. I think he’s right on the economics,” she said, referring to Pope Francis’s recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.

Release of the document earlier this month thrust the pontiff to the centre of the global debate on climate change, as he berated politicians for creating a system that serves wealthy countries at the expense of the poorest.

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A NOTE ON CHARLESTON FROM A VISITING IRISHMAN

The following appeared in the comments column accompanying a news story on the Charleston massacre in The New York Times. I think it bears repeating here:

“I am Irish. For many years in my native land the Rev. Ian Paisley spouted bigoted hatred about Catholics in Northern Ireland, but then claimed innocence when some militant sectarian group massacred Catholics. Speech was not murder, he said. He would never condone killing, he said. Then he went right back to feeding the attitudes that spawned the killing. Few were fooled.

“We should not be fooled in America today.

“In this country the ‘mainstream’ right-wing has made an industry of demonizing African-Americans as ‘thugs’ and criminals – just look at the divergence in tone between the recent coverage of Ferguson or Baltimore and the (mostly white) biker massacre in Waco, TX. For decades, white America has been told that black Americans are lazy leeches, dependent on hand-outs funded by your hard-earned taxes to bankroll their immoral lifestyles.

“The first black president was greeted by the right not only with diehard obstructionism but a chorus of color-coded abuse (‘lazy,’ ‘food-stamp president,’ etc.) and questions about his very American-ness: he was ‘not one of us,’ a foreigner adhering to a foreign religion who has no right to be president.

“The siren song of racial hate relentlessly put out by the ‘mainstream’ right finds echo in the gunshots that rang out in Charleston.

“Rightists will, of course, deny the connection, the way Paisley did. But we are not fooled.”

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HOUSE VOTES TO REPEAL COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN FOOD LABELS

Big Ag’s allies in the House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the rules for mandatory country-of-origin food labels (COOL) for chicken, pork and beef, according to Amanda Byrnes at Food & Water Watch.

Consumer and family farm advocates fought for years to make this labeling mandatory to ensure our right to know where our food comes from. Now it’s up to the Senate to block Big Ag’s attempts to take away our right to know. Send your senators a message: Protect mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

The House vote followed last month’s World Trade Organization (WTO) decision that said labeling which country Americans’ food comes from is a “trade barrier.”
Rather than wait to see how the WTO’s decision plays out, the House acted to repeal our popular, common-sense labels.

And now the Senate has a bad bill of its own that would make country-of-origin labeling for most beef and pork voluntary. A voluntary labeling program effectively means no labeling, since most meat companies and retailers don’t want to provide this information. We fought for years to make labeling mandatory for exactly that reason. Make sure your senators know that you want country of origin labels to stay — and that you want them to be mandatory.

Big food companies are concerned that people prefer locally produced food to food produced halfway around the world, and they’ve been challenging our labeling laws for years. When the World Trade Organization issued its most recent ruling on country-of-origin labels, it decided that our labels negatively impact livestock imports from Canada and Mexico, even though these imports are at higher levels now than before COOL went into effect.

Despite the questionable merits of the WTO decision, Big Ag’s allies in Congress are using it as an excuse to push even harder to get rid of country of origin food labeling. That’s why it’s so important for your senators to hear from you. Demand that your senators say NO to repealing or weakening COOL.

Country-of-origin labels are popular with consumers and farmers alike. And our senators need to stand up for us instead of caving in to corporate interests. If you don’t think that foreign corporate interests should have veto power over our domestic laws, make it clear to your senators that you want our common-sense food labels protected.

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A SIMPLE AND INGENIOUS WINE KEEPER

Oxygen is the enemy of wine. Open a bottle, especially a well-aged bottle, and the wine you don’t drink tonight will start to lose quality within a day or two. By day four or five, cook with it.

Then along comes an invention called Savino (save vino, get it?) that keeps air away from your leftover wine. It’s a food-grade plastic cylinder with a float that exactly fits the interior when it contains wine, functioning like an airlock. So no matter how much or how little wine you want to preserve, the float protects it. Place the device in the fridge and it will keep the wine fresh twice as long.

It’s available on Amazon for $16.

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NY Times Runs Monsanto Propaganda as News

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Shame on The New York Times for running biotech propaganda as “news.” Is the Great Grey Lady turning into Fox News?

In a recent article, the following statements, among much else, appear: “If you examine G.M. foods with the microscope cranked up to maximum, there is no meaningful distinction between them and other foods, as far as genes, proteins and molecules are concerned. From a genetic point of view, genes are genes. It doesn’t matter where they come from.”

Oh really? I call balderdash on that statement. And I’m sure any reputable geneticist would call it, too.

“While tangible harm is hard to detect,” the article says, “G.M. farming has been found to produce tangible benefits. A 2014 German review of research…calculated that G.M. technology has reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, increased crop yields by 22 percent and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.”

This is nonsense. Study after study shows that the introduction of GMOs has resulted in a multifold increase in pesticides, especially Monsanto’s profitable Roundup; no significant increase in yields, and therefore an actual drop in farmer profits.

“G.M. crops are becoming more prevalent in the developing world. Their use is permitted across Latin America, Asia and Africa. Brazil is the second-largest producer, after the United States, followed by Argentina. Extensive cultivation of G.M.O.s also occurs in China, Paraguay and South Africa.”

Uh—no. El Salvador has banned all GMO crops. Brazil is in an uproar over them and farmers are dying around the world where Roundup use is heaviest. France has banned the sale of Roundup in garden centers. Russia has controlled GMOs. And the World Health Organization has called Roundup “potentially carcinogenic.” The Inter Press Service News Agency reports that “After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared glyphosate a potential carcinogen, the campaign has intensified in Latin America to ban the herbicide, which is employed on a massive scale on transgenic crops.” The above quote from the Times’ article is just Big Biotech lies.

“Farmers in the developing world planted about 95 million hectares (235 million acres) of G.M. crops in 2014, five times more than in 2003, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a nonprofit technology-transfer organization.”

I checked who’s funding the ISAAA. Among others, Bayer CropScience (the folks who brought us neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in bee die-offs) and Monsanto. A founding patron was Norman Borlaug, the founder the Green Revolution that brought chemical agriculture to the Third World and destroyed much of that world’s indigenous knowledge about growing crops in favor of putting its farmers in thrall to Big Ag.

“The developing world is also where a lot of hunger exists, and much hope is being pinned on the success of G.M. crops to alleviate it.”

As pointed out in this blog before, pegging GMOs and Roundup to the ginned up “world food crisis” is part of Monsanto’s plan to get governments to fund its operations and promote its products in their countries. Besides, the United Nations World Food Program makes the case that limited supply isn’t the primary reason for food shortages. Lack of investment in infrastructure that gets food from where it’s grown to where it’s eaten is a bigger culprit, the organization says, as are wastage and war.

And if you think I’m just being cranky about the Times’ article, compare the article’s falsehoods with the following story.

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EL SALVADOR: NO TO GMOS! RESULT? RECORD YIELDS

Farmers in El Salvador realize the importance of non-GM food and heritage seed saving. After outperforming Monsanto’s biotech seed with record crop yields, they have also now stopped Monsanto from supplying El Salvador with GMO seeds.

Monsanto’s biotech crops have been linked with kidney disease, liver failure, reproductive problems, and more.

Juan Luna Vides, the director of diversified production for the Mangrove Association, a nongovernmental organization that was created to support a grassroots social movement for environmental conservation in El Salvador, says:

“Remember that Monsanto is together with DuPont, Pioneer, and all the large businesses that control the world’s seed market. Unfortunately, many of the governments in Latin America, and perhaps the world, have beneficiary relationships with these companies.”

Santos Cayetan, a Salvadoran farmer who uses local, GMO-free seeds and also works to grow native corn, said that the difference between using local seed versus Monsanto’s is quite amazing.

“[Native seeds are] always the same, they always produce, and they’re always there,” he said. “[Native seeds] are drought resistant.”

He and other farmers also comment on the fact that local seed has been adapted to the conditions specific to the region, and Monsanto’s seed has not. The local seed grows well even in dry soil. Farmers can also save and re-use seed without having to worry about patent infringement, as well as having to repurchase seed every season since much of the GM seed Monsanto, Pioneer, and others sell is engineered to self-destruct after just one season.

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GREEN AMERICA STATEMENT ON SENATE VOTE ON TPA

Following a vote in the US Senate to “fast-track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Green America’s Director of Food Campaigns, Nicole McCann, issued the following statement:

“The Senate failed the American people today by passing a procedural motion on a “fast-track” bill that limits Congressional authority and oversight over international trade deals like TPP. The Senate voted to fast track pollution and the race to the bottom on regulatory standards that are intended to protect our food system. It’s clear this deal would dismantle regulations on genetically engineered crops around the world and disrupt the democratic process in order to secure corporate profits by large industrial food companies. The TPP would force working Americans to compete with horribly abused sweatshop workers overseas.

“The TPP touches everything and everyone, which is why organizations representing the environment, family farms, civil rights, consumers, labor, LGBTQ, students, and other movements oppose this trade deal. Hundreds of thousands of constituents have flooded phone lines of members’ of the Senate, and loudly voiced their opposition online and on the streets. We thank those Senators who took a stand for fair and responsible trade, and we are deeply disappointed in those who turned their backs on an opportunity to protect our communities from dirty trade deals.”

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WHOLE FOODS FACES MISLABELING INVESTIGATION

Weathering a dramatic 14 percent drop in shareholder value, the iconic grocer Whole Foods Market now faces consumer fraud accusations. This comes on the heels of the beleaguered grocer also dealing with a related and escalating protest concerning its new in-house rating system for conventional and Certified Organic produce.

Before these latest controversies, investment analysts had begun questioning Whole Foods’ ability to maintain above average profit margins in an increasingly competitive organic food market. Its new “Responsibly Grown” program for rating produce is seen as an effort to help the company maintain the high prices and margins which had earned the retailer the moniker “Whole Paycheck.”

The Cornucopia Institute, a national farm policy research group that acts as an organic industry watchdog, announced today that it asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate allegations of consumer fraud and mislabeling related to Whole Foods’ ”Responsibly Grown” produce rating program. Based in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, the organization has documented a number of examples where the grocer has labeled products “Good,” “Better” or “Best” when the farms or distributors in question had not met the standards set forth in the company’s recently developed “Responsibly Grown” guidelines.

“Whole Foods is undermining investor and consumer confidence, and their ability to garner premium prices, by playing fast and loose with the very system they are claiming offers their customers produce that meets a higher standard,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia.

Some of the apparent labeling misrepresentations were brought to the attention of the company, and the public, by a group of veteran organic fruit and vegetable farmers. The growers complained that, in an attempt to maintain higher than average marketplace prices, Whole Foods developed a rating protocol that, in some cases, labels conventional produce, grown with petrochemical-based fertilizers and toxic pesticides, as “Best” while presenting Certified Organic produce to their customers either as “Unrated” or with inferior rankings.

