Justice Department hits Jindal for George Wallace/Holder comparison
Two speakers at the Conservative Political Action Conference this week likened Attorney General Eric Holder to segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
As it turns out, that comparison is actually quite a personal one for Holder.
Both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and Christian conservative leader Ralph Reed suggested Holder’s opposition to school vouchers was tantamount to Wallace’s 1963 “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” to prevent two black students from attending the University of Alabama.
One of the students Wallace attempted to block that day was, in fact, Holder’s late sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones.
The Justice Department on Friday, in response to Jindal’s comment, sent him a copy of Rep. John Lewis’s (D-Ga.) book, in which the civil rights leader describes Malone Jones’s trials that day.
"This should help the governor brush up on his history for the next time he invokes the civil rights movement," Justice Department spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.
Update 6:43 p.m.: Jindal responds to the DOJ:
Five months since CNN first aired the SeaWorld documentary Blackfish, the Oscar-shortlisted film continues to make waves. After a series of high-profile protests against SeaWorld for alleged mistreatment of its orcas, a Blackfish-inspired California legislator is now taking the fight to the next level: to free the orcas that are in captivity for human entertainment.
On Friday, Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) introduced a draft of the Orca Welfare and Safety Act to the California legislature, which would ban orca performances as well as breeding or transporting the animal across state lines. Existing orcas would be retired to sea pens or displayed for educational reasons.
"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Bloom said in a public statement. "These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement."
"If Africa wasn’t beautiful the white man wouldn’t want it"- Malcolm X
Think About It!
And if we weren’t so powerful and knowledgeable, they wouldn’t want to destroy us!
BK Farmyards, founded by Stacey Murphy, is a collective of experienced urban farmers dedicated to expanding food justice through agricultural production and education in Brooklyn. They now manage 2 acres of farmyards spread across several farm sites and consult on new urban farm development.
In addition to agricultural production, their educational agenda includes something for all ages: training programs, apprenticeships, free workshops, farm visits, and volunteer days!
April is Stress Awareness Month, and as the producers of Natural Calm®, the number one anti-stress drink, we thought some remarks on the subject of stress would be appropriate.
Stress is part of life, and that’s not necessarily bad. You need tension in your leg muscles in order to walk or run. But if the tension doesn’t release and intensifies, the result can be a painful leg cramp. Stress is a constricting, tightening action, like making a fist. If you can’t release it and relax, stress can accumulate and your body bears the brunt. That can lead to discomfort and, with accumulation, a range of unwanted health issues.
Our bodies are very complex and intelligent organic machines. They respond to us, but, by design, we weren’t meant to be part of the operating system. We can take conscious control of our breathing if we like (running or practicing yoga, for example), but we don’t have to beat our hearts, circulate our blood, or perform any of the hundreds of chemical processes that are part of normal bodily function.
From that view, doesn’t it make sense to let our bodies operate without constricting the flow of the natural system by adding physical or emotional stress?
This gives us the task of managing our stress levels. Physically, that means balancing your intake of calcium (a tensing mineral) with magnesium (a relaxing mineral). It also involves avoiding negative (tensing) thoughts and emotions and opting for more positive (relaxing and happier) ones. Maybe skipping the evening news would help.
Our pets know how to chill, and having them around sets a good example. They really understand the nature of active and passive modes and find great enjoyment in both. They also don’t interrupt their sleep by chewing over the day or worrying about the future.
I’m thinking that we already have a daily awareness of stress. Perhaps we’d be better off putting the focus on stresslessness. Meow!
While all eyes in America were turned to President Obama’s looming decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian regulators on Thursday approved their own, smaller version — a pipeline that would for the first time directly connect Alberta’s tar sands to Montreal.
Canada’s National Energy Board have approved a proposal by Enbridge Inc. to allow the reversal and expansion of their Line 9 pipeline. The “reversal” means that the pipeline can now carry crude oil east rather than west. The “expansion” means it can now also carry tar sands oil from Alberta — the same type of oil that would be transported by the Keystone XL pipeline if approved.
