Category Archives: Health

Ebola cases in west Africa could rise to 20,000 says WHO

Lisa O’Carroll reports for The Guardian:

The WHO's assistant director-general Bruce Aylward estimates the Ebola outbreak in Liberia will requ‘The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the number of Ebola cases could rise to 20,000 as doctors in Liberia say the deadly virus is now spreading so rapidly they can no longer deal with the crisis.

The UN health agency said the outbreak is accelerating in west Africa, where the death toll has now reached 1,552, and it believes the numbers who have been hit by Ebola could be two to four times higher than the current 3,069 cases currently reported.’

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How the Gates Foundation’s Investments Are Undermining Its Own Good Works

Charles Piller writes for The Nation:

‘[...] For all its generosity and thoughtfulness, the Gates Foundation’s management of its $40 billion endowment has been a puzzling ethical blind spot. In 2007, with colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, I examined whether those investments tended generally to support the foundation’s philanthropic goals. Instead, we found that it reaped vast profits by placing billions of dollars in firms whose activities and products subverted the foundation’s good works.

For example, Gates donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in places like the Niger Delta, yet invested $423 million in the oil companies whose delta pollution literally kills the children the foundation tries to help. It had vast holdings in Big Pharma firms that priced AIDS drugs out of reach for desperate victims the foundation wanted to save. It benefited greatly from predatory lenders whose practices sparked the Great Recession and chocolate makers said by the US government to have supported child slavery in Ivory Coast.

After our investigations were published, the foundation briefly considered changing its policy of blind-eye investing, but ultimately pulled funds only from firms that provided the financial basis for genocide in Darfur. Even in that case, when the glare of adverse publicity faded, the foundation hopped back into such companies, including the Chinese construction giant NORINCO International.’

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The five biggest threats to human existence

Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute writes for The Conversation:

A nuclear bomb blast‘In the daily hubbub of current “crises” facing humanity, we forget about the many generations we hope are yet to come. Not those who will live 200 years from now, but 1,000 or 10,000 years from now. I use the word “hope” because we face risks, called existential risks, that threaten to wipe out humanity. These risks are not just for big disasters, but for the disasters that could end history.

These risks remain understudied. There is a sense of powerlessness and fatalism about them. People have been talking apocalypses for millennia, but few have tried to prevent them. Humans are also bad at doing anything about problems that have not occurred yet (partially because of the availability heuristic – the tendency to overestimate the probability of events we know examples of, and underestimate events we cannot readily recall).

If humanity becomes extinct, at the very least the loss is equivalent to the loss of all living individuals and the frustration of their goals. But the loss would probably be far greater than that. Human extinction means the loss of meaning generated by past generations, the lives of all future generations (and there could be an astronomical number of future lives) and all the value they might have been able to create. If consciousness or intelligence are lost, it might mean that value itself becomes absent from the universe. This is a huge moral reason to work hard to prevent existential threats from becoming reality. And we must not fail even once in this pursuit.

With that in mind, I have selected what I consider the five biggest threats to humanity’s existence. But there are caveats that must be kept in mind, for this list is not final.’

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The Government-Industry Conspiracy that Promotes Crap Food in School

Michele Simon writes for Al Jazeera America:

‘People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen.Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico.

Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off. For example, last year when the IDFA implored the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give dairy foods a pass in the new snack food guidelines for schools, the agency capitulated, opening school doors to even more junk food, such as YoCrunch Lowfat Yogurt with M&Ms.

This is just one of many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” (PDF). The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy dairy products, of which there are many.

One of the most important forms of government support is the federally mandated collection of industry fees for checkoff programs that promote milk and dairy.’

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Attacks on aid workers worldwide hit worst levels on record

Alex Whiting reports for Reuters:

‘The number of attacks on aid workers soared last year to the highest level on record, with Afghanistan the most dangerous country to be a humanitarian, a report on Tuesday said. In all, 155 aid workers were killed, 171 wounded and 134 kidnapped in 2013 – a rise of 66 percent compared with 2012, according to the Humanitarian Outcomes 2014 report, published on World Humanitarian Day.