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HILLARY HIRES MONSANTO LAWYER AS CAMPAIGN AIDE

Hillary Clinton hired a Monsanto lawyer to help her become President.

Jerry Crawford is a lobbyist for big agriculture in the American state of Iowa, and Monsanto is one of his largest clients. He’s also a consultant for politicians, fixing political campaigns to elect candidates most likely to preserve Monsanto’s hold on the state’s farmers, so it can continue to rake in billions in profits a year.

Now, Crawford has been hired by Hillary Clinton to help her win the critical early state of Iowa, in her campaign to become President of the United States.

Since stepping down as Secretary of State, Clinton has spoken out in favor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and established herself as a friend of the biotech industry. But by hiring one of Monsanto’s lawyers, she’s taken it a step further.

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ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST

The massive Earthbound Farm organic produce corporation is expected to be sold to the WhiteWave Foods Company in a $600 million deal that has raised the eyebrows of organic consumers and advocates across the country.

WhiteWave spun off of Dean Foods, Inc. in 2012, the latter a company that has vehemently opposed GMO labeling with anti-labeling campaign donations. The company’s current CEO is Gregg Engles, the former CEO of Dean Foods, adding to distrust of the company among organic watchdog organization leaders like Mark Kastel, the senior farm policy analyst at the Cornucopia Institute. Kastel said that WhiteWave has done much to stretch the definition of “organic food” in an article from Food Safety News.

He later went on to add that WhiteWave’s Horizon dairy label produces virtually all of its milk from massive 10,000-cow operations with the animals living in their own filth, diluting the meaning of the term organic.

Dean Foods is not listed as an owner of WhiteWave anymore, as the PR reps on Earthbound’s Facebook page have pointed out.

But it’s hard not to be suspicious of the influence Dean Foods has, considering that its former CEO is at the helm of WhiteWave, isn’t it?

Dean Foods also notably converted Silk’s flagship soybean products from organic to “natural” without changing the packaging, except to remove the USDA organic symbol. The “natural” soybeans actually contained GMOs according to a Cornucopia Institute investigation.

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Pope Francis and the Salvation of the World

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Pope Francis has issued his encyclical on climate change and environmental destruction, to a predictable chorus of derision from conservatives. The gist of the right-wing criticism is that the Pope has stepped out of his religious bounds and is meddling in business, economics, and science. “He should stick to spiritual matters,” said one prominent conservative.

The environmental movement, however, has always been spiritual at its core, including the agricultural and horticultural aspects of the movement that we call organic or Biodynamic farming and gardening. If nature, with its interlocking web of ecologies, isn’t spiritual, then nothing is. For those who believe in a creator spirit, nature is nothing less than that spirit brought to life. For those who don’t believe in a creator spirit, than nature itself represents an ever-increasing river of spirit as evolution continues its revelations.

What Pope Francis is saying in his encyclical is that the rapacious exploitation of the earth’s resources, the ugly and materialistic quest for money, the environmentally-destructive methods of food production and manufacturing, the poisoning of the earth and its creatures, the great extinction of species we are now experiencing due to our economic activities, the apathy about feeding and protecting the poor and vulnerable—all this is profoundly not spiritual. It’s transgressive, against nature. And humanity should, to rescue itself and the world with us, act in unison to correct our destructive ways.

It has always been the aim of the organic method of food production to decipher nature’s laws and imitate them. To raise farm animals in a humane way. To improve the soil as we use it to grow crops. To prevent erosion. To keep waterways clean. To avoid chemicals and toxic substances as we grow food. To respect nature by following its laws. To be kind and generous. To promote health in ourselves and the environment. That’s spirituality applied to the way we feed ourselves.

Once again, the conservatives have missed the point. And I daresay they miss it on purpose, because what Pope Francis is calling for is a radical restructuring of the way we conduct ourselves in the world. And that threatens the right’s constituency, which, of course, is the corporate, banking, and exploitive business models that enrich the 1 percent.

Spirituality isn’t about ghosts. It’s where the truth lives. And the truth is that climate change and the exploitation of the earth is unsustainable and we must change our ways or homo sapiens—along with a lot of other creatures–will die.

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THE DARK ACT JUST GOT WORSE

We didn’t think it was possible, but the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know)–just got even more dangerous than we’d ever imagined, according to Oregon Right to Know.

On top of outlawing GMO labeling nationwide, under a new amendment introduced by Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Ks), the DARK Act, HR 4432, would make it illegal for state and local governments to ban genetically modified crops.

The DARK Act would not only prevent states from making new laws requiring GMO labeling but it would also destroy those requirements in states that already have them. And the new amendment would negate the hard-fought victory to defeat Monsanto by outlawing GMO crops in Jackson County, Oregon.

This bill isn’t about science or safety. It’s a naked power grab by big pesticide, agrichemical, and biotech companies and their industry front groups.

Monsanto and other companies are putting all their weight behind this bill and only a grassroots movement can stop them.

Make sure Congress knows that 90 percent of Americans support GMO labeling. Dial 1-877-796-1949 and you’ll be automatically connected with your Representative in Washington. Tell him or her to vote no on HR 4432.

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FRANCE BANS SALES OF ROUNDUP IN GARDEN CENTERS

French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal has announced a ban on the sale of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup from garden centers, a product the UN has warned may be carcinogenic.

The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was in March classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

“France must be on the offensive with regards to the banning of pesticides,” Royal said on French television. “I have asked garden centers to stop putting Monsanto’s Roundup on sale” in self-service aisles, she added.

Her announcement comes after French consumer association CLCV asked French and European officials to stop selling glyphosate-based products to amateur gardeners.

Glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s under the brand Roundup but now manufactured generically, is the most-produced weedkiller in the world, according to the IARC.

The agency’s evaluation of glyphosate saw “limited evidence” of a type of cancer called non-Hodgkins lymphoma, as seen in studies in the United States, Sweden and Canada conducted among farm workers since 2001.

The US agribusiness giant Monsanto strongly contested the IARC classification, saying “relevant, scientific data was excluded from review.”

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The Obama Administration Is Selling Us down a River of Cash

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Okay—why is a blog devoted to organic food getting involved in the current debate about transnational trade agreements? The answer is that organic farming represents the world as we want it to be: wholesome, clean food grown and distributed by companies concerned about our health and the environment, food of the people, by the people, and for the people. Similarly, international trade agreements should represent this world that we want. And by “we,” I mean We the People.

But the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) would fast-track at least three highly secretive trade deals—specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)—and potentially more deals. And what does “fast track” even mean?

When you find out (by reading this blog post), you will be aghast. I guarantee it.

Let’s start with something I heard on the PBS News Hour. Judy Woodruff was interviewing the Obama administration’s spokesperson. She said, “Why, if these agreements are such good deals, are they secret?” And he answered, “That’s just not true. They’re not secret at all. Every member of Congress can read the negotiated agreements.”

So I was waiting for Judy to follow up with the obvious question any responsible journalist should ask: “Only members of Congress? Not the public?” But she didn’t ask the question. So let me explain:

Right now, TiSA and T-TIP text are completely secretive and unavailable for even members of Congress to read, while the TPP text is available for members to review—although they need to go to a secret room inside the Capitol where only members of Congress and certain staffers with high-level security clearances, who can only go when members are present, can read the bill.

So only Congresspeople can read the TPP part of the agreement, but not the other parts. And the public can’t read any of it.

Isn’t this completely backwards in a supposedly democratic society? If only Congress can read the bill, that means that lobbyists and the guys with big bags of money are the only ones who get to whisper in the ears of our Congressional representatives. And those whispers tend to be to the choir, since we know Congress is already bought and sold by huge transnational corporations. So that means that Congresspeople will have already made up their minds to support the agreements, because then they can get the bags of money they need to get re-elected.

Hold on here! Aren’t we supposed to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Shouldn’t it be that We the People get to read the bill, make up our minds, and then instruct our Congresspeople to vote according to our wishes? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? Aren’t our Congressional representatives there to apply the will of the people? Do I have this wrong? Or are they there to apply the will of corporate America TO the people?

So the White House spokesman went on to say that after the bill is passed, there will be a 60-day period in which the public can read the final draft and comment, and that if Congress then so chooses, it can make changes based on the will of the people. But this is completely disingenuous because the White House wants the agreements fast tracked. What does fast tracked mean?

It means that once the bill is passed and signed, Congress isn’t allowed to make any changes, no matter what the people say after they read the bill and comment in the 60-day period. In other words, the White House is lying to us.

I say it’s time to get out the tar and feathers and ride these anti-democratic, anti-American, four-flushing political criminals out of town on a rail. And then remember that the Constitution begins with the words We the People. The TPA, TPP, TiSA, and T-TIP are agreements that give away the country to the big corporate interests. This isn’t the organic way, and it’s not the way this country is supposed to work.

If you’re aghast, I’m even more aghast. We are being sold down the river.

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THAT NICE SMELL YOU’RE SMELLING MIGHT HURT YOU

SC Johnson, the maker of Glade air fresheners, has decided to tell consumers more about the chemicals they are breathing, according to The New York Times.

The company recently disclosed ingredients in the fragrances used in more than 200 of its air fresheners, candles and scented oils on its website. Companies have increasingly responded to safety concerns not from government regulators, but from customers who demand to know more about everyday products like moisturizers and cleaning products.

Kelly Semrau, the SC Johnson senior vice president for global corporate affairs, said, “We just feel that transparency in this area is the right thing to do.”

Customers have already been able to see specific dyes, waxes and other ingredients used in Glade’s various air fresheners and candles. But the chemicals behind scents like “Aruba wave” and “Hawaiian breeze” have largely been a mystery. Some of the ingredients for Aruba wave, for instance, include 2-t-butylcyclohexyl acetate, 2,6-dimethyl-7-octen-2-ol, allyl caproate, benzyl salicylate, ethyl 2,2-dimethyl hydrocinnamyl and ethyl hexanoate.

“Fragrance disclosure is a really big deal and consumers have been asking for it for a really long time,” said Janet Nudelman, the director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund.

Typically, a fragrance is listed simply as “fragrance,” even though each fragrance could contain hundreds of individual chemicals. SC Johnson buys its fragrances from fragrance houses, which are known for closely guarding the formulas of their scents.

Fragrance ingredients also are often exempted from the disclosure requirements that apply to other chemicals, like those used in cosmetic products like perfumes and lipsticks.

SC Johnson will disclose ingredients in two ways. When there are more than 20 chemicals in a fragrance, it will disclose the top 10, or it will disclose the highest concentrations down to 0.09 percent of the formula, “whichever provides the most information,” the company said in a statement.

“It’s a good first step but it doesn’t go far enough,” Ms. Nudelman said, saying that many of the chemicals her group is concerned about have effects at much lower doses than what SC Johnson is disclosing.

