Pope Francis, Edward Snowden, and Our Threatened Democracy
In this week’s post, we search for virtue in our society, and find it exemplified in every organic farm and garden.
But make no mistake, the wolf is at the door.
American democracy is threatened by a full-blown, radically conservative, military-industrial-corporate-surveillance monster. This malignancy was born many decades ago, but fed hungrily on the fear generated by the 9/11 tragedy to bloat itself into positions of enormous power and control.
It used secret infusions of tax revenue and corporate profits to buy off Congress. Its secrecy makes a mockery of the idea that we are a country of laws, not men, because such secrecy and wholesale spying on American citizens is expressly forbidden by the Constitution. Its tentacles (the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the DEA, Google, corporate espionage agencies, state and local police, and so on) reached not just for terrorists, but also for peaceful protestors of criminal banking practices, to name just one out-of-control institution too big to fail.
It used governmental agencies like the EPA and USDA to support the rapacious and destructive activities of Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont. It spread lies and disinformation to quell public dissent. It used police to smash, taser, and pepper spray dissenters. And there’s more—lots more.
For blowing the lid off this viper pit, we have Edward Snowden to thank. Right now, as you read this, there are buses running in Washington, DC, with large signs saying, “Thank you Edward Snowden.” And thank Chelsea Manning. And, I will add, Pope Francis, all of whom are risking everything for the beautiful truth that is beginning to shine through the smog of lies generated by this malignant monster. And by risking it all, I mean just that. Chelsea Manning is already in the clutches of the beast and has just begun experiencing the suffering it intends to mete out to him. Edward Snowden has forfeited his life as an American citizen for the cause of exposing the monster. And Pope Francis?
Well, Pope Francis. Don’t think that his recent Papal Exhortation excoriating rapacious capitalism, the personal greed of the plutocrats, and the diabolical glorification and worship of money haven’t been noticed. I’m paraphrasing, but he said, “I prefer a church that is dirty and bruised from having been out on the streets with the poor rather than closeted away in luxury.”
You know who would love these guys? Thomas Jefferson, who said that when a government fails the people, it’s time to change the government back to first principles. And Ben Franklin, too, who said that a people who would trade their liberty for safety deserve neither.
Look at our society today. It sure has an ugly side. This military-industrial-corporate-surveillance monster debases our American principles. But there is so much other ugliness. Ever watch television? Ever go to the movies? Ever play Grand Theft Auto or any of the war “games?” Did you like how Black Friday began to swallow the Thanksgiving holiday this year? They may all be for fun, but it’s butt-ugly fun.
Just as ugly is the National Rifle Association’s protection of and coddling of gun nuts. I understand that the criminally insane can perpetrate gun violence on innocent people out of derangement and hallucination, but I have no sympathy for those who cold-bloodedly demand the right to “open carry” weapons among a citizenry trying to relax and enjoy themselves. There’s an ugly, twisted logic that says that the way to prevent gun violence is by perpetually being ready to perpetrate it. Hello George Zimmerman.
So what is my point here, and what does it have to do with organic food?
My point is that our country, our society, seems to have let slip its handhold with true virtue. I’m not talking about individuals who may or may not be practicing virtues. I’m talking about institutionalized greed, deceit, law-breaking, spying, taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, robbing the poor, taking away overtime pay (as Eric Cantor has suggested by turning overtime into time off instead of time-and-a-half pay), doing away with habeus corpus—a legal principle that western civilization has had since the 13th Century—cutting benefits for those who can’t find jobs, cutting benefits for children, gutting food stamp programs that help feed the hungry, fomenting a war on women, trying to take away health care for all, shutting down abortion clinics, preventing women from getting contraceptives…and there’s so much more. Where is the virtue in any of this?
So the question becomes: what is virtue?
Virtue is a deity with many faces. First, virtue is kind—it does no unwarranted harm. Drone strikes may be virtuous in the sense that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were virtuous. The atomic bombs saved perhaps millions of lives—Japanese as well as American–by forcing Imperial Japan to surrender. But if you are a person trying to sleep with your children by your side and you hear American drones overhead, you know that at any moment you could be obliterated. That is a form of terrorism, and it is not virtuous. It may be necessary to kill a bad guy, but in no way is it virtuous to do it out of the blue sky by drones that cause “collateral damage,” as we so euphemistically call the murder of innocent civilians.
Virtue is caring. Is the attempt to bring more people under an umbrella of affordable health insurance virtuous? Yes. Is the attempt to disembowel the program virtuous? I can’t imagine how.
Virtue is just. When bankers who have destroyed a country’s economy walk free to enjoy their mega-millions without fear of prosecution, is that just? No—and it’s not virtuous either.
Virtue is fair. Is it fair when women make only three-quarters of what men make for the same work? No—and it’s not virtuous either. How about when fabulously wealthy big box store executives suggest that their impoverished employees get enough to eat by holding food drives? Give me a break.
Virtue is found individually among whistleblowers like Snowden and Manning; by the millions of people who try to care for each other amidst the cruelties of the malignant monster; and virtue is seen in that suddenly shining—and completely unexpected—light in Vatican City, Pope Francis.
But virtue can also be found in organic agriculture, in the people who practice it, and in the people who buy its products. Consider:
Is conventional agriculture virtuous, with its toxic chemicals, factory-made fertilizers, its genetically modified and disease-causing seeds, and its malign effects on men and women, fetuses, and the whole environment? With its exploited and injured farm workers? With its family farmers driven off their lands? With its soil erosion, polluted ground waters, eutrophied lakes and ponds, and dead zones in the oceans? With its fat-cat “farmers” hauling in government subsidies? No—I don’t think so.
But how about organic farmers, who abjure toxic chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, genetic alterations, and environmentally damaging practices? How about their compost that refreshes the soil and fills it with life and fertility—more fertility after a crop is sown, grown, and harvested than before the crops were sown? How about organic farmers’ respect for the nature of the animals they raise for food? How about their ties to natural systems and respect for natural laws? How about their attemp0ts to understand nature’s huge interwoven web of life and how to care for it properly? Is all that virtuous? You bet it is.
If we are to get through this difficult time in our political history with our democracy and liberties intact, then we will get there fueled by honest, virtuous organic food.
Is that really true? Will the rapacious, toxic, environmentally destructive food system we rely on really disappear? Could organic agriculture really feed the world? Put it this way: if anything in this world is virtuous, it’s Mother Nature. She sets the rules. When humans set the rules, we get short-sighted and toxic agriculture that produces the raw materials for processed food. When nature sets the rules and we follow them, we get organic agriculture.
