Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Corporate farms poison our land and water

Peanut Company Knew Its Plant Was Contaminated With Salmonella

More bad news on salmonella tainted peanut butter: The peanut processor knew in 2007 that its plant was contaminated with potentially deadly salmonella but kept shipping out product anyway, according to officials at the Food and Drug Administration. With so much stuff in the pipeline, expect more sick people and more recalls, FDA officials said yesterday.
This outbreak has already killed eight people and sickened at least 501 so far, making it the most deadly food contamination outbreak in at least the past 20 years. Victims include a 72-year-old Minnesota woman who died after eating peanut butter in a nursing home, and Christopher Meunier, a 7-year-old boy from South Burlington, Vt., who fell ill and was hospitalized in November after eating peanut butter crackers. He has since recovered.

Peanut butter has traditionally been considered a low-risk food. It didn't turn up on the food safety worry list until 2007, when a salmonella outbreak was traced to jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter from a ConAgra plant in Georgia. This current outbreak is much, much larger, because the implicated Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga., has distributed huge amounts of peanut butter and peanut paste to manufacturers of hundreds of products, from Trader Joe's Nutty Chocolate Chewy Coated & Drizzled Granola Bars to ShopRite Peanut Butter and Cheese Cracker Snacks. Add to that the fact that many of the tainted products are the sorts of things that people stockpile at home and work for snacks and lunchbox treats, and it's easy to see how the outbreak could continue for weeks, if not months.


USDA Gives Preliminary Approval to New Pesticide-Promoting GE Corn Variety

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has given preliminary approval to the first of a new generation of pesticide-promoting, genetically engineered crops designed to survive spraying with multiple herbicides.  This GE corn variety was developed by DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International to tolerate applications of  glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicides (ALS inhibitors).  This latest petition to deregulate a new, untested, and complex GE crop poses food safety, environmental, and agronomic concerns that were not adequately evaluated by the Bush Administration's USDA. 

In a move that is characteristic of the Bush era, APHIS has failed to adequately address a range of health and environmental risks in its draft environmental assessment (EA), including novel food safety concerns, increased pesticide use and increased prevalence of weeds resistant to glyphosate, ALS inhibitors and to both herbicides. The draft EA also gets basic facts wrong, and does not provide a meaningful analysis of the cumulative impacts from introduction of Event 98140 in association with the current widespread use of other glyphosate-tolerant corn and other glyphosate-tolerant crops.

Tell USDA to stop this approval and prepare and publish a through Environmental Impact Statement before making a decision.  DuPont-Pioneer's dual herbicide-tolerant corn represents the first of a new generation of multiple herbicide-tolerant crops that require extremely careful consideration.  USDA should also extend the public comment period so that all interested parties can thoroughly examine the materials and comment appropriately.

USDA is only accepting comments until February 6th – please send your comment today!


Tax cuts will make it all good

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) Urges Homeowners To Stay in Foreclosed Homes


After an $850 billion dollar bailout for Wall Street and another $25 billion for the auto industry, struggling homeowners still await large-scale government assistance. The Obama administration says it’s working out the details of its plan to stem foreclosures. Well, in the absence of government action so far, some are taking action on the local level. In Michigan, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans announced Monday he won’t enforce sales of foreclosed homes. And in Ohio, Rep. Marcy Kaptur is encouraging homeowners facing foreclosures to stay in their homes. Meanwhile the government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae has agreed to restructure mortgages after a campaign led by one of its biggest critics, the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America.

After an $850 billion dollar bailout for Wall Street and another $25 billion for the auto industry, struggling homeowners still await large-scale government assistance. The Obama administration says it’s working out the details of its plan to stem foreclosures.

Well, in the absence of government action so far, some are taking action on the local level. In Michigan, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans announced Monday he won’t enforce sales of foreclosed homes. Wayne County includes the city of Detroit, and has had more than 46,000 foreclosures in the past two years. Evans says he came to the decision after reviewing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Wall Street bailout measure known as TARP. He says the foreclosures would conflict with a provision ordering the Treasury Department to reduce foreclosures and help restructure loans. Evans said he”d be violating the law by denying foreclosed homeowners the chance at potential federal assistance. Evans said: “I cannot in clear conscience allow one more family to be put out of their home until I am satisfied they have been afforded every option they are entitled to under the law to avoid foreclosure.”


For me?

A Missed Opportunity

by Jeff Crook

Michael Phelps missed a huge opportunity to make the world a better place. Instead, he chose to be smart, to protect his career and his image - he apologized for letting someone photograph him hitting a bong.

I can't blame him, but imagine what would have happened if he had said something like...