A handful of Glade products are excluded from the new policy. Ms. Semrau said that those products’ scents came from companies that SC Johnson no longer worked with and they would be phased out. The company said it planned to expand its fragrance disclosures to other brands, including Pledge, Windex, Shout, and Scrubbing Bubbles.

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MONSANTO BUYS UP HEIRLOOM SEED SUPPLIERS

The NM Tree and Garden Center located in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, has discovered that Monsanto is buying heirloom seed companies, according to Maddy Harland, writing in Permaculture. It’s also buying the trademarks to a number of heirloom seeds. This means that you may think you are supporting an heirloom seed company but in reality the company is owned by Monsanto. The seeds themselves are still non-GMO and heirloom and they can be saved at the end of the harvest and sown next season, but you are still giving money to Monsanto.

Monsanto is also buying trademarks, so that no matter where you buy certain seeds, they get money from it.

In Europe we have witnessed a proactive corporate program to buy up ethical/organic companies. Estée Lauder now owns The Body Shop and has a poor record for animal testing. Green and Black fair trade chocolate was bought in 2006 by Cadbury, who was then acquired by Kraft Foods, one of the huge food multi-nationals. Rachel’s Organic, founded by Welsh farmers, is now a subsidiary of French company Lactalis.

This is a deliberate strategy–so much so that Triodos Bank actually has a European fund to help small organic companies stay independent and resist being bought up.

Why are small organic/heirloom marques being acquired by the big global corporations? First, there is a commercial market for them. Second, what you own you can control. Third, if you are a vast industrial corporation and own one of these companies, you can marginalize its market if you wish.

Europe may have opened the gates to Monsanto to grow genetically modified crops. Due to an accepted proposal by the EU Environment Council, GM crops could be planted across Europe as soon as next year.

Even worse, the proposal could give Monsanto and other biotech giants the power to overturn decisions made by democratically-elected governments to ban GM crops.

Here’s what the Council’s website says about the proposal: “The draft directive on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) provides a legal basis for member states to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs on their territory for reasons other than health or environment considerations.

“The proposal, presented by the Commission in July, 2010, applies to GMOs that are authorized or under authorization at EU level. Possible grounds that can be used by member states to ban or restrict GMOs include: socioeconomic reasons, land use and town planning, agricultural policy objectives and public policy issues.”

So it sounds as though member nations can restrict or allow GMOs at their discretion, while the EU’s Environment Council takes its hands off the issue.

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UNITED STATES NOW AN OLIGARCHY RATHER THAN A DEMOCRACY

From The Telegraph, UK, as reported by Zachary Davies Boren:

The US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, entitled Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, used extensive policy data collected from between the years of 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the US political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 US policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile) and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the United States is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Researchers concluded that US government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favor special interests and lobbying organizations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”

The positions of powerful interest groups are “not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens,” but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes do overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10 per cent.

The theory of “biased pluralism” that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the US system fits, holds that policy outcomes “tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”

The study comes in the wake of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial Supreme Court decision which allows wealthy donors to contribute to an unlimited number of political campaigns.

Jeff here now: So much for our government of the people, by the people, and for the people. We can see pretty clearly now what the game is: corporate control of the economy, the government, and most important of all, the military. Why the military? Because the military sucks all the money, resources, and energy out of the country and its people and creates endless war. The endless war enriches the oligarchs, who control the economy and the government. Our country is being looted right under our noses.

Now where did I put those feathers, and who has the tar?

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ARE SEX LUBRICANTS CAUSING A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS?

The following article was written for this blog by Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, a company that manufactures organic personal lubricants for sexual purposes. In it, she describes problems with conventional products and why organic and non-toxic versions of these products may be the answer. I checked her lubricant, and it’s based on organic aloe leaf gel and natural substances such as xanthan gum, agar, lactic acid, and natural flavors. But it also contains potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, two manufactured chemical preservatives. To her credit, the package says, “95 percent organic” and doesn’t purport to be something other than what it is. Here’s what she has to say:

Initially, the business was spawned because there seemed to be a need in America for all natural or organic products for those allergic to products containing petrochemicals.

One of the missions of our company was to develop alternatives to keep America’s love life intact. But it turned out to be a much larger call to action, and the research we conducted and subsequent statistics proved that millions of American women are sick due to the petrochemicals used in traditional vaginal lubricants. As it turns out, these chemical-based products increase the likelihood of getting vaginosis, STDs, and HIV.

Good Clean Love was born, and offered women healthy alternatives for vaginal lubrication. Now our mission is to educate these women to understand the benefits of using natural and organic products as opposed to traditional over-the-counter products that dominate the market in a $219 million dollar industry.

Lubrication is a fact of life. In any relationship where working parts are at play, whether it is an engine, a dinner party, or an evening of love, everything works better when it is “well oiled.” Lubrication allows for glide, ease, and effectiveness. When lubrication is working well, it is invisible, a thought we don’t have. When it isn’t working, we know it immediately, although not always by its name. An engine without oil locks up in minutes; awkward silence and uncomfortable gazing down into the lap is immediately recognizable.

The competitive lubricant market is saturated with choices, but when you look beyond the packaging and brand hype to the ingredient panel, it quickly becomes clear that over 95 percent of OTC and adult lubricants are made with petrochemical ingredients including propylene glycol, used in products like anti-freeze and brake fluid, and polyethylene glycol, used in laxatives and oven cleaners. These are largely preserved with methyl- and propyl-parabens, which have been shortlisted as potential carcinogens and are not allowed in the EU.

When Good Clean Love first began making lubricants, we learned that petrochemical ingredients contained in competitors’ products were making women sick. I initially thought the illness was due to a sensitivity or allergy that was exacerbated by other issues like vaginal dryness or pain with sex.

Fast forward 10 years, and we discover that new lubricant studies commissioned by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to create a buffer gel for the prevention of HIV shocked the biophysicists who conducted and analyzed the studies.

What did they find? The petrochemical lubricants that dominate the market are damaging the genital and rectal tissue they are intended to protect. The problem is a biophysical issue, not an allergic sensitivity. For example, warming jelly’s cellular weight is 30 times that of skin cells. The warming jelly literally squeezes human tissue cells to death. The warming sensation you feel is actually the skin cells shriveling up and falling off the tissue, causing small tears and compromising the natural immune functions of the genital walls.

The most disturbing result of the use of hyperosmolar lubricants, as these products are called, is that women who use them are 13 times more likely to contract bacterial vaginosis compared to women using nothing at all (citation below). This is a public health crisis because the number of women impacted by BV is staggering. Depending on ethnicity, between 29 and 51 percent of all women are walking around with BV. Worse still, 84 percent don’t know that they have it. Yet as silent as this condition can be, the impact it has on susceptibility to other more lethal STDs and HIV is even more alarming. Women with BV are 60 percent more likely to contract other sexually transmitted illnesses, including HIV, than women without the infection. And although researchers aren’t clear about the mechanism of HIV transmission, women with BV are three times more likely to transmit the disease to their male partners.

Personal lubricants may be the last frontier of health care products to experience it, but there is a revolution afoot and there are many brands of organic and all-natural products that are entering the market to replace the dangerously toxic effects of conventional chemistry.

Take care of the most sensitive tissue in your body by reading labels and paying attention to your body’s adverse reactions. Good sex isn’t about feeling the burn; it is about feeling the warmth of someone you love. Choose wisely and realize that the body can teach the mind, and arousal and sexual enhancement may be as close as the bottle on your night stand.

About the author: Wendy Strgar is the founder of GoodCleanLove – a website that sells organic and natural sexual intimacy products, and also a source of medical research for women and men’s sexual health. She is the author of the book, Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy. Her blog www.makinglovesustainable.com was named as the best sex/relationship blog by Intent.com for 2011 and has been listed many times as one of the best 100 relationship blogs on the web.

Citations: Marrazzo et al. reported lubricant was associated with an almost two-fold increased risk for diagnosis of BV by Amsel criteria.5 In a study of 396 women2, the research group found that among African American women, lubricant use was associated with a three-fold increased risk for disruption of vaginal microbiota as defined by Gram’s stain smear (p-value for interaction on ethnicity: <0.05).
2. Ravel J, Gajer P, Abdo Z, et al. Vaginal microbiome of reproductive-age women. ProcNatlAcadSciUSA 2011;108 Suppl 1:4680-7.
5. Marrazzo J, Thomas KK, Agnew K, Ringwood K. Prevalence and risks for bacterial vaginosis in women who have sex with women. Sex Transm Dis 2010;37:335-9.

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Big Ag Eyes Africa

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In the 1960s and 1970s, an agricultural scientist named Norman Borlaug began what he called The Green Revolution, to bring modern farming methods to indigenous people around the globe. The media at the time hailed him as a savior of starving people everywhere. He won international fame and prizes as a great humanitarian.

But what Borlaug really did was bring industrial agriculture to peasant cultures around the world, introducing them to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fossil-fuel-powered heavy equipment, soil-destroying plowing techniques, and all the other problems of modern agriculture. Now the farmers no longer farmed using their traditional methods. Now their efforts resulted in money, much of which had to be paid to international corporations for the tools and chemicals needed to farm in the modern way.

It was The Green Revolution that gave Monsanto the idea for its take-over of the world’s seed supply by genetically altering and patenting seed, forcing farmers to buy their seed or pay steep fines for violating their patents, and pushing today’s farmers to use Roundup to suppress weeds.

Yet, sharing and saving seed is still a crucial part of traditional farming all over Africa, writes Heidi Chow, who works on Global Justice Now’s campaign to challenge the corporate take-over of Africa’s food systems as well as supporting the global movement for food sovereignty. She writes that governments, backed by multinational seed and chemical companies, are imposing oppressive seed laws that attack the continent’s main food producers and open the way to industrial agribusiness. Some are even calling it “the second Green Revolution.”

But Ghana’s women farmers are having none of it.

The corporate agenda for seeds is one where farmers are treated as passive consumers of corporate-controlled seed instead of indispensable knowledge bearers of seed varieties and protectors of seed diversity.

“My mother gave me some seeds to plant. And I’m also giving those seeds to my children to plant,” Esther Boakye Yiadom explained to Ms. Chow.

“So that is ongoing, every time we transfer to our children. And that is how all the women are doing it. We don’t buy, we produce it ourselves. I am having tomatoes and I don’t have okra. And another woman has okra. I’ll go to her and then beg for some of her okra seeds to plant.

“And then if another person also needs tomatoes from me and I have it, I’ll have to give to the person. Because you know every season changes, because maybe mine will not do well. But that person’s will do well. So next season we can get to plant. That’s why we exchange them.”

An oppressive new law–dubbed the Monsanto Law–in Ghana would bolster the power of multinational seed companies while restricting the rights of small farmers to keep and swap their seeds.