When we get to the fair and just world that Pope Francis envisions, our food supply will be produced organically.
CORPORATE ESPIONAGE UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY
For the past month or so, I’ve been writing about the military-industrial complex and how the revelations of its spying here at home for political and military reasons works hand in hand with corporate America’s spying for economic reasons. Here’s a new and even more troubling wrinkle. Writing for Reuters news service, Ralph Nader recently had this to say:
“It’s not just the NSA that has been caught spying on Americans. Some of our nation’s largest corporations have been conducting espionage as well, against civic groups.
“For these big companies with pliable ethics, if they don’t win political conflicts with campaign donations or lobbying power, then they play dirty. Very dirty.
That’s the lesson of a new report on corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations by my colleagues at Essential Information. The title of the report is Spooky Business, and it is apt. Find it at: http://www.corporatepolicy.org/spookybusiness.pdf.
“The spy narratives in the report are lurid and gripping. Hiring investigators to pose as volunteers and journalists. Hacking. Wiretapping. Information warfare. Physical intrusion. Investigating the private lives of nonprofit leaders. Dumpster diving using an active duty police officer to gain access to trash receptacles. Electronic surveillance. On and on. What won’t corporations do in service of profit and power?
“Many different types of nonprofit civic organizations have been targeted by corporate spies: environmental, public interest, consumer, food safety, animal rights, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, and social justice.
“A diverse constellation of corporations has planned or executed corporate espionage against these nonprofit civic organizations. Food companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Burger King, McDonald’s and Monsanto. Oil companies like Shell, BP and Chevron. Chemical companies like Dow and Sasol. Also involved are the retailers (Wal-Mart), banks (Bank of America), and, of course, the nation’s most powerful trade association: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Plenty of mercenary spooks have joined up to abet them, including former officials at the FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service and U.S. military. Sometimes even government contractors are part of the snooping.
“In effect, big corporations have been able to hire portions of the national security apparatus, and train their tools of spycraft on the citizens groups of our nation.
“This does not bode well for our democracy.
“Our democracy is only as strong as the civic groups that work to preserve and protect it every day. To function effectively, these groups must be able to keep their inner workings secure from the prying eyes and snooping noses of the spies-for-hire.
“Corporate espionage is a threat to individual privacy, too. As citizens, we do not relinquish our rights to privacy when we disagree with the ideas or actions of a corporation. It is especially galling that corporations should employ such unethical or illegal tactics to deprive Americans of their fundamental rights.
“Where is the Justice Department? In France, when Électricité de France was caught spying on Greenpeace, there was an investigation and prosecutions. In Britain, Rupert Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World newspaper was ensnared in a telephone hacking scandal involving British public officials and celebrities. The Guardian newspaper excavated the story relentlessly, government investigations followed, with prosecutions ongoing. Here in the United States, the Justice Department has been silent.
“How about Congress? Corporate espionage against nonprofits is an obvious topic for a congressional investigation and hearings. But, alas, Congress, too, has been somnolent.
“How much corporate espionage against nonprofits is taking place? Without investigations, subpoenas and hearings, no one really knows. But it is likely that there is more corporate espionage than we know about, because the snooping corporations and their private investigators toil mightily to hide their dirty tricks, which are designed to intimidate and deter people from speaking out and standing up against corporate crimes, frauds, and abuses. Is the little we know merely the tip of the iceberg?”
WE LOVE OUR POLICE, BUT DO OUR POLICE LOVE US?
Remember—if the malignant monster (MM for short) we’re describing in this post accomplishes its power grab, there will not be any organic farming. Our food supply will be totally controlled by corporations like Monsanto. If it wasn’t so dreadful, MM’s attempt to take over the world—like some mad scientist from a comic book–would be funny. But it’s not funny. “Political Blindspot” is a website that sounds warnings much like I’ve been doing here. The following is from its latest post:
“An International Association of Chiefs of Police conference in Philadelphia this past week discussed a plan to allow law enforcement to ‘keep anything deemed criminal off the Internet.’ This includes, among other things, stopping any form of protest deemed ‘illegal,’ including the sorts of marches and civil disobedience engaged in by Martin Luther King Jr.
“On hand was a Chicago Police Department official who told attendees that his department has been working directly with a ‘security chief at Facebook’ to block certain users from the social networking site if it is determined they have posted what is deemed ‘criminal content.’
“Kenneth Lipp, an independent journalist who attended the conference, reported that an unnamed CPD officer ‘said specifically that his agency was working with Facebook to block users by their individual account, IP address or device, such as a cell phone or computer.’
“Lipp noted that law enforcement agencies discussed technologies at ‘workshops held by and for top police executives from throughout the world (mostly US, Canada and the United Kingdom, with others like Nigeria among a total of 13,000 representatives of the law enforcement community in town for the event). These technologies, widely available from vendors, would ‘allow agencies to block content, users, and even devices, using Geofencing software that allows departments to block service to a specified device when the device leaves an established virtual geographic perimeter.
”The capability, Lipp explained, ‘is a basic function of advanced mobile technologies like smartphones, OnStar type features that link drivers to central assistance centers, and automated infrastructure and other hardware including unmanned aerial systems that must sense and respond.’
“A recent article in Governing magazine, in which it was reported that the Chicago Police Department is using ‘network analysis’ tools to identify persons of interest on social media, cited the statistic that ‘95.9 percent of law enforcement agencies use social media, 86.1 percent for investigative purposes,’ a statistic quoted from the head of the social media group for the International Association of Chiefs of Police.”
Secrecy, espionage, disinformation, deceit, and unaccountable corporate, banking, military, and police functions that muzzle free speech are antithetical to a free and open democracy. As John Adams said at the close of the Constitutional Convention 226 years ago, “We’ve given you a republic…if you can keep it.”
Prelude to a Crash
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Prelude to a Crash
Back when Augustus Caesar ruled the Roman Empire, the world’s total human population was about 200 million, it’s been estimated. It wasn’t until 1804 that the population hit a billion, and in 1927, it hit 2 billion. Since then, within the lifetime of many people alive today, the population curve has soared upward. Today it’s estimated that the world’s human population is about 7.5 billion and is slated to hit 10 billion by 2083.