It said three quarters of the attacks took place in Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Pakistan and Sudan amid worsening violence. There were 81 attacks in Afghanistan alone. The death toll for 2014 shows little sign of abating. Already, 79 humanitarians have been killed this year, including several in Gaza, according to provisional figures… The U.N. General Assembly in 2008 declared Aug. 19 World Humanitarian Day to mark the the day in 2003 when 22 people who were killed in a bomb attack on U.N. offices in Baghdad.’

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Effects Of Radiation From The Fukushima Disaster On The Ecosystem Are Being Slowly Revealed

Chris Pash reports for Business Insider:

‘A range of scientific studies at Fukushima have begun to reveal the impact on the natural world from the radiation leaks at the power station in Japan caused by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Biological samples were obtained only after extensive delays following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant meltdown, limiting the information which could be gained about the impact of that disaster. Scientists, determined not to repeat the shortcomings of the Chernobyl studies, began gathering biological information only a few months after the meltdown of the Daiichi power plant in 2011.

Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarising these studies has now been published in the Journal of Heredity. These describe widespread impacts, ranging from population declines to genetic damage to responses by the repair mechanisms that help organisms cope with radiation exposure. “A growing body of empirical results from studies of birds, monkeys, butterflies, and other insects suggests that some species have been significantly impacted by the radioactive releases related to the Fukushima disaster,” says Dr Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, lead author of one of the studies.’

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VICE Mini-Documentary on Fukushima

Hundreds of bioterror lab mishaps cloaked in secrecy

Alison Young reports for USA Today:

CDC scientist at work‘More than 1,100 laboratory incidents involving bacteria, viruses and toxins that pose significant or bioterror risks to people and agriculture were reported to federal regulators during 2008 through 2012, government reports obtained by USA TODAY show. More than half these incidents were serious enough that lab workers received medical evaluations or treatment, according to the reports. In five incidents, investigations confirmed that laboratory workers had been infected or sickened; all recovered.

In two other incidents, animals were inadvertently infected with contagious diseases that would have posed significant threats to livestock industries if they had spread. One case involved the infection of two animals with hog cholera, a dangerous virus eradicated from the USA in 1978. In another incident, a cow in a disease-free herd next to a research facility studying the bacteria that cause brucellosis, became infected due to practices that violated federal regulations, resulting in regulators suspending the research and ordering a $425,000 fine, records show.

But the names of the labs that had mishaps or made mistakes, as well as most information about all of the incidents, must be kept secret because of federal bioterrorism laws, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates the labs and co-authored the annual lab incident reports with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.’

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The Politics of the Ebola Serum & The History of Medical Exploitation in Africa: Interview with Harriet Washington

Editor’s Note: Harriet Washington is a medical ethicist. She is the author of “Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future” and “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present“.

“Cordon sanitaire” drawn around Ebola victims

Michael Cook reports for BioEdge:

‘Bioethical debates about whether to administer an experimental drug for Ebola victims are interesting and necessary. But only a handful of doses are available anyway and hundreds of people are dying in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the latest update from the World Health Organisation, 2,127  cases and 1,145 deaths have been reported. But it has also declared that “the numbers of reported cases and deaths vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak”.

“Extraordinary measures,” are needed, it says, “on a massive scale, to contain the outbreak in settings characterized by extreme poverty, dysfunctional health systems, a severe shortage of doctors, and rampant fear.”

In view of the emergency, the three worst affected countries have taken the most drastic step possible – drawing a “cordon sanitaire” around the areas where the outbreak is most virulent. The perimeter is guarded by soldiers and no one is allowed in or out until the plague runs its course. It is a primitive method but in mediaeval times it was the only way to keep infection from multiplying.’

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Armed men attack Liberia Ebola clinic, freeing patients

CBS News/The Associated Press reports:

‘Liberian officials fear Ebola could soon spread through the capital’s largest slum after residents raided a quarantine center for suspected patients and took items including bloody sheets and mattresses. The violence in the West Point slum occurred late Saturday and was led by residents angry that patients were brought to the holding center from other parts of Monrovia, Tolbert Nyenswah, assistant health minister, said Sunday. Local witnesses told Agence France Presse that there were armed men among the group that attacked the clinic.