With the reversal and expansion approved, environmentalists say the controversial tar sands oil can now be pumped almost to the New England border. This is because on one side, Enbridge’s Line 9 connects to a pipeline that carries tar sands. On the other side, Line 9 connects to a 236-mile-long line pump from Montreal to Portland, Maine. The National Resources Defense Council says that Portland connection has been targeted by the tar sands industry as a way for getting the oil into the United States via New England.
Tar sands oil — a thick, hard-to-extract mixture of heavy oil, sand, and water — has been deemed the “dirtiest type of liquid fuel” by scientists who say the unique and energy-intensive extraction process produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil.
Though environmentalists are decrying the Canadian regulator’s decision, they also note that Line 9 is, by comparison, “small potatoes” to other pipelines like Keystone XL. Those bigger pipelines, according to NRDC, will actually drive expansion of the tar sands reserves, causing more harmful carbon to be emitted into the atmosphere. By comparison, the Line 9 expansion “has never been viewed by the tar sands industry as playing a role in driving the expansion of tar sands projects,” the NRDC says, but is “a large and harmful step in the wrong direction.”
“Today’s decision should energize residents of New England to stand up and say unequivocally: We do not want tar sands in our communities and we do not want to play any role in encouraging the tar sands industry to continue with its irresponsible and dangerous development,” NRDC’s Canada Project Director Danielle Droitsch wrote in a blog post Thursday.
More about the Line 9 expansion can be found here.
A GMO Scientist Becomes a GMO Skeptic
05 Mar, 2014
Belinda Martineau, Ph.D. was a genetic engineer who helped develop the world’s first commercially available genetically engineered whole food, the Flavr Savr tomato. But during the development of that tomato, she says she “was transformed from a devout believer in the promise of agricultural biotechnology into a skeptic wary of its uncertainties.”
Belinda now works in academic research. She wrote a book about the Flavr Savr and her personal transformation, First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr Tomato and the Birth of Biotech Food, and occasionally gives talks to promote discussion of the technology, “warts and all,” as she puts it. She also publishes a blog, Biotech Salon (www.biotechsalon.com), where she aims to “clear the entire situation” about the science supporting genetic engineering.
Ken Roseboro: Tell me about your involvement in developing the Flavr Savr genetically modified tomato.
Belinda Martineau: I carried out experiments and library research and coordinated outside researchers the company hired to carry out additional studies, and helped write the documents Calgene, Inc. submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration to demonstrate the safety of the Flavr Savr tomato.
KR: What led the Flavr Savr team to promote and label the tomato as GM?
Martineau: I give credit for Calgene’s transparency, and the decision to label Flavr Savr tomatoes as “Grown from Genetically Modified Seeds” specifically to the company’s CEO at the time, Roger Salquist. We had nothing to hide, and Roger thought consumers would be more accepting of the product if we were completely above board about it.
KR: What caused the failure of the Flavr Savr tomato in the marketplace?
Martineau: The GM trait, meant to keep tomatoes firmer while they ripened naturally on the vine, didn’t keep them sufficiently firm to allow trucking them to market on a large scale; Calgene spent more money getting the tomatoes to market in good shape than it charged for them in the grocery store.
KR: What led you to become skeptical about GM foods?
Martineau: The major incident was when the FDA asked us whether we were sure that only the DNA we intended to insert into the tomato’s DNA was actually inserted. After we answered “yes” they asked us to carry out the experiments that would demonstrate that that was indeed the case. In fact, the experiments showed that in 30% of the tomato plants, sometimes more, much more DNA—DNA that was not well characterized and usually contained an additional antibiotic resistance gene—was inserted into our plants.
KR: The Calgene scientists weren’t aware how this added DNA got into the tomatoes?