During the last 150 years, corporations have grown from small businesses into the corporate behemoths we have today. Capitalism has conquered the earth—literally—just as Homo sapiens is in the process of conquering the earth. Because of the way corporations are structured under capitalism, growth means success. Corporations are only as good as their bottom lines. It doesn’t matter what their impact is on human or environmental welfare. Their growth, their profits, and their returns for shareholders are all that matters. Rapaciousness is built into their operations. But what do we call cells that grow without restraint? We call them cancer.
In what is surely one of the worst and most stupid decisions ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Citizens United case declared corporations to be people. But what do we do with people who act like rapacious corporations? We call them criminals and lock them away in cages.
It’s obvious that our Federal government is more interested in protecting corporations than the people who make them up. And corporations are now so big that they are damaging the planet. The triumph of capitalism is the triumph of a rapist, the triumph of cancer, the triumph of any invasive species: a prelude to a crash.
OK, so that’s the problem. What’s the solution? As always, we look to nature as the source of real health. How does nature deal with growth and yet avoid excess? The answer is in checks and balances, just as our Founding Fathers so wisely saw when devising our Constitution. Nature’s answer is to increase diversity through evolution, making each new creature a trophic niche for some other creature. Along with diversification comes miniaturization. During the age of reptiles, dinosaurs grew to gigantic sizes, which made them vulnerable to climate changes and led to their extinction. But reptiles didn’t go extinct. We still have plenty of them around—just not 20-foot-tall, 10-ton, flesh eating monsters.
We’ve been down this path before with corporations and rapacious capitalism. That’s why the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed to break up the trusts of the late 19th Century. Too big to fail meant too big to exist. Then during the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act built an impenetrable wall between banks that functioned as a safe place for working folks to park their money and banks that gambled with financial instruments. But Congress did away with those pieces of legislation and many other checks and balances on corporations, and we see the results today in the wreckage of many human lives and the despoiling of the planet. What despoiling you ask? Global warming is poised to release trillions of pounds of methane that had been sequestered in the polar regions. Methane is many, many times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
What if we re-instituted the legislative checks and balances that have been wiped off the books, and outlawed corporate welfare? What if the enormously wealthy among us paid 95 percent of their income in taxes, as they did in the Eisenhower era? So if you made $50 million last year, you’d still have $2.5 million to live on. Is that a hardship? What if we organized taxation on manufacturing to make it profitable for one company’s waste product to be another company’s raw material? What if instead of plowing up the American heartland to grow GMO corn to make ethanol to run in our automobiles, we used the millions of tons of organic waste we toss into landfills instead?
In fact, the more you think about the solutions to our problems, the more they sound like an organic farm or garden, where organic matter is recycled, where pests and weeds are kept under control by natural checks and balances that occur with greater biodiversity, where growth happens even as the system is improved, where no toxic chemicals or practices are allowed.
So how do we get from here to the organic economic future we so desperately need?
First, re-institute the economic regulations and safeguards on corporate size and activities that have been torn away in recent years. Then, rewrite the tax code so wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share and then some. Then, get money out of politics by paying legislators and elected officials the way we pay government employees, giving them budgets to participate in elections. Then—and most importantly—mobilize the population to lighten citizens’ environmental impact by building a better mass transit system, recycling everything, finding alternatives to toxic chemicals, and subsidizing organic
farmers instead of millionaire conventional farmers, they way we do now.
This is not some Progressive agenda. It’s a sane agenda in a world gone crazy with greed.
CORPORATE ESPIONAGE AGAINST NON-PROFITS
In a recent post on this blog, I described how the NSA surveillance of Americans is shared with corporations as well as other government agencies. Here’s another take on why this is happening:
Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against non-profit organizations with near impunity, according to a new report by Essential Information.
The report, titled Spooky Business, documents how corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), US military, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Secret Service and local police departments to target non-profit organizations.
Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON – have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against non-profit organizations, activists, and whistleblowers.
Many different types of non-profit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights, and arms control groups.
Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against non-profit organizations. The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a non-profit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical, and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.
Founded in 1982 by Ralph Nader, Essential Information is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. It is involved in a variety of projects to promote corporate accountability, a more just economy, public health and a sustainable planet. It has published a bi-monthly magazine, books and reports, sponsored conferences, provided writers with grants to pursue investigations, published daily news summaries, operated clearinghouses that disseminate information to grassroots organizations in the United States and developing countries worldwide, and has hosted scores of conferences focusing on government and corporate accountability.
GARDEN CENTER PLANTS MAY BE KILLING BEES
Delana Jones from “Yes on 522,” the group that tried to get GMOs labeled in Washington State, sent this notice:
“A first-of-its-kind report has just found bee-killing pesticides in more than half of the ‘bee-friendly’ home garden plants sold at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s — with no warning to consumers.
“The report, which was done by Friends of the Earth, shows this problem is widespread and that many unsuspecting home gardeners are purchasing plants pre-treated with pesticides proven to kill bees.
“The toxins in question are the world’s most popular pesticides, neonicotinoids (or neonics), implicated as a key factor in escalating global bee die-offs.
From 50,000 bumble bees found dead in a Target parking lot in Portland to beekeepers across the country losing up to 90 percent of their bees last winter, stories of bee die-offs are emerging from around the world.
“Neonics can kill bees outright and, even at low doses, can weaken their immune systems and impair critical brain functions, making it hard for them to find their food and return to the hive. Neonics also remain in the plants and the soil of our gardens for months or even years, continuing to poison bees.
“Europe has already banned bee-harming pesticides, and top retailers in the U.K. are refusing to sell them. Now Home Depot’s and Lowe’s CEOs need to make the same commitment here.”
ORGANIC HEIRLOOM FRUIT CURDS SOUND DELICIOUS
Lee Greene, founder of Scrumptious Pantry, is traveling cross country spreading the word about her organic fruit curds and educating folks about the real meaning of heirloom along the way.
These sweet fruit curds are made from wild-foraged heirloom fruit conserves blended with eggs, butter, sugar, and lemon to achieve a thick consistency, almost like a custard. The four varieties are Lingonberry, Huckleberry, Paw Paw, and a classic cranberry sauce that showcases the rare Ben Lear Cranberry. All these will be exclusively available nationally at all Whole Foods Market nationally.
Lee Greene is committed to the heirloom food movement and is aiming to preserve the true flavors of biodiversity and traditional heirlooms fruits in each jar.
The paw paw is an indigenous fruit that grows in the Midwest and southern states, and has tropical notes, with hints of banana and mango. It is also known as “Midwest Mango” and “Indiana Banana”.