Hello, does anyone here remember I just won eight frikkin gold medals? Obviously, smoking a little pot did NOTHING to diminish my ability to own every other swimmer in the whole frikkin world. So what's our problem here? Why does the International Olympic Committee have its panties in a wad over me smoking a little pot? Why is the world at war with a harmless weed? Like nobody on the IOC ever took a hit off a bong. Please.

Do they think I even need them? I don't need them. I already won the laurels, and I was high when I did it - so what? Can somebody honestly tell me why hemp is even illegal? Would News of the World have even published my picture if I had been hitting off a beer bong instead? I don't think so.

If ever there was proof that hemp isn't a harmful substance, you're looking at it right here, sitting in front of you, wearing eight frikkin gold medals. When you've won eight gold medals, you can tell me what is and isn't good for my body and my mind.

If ever there was proof that all the anti-drug information about hemp is pure propaganda without an ounce of truth to it, he is standing before you right now, and you shall watch him light up! Won't you join me?

When another Olympic champion, Muhammed Ali, was given a choice between doing the right thing for his career and the right thing for his soul, he chose his soul. His protest against the Vietnam War was instrumental in shifting popular opinion against it. He worked his whole life to become the greatest boxer the world has ever known, then sacrificed his prime years rather than go off to fight in an immoral war against a people who had never done us any harm. The war against hemp isn't like the war in Vietnam. There are no bombers, no tanks, no grunts dying in the jungle. Instead, its victims are ordinary people, as well as extraordinary people like Michael Phelps, whose lives are ruined because they chose to smoke a harmless weed for pleasure and broke an arbitrary law that should never have been written in the first place. Phelps shouldn't have been forced to apologize for doing something millions of people do every day, and if their behavior causes harm, it is only because their behavior has been immorally criminalized.

I don't blame Michael Phelps for taking the safe road he did. That's a monumental decision to make, and on the personal level, it isn't worth possibly ruining your life just to stand up for the right to smoke pot. It seems trivial, on its face. But think of the millions of people he could have freed from a soul-destroying prison sentence, if he had chosen instead to become the very public face of the decriminalization movement.

He could have shook up the world. He'll always be a champion, but he could have become a hero.


Orthodox IDF soldier: How I Survived Gaza

By Joshua Eastman

Eleven days ago today, Israel terminated an operation after having reached a state of cease-fire with a cowardly and murderous foe. We pulled out of Gaza. I pulled out of Gaza.

We were first called up on a Shabbat, right at the end of ten months of regular training and an extra two months of specialized training with the whole brigade in the Golan Heights. We were told that Israel was preparing for a possible conflict with Gaza. We were allowed to stay in phone contact at the beginning, and we listened for news from our families, always better informed than the army. We heard the bombs falling near the Strip, and readied our gear. And we waited. And waited. Every day another rumor came in.

"We're going today"

"We're going today"

We waited a week.

We were sent the following Shabbat.

The first time we came back out, after twenty four hours, our unit was under the impression that all the other units would be coming out as well. A little R & R, and then back in. But only our soldiers arrived at the base. The others were in till the very end.

The next two weeks we were deployed over and over again into neighborhoods whose names are ingrained as if from childhood memory, and we were told to ready ourselves for the final operational steps the army was preparing.

Thank God, for us, those steps never came. After fighting through less densely packed urban neighborhoods and villages, as an army, we never had to enter the tightly packed urban nightmares of the inner cities.

    "The world is already trying to fault Israel, telling everyone that civilians died, and Israelis murdered. But I was there. I saw the twelve year olds with missiles and RPGs strapped to their backs. We watched in anger as our bombs, so as not to fall on large civilian centers, fell on our own troops."

A cease-fire was signed, and we pulled out with hatches open on our vehicles, waving flags and flashing the peace symbol even though no one was there to photograph it. After all, we were one of hundreds of squads returning. There was no way to record every tank and APC that came home. But it was cathartic, and made it official.

I saw many things. I heard things. While I was in Gaza.

I saw soldiers who were virulently anti-religious don tzitit under their bullet-proof armor. As one soldier said, "Why do I put it on now, if I never wore it before? When do you ask your father for help? When you need it."

I saw heroes. Boys just out of high-school, young men who should have been playing sports or starting families or going to college, loading weapons and placing armor on their fragile frames, securing helmets, and checking gear.

They suppressed the fear that lurked at the edges of their minds, and as a unit swept across the fence and planted unwavering lines of boots in the soil of Gaza. I watched them fight like grown men against evil.

The first night we went in, we were unable to wear bullet-proof armor in my unit, and had to settle for flak vests (we couldn't wear armor when we first went in because, due to the weight we were carrying, it would have hampered our movements, creating a safety hazard). My young commander, who had an easy load to carry that wouldn't interfere with his vest, still left without bulletproof armor. "If my men don't, I don't". I told him the next day, I would have followed him through the entire Arab world if need be, my respect for him was so great. I saw my brave wife, Chana, who came down to volunteer, just to be close to me, braving rockets and missiles, and watched her help soldiers by handing out desperately needed winter gear and food. I watched Chabadniks who came to us every day and inspired the soldiers with song and mitzvot. I saw heroes praying for our safety, and feeding us, and caring for us.