Martineau: We did not expect the additional DNA to be inserted and, as far as I know, scientists still haven’t figured out how to avoid this from happening.
There has been one case of a GM crop plant, called Bt10, which contained such extra DNA, including a gene conferring resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin. Fortunately, the crop developer pulled the product from the market.
KR: What are other risks do you see with genetic engineering of foods?
Martineau: There can be risks associated with the genes being inserted. For example, the gene inserted into StarLink corn failed multiple tests designed to determine whether it could be a human allergen. The FDA and Center for Disease Control were worried enough about StarLink corn’s possible allergenicity that the US corn crop was monitored for the presence of that GM corn for seven years after it was taken off the market. The gene in another GM corn crop, Bt176, was found to present a much higher risk to Monarch butterfly larvae than other Bt corn crops.
There are also risks associated with the fact that genetic engineers have no control over where in a plant’s DNA their gene will land and they often land in another gene, mutating that gene. Unexpected changes can occur in GM plants as a result of such unintended insertions–and other possible mutations.
KR: John Vandermeer, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, has said that genetic engineering is based on “dramatically incomplete knowledge of the genome,” which he compares to a complex ecosystem. Do you agree with that perspective?
Martineau: I agree with Dr. Vandermeer. Genetic engineering is based on the reductionist belief that taking a gene out of its context in one organism and inserting it—essentially randomly—into another organism’s genome comprises a “precise” process that requires minimal regulatory oversight before being sold in grocery stores for human food.
I heard a plant scientist claim that “we know exactly what we’re doing” with genetic engineering and then ask audience members to support grants for plant science because “there’s a lot we still don’t know about plant genomes.” It might be laughable if this situation wasn’t affecting the food system in the US and worldwide.
There are many imprecise aspects of genetic engineering, many related to our very incomplete knowledge about genetics and genomics. That is why regulation of every product of this technology should be required and why they should be labeled.
KR: What was your reaction to Professor Seralini’s study, which found harm to rats fed GM corn, being retracted by the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology?
Martineau: I realize that there are issues with the number and strain of rat used and whether Seralini’s results are test article-related. But I still think that the best way to resolve the controversy is to repeat the experiments using many more, and, perhaps a different strain of, rats.
To retract a paper for being inconclusive is highly unusual and this entire incident “represents a dangerous erosion of the underpinnings of the peer-review process….” to quote an editorial in the current issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
KR: What are your thoughts about labeling GM foods?
Martineau: This is America. In this capitalist society we have a right to know what we’re buying in grocery stores to feed our families. And in this democracy we have a right to vote for or against a technology with our pocketbooks. These products are labeled in some 60 other countries; they should be labeled in the United States as well.
Calgene’s tomato, the only example of a GM food that has been labeled in this country, was well received by consumers. This may have been because the company was transparent and up front with consumers.
KR: The Grocery Manufacturers Association recently formed a “Coalition for Safe Affordable Food” comprising food and agriculture industry groups to lobby the government for voluntary labeling standards and to pre-empt state labeling laws. What are your thoughts about this?
Martineau: This is just a move to undermine the labeling laws being put in place in individual states around the United States. There is no need for a federal volunteer labeling law; developers of GM foods can already voluntarily label their products just as we did at Calgene. Most Americans want GM foods labeled, they’ve indicated as much for decades now, and the FDA has failed us in this regard.
Shame on our government if it gives in to the GMA, especially after what they did (to defeat GMO labeling) in the recent Washington state election.
KR: With the polarized debate over GMO foods do you think there is room for middle ground?
Martineau: I feel I’m on the middle ground. I’m not against the use of the technology; but when science moves out of the lab and onto the plates of consumers we must be more cautious about it. We scientists must explain what is imprecise and could pose potential problems as well as what is precise about the technology so that society as a whole can make informed decisions about how to use and regulate such a technology.
There is not enough transparency about genetic engineering technology right now and that contributes to consumer wariness about it.