The huckleberry is another indigenous fruit of the United States. A distant cousin of the blueberry, its western species is foraged in the forests of Oregon and Washington States. It has a complex sweet and tart flavor. There is an eastern species as well.
The lingonberry grows in the wilds of Washington State, Alaska, and Canada. It has a very vibrant, tart flavor, with just enough sweetness. It’s common throughout Scandinavia and northern Russia as well.
To make Scrumptious Pantry’s Heirloom Fruit Curds, these fruits are blended with Organic Valley butter, organic egg yolk, organic evaporated cane juice, and organic lemon juice concentrate for a fruit spread that can be enjoyed straight up or as a helper for holiday baking. All three curds are recommended on scones or pancakes. They can be used as filling for cakes and tart shells, swirled into cheesecake, or used as the base for frozen desserts.
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Dear NSA…
Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly who at the National Security Agency is reading this, so I can’t address you by your name. I’m hoping it will be someone important—General Keith Alexander, is that you? Would it be immodest of me to think that James Clapper, our Director of National Intelligence, is reading this? Jim, is that you?
Most likely, you’re some low-level flunky, sitting at a desk in a room the size of three football fields with several thousand other “readers.” Is that what they call you people who are forced to read the world’s communications?
Now hold on—I don’t mean to insult you, whoever you are; after all, your security clearance is way above mine or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’m guessing that they don’t pay you very much, what with your having to read my inconsequential postings. The guy who reads Putin’s emails—he or she probably makes a ton of money. But not you.
Now I’m going to make your day and help you take another step up the ladder there at spook central. While this post seems to be the simple drivel of someone with too much time on his hands, it actually has encrypted within it the state secrets of…well, I don’t want to give too much away out here on the web where anyone’s grandmother and her boyfriend can read it. Suffice it to say that despite my hellishly clever encryption, I’m betting that even a flunky like you can crack my code and reveal to your higher ups the real scoop about…well, again. That’s not information for a public forum.
I’m aware that you share your surveillance with other agencies, governmental and otherwise, so let me say a few words to them, as long as they’re reading this post along with you.
To the FBI and State and Local Law Enforcement:
I have to apologize for my irresponsible lack of criminal activity lately—but you should have known me when I was 18. Now that the Statute of Limitations has run out, I could help with all those cold cases you have filling your filing cabinets. But I’m no stool pigeon. You’d have to beat the info out of me with a rubber hose in some dimly-lit backroom of a station house on the wrong side of the tracks. You wouldn’t do that to a guy with five grandchildren, would you? You would? In that case, I’ve forgotten everything that happened in the last millennium. Well, I’ll give you just one taste: remember that 1956 Ford that conked out when someone poured sugar into its gas tank? That was me.
To the military:
Surely you remember me? BR13739540? It was a while ago, but now that you are keeping up-to-date on me, my life, my wife, my wife’s life, our family, our family’s friends, the friends of our family’s friends, their contacts, employees, employers, their employers’ friends, the people who call wrong numbers and get the friends of their friends, the permutations and combinations of the telephone numbers of all the wrong numbers, and the random-generated contacts through the phone logs of those people whose names contain many of the same letters as my third cousins twice removed, welcome! It’s almost as if I know you.
Just one question: how come all the news reports say that 93 percent of Americans agree that genetically modified foods should be labeled, and that an overwhelming majority of folks in Washington State and California wanted GMOs labeled, but when it came time to vote, the ballot measures requiring labeling were defeated?
Such a mystery. So I went to Madame Serena, the local palm reader and psychic, and asked her. She gazed deep into her crystal ball and said, “The answer grows more distinct, but only lots more cash will clear the ball.” See? The very truth. Amazing, those psychics.
To J.C. Penney:
I know that I once clicked on your online ad for Body Shine Plus-Sized Feminine Illumination Briefs, but that was because I was horny and it was late. So now whether I’m online looking up pre-finished hardwood flooring or Italian espresso machines, I am also inundated with ads offering your plus-sized women’s foundation garments illustrated with pictures of skinny women’s pelvises.
To the Koch Brothers:
How come former New York City Mayor Ed Koch pronounced his name “kotch,” but you pronounce yours “coke?” Does Coca-Cola pay you for giving it all that free publicity? Or do you own Coca-Cola, too?
To All Those Others Whom I Don’t Know But Who Are on the NSA’s “Share” List and Are Reading This:
Half a nice day.
WHY DID I-522 LOSE?
As you now know, Initiative 522, which would have required foods containing GMOs to be labeled, was defeated by Washington voters.
Did the people of Washington State say to themselves, “We don’t want to know whether our food contains genetic modifications”? Doubtful.
Did they say to themselves, “Labeling will only confuse me”? Very doubtful.
Did they say to themselves, “I trust Monsanto and other giant corporations to have my best interests at heart”? Very, very doubtful.
How about when Monsanto and its pals flooded the airwaves with millions of dollars worth of ads that told the people of Washington State that labeling GMO foods would raise their food bills? Did that do it?
Corporate America has working folks on the ropes. People—including kids—are going hungry. Parents are making hard choices about what foods to buy to satisfy their family’s hunger. “You mean that those environmentalists want to raise food prices? No way.” And that, dear readers, is the bottom line, and that’s why the struggling voters of Washington State voted down the labeling initiative. They believed Monsanto and its junk food pals. They believed the lies. The word never got out that in the rest of the developed world, in the many countries that require labeling of GMOs, there have been no increases in food prices. Why should there be? It doesn’t cost anything to put a few words on a food label. The voters were snookered into thinking they were voting in their own interest by rejecting GMO labeling, but of course they weren’t. They were voting for the interests of Monsanto and the One Percent and against their own interest. But they didn’t know that because—and here’s the rub—the news media never told them, and that’s because the news media is owned by the very corporations that work hand in glove with the government, Big Agriculture, the junk food corporations, and the Biotech industry.
Now here comes journalist Tom Philpott with his take on what happened, and it’s hair-raising, if quite to be expected. Read his blog post:
“BIG FOOD IS OUT TO CRUSH THE GMO LABELING MOVEMENT”
“In my post on the defeat of Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, I speculated that the junk-food industry, which had poured millions into defeating the measure, might support a national label.
“My logic was this: Coke, Pepsi, Nestlé, etc., profitably operate in Europe, where GMO ingredients are scarce and labeling is mandatory. Presumably, they could do so in the United States, too. Eventually, I figured, they’d tire of fighting the agrichemical/GMO seed industry’s fight. I pointed to a statement made yesterday by the Big Food trade group the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), to the effect that it would advocate for ‘national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients.’