This bill will see the control of seeds being transferred away from small farmers and into the hands of large seed companies.

Today just 10 corporations control more than 75 percent of the world’s commercial seed market, although in Africa an estimated 80 percent of all seeds still come from farmer-managed seed systems–where farmers save, select and swap their own traditional or indigenous seed varieties.

Farmer-managed seed systems help to protect bio-diversity as farmers keep a wide variety of seeds. Seeds are selected both to maintain yield but also to preserve traits that respond to different climatic conditions, have certain tastes, appearance, and storability.

Commercial seeds, by comparison, are produced for high input mono-cropping farming systems and designed to produce high yields through the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Just like The Green Revolution—only on steroids.

The proposed legislation is one of the commitments that the Ghanaian government has made to be part of the G7’s New Alliance.

The G7 New Alliance claims to address food security and nutrition in Africa, but the scheme has been widely condemned by African civil society and farmers’ groups as a “new wave of colonialism.”

Instead of supporting small farmers across Africa, the scheme facilitates a grab for resources–such as land and seed–for multinational corporations that see Africa as the last frontier for untapped markets.

The Monsanto Law is a clear example of how this New Alliance is making it easier for large seed companies to get a foothold in Ghana at the expense of small farmers, and will reduce food security as farmers are restricted from saving and preserving seeds.

The proposed seed legislation will also help open the doors to GMO crops in Ghana, which is currently being fought in the courts as campaigners challenge the application for authorization of Bt rice and cowpeas.

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WHAT IS THE NEW ALLIANCE?

The UK government claims the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition will lift 50 million people in Africa out of poverty by 2022. That’s what they said about Borlaug’s Green Revolution in the 1970s, but it failed, leaving millions of small farmers in thrall to the agribusiness giants. This New Alliance will also benefit multinational companies at the expense of small-scale farmers and is likely to increase poverty and inequality in Africa.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition provides aid money from rich countries like the US and the UK, and helps big business invest in the African agricultural sector. But in return, African countries are required to change their land, seed and trade rules in favor of big business.

The New Alliance will make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa; prevent farmers from breeding, saving and exchanging seeds; heavily promote chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which increase farmers’ risk of debt as well as damaging the environment and farmers’ health; replace family farms with low paid, insecure jobs, and prevent countries from restricting crop exports, even at times of domestic shortage

Much of the aid money and investment promised as part of the New Alliance prioritizes crops for export, including tobacco, palm oil, and biofuel crops, rather than supporting small farmers to grow food crops sustainably for local consumption.

Ten African countries have signed up to the New Alliance: Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria and Senegal. Around 50 multinational companies including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever, and around 100 African companies, are also involved.

Jill Richardson, an organic food activist, wrote that “The G7 scheme does nothing to address the problems that are at the core of hunger and malnutrition but will serve only to further poverty and inequality.” She went on to tell stories of African peasant farmers who made more money by switching to organic farming than by using synthetic fertilizer.

Food First also criticized the New Alliance. “There’s a good reason why the 45 members of the New Alliance don’t want to hear from the people actually growing the food in Africa… farmers would say that Africa is actually a rich continent and it is the continued extraction of wealth by foreign corporations that causes poverty and hunger–that the first Green Revolution (Borlaug’s) did not bypass Africa; it failed. A new one spearheaded by the same institutions presently spreading GMOs and land grabbing throughout the continent will do more harm than good.”

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy was even harsher, calling the New Alliance “a sad excuse for an aid program.” They wrote: “How bad is this idea? Money is money, right? Wrong! The private sector is not just like government, only a little different. It is ENTIRELY different. Corporations are accountable to their shareholders, obliged to make a profit. They are not charities. They are bound by law, but not by the public interest… Corporations are not parties to the human rights covenants that oblige most governments to realize the universal human right to food.”

Oxfam International was also critical the new effort with a release titled, “G7 Food Security Alliance Answers Question Hungry People Have Not Asked.” They say that the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition “focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world.” Instead, they called on G7 leaders to “keep the promises they have already made to help developing countries invest in sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.” They add that “While there is a positive role for the private sector in the fight against global hunger, the plan’s top down approach does not reflect what many people in poor countries say they want or need” and that this new effort is “passing the buck on global hunger.”

It’s worse than passing the buck on global hunger. It’s part of Big Agribusiness’s plan to control the world’s food supply and bring the world’s farmers, big and small, to heel.

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AND LOOK WHO’S TRAVELING TO AFRICA

On their nine-day trip to Africa, Bill and Chelsea Clinton are traveling with 20 wealthy donors and foundation supporters, a group that includes fundraisers for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and others who are expected to give generously to her campaign.

The trip, which marks Bill Clinton’s 12th visit to Africa, includes stops in Tanzania, Kenya, Liberia and Morocco. It’s designed to highlight the Clinton Foundation’s work on economic development and climate change, as well as on the empowerment of women and girls. It will culminate in a lavish conference in Marrakesh with the King of Morocco, funded by donors including a Moroccan-government-owned phosphate company, which POLITICO reported donated $1 million.

Hmmm—a phosphate company. Phosphorus is one of the three major fertilizers used in conventional agriculture, along with nitrogen and potassium. It’s also worth noting that among the donors invited to come along on the Africa trip is Beverly Dale, formerly of the biotechnology (GMO) industry.

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POPE FRANCIS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Pope Francis has made the religious case for tackling climate change, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.

Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns—namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

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JUDGE RULES VERMONT GMO LABEL LAW IS LEGAL

A Vermont law that could make the state the first in the country to require labeling of genetically modified food has been allowed by a federal judge to stand for now, despite opposition by food industry groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss in Burlington ruled against the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association and other industry groups in their request for a preliminary order to block the law from going into effect as scheduled on July 1, 2016.

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MEASLES ATTACKS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM, LEAVES KIDS VULNERABLE

Scientists have known that measles attacks the immune system, but only recently have discovered how hard and thoroughly it damages it, according to a study published in Science magazine’s May 8, 2015, issue.

Johns Hopkins University epidemiologists studied children from England, Wales, Denmark, and the United States who had contracted measles and found that their mortality rate from other infectious diseases was significantly higher than among children who had been vaccinated against measles.

The scientists said that monkey studies suggest that the measles virus erases the immune system’s memory, so that children who had the disease were less able to ward off other diseases. “Measles is much worse than people thought,” says Michael Mina, an immunologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “It has these long term consequences and has gone under the radar for decades.” The published study says that the damage to children’s immune systems lasts for up to three years.

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What Every Dinner Should Be

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Tonight, dinner started with a glass of old vine zinfandel from the Cline winery’s vineyards in the East Bay. This was followed by barbecued organic, grass fed tri-tip. We made a salad of red romaine lettuce from our organic garden. And the main side dish was zucchini from the garden, tomatoes from the store (too early for tomatoes here), onion from the garden, all organic, sauteed in olive oil until tender, topped with shaved Vermont cheddar cheese, and passed under the broiler for 45 seconds to bubble the cheese brown. And we each had the season’s first ear of organic corn grown in California—too early for it to be really good, but what the heck. Instead of pouring butter over it and sprinkling it with salt, we just drizzled a little Apollo ‘Sierra’ extra virgin olive oil on the hot ear.

What? You haven’t heard of Apollo olive oil? Well, did you know that Apollo is one of the top 10 olive oils in the world? And it comes from the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, them thar very hills that there’s gold in. The gold turns out to be Apollo. I have no financial interest in this place, except that great olive oil is a passion of mine. This oil has the three main characteristics of quality: it’s bitter, it’s pungent, and it’s fruity. And Apollo’s oils ring the bell in all three categories.

It’s worth knowing about this olive oil. This is from its web site (apollooliveoil.com):

“Since Apollo Olive Oil started 14 years ago, our oils have won 32 gold medals, 23 silver medals, 7 best in class, and 6 best in show. We have been chosen one of the top 10 olive oil producers in the world, the best organic olive oil in the US, and the best olive oil on the internet. We are proud to offer you the healthiest gourmet organic extra virgin olive oil available, made entirely in California.”

Here are a few testimonials:

“Best olive oil I’ve ever tasted – and that’s saying something because I’ve tasted a whole lot. This oil is green, spicy, pungent, and invigorating. Be sure to pick up the Sierra one. I tried the Mistral as well, but Sierra is the one to go for. Worth every cent. Appreciate it straight, on its own, before you decide what else you might do with it.”-–from Heidi Swanson, www.101cookbooks.com.

“Using Apollo Olive Oil is like starting with a great wine. It invites you to organize the whole meal around it. It will never be just an ingredient. Its freshness, its complexity and its aromas-–what aromas!–-take recipes to a different, unexpected level.” -–from
Lynne Sanders, Bistro Aix (voted best French restaurant in London).

“I recently learned that most olive oil in the US is not true olive oil. I was completely shocked by this, and began wondering what I was actually consuming all these years when I purchased what I thought was ‘olive oil.’ I made the decision to never purchase store-bought olive oil again, and began researching where I could buy some authentic organic extra virgin olive oil. After a lot of consideration, I chose to purchase the Mistral Organic olive oil from your company. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with my purchase! I am pretty sure, after tasting your product, that I have never had real olive oil before. It is very tasty-–I want to put it on everything! Thank you for making a wonderful (and authentic) product-–I will definitely be ordering from you again!” –from Jennifer P., Joplin, MO.

So why am I going on about Apollo olive oil? Because it’s not only organic, it is incredibly healthy for you. The health-giving properties in olive oil are chiefly in its polyphenols—antioxidant substances that have a range of health benefits for the human body. Apollo extracts its oil under nitrogen gas in special equipment developed in Tuscany. This keeps oxygen that destroys polyphenols away from the mashed olives and oil during processing. The result is that it has three times the polyphenols of most other extra virgin oils. You can instantly taste the difference.

Besides using this oil on the corn, a splash of this oil and a squeeze of juice from one of our Meyer lemons on the lemon tree out back make a perfect, wine-friendly salad dressing.

And for dessert?

The first picking of cherries from my cherry tree. I shouldn’t say “my” tree, since it’s its own tree, a friend planted it for us as a gift, and my wife and son also work on it.

The birds think of the cherries as their own, too, but I don’t let them anywhere near the fruit. We keep the tree pruned to about 10 feet so we can easily cover it with plastic bird netting when the cherries start to develop. Otherwise, the birds will take them all.

The cherries don’t ripen exactly all at once, so we get about three pickings as they turn a dark oxblood color, showing they are plump, sweet, and fully ripe. There’s a final picking, but for that, we take off the netting and let the birds have their fill.

The cherries were accompanied by a small bowl of Straus Family organic vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge.