I saw pain. Just today, I ran into yet another friend from another unit, who tells me, when asked how he is, "I am fine from the neck down." Sixteen of his friends were injured in a blast on the first night. He lost many more before the end. He is still sweet, still charming, but his laugh is more weary, and his eyes are sadder. Another friend in a different unit lost two-thirds of his whole platoon when a bomb destroyed their house. He says he walked in, and he saw limbs moving or laying still, and bodies unattached to them, hurting, dead. He still hasn't pulled back completely. A former commander of mine died, and a friend lost his arm and use of his legs, and is still in a coma.


Let banks fail, says Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz

The Government should allow every distressed bank to go bankrupt and set up a fresh banking system under temporary state control rather than cripple the country by propping up a corrupt edifice, according to Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist.

It was the worst of times

Obama: Trilateral Commission Endgame

by Patrick Wood

As previously noted in Pawns of the Global Elite, Barack Obama was groomed for the presidency by key members of the Trilateral Commission. Most notably, it was Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in 1973, who was Obama's principal foreign policy advisor.

  The Obama presidency is a disingenuous fraud. He was elected by promising to bring change, yet from the start change was never envisioned. He was carefully groomed and financed by the Trilateral Commission and their friends.

The pre-election attention is reminiscent of Brzezinski's tutoring of Jimmy Carter prior to Carter's landslide election in 1976.

For anyone who doubts the Commission's continuing influence on Obama, consider that he has already appointed no less than nine members of the Commission to top-level and key positions in his Administration.

According to official Trilateral Commission membership lists, there are only 87 members from the United States (the other 337 members are from other regions). Thus, in less than two weeks since his inauguration, Obama's appointments encompass more than 10% of Commission's entire U.S. membership.

Is this a mere coincidence or is it a continuation of dominance over the Executive Branch since 1976? (For important background, read The Trilateral Commission: Usurping Sovereignty.)

1- Secretary of Treasury, Tim Geithner
2- Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice
3- National Security Advisor, Thomas Donilon
4- Chairman, Economic Recovery Committee, Paul Volker
5- Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis C. Blair 6- Assistant Secretary of State, Asia & Pacific, Kurt M. Campbell
7- Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg
8- State Department, Special Envoy, Richard Haass
9- State Department, Special Envoy, Dennis Ross
10- State Department, Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke

There are many other incidental links to the Trilateral 12- 12- Commission, for instance,

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is married to Commission member William Jefferson Clinton.

Geithner's informal group of advisors include E. Gerald Corrigan, Paul Volker, Alan Greenspan and Peter G. Peterson, among others. His first job after college was with Henry Kissinger at Kissinger Associates.

Brent Scowcroft has been an unofficial advisor to Obama and was mentor to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Robert Zoelick is currently president of the World Bank

Laurence Summers, White House Economic Advisor, was mentored by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin during the Clinton administration.

There are many other such links, but these are enough for you to get the idea of what's going on here.


Hidden Bonuses Enrich Government Contractors at Taxpayer Cost

By David Dietz

U.S. Senator Kit Bond shifted in his chair at a 2005 congressional hearing, poised with a question on national security. He turned to Treasury Secretary John Snow, who was seated at a witness table.

Was Snow sure, asked Bond, a Missouri Republican, that a Treasury Department computer on order for $8.9 million would help detect terrorist money laundering?

"Yes, absolutely," Snow said.

A year later, in July 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department abandoned the project. The computer didn't work. The department had spent $14.7 million -- a 65 percent increase above the original budget -- for nothing.

There was a final ignominy: Under the terms of the contract, Electronic Data Systems Corp., the vendor, collected a bonus of $638,126.

As the federal government's $700 billion bailout of banks sputters, there's an object lesson for the new administration of President Barack Obama: Federal departments, including Treasury itself, routinely squander tens of billions of dollars a year in taxpayer money as they farm out public business to private corporations.


UN crime chief: Was the bailout the largest drug money laundering operation in history?

by Corrente

A very interesting story noticed by Susie. Very, very interesting. Reuters:

United Nations' crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday.

(Notice the lack of agency in that sentence. "Has been used." Used by whom? And when?)

Vienna-based UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview released by Austrian weekly Profil that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiralled out of control last year.

"In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital," Costa was quoted as saying by Profil. "In the second half of 2008 [that is, when Pelosi, Obama, Reid, Bush, and Paulson got TARP passed] liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."*

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had found evidence that "interbank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities," Costa was quoted as saying. There were "signs that some banks were rescued in that way."