“Boy, was I naive. According to GMA documents uncovered by the public-health lawyer and writer Michele Simon, Big Food has no intention of laying down its lobbying or campaign finance swords on the labeling fight. Quite the opposite, in fact. Simon got hold of the documents after the Washington State Attorney General’s Office sued the GMA for having ‘illegally collected and spent more than $7 million’ to fight the labeling initiative ‘while shielding the identity of its contributors.’
“To settle the matter, GMA revealed the names of the companies, which turned out to include Pepsi, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Nestlé USA. Simon told me that she caught wind that the AG’s office had obtained the GMA documents during its investigation, which she in turn obtained from the AG’s office under a Washington open-records statute. But not before the GMA was given the opportunity to redact portions of the documents.
“Even so, the docs contain some juicy stuff. Scroll down to the February 18, 2013, ‘Privileged and Confidential Memorandum’ document, which spells out GMA’s labeling agenda. It reports that at a January 19 meeting, GMA’s board of directors ‘coalesced in support of a multi-pronged approach to address the challenges presented by proposals for mandatory labeling of any product containing GMOs.’ Here’s what came next:
1. To oppose all state efforts that would impose mandatory labels while efforts are taken to pursue a federal solution:
a. Engage in state by state campaigns to defeat ballot measures.
b. Oppose state legislation.
2. Develop a transparency and disclosure platform based on consumer research: REDACTED
3. Pursue statutory federal pre-emption that does not include a labeling requirement.
4. Engage the efforts that protect the image of the industry while engaging in these efforts.
5. Develop a long-range funding mechanism for GMA companies to support these efforts and other Board-approved initiatives in defense of the industry brands that provides greater financial certainty and reduces companies’ exposure to criticism.
“The key bit is number three: ‘Pursue a statutory federal pre-emption that does not include a labeling requirement.’ Translation: GMA is pushing for a federal law that not only frees the industry from the burden of a national label, but that would also preempt any state labeling requirement. And the group is lining up cash—‘a long-range funding mechanism’—for the effort. And it’s planning to ‘oppose all state legislation’ in the meantime. The GMA did not return my calls seeking comment on the documents.
“Message: Proponents of GMO labeling face the lavishly funded opposition of Big Food—a powerful ally for the agrichemical/GMO industry in the battle against labeling.”
FDA’S PUBLIC COMMENT WEBSITE FAILS THE PUBLIC
Family farm and consumer advocates have been working for weeks to ensure meaningful public comment on the FDA’s proposed food safety rules. Now the government website that serves as a portal for the public’s comments on food safety is offline, out-of-service, or even refusing to accept comments.
“This is potentially disenfranchising thousands of farmers and consumers, and is flat-out unacceptable,” says Will Fantle, Codirector of the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “We have been working for months, as have many other organizations across the country, to raise public awareness of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the proposed rules developed to implement it. We have received numerous reports from our members that they cannot send in timely comments because the portal for doing so, regulations.gov, is not working.” And now it’s too late, as the public comment period closed on November 15—today as of this writing.
Many visitors to the FDA’s comment portal are reporting this message: “We are experiencing temporary technical difficulties and are working to restore full operations as soon as possible.” This message has been sporadically reported by members of the public for the past several weeks and now appears to be the standard case for anyone attempting to access the webpage. At other times, citizens have reportedly been advised to resubmit any comments they might have posted while other visitors to the website, in November, were greeted with a message that “planned system maintenance” was being conducted and would be completed by August 6.
The FSMA was passed by Congress in late 2010 after anger boiled over following years of food poisoning outbreaks, associated with dangerous fecal pathogens, that impacted peanuts, spinach, sprouts, melons and imported foods. The FDA’s draft rules, however, saddle local and organic family-scale farmers with unnecessary and expensive prevention practices more appropriate for riskier industrial processing and distribution systems. And the draft rules fail to address a health control strategy for the primary source of many of the fecal-generated pathogens-–industrial-scale feedlots and livestock facilities.
The new FDA rules, by the way, were written by Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive now in charge of food safety at the FDA. He’s the same guy who wrote the 20-year-old FDA rule that gave food processors the loophole to avoid labeling GMOs in the first place. The GMOs, of course, are grown from seed patented by Monsanto.
Organic Gardening and the Meaning of Life
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on Organic Gardening and the Meaning of Life
Whatever else human beings do on this planet, our ability to create beauty is our highest achievement. Who do we remember from ages past? Our artists. Homer, Praxiteles, Virgil, Michaelangelo, DaVinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Bach, Beethoven, and all the magnificent spirits who have taken the dirt and dust of the earth and created works that will last forever because…because they are incredibly, inexpressibly beautiful.
And what does that mean—beautiful? It means that we humans have within us a unique faculty that can recognize beauty and be moved by it. Anyone who has had a close relationship with an animal, a dog or a cat or a favorite horse, knows that these creatures respond to and return affection, even love. But does a dog or a cat appreciate beauty? The ability to stand in awe before beauty and be touched in the innermost soul is most likely a peculiar faculty of the human being. I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but I have seen no evidence for this ability outside of the human experience.
Woe to any person who lacks this faculty, for they live in a ruined world devoid of that very spark that gives meaning and value to life.
Creations that are beautiful—whether manmade or artifacts of nature—touch us with their truth. Nothing false, deceitful, or ulterior can be true, and because it isn’t true, it can’t be beautiful. It can mock beauty. It can ape beauty. But it can’t have that intrinsic beauty that so moves the human spirit. The well-crafted lie, the sweetest words of “I love you” said for ulterior motive, the pretty false front that charms the gullible, all turn ugly when the truth comes out. Only the honest, transparent truth is always beautiful.
The truly beautiful is truly good. And it is this quality of pure goodness that touches us. The honesty, the “rightness,” the knowledge of a connection between the object of beauty and the source of goodness—this is what wins us over. This goes far beyond what is merely pretty. The truth can be hard. It can take an honest look at ugliness, cruelty, and despair. But if it is honest and insightful, even hard truth can be beautiful. Shakespeare gave us fine examples.
So what does this have to do with organic farming and gardening?
Just as an artist makes a connection with a truth to produce something beautiful, so the organic farmer or gardener makes a similar connection to a source of ultimate goodness. And that source is nature. If nature isn’t fundamentally good, then the world isn’t fundamentally good. And if the world isn’t fundamentally good, then it can’t be true or beautiful either.