And a second glass of that old vine zin. That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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ANTI-GMO CAMPAIGN APPLAUDS NON-GMO INFANT FORMULA

Green America, a national nonprofit organization working to create a green economy, issued the following statement in response to Abbott offering non-GMO versions of Similac:

“Abbott’s announcement that they are removing genetically engineered ingredients from a version of Similac Advance, followed by a non-GMO version of Similac Sensitive, is an important step forward for the company and an important advance for infant health. Parents are rightly concerned about the presence of GMOs in infant formula, and tens of thousands of parents took action with GMO Inside to ask Abbott to remove GMOs. In addition, Facebook posts on the GMO Inside Facebook page urging Similac to remove GMOs reached several million more people. Consumer pressure was joined by concern from investors working with As You Sow, which highlighted the risk to Abbott of not offering non-GMO formula to parents.

“In addition to concerns about the health impacts of GMOs, evidence shows that GMOs are increasing the use of toxic herbicides due to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Most recently, glyphosate, which is commonly used on GMO crops, was deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Parents deserve better for their children’s health and want their children to grow up in a healthier environment as well. We urge Abbott to make all of its infant formula non-GMO, and call on its competitors to do the same.”

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THE REAL REASON MONSANTO WANTS TO BUY SYNGENTA

Monsanto recently made a bid to take over European agrichemical giant Syngenta, the world’s largest pesticide producer, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website. The $45 billion bid was rejected, but there’s still a chance for a merger between these two chemical technology giants.

Monsanto is reportedly considering raising the offer, and as noted by Mother Jones, “combined, the two companies would form a singular agribusiness behemoth, a company that controls a third of both the globe’s seed and pesticides markets.”

As reported by Bloomberg, the possibility of Monsanto taking over Syngenta raises a number of concerns; a top one being loss of crop diversity.

“…[A] larger company would eventually mean fewer varieties of seeds available to farmers, say opponents, such as science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety, Bill Freese.

“Another is that the combined company could spur increased use of herbicides by combining Syngenta’s stable of weed killers with Monsanto’s marketing heft and crop development expertise.

‘’’Two really big seed companies becoming one big seed company means even less choice for farmers,’ said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a policy group in Washington.

“‘From a public health and environmental perspective this is a complete disaster,’ said Bill Freese. ‘The more I look at this, the more it worries me and the more it needs to be opposed.’”

I think there’s another reason that Monsanto wants to buy Syngenta, besides the increasing power that the merger would create and the increasing profits the merger would generate. And that’s that Monsanto might follow Burger King’s lead in transferring its headquarters to a foreign country, thus avoiding U.S. taxes. Syngenta is headquartered in Europe, and if Monsanto owned it, it could claim its headquarters were also in Europe and thus not subject to U.S. taxes.

By trying to acquire Syngenta, Monsanto also contradicts years of rhetoric about how its ultimate goal with biotech is to wean farmers off agrichemicals. A laughable policy statement, given that that’s Monsanto’s (and Syngenta’s) core business.

It’s quite clear Monsanto has no desire or plans to help farmers reduce the use of crop chemicals. On the contrary, it has and continues to push for the increased use of its flagship product, Roundup.

Not only has Monsanto created a line of GMO Roundup-ready seeds, it also promotes the use of Roundup on conventional crops, pre-harvest, as described in its Pre-Harvest Staging Guide.

Applying herbicide directly before harvesting helps dry the crop, boosts the release of seed, and is said to promote long-term control of certain weeds, it claims.

The practice is known as desiccation, and according to researchers Samsel and Seneff, the desiccation of conventionally grown wheat appears to be linked to the rapid and concurrent rise in celiac disease.

Applying glyphosate, which was recently classified as a Class 2A probable human carcinogen, on crops directly before harvest is one of the worst things we could do to our foods, yet Monsanto wholeheartedly supports and promotes it.

Speaking of reputation, Syngenta is hardly a poster child for sustainability and right action, either. Not only is it the main supplier of the “gender-bending” herbicide atrazine in the US, it also makes neonicotinoids—a class of insecticide linked to the mass die-offs of bees and other pollinators

Both of these chemicals have come under increasing scrutiny as researchers have learned more about their environmental and human health impacts, and both are banned in Europe while still widely in use in the US.

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HEALTH.COM: THOSE NASTY VITAMINS MAY KILL YOU

Health magazine is the mouthpiece of the industrial health industry. The subplot here is put together by the powerful and incredibly wealthy Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America. The message seems to be that taking food supplements not only threatens your health, but taking large doses of them leads to cancer and other life-threatening conditions. The implied message is that you should do what your doctor tells you and take your chemical pills.

Kind of like organic food is dangerous and can kill you. Just eat your pesticide-contaminated food and shut up. Remember that campaign a few years ago from the Avery people?

Well, I’ve got news for everyone. Don’t listen to those hucksters. They’re just out to make megabucks. I’ve done the research and here’s what I do and take every morning, first thing out of bed.

1. Four minutes of planking. Is it hard to do? You bet. I’m glad when it’s over, but I’m glad I’ve done it. It tones the core.
2. A glass of home-made kefir. Takes about three minutes to make my kefir in the morning and boy is it worth it. For how to do it, see my book, “The Essential Book of Fermentation.”
3. A glass of home-made organic Valencia orange juice—real orange juice, not the processed stuff at the market. Used to wash down the vitamins and supplements.
4. A multi-vitamin. I take Whole Foods Complete. Vitamins and minerals.
5. Grapefruit pectin. Pectin is fiber that not only cleans your system, it feeds the good guys in your intestinal flora.
6. Turmeric Supreme. Keeps the cancer away. Read up on turmeric. You’ll see why it’s good to take it.
7. Potassium. One little charge of potassium is way healthier than eating bananas and keeps night leg cramps away.
8. PQQ. This stuff rebuilds the mitochondria in your cells that dissipate with age. Mitochondria are the energy factories that make you feel full of vim and vigor.
9. CoQ-10 Q Absorb—As you age, the enzyme CoQ-10 also dissipates. But it’s necessary for heart health. This supplement replenishes it. Works synergistically with PQQ.
10. NAC—N-Acetyl Cysteine–a sulfur-based protein involved in countless health-building activities in the body.
11. Milk Thistle. This natural plant supplement supports liver health. For someone who drinks, it’s worth supplementing. I like my wine.
12. Bilberry. This is an antioxidant made from bilberries, a sort of European tiny blueberry relative that’s a packed superfood.
13. Vitamin K2—needed if you’re taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
14. Vitamin D3—I take 2000 IUs a day, the new recommended amount for positive results.
15. Saw palmetto—supports prostate health. Hey, I’m not getting any younger.
16. Alpha Lipoic Acid—a powerful antioxidant that cleans up free radicals that cause inflammatory disease.
17. A probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri that works from within to promote hair growth and give skin a “glow of health.”

So that’s my daily routine. What’s yours?

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SRI LANKAN PRESIDENT TAKES OFFICE, BANS GLYPHOSATE

Sri Lanka’s newly elected President, Maithripala Sirisena, announced Friday that the importation of the world’s most used herbicide, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, will be banned with immediate effect. The release of already imported stocks has also been stopped.

Sirisena, a farmer and ex Health Minister, stated that glyphosate is responsible for the increasing number of chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients in Sri Lanka and added that the move would protect the Sri Lankan farming community. In Sri Lanka, CKD now afflicts 15 percent of people of working age in the northern part of the country; a total of 400,000 patients with an estimated death toll of around 20,000.

Watch the videos “Mystery in the Fields” and “Cycle of Death,” five-minute documentaries providing additional background information on afflicted areas around the world.

Sri Lanka’s ban comes after two scientific studies showed that drinking water from abandoned wells, where the concentrations of glyphosate and metals are high, as well as spraying glyphosate, increased the risk of the deadly chronic kidney disease by up to five-fold.

It also follows the recent World Health Organization announcement that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Sri Lanka did ban the sale of glyphosate herbicides in March, 2014, but this decision was overturned in May, 2014, after a review. The decision by Sri Lanka’s new President, however, has huge significance following the latest WHO report on glyphosate.

Sri Lanka now becomes the second country to fully ban the sale of glyphosate herbicides following El Salvador’s decision in 2013, also taken due to the fatal CKD disease. Bermuda has also put a temporary ban on glyphosate imports and is holding a review.

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WHO WILL TEXANS BLAME THE FLOODS ON?

If those Texas floods were happening in almost any other state (especially California), Texas evangelical pastors would have an easy call: same sex marriage, and even same-sex sex, displeases God, who sends storms to wash away the sin and blight. Or maybe it’s the angels weeping at the sight of two guys holding hands. In any case, it’s divine retribution.

But it’s happening in Texas. How can God be doing this to the Lone Star state? He’s supposed to be in cahoots with those who wear manly footwear, deny climate change, open carry weapons, and have a hankering for strict discipline. Something ain’t right.

There’s only one answer. God would not be displeased with the faithful churchgoers and good Christians. It must be that he’s displeased with those liberals in Austin, with their music venues, medical marijuana, tolerant views, and their organic food. Smoothies, indeed.

He’s so mad, in fact, that his retribution spilled out of Austin all over the place. His fury touched off a contact fury with those 200-plus bikers who staged a firefight in the parking lot outside a gin mill last week. That’s the real Texas spirit, boys. Give ‘em hell.

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If Monsanto Were a Person

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When Mitt Romney in 2012 said that “corporations are people,” a lot of people thought he was just spouting more right-wing nuttiness. But no, he’s enough of a lawyer to know that corporate personhood is a valid American legal concept, supported by several Supreme Court decisions.

A corporation, as a group of people, is legally recognized as having some of the same legal rights and responsibilities as an individual.

So let’s examine Monsanto.

What if I, as an individual person, created a poison so toxic that it caused serious harm, even cancer, even death, and that I spread it over millions and millions of acres around the world? What would I be called?

What if I was able to open up the control panel of life—the DNA and genetic structure of plants and animals—and started swapping genes, creating chimeras and Frankenstein’s monsters shown to sicken other life forms? Would I be called a mad scientist?

What if my activities caused human autoimmune diseases and terrible, painful illnesses like Crohn’s Disease, leaky gut syndrome, celiac disease, lupus, autism, inflammatory disease, arterial sclerosis, heart disease, and stroke? Would the cops come and take me away?

What if I genetically modified seeds of human foodstuffs like corn and soybeans so that I could patent them, and then sued farmers if they tried to save seed from my seeds’ offspring to plant in their next season? What would I be called?

What if the plants from my genetically altered seeds produced pesticides in every cell of their being, and were bred to resist the very poisons that I make to destroy their weed competition—a practice that only leads to resistant pests and superweeds? What kind of bad guy would I then become?

What if people didn’t want my poisons and wanted their food labeled if it contains them? And what if I and my buddies spent $100 million to make sure no one could know whether their food contained my poisons? What would I then be called?

What if I had hundreds of people devoted to lying about my activities and denying the harm I do, and presenting a false front to the world proclaiming that I have everyone’s best interests at heart? What if this propaganda was just a pack of lies? What would they call me then?