…Up to 30 patients were staying at the center and many of them fled at the time of the raid, said Nyenswah. Once they are located they will be transferred to the Ebola center at Monrovia’s largest hospital, he said. The attack comes just one day after a report of a crowd of several hundred local residents, chanting, ‘No Ebola in West Point,’ drove away a burial team and their police escort that had come to collect the bodies of suspected Ebola victims in the slum in the capital, Reuters reports.’

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The CIA Caused A Polio Outbreak In Pakistan

‘When the White House went public with its catching-bin-Laden story, they told every media outlet just about every detail of the raid possible. They even allowed a Hollywood blockbuster to be made about the event. There was so much leakage of information that Dianne Feinstein called for a criminal investigation. Among the leaks was the information that the CIA had recruited doctors to collect DNA samples to help find bin Laden by going door to door to vaccinate people. The Taliban learned of this and started banning vaccines. Now, there is a huge resurgence of polio in Pakistan. The Resident discusses.’ (The Resident)

Official report into horsemeat scandal ‘blocked’ amid new food safety fears

Felicity Lawrence reports for The Guardian:

Horsemeat scandal[...] The findings are likely to embarrass ministers. The Guardian understands they are similar to conclusions in the interim report submitted last year highlighting the impact of deep spending cuts on frontline enforcement and inspection in the food industry. It said confusion reigned when the horsemeat scandal broke because the coalition had stripped the FSA of overall responsibility for the integrity of food.

The report concluded that the industry’s own audits were inadequate to protect the public and that unless audits were unannounced, they were of little value. He also told a conference of food experts in May he had been warned by a senior civil servant that his report into the horsemeat scandal was so hard-hitting the government might want to bury it. This week, he declined to comment other than to say he was still awaiting notification of the publication date.’

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Sick first responders snubbed by 9/11 Museum

Susan Edelman and Danika Fears reports for The New York Post:

‘The 9/11 Museum has been drawing criticism from first responders upset with the way its exhibits portray those who suffered in the aftermath of the terror attacks. One of the most moving complaints came from an NYPD officer who became ill with cancer after working at Ground Zero.

In a letter addressed to 9/11 Museum President Joe Daniels, Reginald Hilaire expressed his dismay that the exhibit did not properly acknowledge the serious illnesses and deaths among responders.

“There are no listing of names or even a sentence that people died from 9/11 related illnesses,” he wrote. “The federal government has recognized a link with illnesses and work at the WTC and Staten Island landfill, but the 9/11 Museum mentioned very little.”’

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The U.S. Government Still Tries to Subvert Cuba

Sheldom Richman writes for The Future Freedom Foundation:

‘When I saw the headline about the U.S. government and Cuba in my newspaper the other day, I thought I’d awoken in 1961. It was a Twilight Zone moment for sure: “U.S. program aimed to stir dissent in Cuba.” I expected Rod Serling to welcome me to “another dimension.” But it was 2014. The AP news report said President Barack Obama and presumably then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton had plotted to incite a popular uprising — to “gin up opposition” — against the Cuban government by sending in young Latin Americans masquerading as tourists and health workers.

Did Obama, Clinton, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversaw the operation, learn nothing from the 1960s, when the Kennedy and Johnson administrations tried repeatedly to overthrow Cuban ruler Fidel Castro and even to assassinate him? The AP investigation disclosed that the USAID agents had “little training in the dangers of clandestine operations — or how to evade one of the world’s most sophisticated counter-intelligence services.” Nevertheless, the AP continued, “their assignment was to recruit young Cubans to anti-government activism, which they did under the guise of civic programs, including an HIV prevention workshop.” The program, which lasted at least two years, began shortly after Obama’s inauguration.’