But since we perceive truth and beauty in the natural world, then it follows that there is goodness inherent in nature. Yes, nature is red in tooth and claw, and yes, death befalls nature’s creatures. But from within this eat-and-be-eaten world, healthy ecosystems emerge. And they are beautiful because they work. And they are good because they work. And they are true because they work.
Nature can’t be false or underhanded. There are no tricks up nature’s sleeve. Its laws are inviolable. Its tendencies will hold sway. It is the way things are, whether we like it ore not. We contravene nature and her laws at our peril.
But consider the organic practitioner. He or she takes her clues from nature. Nature is her teacher, her guide, her rulebook. The organic practitioner tries to learn nature’s secrets—and they are only secret because we don’t understand them –and apply them to the farm and garden.
Every organic farmer and gardener soon learns the truth of nature. Her rules, energies, and tendencies are real, and following them results in good farms and gardens. And further, good farms and gardens are invariably beautiful because they are true to nature, places where nature’s honest rules are at work.
Reality is more than what is apparent. Reality includes what exists beyond the confines of human senses, or even imagination. When reality—nature’s laws—are implemented on the organic farm or in the organic garden, goodness is manifested in new ways. An unforeseen confluence of benefits arises. And when it occurs, it is always true, and it is always beautiful.
I dare you to make a breakfast of an egg laid by a hen that has the run of a pasture and the ability to be the hen she wants to be, eating bugs she finds in the grass, and contentedly associating with her fellow hens. You will immediately see the truth of nature in that beautiful egg, and it will be good.
So while artists touch our souls with their creations, so do our organic farmers and gardeners support our health—our wholeness–with their honest foods, produced according to nature’s principles. They may not belong in a museum, but they surely belong within us.
ORGANIC OPTIMISM AND CONVENTIONAL PESSIMISM
One of the things J.I. Rodale taught us way back in the day was that healthy soil makes healthy crops makes healthy people. And at Rodale, we repeated that mantra every chance we got. It was an optimistic statement, given that folks who are part of the organic movement tend toward cheerfulness and recognize the positive nature of Nature.
But there’s a corollary to the mantra that’s just as true, although it was not often stated in those halcyon days at Rodale. And that is: unhealthy soil makes unhealthy crops makes unhealthy people.
And yet, the positive and negative sides of this concept were behind the very genesis of the organic movement. Sir Albert Howard was an English botanist who was working as an agricultural advisor in India in the 1930s when he noticed that cattle grazing on pasture grown in soils kept in good health by the recycling of composted plants and manures did not develop the severe diseases that showed up in cattle grazing on pasture fertilized with chemicals. He wrote up his observations and recommendations for an organic agriculture in his 1940 book, “An Agricultural Testament.” This book was aimed at farmers and the general public and is rightly considered one of the founding works of the organic movement. Howard was quoted as saying, “the health of soil, plant, animal, and man is one and indivisible.” He also advocated the study of natural forest ecosystems for clues on how to farm in concordance with nature—a suggestion that has guided the development of organic agriculture ever since. And to give credit where it’s due, Rudolf Steiner, in his ground-breaking work on natural systems in the 1920s, also described how the best farm is a living organism that is run in accordance with nature’s principles. His Biodynamic system pre-dated the organic system, although at the level of practice on the farm, it was organic.
Here in America, it was J.I. Rodale who read Howard’s book and said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks.” He had a small farm near Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and started to put Howard’s ideas into practice—soon discovering that they worked. And so in 1942, he started “Organic Farming and Gardening” magazine. In it, he showed readers how to create the healthy soil that makes healthy crops and healthy people.
Rodale realized early on that there was the other side of this coin—that unhealthy soil creates unhealthy crops. He saw that unhealthy soil was soil depleted of nutrients by farming methods that returned only three mineral elements—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—to the soil, but not the all-important organic matter full of trace elements, humus particles, and most importantly, living creatures by the trillions in each handful. It was the health of the soil microorganisms that made the soil a living ecosystem. He saw that conventional farming rendered soils lifeless, depleted, prone to erosion, and grew crops prone to pests and diseases.
The answer to ill health, he reasoned, was not in treating people once they got sick, but in preventing disease through proper nutrition, such as offered by organic food production. And so he started Prevention magazine. Soon his articles started naming the nutritional elements that were in short supply in foods produced in unhealthy soil. Substances like vitamin E, bioflavinoids, vitamin C, calcium and magnesium in proper proportions, and so forth.
There was a smart Harvard graduate named Marshall Ackerman who worked for J.I. in marketing and advertising at that time (the early 1950s). Ackerman saw that there was a business opportunity in providing people with these missing nutrients. There were vitamin pills on the market in those days, but they were made in factories, not processed from real foods. Ackerman found some businessmen in New York City who were interested in making vitamins and food supplements from real foods and convinced them to produce them and advertise them in Prevention. And so the natural food supplement industry was born and became a huge success.
The conventional farming system, in contrast, came to rely more and more heavily on chemical inputs that kill things: pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics. Farms became factories. Animals became commodities. Cruelty became the norm. And the ill effects of factory farming spilled into populations here and abroad, damaging human health and the health of the environment, too. And then came genetic engineering—the greatest insult to nature ever. By the insertion of genes from one species, genus, or even kingdom to another, genetic engineers were basically saying, “Move over, Nature. We know better than you how to craft an organism for a farm.”
As organic farming produces an unforeseen confluence of benefits, so modern industrial agriculture and especially genetic engineering produces an unforeseen confluence of ill effects. The scientific literature is full of examples, despite the false claims of safety repeated over and over by Big Ag’s propagandists (what do you think Andy Warhol’s repetitive series of corporate icons was telling us?).
Genetic engineers don’t know better than nature how to create an organism suited to farm life. Far from it. Nature responds to these insults the way she always does—by trumping the insult. Spray enough herbicide on the weeds and you’ll encourage the development of superweeds. Use antibiotics profligately and you’ll encourage the development of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Spread enough pesticide on the corn and you’ll encourage the development of superpests that resist the pesticide. Use chemicals that are even more lethal and you won’t succeed in killing off the weeds, pathogens, or insects you’re after, you’ll simply encourage the development of even-more-resistant target organisms. This is exactly what’s been going on with factory farming through most of the 20th Century and now into the 21st. Despite the millions of tons of pesticides that have been sprayed on farms over the last century, have we ended the need for pesticides on conventional farms? No. Far from it. The chemical companies have convinced farmers and especially bankers who lend money to farmers, that the chemicals will protect the farms and the investments. Pesticides are a product you can sell for good profits. This organic thing—well, you can’t sell the absence of a product.