If I did all these things (and many more), the townspeople and peasants would come to my castle with torches and pitchforks, right?

Well, tomorrow—May 23, 2015—the peasants are turning out for Monsanto, the “person” who actually is doing these things, in 9,000 venues around the world, bearing their symbolic torches and pitchforks. In my opinion, I wouldn’t mind seeing some real torches and pitchforks.

One of these “Marches against Monsanto” will be in my home city of Santa Rosa, California. I’ll be there. Wherever you are, I hope you’ll be at wherever your March against Monsanto is taking place.

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HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP NOW CALLED ‘FRUCTOSE’

High Fructose Corn Syrup Manufacturers are trying to trick consumers into thinking that HFCS is like sugar by changing its name to fructose.

According to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), there’s been a name change. The term ‘fructose’ is now being used to denote a product that was previously known as HFCS-90, meaning it is 90 percent pure fructose. Compare this to what is termed ‘regular’ HFCS, which contains either 42 or 55 percent fructose, and you will know why General Mills is so eager to keep you in the dark.

CRA explains:

“A third product, HFCS-90, is sometimes used in natural and ‘light’ foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Syrups with 90 percent fructose will not state high fructose corn syrup on the label [anymore], they will state ‘fructose’ or ‘fructose syrup’.”

For example, on the front of the Vanilla Chex box from General Mills, it says that the product contains “no high fructose corn syrup.” But in the ingredient list, it is hidden under the new name of fructose.

High fructose corn syrup and fructose are not the same. Fructose is a monosaccharide, a simple sugar. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product. It’s not a naturally occurring substance. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS. .

High Fructose Corn Syrup health dangers include:
•Diabetes.
•Metabolic syndrome.
•Damage to your immune system.
•Speeded-up aging process.
•Mercury poisoning.

Since HFCS is in virtually everything today that is packaged and processed, you really have to become a label reader and check everything you buy. For years I liked Thomas’s English Muffins—until recently, when I checked the ingredients list and found high fructose corn syrup.

And you know that the corn referred to is GMO. GMO corn is now so ubiquitous that when I go to a mom-and-pop taqueria, I don’t eat the corn chips and I order flour tortillas, even though I prefer the authentic flavor of corn tortillas. Thanks Monsanto.

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USDA DECLINES TO ENFORCE ORGANIC RULES

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic watchdog group, has harshly criticized the USDA for its failure to conduct an investigation of 14 legal complaints it filed last December. The complaints allege a systemic pattern of livestock management violations occurring on some of the nation’s biggest certified organic “factory farm” poultry and dairy operations.

In a brief letter to Cornucopia, the National Organic Program‘s (NOP) director of Compliance and Enforcement stated that the agency “has determined that an investigation is unwarranted.” Last December, after an investment of seven months and tens of thousands of dollars, Cornucopia filed 14 complaints with the NOP presented evidence primarily gathered through high resolution aerial photographs of industrial-scale certified organic dairies and poultry operations. The hundreds of images taken documented an overwhelming absence of dairy cows on pasture, and the exclusive confinement of hundreds of thousands of egg laying hens and meat birds inside buildings.

“The organic regulations are clear,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia. “With minor and allowable ‘temporary’ exceptions, dairy cows should be out grazing on pasture and poultry should have access to the outdoors. These operations appear to have miserably failed to meet the criteria.”

Among its justifications for refusing to investigate the complaints, the NOP’s Matthew Michael said, was that the photographic evidence was “insufficient” and depicted only a “single moment in time.” He also said that the various operations indicated were “in good standing” with their organic certifiers.

“It must simply be an incredible and amazing coincidence that no birds – zero – were outdoors, and only a fraction of the tens of thousands of cows on the industrial-scale dairies were observed on grass. Most were confined to giant feedlots,” noted Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director.

“This simply does not pass the smell test,” Fantle added. “Who are you going to believe, the paperwork from the NOP and certifiers, or your own eyes?”

Last month, before the current allegations that the USDA is deferring to the interests of corporate organics, Cornucopia asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to remove NOP Staff Director Miles McEvoy due to ethical concerns regarding alleged bending or breaking of the law. This latest action is one more disappointment.

The Cornucopia Institute, thought to have more certified organic farmer members than any similar group, is preparing an appeal of the complaint’s dismissal as well as calling for an internal investigation of USDA’s oversight of the organic industry by the NOP, in a formal request to the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

In addition to the USDA’s National Organic Program dismissal of Cornucopia’s photographic evidence, the Organic Trade Association and two of its members that own operations targeted in Cornucopia’s complaints, Chino Valley Ranchers and Organic Valley, have concurred with the USDA. All of OTA’s damage-control statements either stated they saw nothing illegal illustrated in the photographs, or referenced that the images merely represented “a single moment in time.”

“There is a profound disconnect between this rhetoric and reality,” Kastel stated. “Cornucopia’s members contributed tens of thousands of dollars to document the activities on these factory livestock facilities and the USDA, and industry lobbyists, are suggesting that paperwork and annual inspections by certifiers trump this compelling evidence.”

Organic certification primarily depends on annual inspections by independent certifiers operating under the authority of the USDA. In almost all cases inspectors make an appointment with farm operators so they can have their paperwork in order, for auditing. Obviously, this also gives livestock operations the opportunity to make sure their animals appear to be managed correctly under the regulations.

Cornucopia contends these annual inspections also represent “a single moment in time,” although that moment has been prearranged with plenty of forewarning.

“The days when the flyovers occurred were determined by our aerial photography contractor,” Kastel clarified. “We had no control over their schedule. Furthermore, all of the aerial photography was done in good weather leaving no doubt that the animals should have been outdoors as the law requires.”

Kastel made this statement to eliminate one of the justifications that farm operators might use to legally and legitimately “temporarily” confine their livestock. The organic standards provide for temporary exemptions related to healthcare concerns or environmental factors.

“When these exemptions do not apply, farm operators are obligated to have their animals outdoors, and ruminants on pasture,” Kastel said. “It is clear that we have widespread, systemic problems in this industry. These abuses are competitively damaging ethical family-scale farmers and defrauding consumers of the nutrient rich food, produced by animals being treated respectfully, that they think they are purchasing.”

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HONEYBEE DEATHS SPIKED IN PAST YEAR

A new report finds that honeybee death rates spiked by 23 percent in the past year. Bees were already dying by the million, so this is truly frightening news. And what did Bayer, the world’s biggest producer of bee-killing pesticides, say about it? They called the increase in bee deaths “good news” — because the increase wasn’t as big as it might have been.

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Monsanto, USDA Try to Pull a Fast One

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When asked, almost all Americans say they want their food label to say whether the food contains GMOs. So the other day, I’m listening to Marketplace, the business program on NPR, and the host says that Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, has announced a plan to label GMO foods. Wow, I think, that’s great. Finally.

But then the host gave the details.

First of all, labeling will be voluntary. So a food manufacturer won’t be required to label the product. Not only that, but to get the labels, the manufacturer will have to pay a hefty fee to the USDA. Further the labels will be negatively phrased; that is, they will say “This food does not contain genetically modified ingredients.”

There’s a lot wrong with this plan. So much so that I see the biotech industry’s hands all over it. If anything it proves to me that the USDA and companies like Monsanto are pretty darn near indistinguishable. Let’s take a closer look at the plan.

So those manufacturers who don’t want to use GMOs are being taxed, in effect, by having to pay for labels. This puts them at a competitive disadvantage, since the same package of crackers, for instance, without GMOs will cost more than one with GMOs because the manufacturer will pass the cost of the labels on to the customer. Seems designed to discourage manufacturers from buying the labels, doesn’t it?

So there probably will be some labeling, but not much. And what about all the rest of the food at the market? Can we tell if that food is GMO or not? No, because there won’t be a label that says “Contains GMOs. “ That kind of positive statement is the only kind that will let us know which foods are GMO and which aren’t.

Here’s what’s needed: a rule or law that makes it mandatory to label GMO foods. What’s being proposed by USDA is a fast one, sleight of hand, the opposite of what it purports to be.

To add insult to injury, the host of marketplace said labels probably aren’t needed anyway, since the “scientific consensus is that there’s no difference in safety between GMOs and regular foods.” That simply isn’t true. Just recently, hundreds of scientists from around the world signed a declaration saying there is no scientific consensus on GMO safety and that the media should stop lying about it.
Whatever happened to journalism? It wouldn’t have taken the writers at Marketplace more than a half hour to confirm what I’m saying here. But they bought Big Biotech’s Kool-Aid.

Too bad for us.

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Monsanto Knew of Glyphosate-Cancer Link over 30 Years Ago

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According to evidence unearthed from the archives of the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States, it has been established that Monsanto was fully aware of the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer in mammals as long ago as 1981.

Recently WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a statement in which glyphosate (the main component of Roundup herbicide) was classified as “probably carcinogenic” to humans and “sufficiently demonstrated” for toxicity in animals

This announcement was given vast coverage in the global media, causing Monsanto to move immediately into damage limitation mode. The corporation demanded the
retraction of the report, although it had not yet been published!

Research scientist Dr. Anthony Samsel says: “Both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the deleterious effects of this chemical in 1980 at the conclusion of their multiple long-term assessments, but the EPA hid the results of their findings as ‘trade secrets.’ Monsanto has been lying and covering up the truth about glyphosate’s harmful effects on public health and the environment for decades. The increases in multiple chronic diseases seen since its introduction into the food supply continue to rise in step with its use.

“Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate based herbicides have a ubiquitous presence as residues in the food supply directly associated with its crop use. Nations must stand together against Monsanto and other chemical companies who continue to destroy the biosphere. We are all part of that biosphere and we are all connected. What affects one affects us all.”

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SYNTHETIC METHIONINE ALLOWED IN ORGANIC CHICKEN FEED

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at its biannual meeting recently approved a proposal to increase the allowance of synthetic methionine in feed for broiler (meat) chickens.

In extensive comments to the Board, the Center for Food Safety challenged the need for the synthetic substitute, advocating instead for improved conditions, increased access to pasture, slower growing poultry breeds, and natural methionine sources.
With an 11-4 vote, NOSB allowed what was intended to be a temporary exception to linger. “Synthetic methionine has been allowed in organic for 12 years because the organic egg industry has been dragging its heels to find a suitable alternative and make other much needed improvements to organic poultry systems,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. By accepting the new proposal, the five-year clock attached to synthetic inputs allowed in organic production will reset when the regulation is finalized. This means that the next opportunity to remove synthetic methionine from organic poultry production will likely be 2021 at the earliest.

As noted in The Washington Post, chickens are natural omnivores and traditionally access proteins from a variety of plant and animal sources. They consume bugs, small animals, and forages such as clover while out in pasture, and also receive meat and dairy scraps on diversified farms. Conditions for chicken-raising have changed dramatically, however, severely restricting access to pasture even in organic systems.