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Obama and the Revival of Wall Street

Rob Urie writes for CounterPunch:

‘Ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections there is an argument being put forward by Democrat apologists that President Barack Obama’s resuscitation of Wall Street at public expense and his wholly inadequate ACA (Affordable Care Act) are policy successes worthy of political support. The base tactic is to set up false choices and then argue that Mr. Obama chose among the better of the available alternatives. His unconditional resurrection of Wall Street is posed against an inevitable second Great Depression when the choice was between reviving the existing system of suicide finance or reining it in to serve a public purpose. And the problem in need of solving with the American health care system is a lack of access to health care for a substantial portion of the population. Increasing the intrusion of the insurance industry into the U.S. health care system, as the ACA does, builds an even higher wall between people and access to health care.

The base frame in support of the revival of Wall Street is that Mr. Obama had a choice of Great Depression 2.0 or the wholesale revival of Wall Street, however ‘distasteful’ the latter might have been. Left unsaid is that it is this very same Wall Street that destroyed the economies of the West through creating the housing boom/bust, that the only thing resolved since the onset of crisis is the incomes and wealth of the very richest, that the Federal government held all of the cards in 2008–2009 when Wall Street was at risk of collapse and that Mr. Obama put the very same Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers who promoted the bank interests that created the crisis in charge of covering it up. Nationalization of major Wall Street banks was put forward as a policy option in top-level discussions of resolving the crisis. The argument now being made (top link) that government agencies lacked the legal authority to do so ignores the practical circumstance that Wall Street was dependent on government largesse to avoid wholesale bankruptcy in 2008–2009 and that the ‘lacked legal authority’ argument was no where to be found in contemporaneous policy discussions.’

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Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac

Laurel Braitman, author of Animal Madness, featured excerpts from her book in Wired:

Excerpted from Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves‘One of the first nonhumans to be given psychopharmaceuticals as a patient (and not as a test subject) was a western lowland gorilla named Willie B., who was famous in Atlanta, Georgia. He was captured in Congo as an infant in the 1960s and sent to Zoo Atlanta, where he lived for 39 years, 27 of them alone in an indoor cage with a tire swing and a television. According to Mel Richardson, who was working as a veterinarian at Zoo Atlanta at the time, Willie broke a glass window in his enclosure in the winter of 1970–71 and had to be transferred to a much smaller cage for six months while the glass was replaced with heavy metal bars.

“He weighed around 400 pounds, and the cage was way too small for him,” said Mel. “If he stood up and stretched each arm all the way out he could almost touch both sides of the cage at once.” The vet staff decided to medicate him so that the six months would be more bearable. They put Thorazine in the Coca-Cola he drank in the morning. According to Mel, Willie responded to the drug as many institutionalized humans do: He shuffled back and forth across his cage with dulled eyes. “It was a little like watching the men in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Mel said.

Dolphins, whales, sea lions, walruses, and other marine creatures in parks like SeaWorld have also been given psychotropic drugs for what their vets see as depression, anxiety, compulsive regurgitation, flank sucking, or other distressing behaviors. Two marine mammal veterinarians who have spent decades on staff or consulting for American animal-display facilities and the military’s marine mammal program told me that antidepressants and antipsychotics are commonly used but that “no one was going to talk to [me] about it.” Even they wouldn’t speak about the subject on the record.’

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Intersex Fish Showing Up in Pennsylvania Rivers

Megan Gannon reports for Live Science:

A smallmouth bass‘Scientists found intersex fish in three river basins in Pennsylvania, a sign that the water may be tainted with chemicals from human activity.

Male smallmouth bass with female characteristics — namely, immature egg cells in their testes — were discovered in the drainage areas of the Susquehanna, Delaware and Ohio rivers, according to a new study led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Such abnormalities are linked to estrogen-mimicking chemicals, which likely got into rivers and streams from agricultural runoff and human waste, the researchers said.’

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Humans have tripled mercury levels in upper ocean

Anne Casselman reports for Nature:

‘Mercury levels in the upper ocean have tripled since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and human activities are to blame, researchers report today in NatureAlthough several computer models have estimated the amount of marine mercury, the new analysis provides the first global measurements. It fills in a critical piece of the global environmental picture, tracking not just the amount of mercury in the world’s oceans, but where it came from and at what depths it is found.