And so here we are today. The organic food industry has grown huge at the same time that factory farming has grown even huger. More and more people understand that choosing organic food protects them from a host of ills that come from conventional food. Sir Albert Howard’s pastures—one organic and free of disease, the other conventional and full of disease—have become the modern paradigms for our food system. More and more people are discovering why organic food is not just a pretty choice but a dire necessity. When they glimpse the truth, it hits them like a ton of bricks.
How the World’s Greatest Crime Syndicate Relates to Organic Farming
Organic Lifestyle Comments Off on How the World’s Greatest Crime Syndicate Relates to Organic Farming
With the continuing release of documents made public by Edward Snowden, we—the American people—are beginning to sense the scope of the surveillance state that the U.S. has become. Not only has the National Security Agency collected every kind of electronic communication and data on American citizens (in secret and with total disregard for the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution), but it has done so across the European Union, and around the world.
Why? All to bag a handful of terrorists? Well, that too, but then we have armed drones to take care of those guys, right? And our intelligence services, crammed full of data—meta and otherwise—seem to miss plots like the Kenyan bombings, the underwear bomber, Benghazi, and even 9/11. The question is, what is really happening with all that data? What is it for?
It’s not just our intelligence agencies and military who are clamoring for the data, but other government agencies like the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency. And indeed, we now know the NSA is sharing its information with those government agencies. And they are sharing that information with local police around the United States. Remember what happened to the Occupy movement when it dared to peacefully suggest that the Wall Street Banksters should be indicted, tried, and jailed for their crimes? They were clubbed, arrested, and dispersed by local police, and we subsequently learned that the police discovered who they were and what they were up to—most likely from infiltrators and from the Occupy protestors’ own cell phones and laptops. Today the Occupy movement has been shoved underground while the Banksters—although some have been fined—all still walk free. All of them.
But why would our massive surveillance apparatus need the personal electronic communications data from a billion or more ordinary citizens around the world?
Just to nab some drug dealers or peaceful political protestors? There must be another reason.
Well, as our social media companies like Google are showing us, that data can be used to profile consumers so as to more accurately sell them products they might want. Ah—there’s the rub. All that data can be mighty useful to folks who want to sell us something the data shows we want. But would the government really share all that data with companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others, just so they can target us individually with advertisements they know will interest us? Well yes, you can rest assured, it’s already being shared. Or stolen by the NSA—just today the Washington Post revealed how the NSA is tapping into Google and Yahoo’s servers to collect data. But that’s not the whole story.
There may be a more pernicious reason that the data is being shared with big business. Consider how The Department of Agriculture, the FDA, the EPA, and other government agencies responsible for environmental protection in this country are fitted with revolving doors wherein execs from Monsanto, Dow, and others in the Big Ag, Biotech, and Junk Food industries enter government service for a while before being rotated either back to the corporations or into lobbying organizations. As lobbyists, these former government officials take advantage of their connections to legislators in order to encourage the lawmakers with “donations” to pass the laws that allow them to continue poisoning America and the world—for big, fat profits.
Think that’s paranoid? Let me quote from an article that appeared in Green Resistance in 2010, before any of us knew of the massive surveillance going on:
“As revealed by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation magazine, over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation.
“And what does Blackwater do for Monsanto?
“One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the ‘intel arm’ of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.” Blackwater, a huge private company with 10,000 employees training 40,000 military personnel from around the world each year, had many former CIA and national security executives in its ranks. It still does, although it was renamed Xe Services, and is now renamed again as Academi. And is Blackwater or its more recent avatars fingering anti-GMO activists and providing intelligence to Monsanto? Yes.
The Suddeutsche Zeitung (South German Times newspaper) in July of 2013 reported the following:
“The Americans do not only spy on governments, authorities and private individuals across the world with the help of their secret services; they also understand how to push forward the global interests of their companies with full force. An impressive example of this is the agriculture giant Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of genetically modified seeds in the world. A glimpse into the world of Monsanto shows that the company, which delivered the pesticide ‘Agent Orange’ to the US military in the Vietnam War, had close connections with the central power in Washington, with tough people from the field of the US secret services, and with private security companies.
“Even the (least) important of the 16 US intelligence services has always understood its work as being a support for American economic interests on the world markets. They spy not only on governments, authorities and citizens in other countries under the name of the fight against terror, they also support American economic interests, in their own special way,” the German newspaper reported. For more info on the Suddeutsche Zeitung’s story, visit: http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/07/13/the-sinister-monsanto-group-agent-orange-to-genetically-modified-corn/
Is it becoming clear yet?
The Federal Government’s intelligence agencies hold hands with the NSA spying apparatus, which holds hands with AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook, and other electronic information purveyors and dealers, which hold hands with Federal and local law enforcement, which holds hands with Wall Street and the Big Banks, which hold hands with Big Ag, Biotech, and Junk Food in order to protect and preserve the poisonous, unhealthy agriculture and food processing system. Laws are broken. Lies are spread. We think that “We the People” control what goes on in this country, but we are deluding ourselves. What’s really going on is a multi-trillion dollar crime syndicate, supported by our tax dollars and the money we spend at the supermarkets for denatured and unwholesome food.
Though I’m sure some will call me a wild-eyed conspiracy theorist, I’m not. I’ve watched this crime syndicate in action since 1970. Watched it spend millions to prevent the citizens of California and Washington State to know if GMOs are in their food. I’ve listened to their lies that GMOs are safe and that RoundUp herbicide is safe and that all the food they label as “natural” is safe. It’s not.
As I’ve written in this space before, Monsanto’s real aim is to genetically engineer the world’s major food crops so they can patent the seeds and control the world’s seed supply and thus the world’s food supply. It is being aided and abetted by the world’s biggest crime syndicate, of which it is the agricultural tentacle. There’s a military tentacle, an arms industry tentacle, a political tentacle, and several other major tentacles. Ike warned us. We didn’t listen. We better start listening now.
The bottom line is that information is power in the age of information. The United States is hoovering information at breakneck speed from every person it can reach in every corner of the globe and passing it to the military, to the police, and to corporate America, where it will be used to propagandize the public so that corporate marketing is ever more effective in producing profits. The government is telling us it is doing this to keep us safe from terrorists. But that’s just the fear-inducing lie, behind which the real work of raping the world economically is going on.