Such operations can crowd hundreds of thousands of chickens indoors with little access to soil or pasture. These producers also feed chickens a largely corn- or soy-based diet, neither of which is high in natural methionine. To supplement, producers have relied on synthetic methionine, temporarily allowed while organic alternatives are supposed to be developed.

“Synthetic methionine is a crutch that has unacceptably allowed conventional-style chicken and egg producers to become ‘organic’ in name. And, unfortunately, confined, factory-like conditions are increasingly becoming commonplace in organic production,” said Tomaselli.

The Center for Food Safety has concluded that the methionine eaten by chickens doesn’t need to be synthetic. Chickens can produce reliable and consistent quantities of meat and eggs in their natural, methionine-rich pasture environment where they feed on worms, insects, and high-protein forages. Corn gluten, potato meal and other natural alternatives are also possible sources of methionine for poultry. Insect production is a growing industry, and adding ground insect meal to feeds for protein is another option being explored by farmers.

The issue about whether to prohibit synthetic methionine gets at the heart of organic standards. During the temporary allowance, it is up to the organic chicken industry to seek out and implement alternatives. In this spirit, Center for Food Safety strongly believes that synthetic methionine should be permanently prohibited when it is scheduled to sunset in 2017. With an end date set, it would send a market signal to the organic poultry industry to step up its efforts to source feed without the synthetic additive.

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HERBICIDES INCREASE ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE IN MICROBES

A new study in mBio, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Society for Microbiology, suggests that the herbicides dicamba (Kamba), 2,4-D, and glyphosate (Roundup) induce antibiotic resistance in E. coli and Salmonella bacteria.

Researchers subjected bacteria to combinations of different herbicides and antibiotics commonly used to treat bacterial infections in humans such as ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline. The results demonstrated that E. coli and Salmonella exposed to low levels of Kamba, 2,4-D and glyphosate were more resistant to antibiotics than bacteria exposed only to antibiotics. Bacteria exposed to the commonly used herbicides activated proteins enabling them to rid themselves of toxic substances creating a defense against the antibiotics. The authors conclude that the common use of chemicals in agriculture, gardens, and public spaces can induce resistance to multiple antibiotics in bacteria harmful to humans. Furthermore, “The combination of high use of both herbicides and antibiotics in proximity to farm animals and important insects, such as honeybees, might also compromise their therapeutic effects and drive greater use of antibiotics.”

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EVERY CALL YOU MAKE, EVERY WORD YOU SPAKE, WE’LL BE WATCHING YOU

Dan Froomkin, reporting in The Intercept, says that emails and other digital communications once considered private can now become part of the government’s permanent record.

Top-secret documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency can now automatically recognize the content within phone calls by creating rough transcripts and phonetic representations that can be easily searched and stored.

The documents show NSA analysts celebrating the development of what they called “Google for Voice” nearly a decade ago.

By leveraging advances in automated speech recognition, the NSA has entered the era of bulk listening.

And this has happened with no apparent public oversight, hearings, or legislative action. Congress hasn’t shown signs of even knowing that it’s going on.

The USA Freedom Act — the surveillance reform bill that Congress is currently debating — doesn’t address the topic at all.

Civil liberty experts contacted by The Intercept said the NSA’s speech-to-text capabilities are a disturbing example of the privacy invasions that are becoming possible as our analog world transitions to a digital one.

“I think people don’t understand that the economics of surveillance have totally changed,” Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, told The Intercept.

“Once you have this capability, then the question is: How will it be deployed? Can you temporarily cache all American phone calls, transcribe all the phone calls, and do text searching of the content of the calls?” she said. “It may not be what they are doing right now, but they’ll be able to do it.”

Indeed, NSA officials have been secretive about their ability to convert speech to text, and how widely they use it, leaving open any number of possibilities.

That secrecy is the key, Granick said. “We don’t have any idea how many innocent people are being affected, or how many of those innocent people are also Americans.”

So—what’s the relevance to an organic food blog of this information about the NSA’s ability to transcribe your phone calls and search them for incriminating evidence that you are someone they don’t like?

I’ll tell you. From the first day of my association as a journalist with the organic movement in early 1970, it’s been obvious to me that organic people are the suspects, the targets, the outsiders, the aliens, the “other.” We don’t buy into the received ideas that American exceptionalism guarantees that our food is safe, our corporations benign, our childbirth is safe, our pastors Christlike, or any of it.

It’s been obvious to me that corporate Amjerica would like to squash the organic movement and move on to a world dominated by them, controlled by them, with all profit going to them.

Organic food means that its produce is non-toxic and wholesome. That implies that conventional food is something else, something other. Suspect. Toxic. Less than good. There has been a consistent campaign by conventional agriculture and the food industry, and now the biotech industry, to dismiss organic folks as kooks and worrywarts. I’ve watched it for 45 years.

The NSA is the security arm of this powerful, corporate, and military-industrial monster that has swallowed America the Beautiful and spit out America the disgusting, dangerous, and toxic.

This is not paranoia folks. Disgusting: junk food, obesity, profiting by poisoning people. Dangerous: the invasion of Iraq and the unleashing of the Islamic State; drone warfare. Toxic: the introduction of GMOs and the drenching of the world with toxic Roundup. To all this add the Orwellian ability of the government to monitor and now print out all our phone calls.

Is it time for a change? You bet. And the organic movement is the agricultural part of it.

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New York Times Prints GMO Propaganda as ‘Opinion’

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In its op-ed section on April 24, The New York Times gave space to a GMO propagandist named Mark Lynas. Which is fine. This is a country with free speech, right? Lynas can say his piece. We can read it, assess it, and agree with it or not, as we see fit. Such dialogue is good, right?

Well, maybe not when it’s corporate propaganda masquerading as one person’s heartfelt opinion.

So Lynas’s essay is entitled, “How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food.” Here’s a bit of what he had to say.

“I, too, was once in that activist camp (anti-GMO). A lifelong environmentalist, I opposed genetically modified foods in the past. Fifteen years ago, I even participated in vandalizing field trials in Britain. Then I changed my mind.

“After writing two books on the science of climate change, I decided I could no longer continue taking a pro-science position on global warming and an anti-science position on G.M.O.s.”

(Why opposition to GMOs is called “anti-science” is beyond me. Isn’t science supposed to be open-minded? There’s a load of perfectly good scientific evidence that GMOs and the chemicals associated with them are harmful. Does being pro-science mean swallowing the biotech industry Koolaid without examination?)

“There is an equivalent level of scientific consensus on both issues, I realized, that climate change is real and genetically modified foods are safe. I could not defend the expert consensus on one issue while opposing it on the other.”

(Ah—this is the straight Monsanto line here. As I reported before in this blog: “A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Cathleen Enright, executive vice president of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO),” reports Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.

“During the course of our conversation, when we touched on the subject of the science behind the debate over whether or not GMOs are ‘safe’ (me arguing that there’s no scientific consensus), Enright said, ‘Then you must not believe in climate change, either.’

“I glossed over that accusation, though it struck me as odd. And random. Until less than a week later, on March 9 (2015), an article appeared in the Guardian under this headline: ‘The anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.’

“That’s when I realized what I should have known. Enright’s comment wasn’t random at all. It’s just a new twist on an old talking point—from an industry on the verge of crumbling under the weight of an avalanche of new credible, scientific evidence exposing not only the dangers of GMO crops and the toxic chemicals used to grow them, but also the extent to which both Monsanto and U.S. government agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA have covered up those dangers.”

So Lynas is parroting the BIO line almost word for word. Note to the NYT—opinion is one thing. Blatant propaganda is quite another. But back to Lynas’s “opinion piece.”)

“The environmental movement’s war against genetic engineering has led to a deepening rift with the scientific community. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center and the American Association for the Advancement of Science showed a greater gap between scientists and the public on G.M.O.s than on any other scientific controversy: While 88 percent of association scientists agreed it was safe to eat genetically modified foods, only 37 percent of the public did — a gap in perceptions of 51 points. (The gap on climate change was 37 points; on childhood vaccinations, 18 points.”

(So 88 percent of AAAS scientists agreed it was safe to eat GMO foods. And were these scientists all biomedical researchers? Maybe they were chemists beholden to the chemical industry, or astrophysicists who don’t know a damn thing about food safety. Maybe the 22 percent who thought GMO aren’t safe to eat are food and health scientists. One of them, Dr. Judy Carman, has said: “We believe that there is a lack of evidence that these GM crop varieties are safe to eat.” Why? She and other researchers looked at the studies done on GMO safety. They found flaws with all of the studies reviewed. For example, studies were not consistent or transparent in their methods, investigators didn’t define what they considered to be a toxic or pathological finding, or they were not transparent in what they found. Many of the studies contained several such faults. But back to Mr. Lynas.)

“On genetic engineering, environmentalists have been markedly more successful than climate change deniers or anti-vaccination campaigners in undermining public understanding of science. The scientific community is losing this battle.”

(Notice how Lynas lumps anti-GMO environmentalists in with climate change deniers and anti-vaccination lunkheads, and claims we are “undermining science.” And that the anti-GMO people are separate from and opposed to “the scientific community.” It’s just insulting and dead wrong. Does the NYT think that this kind of propaganda advances the discussion or tries to get to the reality of the situation? Isn’t there an editor at the Times with the sense to know that these are Big Biotech’s talking points?)

Lynas goes on to say: “At Cornell, I am working to amplify the voices of farmers and scientists in a more informed conversation about what biotechnology can bring to food security and environmental protection…We need this technology. We must not let the green movement stand in its way.”

Okay—so who is Mark Lynas? Lynas is a researcher at the Cornell Alliance for Science. And what is the Cornell Alliance for Science? Here’s what the Corporate Crime Reporter has to say:

“The Cornell Alliance for Science was launched last year with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to ‘add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).’

(Translation: we’re out to defend GMOs on behalf of the agrichemical and food industries against all critics.)

Cornell decided last week to go after a newly created public interest group — U.S. Right to Know — which was created to “expose what the food industry doesn’t want you to know.” U.S. Right to Know is the brainchild of anti-GMO campaigner Gary Ruskin. And one of the group’s first campaigns is to identify professors at universities with ties to corporations backing GMOs. The Corporate Crime Reporter continued:

“Earlier this year, Ruskin’s group filed a Freedom of Information Act request for correspondence and emails to and from professors at public universities who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website — GMO Answers.

“The GMO Answers website was created by Ketchum, a corporate public relations firm.

“’We taxpayers deserve to know the details about when our taxpayer-paid employees front for private corporations and their slick PR firms,’ Ruskin said. ‘This is especially true when they do work for unsavory entities such as Ketchum, which has been implicated in espionage against nonprofit organizations.’