Profil said Costa declined to identify countries or banks which may have received drug money and gave no indication how much cash might be involved. He only said Austria was not on top of his list, Profil said.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Because if hundreds of billions of drug money were used to rescue the banks, that would make the bailout the largest money laundering operation in the history of the world. Although not without precedent. (Somebody who really knows how this stuff works would have to tell me whether this would be in addition to TARP and the rest of the two trillion, or if the banks got a "short term loan" from the drug lords, later repaid by taxpayer dollars, or what. I guess we have to assume that "financial innovation" is just as prevalent in the drug world as it is in on Wall Street, so for all I know there were tranches, hedges, computer models, and everything else.)


America, It's Time To Say Goodbye To Wall Street: An Interview With Author David Korten

"We face a monumental economic challenge that goes far beyond anything being discussed in the U.S. Congress or the corporate press. The hardships imposed by temporarily frozen credit markets pale in comparison to what lies ahead.
Even the significant funds that the Obama administration is committed to spending on economic stimulus will do nothing to address the deeper structural causes of our threefold financial, social, and environmental crisis. On the positive side, the financial crisis has put to rest the myths that our economic institutions are sound and that markets work best when deregulated. This creates an opportune moment to open a national conversation about what we can and must do to create an economic system that can for work for all people for all time."

Internationally renowned social scientist and historian David Korten wrote those words in the introduction of his new book, Agenda For A New Economy: From Phantom Wealth To Real Wealth, scheduled to be released by Berrett-Kohler Publishers tomorrow.

Some of you may have previously read Korten's 1995 international bestseller, When Corporations Rule the World. Longtime readers/listeners of the Intrepid Liberal Journal may also recall my August 2007 podcast interview with Korten about his book, The Great Turning: From Empire To Earth Community. You can learn more about Korten's background by clicking here and reading the introductory text to that podcast.

Korten's current book is organized in four parts: Part I, The Case for a New Economy; Part II, The Case for Eliminating Wall Street; Part III, Agenda for a Real Wealth Economy and Part IV, Change the Story, Change the Future. Essentially, Korten divides the economy into "Wall Street" and "Main Street." The first half of Korten's book is dedicated to indicting Wall Street for generating "phantom wealth" at the expense of society's quality of life. In the second half, Korten promotes twelve concepts to empower a "Main Street" economy that facilitates the exchange of tangible goods and services among citizens living within their means.

His diagnosis and prescriptions are jarring. Korten postulates that Main Street is far closer to the original vision of Adam Smith while Wall Street capitalism is the antithesis of a free market economy. Reform-minded liberals, who believe we can work within America's established financial credit markets banking system and stabilize our economy with band-aids and bailouts, will likely be just as opposed to his book as Wall Street apologists. Conservatives will likely dismiss Korten's solutions because he believes in government regulation to ensure that businesses and citizens behave within agreed upon social norms.

As Korten sees it, corporations in a Wall Street economy are given incentives to destroy the planet's environment and inflate its financial statements by taking a wrecking ball to the middle class. In a true market economy, business entities that inflict harm on the environment and their community's overall quality of life could not survive. Hence, Korten writes that under a Wall Street economy, corporations,
"If it were a real person, it would fit the clinical profile of a sociopath."

The Most Extravagant Dinner Parties in History

I'll have the Ostrich Brain and the Exploding Breast Cake, Please

Before you splurge on that Super Bowl Party, or make arrangements for that lavish Oscars Dinner, keep in mind that you can go TOO far in your quest to impress friends and neighbors. Below, read ten examples of hosts that got caught up in the excitement of party planning and may have suffered just a touch of remorse the next morning.


10. You Want Fries With That Ostrich Brain?


Roman Emperor and notorious practical joker Heliogabalus cooks up
some ostrich brain, locks his dinner guests in with the lions.



9. Dude, She's Just Not That Into You

Queen Elizabeth I

Earl of Leicester spends a lifetime chasing the Queen who would not be caught.
Efforts culminate in two colossal feasts.



8. Twenty Thousand Guests, Forty Thousand Bottles of Booze. You Do the Math

A Big Banquet

Mayors of France turn up their noses at Paris, get together with the
federal government at largest dinner party ever in 1900.



7. Try the Flamingo Tongue -- It's to Die For!


Roman Marcus Apicius invents Haute Cuisine, but over-the-top dinner bills
force re-evaluation of lifestyle. Rather than live with a mere
$200 million in the bank, Marcus opts for suicide.



6. Let Them Eat Cake -- I'll Be In Disguise

Mrs. Bradley Martin

New York Socialite amuses friends by hosting lavish costume ball in 1897.
Stuck in The Long Depression, everyone else is not amused.
Taxman sides with everyone else, rakes her over the coals.