FOREVER THE REBEL
Amy Goodman’s ‘Democracy Now’ program this morning played an excerpt from Lou Reed’s final public appearance before his death at age 71. I’m paraphrasing, but he said something pretty much like this: “The only thing that can really change the world is rock ‘n roll. As a graduate of the Warholian school, I believe in the power of punk. I still want to blow it up.” Forever the rebel. G’bye, Lou.
SO LONG TO MIRACLE WHIP
I discovered Miracle Whip at a lunch counter in my home town when I was about 10 years old and the counter lady put it on a cheese sandwich. My mom always used plain mayonnaise, but I liked the extra tang in the Miracle Whip—and continued to use it for the next half century. Until today, in fact, when I went to open a fresh jar. But now I read labels. Miracle Whip had been such an old friend that I couldn’t recall ever having read the label. What could it be, other than mayonnaise tarted up with a little vinegar and flavorings?
So I looked at the jar and saw that it’s a Kraft Foods product. Hmmm—not exactly reassuring. Here are the ingredients as listed on the label. First ingredient, meaning that it’s the largest ingredient by weight, is water. But then, soybean oil. Uh-oh. Almost all the soybeans grown in the US are GMOs. Unless maybe they come from…China. No, soybeans are far too chancy, knowing what I know. After soybeans, the next most common ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. Besides being bad for you in and of itself, HFCS is made from corn, a crop that, along with soybeans, is among the top three genetically modified crops planted in the U.S. The next ingredient is modified corn starch. Same GMO deal—it’s corn. And after that, eggs, spices, natural flavors, salt, and potassium sorbate the preservative.
So it’s goodbye Miracle Whip for me. I’d donate the jar to the food bank, but I don’t want the hungry to eat it either. Maybe I’ll try adding some tangy organic condiments to that organic mayo my wife buys. Of course, Kraft Foods could make an organic Miracle Whip using wholesome, non-GMO ingredients. I’d buy it in a New York minute. But I have no hope that Kraft will do any such thing.
KEEPING A WHOLESOME KITCHEN
Here are three items that organic-minded folks should know about.
For school lunchboxes (or any lunchboxes), Funky Money Snacks makes two kinds of freeze-dried organic snack packs. One is Bananamon—freeze-dried, crunchy banana chips with cinnamon, and the other is Purple Funk—banana chips with acai berries. They make other kinds, but they’re not organic. Learn more at www.funkymonkeysnacks.com.
The second item is Aquasana water filter systems. We installed an under-sink system, which has an above-sink spigot next to the regular faucet. This filter is tops. It really is. The water tastes like the freshest spring water. The filter takes out all sorts of chemicals, chlorine, disease-causing cysts, heavy metals, and much more, yet it doesn’t strip out healthful minerals. Consumer Reports gave it its highest rating, which is why I bought one. It’s as inexpensive or more inexpensive than any other filter of its quality, and in fact, Consumer Reports found its quality to be the best. Find out more at www.aquasana.com.
The third item helps hustle your baked potatoes more quickly until they’re done. They are food-grade stainless steel nails you insert through the length of your potatoes. In the oven, the metal conducts heat to the center of your spuds, cooking them up to 50 percent faster than just cooking them in their jackets. I’ve used stainless skewers for the same purpose, but they are too slender to make much of a difference in cooking times. These thicker nails do the job.
KEY MOLECULE LINKS NEONICS TO BEE VIRUSES
A team of scientists in Italy believe they have found the molecular mechanism through which neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics) adversely impact the immune system of honey bees. The team’s experiments suggest that exposure to neonics results in increased levels of a particular protein in bees that inhibit a key molecule involved in the immune response, making the insects more susceptible to attack by harmful viruses.
Though previous studies have indicated that exposure to minute amounts of neurotoxic pesticides like neonics severely impairs the immune systems of bees, making them more susceptible to pathogens, the underlying mechanism was not yet fully understood. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the latest of several studies to add weight to the urgency of repeated calls from beekeepers and environmental groups for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, as the European Commission decided this past April.
Neonics, a class of insecticides that includes clothianidin and imidicloprid, are taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen, nectar and gutation droplets from which bees forage and drink. They are particularly dangerous because–in addition to being acutely toxic in high doses–they also result in serious sublethal effects when insects are exposed to chronic low doses, as they are through pollen and water droplets laced with the chemical, and dust that is released into the air when coated seeds are planted with automated vacuum seed planters. These effects cause significant problems for the health of individual honey bees as well as the overall health of honey bee colonies. Effects include disruptions in bee mobility, navigation, feeding behavior, foraging activity, memory and learning, and overall hive activity.
ORGANIC RICE DINNERS NOW AVAILABLE
Lundberg Family Farms, a leading producer of organic rice and rice products based in California’s Sacramento Delta, announces the launch of a new kind of rice entrée. Lundberg’s Organic Whole Grain Rice and Seasoning Mixes offer convenience to the health-conscious consumer who is looking for an organic option.
The hearty rice entrées come in 11 flavors and feature the family’s signature organic brown rice. All are non-GMO verified, vegan, kosher, gluten-free, and of course, certified organic. The entrées are simple to prepare and can easily be made into main dishes with the addition of tofu, chicken, shrimp, or other protein.
The 11 varieties include a curry blend of garlic, onion, and spices paired with brown rice and lentils; an East-Indian curry blend, with spices, herbs, brown rice, and lentils. Brown rice, tomato, onion, garlic, and bell peppers makes a Spanish rice-style dish. Whole grain organic brown rice and high-fiber black beans make base toppings for tacos or burritos. Wild porcini mushrooms are combined with the nuttiness of brown rice and the firm texture of wild rice for a rustic blend. Some Louisiana hot links would go well with the Jambalaya blend of brown rice with garlic, onion, bell peppers, tomato, and spices. Green bell pepper, onion, and spices mixed with black beans, corn, brown rice, and tomato make a base for Southwestern cooking. The nuttiness of brown rice with the firm texture of wild rice is a nutritious grain side dish for roast poultry. Get the benefits of turmeric, with the vivid yellow color and spicy flavor of turmeric blended with bell peppers and brown rice as a base for an Indian curry. Garlic and basil combined with the nuttiness of brown rice and the firm texture of wild rice pair well with Italian main dishes. Make some southern fried chicken to go with your soul food side dish of red beans and rice.
All 11 varieties are available in supermarkets and natural food stores nationwide in six-ounce packages with a suggested retail price of $3.69.