…Researchers collected thousands of water samples during eight research cruises to the North and South Atlantic and Pacific oceans between 2006 and 2011. To determine how mercury levels had changed over time, they compared samples of seawater from depths down to 5 kilometres with water closer to the surface, which had been more recently exposed to mercury pollution from land and air.’

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Could your brain be reprogrammed to work better?

Science Daily reports:

‘Researchers from The University of Western Australia have shown that electromagnetic stimulation can alter brain organisation, which may make your brain work better.

In results from a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France demonstrated that weak sequential electromagnetic pulses (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation — or rTMS) on mice can shift abnormal neural connections to more normal locations.

The discovery has important implications for treatment of many nervous system disorders related to abnormal brain organisation such as depression, epilepsy and tinnitus.’

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6 Shocking Facts About Seafood Production

Katherine Martinko writes for Tree Hugger:

‘Gone are the peaceful afternoons of waiting for a fish to bite the line. The seafood industry is a vicious and brutal one, both for animals and humans. Farmed fish are subjected to terrible lives, wild fish are caught unfairly and mindlessly, and all face inhumane deaths. Even humans are enslaved to put cheap shrimp on your dinner table. Here are just a few reasons why you should think twice about eating fish, or go out and catch it yourself.’

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NHS hospital cafés and junk food outlets ‘are helping to fuel the obesity crisis’

Laura Donnelly, Rosie Shields and Lily Waddell report for The Telegraph:

‘Medical experts urged the health service to “get its house in order” and clear its hospitals of junk food companies such as Burger King and Subway and coffee shops selling muffins and high-sugar drinks. Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England, said the health service had to take “hard-nosed action” to end the sale of junk food in hospitals, to help tackle the obesity crisis. Health campaigners said they were particularly disturbed by the march of Costa Coffee, which has recently come under fire for selling fruit drinks with four times the recommended daily sugar limits.

The investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found 92 branches of the company among the 160 NHS trusts, alongside a host of burger chains, pizzerias, muffin shops and patisseries. The latest figures show that two- thirds of Britons are overweight or obese. A leading cardiologist said allowing companies such as Burger King, Subway and Greggs bakeries to operate from NHS premises was damaging the health of staff, patients and visitors. Senior managers at some of the hospitals said they wanted to close fast-food outlets, but faced being stung by financial penalties from their subcontractors.’

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USAID exploited fake HIV workshop to incite rebellion in Cuba

‘The US Agency for International Development is under fire after an Associated Press report released Monday revealed the agency used young Latin Americans to infiltrate Cuban society and potentially stir dissent under the guise of a fake HIV-prevention organization. Created to serve as a cover for the would-be CIA agents’ espionage activities, the HIV workshop enabled among other activities the creation of a database of Cubans likely to cause trouble for the Castro regime.’ (RT America)

WHO declares Ebola a global health emergency

From The Week:

Doctors prepare to treat patients with Ebola in West Africa‘The Ebola outbreak which has resulted in over 930 deaths in West Africa has officially been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation. The outbreak has been placed in the category of “public health emergencies of international concern” at an emergency meeting in Geneva.

WHO officials called the spread of the disease an “extraordinary event” and said the possible global consequences were “particularly serious”, the BBC reports. The announcement will trigger a “coordinated international response” which will aim to contain and control the deadly outbreak. However, action would stop short of a widespread ban on travel or trade.

Containment of the disease is becoming “impossible for these governments to handle themselves”, Stephen Morrison, the director of the Global Health Policy Centre at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies told Newsweek. While health officials at the WHO said the threat was serious, they also said “it is an infection which can be controlled”. Much of the blame of the spread of the disease has been placed on the region’s poor public health infrastructure.’