“The public records requests filed by U.S. Right to Know covered correspondence to and from professors who work for publicly-funded universities and agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, as well as to and from PR firms such as Ketchum or Fleishman Hillard, and to and from trade associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Council for Biotechnology Information.

“The requests are not an effort to obtain any personal information or academic research involving the professors. The records request did not sit well with the corporate minded directors of the Cornell Alliance for Science. They are calling on the public to ‘stand with the Science 14’ against U.S. Right to Know’s record request.

“’It’s a tactic pulled straight from the climate change deniers’ playbook — and now an anti-science, agenda-driven organization is using it to bully another group of scientists,’ the Cornell Alliance for Science says.

“’All of these scientists have proactively engaged with the public to raise scientific awareness about agricultural innovation and contributed to the scientific consensus about the safety of GMOs. FOIA requests are a vital tool for a transparent democracy. However, this FOIA is clearly a last ditch witch-hunt by an anti-GMO group to mislead the public and keep scientists from doing their work.’

“’We’ve seen this anti-science bullying tactic before in Climategate, where academic discussion was taken out of context to mislead the public. Broad anti-science campaigns like this are hurting our society. Please join the fight for academic freedom by signing our letter to support the scientists under attack and urge them to stand strong in the face of anti-science bullying,’ the Alliance says.

(Why is wanting to see the emails of paid scientists to and from agribusiness and biotech corporations “bullying?” It’s only bullying if false accusations are being made. But no accusations at all are being made. Could it be that Cornell’s scientists—and others—feel squeamish about revealing their connections to Big Ag? For the debate on record requests aimed at scientists, see “Why Scientists Often Hate Record Requests” by Anna Clark, Columbia Journalism Review, February 25, 2015. The National Geographic magazine also recently fell into the trap of equating the consensus on global warming with the science on GMOs. The pro-GMO Center for Science in the Public Interest recently refused an offer to debate the issue of the labeling of GMO foods. See “CSPI Refuses to Debate Consumers Union on Labeling of GMO Foods” in the Corporate Crime Reporter, February 27, 2015.)

“Ruskin says the Cornell Alliance is just another arm of the corporate push for GMOs. ‘The agrichemical and biotech industries have a new PR shop at Cornell University, financed by the Gates Foundation,’ Ruskin said. ‘This is just the latest sorry example of the corporatization of the university in general, and Cornell University in particular.’

“’The agrichemical industry and the Gates Foundation have hired the good name of Cornell University to trash our efforts to uncover the details of the agrichemical industry’s $100 million campaign to defend GMOs.’

“The Cornell Alliance for Science says that they want to ‘depolarize’ the debate on GMOs. But really it seems like they just want to defeat public health, public interest, consumer and environmental advocates who are concerned about the health and environmental effects of genetically engineered food.”

Why is the Gates Foundation funding this attack on public health, public interest, and consumer and environmental advocates? And how can The New York Times go along with it? Should “opinion” be allowed in the pages of the Times when it is an obvious piece of industry PR boilerplate?

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NEIL YOUNG’S NEXT ALBUM: ‘THE MONSANTO YEARS’

In mid-June of this year, Neil Young will release his next album, entitled, “The Monsanto Years.”

The Monsanto Years are here and we are living them. Monsanto is the poster-child for what is wrong with corporate controlled government in our world. “The Monsanto Years” encompasses several associated subjects that millions of people worldwide are concerned about and active in.

These subjects include: No One Owns the Sacred Seed. The Worldwide Solution to Climate Change. Sustainable Organic Agriculture. Separation of Corporation and State. Corporate Justice Applied. The Age of Extinction. Corporate Media and the Disinformation Business. World-Wide Water Shortages. Local Solutions. And more.

There is no end to my admiration of this artist.

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CHIPOTLE NIXES GMO FOODS IN ITS OFFERINGS

Green America, a national nonprofit organization working to create a green economy, issued the following statement today in response to Chipotle’s announcement of removing GMOs from its foods:

“Chipotle’s announcement that they are removing genetically engineered ingredients is major step forward for the company and an important milestone in creating a safer and healthier food system for all Americans. Increasingly, it is clear that consumers want food without genetically engineered ingredients, and have already rewarded Chipotle with increased sales for its growing non-GMO commitments. Evidence shows that GMOs are increasing the use of toxic herbicide use due to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Most recently, Glyphosate, which is commonly used on GMO crops, was deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the impacts of GMOs on the environment and human health and it is time for the restaurant industry and other food companies to make a change. Chipotle has shown that it is possible for a large fast food chain to adopt a more sustainable food supply. It is time that all food companies follow suit and move beyond genetically engineered ingredients and towards a more sustainable food system that benefits people and the planet.”

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POPE’S STANCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE STIRS KOCH BROTHERS’ IRE

Guess who thinks that Pope Francis’s impending encyclical on climate change is “unscientific” when it declares that wrecking the planet is immoral, if not suicidal. Why, conservatives at the Heartland Institute, Charles Koch’s right-wing “think” tank, that’s who.

“The Holy Father is being misled by unreliable and unscientific fearmongers,” the Koch Foundation funded organization says, painting the Pope as a doddering old fool being misled by the evil Wormtongues of the left.

The fact that the Koch brothers make billions upon billions of dollars by selling the stuff that’s causing climate change isn’t lost on most people. It’s only the fools at the Heartland Institute, doddering or not, who don’t understand…on purpose. Oh that’s right, the Kochs are paying their salaries.

Pope Francis must still believe that love makes the world go ‘round. The Kochs and their lackeys know that it’s really money that does that.

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30,000 ARGENTINE HEALTH PROS CALL FOR BAN ON ROUNDUP

Following the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, Argentina’s union of doctors and health professionals, FESPROSA, has issued a statement throwing the support of its 30,000 members behind the decision:

“The organization (IARC) has just released the results of a study that overturns the agribusiness model. Thus the complaints that affected residents and scientists outside the orbit of corporations have been making for years have gained renewed momentum,” FESPROSA said in the statement.

FESPROSA explained:

“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF). Soy is not the only crop addicted to glyphosate: the herbicide is also used for transgenic maize and other crops. Where glyphosate falls, only GMOs can grow. Everything else dies.

“Our trade union, the Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FESPROSA), which represents more than 30,000 doctors and health professionals in our country, includes the Social Health Collective of Andrés Carrasco. Andrés Carrasco was a researcher at the Argentine government research institute, CONICET, who died a year ago. He showed the damage caused by glyphosate to embryos. For disseminating his research, he was attacked by the industry and the authorities at CONICET. Today, WHO vindicates him.

“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.

“Health authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human life.”

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GMO CORN SEEN LACKING IN NUTRIENTS

An eye-opening investigation conducted by Canada’s only supplier of non-GMO corn seed has revealed that genetically modified “Frankencorn” is severely lacking in a number of vital nutrients, reports Natural News.

Compared to non-GMO corn varieties, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn contains only a small fraction of the amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and carbon normally found in natural corn.

Shattering the myth that there’s no substantial difference between GMO and non-GMO crops, the report by De Dell Seed Company of London, Ontario, shows that GMO corn is nutritionally deficient and wholly unfit for human consumption. In nearly every vitamin and mineral category tested, GMO corn was found to contain only trace amounts of many key nutrients necessary for life.

According to the report, corn ears were selected from two adjacent corn fields in Iowa — one growing Roundup Ready corn and the other growing non-GMO corn. The corn ears were selected from multiple locations in each field two weeks prior to harvest to get a proper sampling, and they were then shelled from the cob and sent to a laboratory for testing.

When the results came back, researchers found that the Roundup Ready corn contained 13 parts per million (ppm) of glyphosate, the primary active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. The non-GMO corn, on the other hand, contained no glyphosate.

“The EPA standard for glyphosate in water in America is .7 ppm,” explains Moms Across America. “European tests showed organ damage to animals at .1 ppb (.0001 ppm) of glyphosate in water. Our water levels allow glyphosate 7,000 times higher than what has been shown to be toxic in animals. This corn has 13 ppm! That’s 130,000 times higher than what is toxic in water!”

Similarly, the GMO corn samples were found to have higher pH levels, higher sodium content and significantly less natural phosphate, potassium, calcium, and magnesium compared to the non-GMO corn.

Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/049515_GMO_corn_nutrient_content_glyphosate.html#ixzz3YrdhONgm

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A NOTE ABOUT BALTIMORE

As the riots swirled around Baltimore, here’s what John Angelos, son of the owner of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, said after the club closed the stadium at Camden Yards to the public.

“My great source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

“The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”

He’s right, and his words strike at the core reasons why the African-American community in Baltimore exploded at the tragic death of Freddie Gray.

But to me, the core question is more personal—more one on one. Who do these violent, aggressive, murderous cops think they are? I’m not talking about good Officer Wright who saves your kid’s life. I’m talking about the beasts who destroyed Freddie Gray’s body and let him die. Or the cop who shot unarmed Michael Brown, or the Cleveland cop who pulled up to an unarmed 12 year old kid and offed him. Or even in my home town of Santa Rosa where a kid with a toy gun was murdered by a cop. Need I go on—because there are all kinds of other cases where police decide to murder people, especially black people? Like the privileged white guy who mistook his pistol for a taser and killed a guy. Well, it’s too depressing. All I can say is that black people in our country live under a cloud of fear that the uniformed, armed, militarized, and bigoted forces that are supposed to serve and protect them are actually looking for any good reason to beat the crap out of them, damage them, and maybe even kill them. Hey—it’s what’s happening. Rodney King was a tea party compared to what we’re seeing today.

Here’s what I think: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And there is no more absolute power than a gun in my holster and a license to kill, at my discretion, anyone who I think represents a threat to me or anyone else. I am judge and jury. I have the badge. If you stinking lowlifes think you can challenge me, I’ll let you taste hot lead. My anger fuels my adrenalin, and my adrenalin turns me from the nice guy into the Incredible Hulk. Disobey me and I will shoot you in the heart. Give me a challenge and it will be met with lethal force. And you know what? I will not be prosecuted. I will not even be arraigned. I will stay on the force with full pay and the protection of the institution and my fellow officers. I hold the gun, the cards, and the rights. If I want to kill you, I will. And there’s nothing, nothing you can do about it.

This is the reality our black citizens face every day. We white guys and gals—we don’t have to even think about stuff like this. But if I’m a black guy or woman, every morning when I get up and try to live a normal life, look in the mirror, and see a black face, I see a victim of racism. I see a running rabbit pursued by a system of racial injustice. I see a target of police violence. I see someone who is not worthy. I see someone who can be killed by the society I live in without consequence. I don’t matter.

So when Freddie Gray gets murdered, I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t care if it’s my neighborhood or your neighborhood or wherever. I’m going to burn and loot and destroy and tear down this murderous, unfair, infuriating, outrageous, bigoted, racist, humiliating system. Just try to understand.

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