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Top doctor: Western drugs firms have not tried to find Ebola vaccine because virus only affects Africans

Jane Merrick reports for The Independent:

Steve Monroe‘Britain’s leading public health doctor today blames the failure to find a vaccine against the Ebola virus on the “moral bankruptcy” of the pharmaceutical industry to invest in a disease because it has so far only affected people in Africa – despite hundreds of deaths. Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, says the West needs to treat the deadly virus as if it were taking hold in the wealthiest parts of London rather than just Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Writing in The Independent on Sunday, Professor Ashton compares the international response to Ebola to that of Aids, which was killing people in Africa for years before treatments were developed once it had spread to the US and UK in the 1980s.

He writes: “In both cases [Aids and Ebola], it seems that the involvement of powerless minority groups has contributed to a tardiness of response and a failure to mobilise an adequately resourced international medical response. In the case of Aids, it took years for proper research funding to be put in place and it was only when so-called ‘innocent’ groups were involved (women and children, haemophiliac patients and straight men) that the media, politicians, scientific community and funding bodies stood up and took notice.”‘

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Brazil: GMO ‘Bt corn’ no longer resists pest attack

From The Ecologist:

‘GMO corn varieties that express insecticidal Bt toxins are failing in the field, with reports of infestations of the fall armyworm on Bt corn in Brazil and the USA. Now the EU is poised to approve one of the failing varieties for use on European farms.

The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region (Aprosoja-MT) has complained that its members’ genetically modified ‘Bt corn’ crops are no longer resistant to insect pests. That’s corn which has been genetically modified to produce an insecticidal toxin that repels or kills pests – principally Spodoptera frugiperda, also known as fall armyworm, corn leafworm or southern grassworm.

The Bt toxin is meant to provide protection to the crop without needing to be sprayed with insecticide. But reports from farmers allege that the Bt corn is actually less resistant to attack by Spodoptera caterpillars than non-GMO varieties. Now farmers have been forced to apply insecticides to their crops, racking up additional environmental and financial costs – after having already paid a premium price for the GM corn seeds.’

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Farming practices and climate change at root of Toledo water pollution

Suzanne Goldenberg reports for The Guardian:

lake erie water‘The toxins that contaminated the water supply of the city of Toledo – leaving 400,000 people without access to safe drinking water for two days – were produced by a massive algae boom. But this is not a natural disaster.

Water problems in the Great Lakes – the world’s largest freshwater system – have spiked in the last three years, largely because of agricultural pollution. Toledo draws its drinking water from Lake Erie.

…The main cause for such algal blooms is an overload of phosphorus, which washes into lakes from commercial fertiliser used by farming operations as well as urban water-treatment centres. Hotter and longer summers also promote the spread of the blue-green scum.’

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India’s Uranium Boss Says Deformed Children May Be ‘Imported’

Rakteem Katakey and Tom Lasseter report for Bloomberg:

‘Confronted with reports villages near Uranium Corp. of India Ltd.’s mines have unusually high numbers of physically deformed people, Chairman Diwakar Acharya said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of those guys are imported from elsewhere, ok?”

A Bloomberg News report on July 9 highlighted the struggles of the locals with disease and early deaths — and the suspicion they shared with some environmental activists that the health conditions are linked to mining waste.’

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Study shows link between TV and children’s learning and development

Heather Spangler reports for Iowa Now:

two children playing in front of a television screenParents, turn off the television when your children are with you. And when you do let them watch, make sure the programs stimulate their interest in learning.

That’s the advice arising from University of Iowa researchers who examined the impact of television and parenting on children’s social and emotional development. The researchers found that background television—when the TV is on in a room where a child is doing something other than watching—can divert a child’s attention from play and learning. It also found that noneducational programs can negatively affect children’s cognitive development.’

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US Court Rules Bhopal Victims Can’t Sue Union Carbide

Andrea Germanos reports for Common Dreams:

‘Victims of the notorious Bhopal chemical plant disaster are still seeking justice after a U.S. district court judge on Wednesday ruled (pdf) that Union Carbide Corp. (UCC) cannot be sued for ongoing contamination from the plant.

The disaster, dubbed “The Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry,” began in 1984 when a cloud of poisonous gas, methyl isocyanate, leaked from a pesticide plant whose majority owner was UCC and was operated by an Indian subsidiary, UCIL. Thousands were killed instantly and thousands more in the aftermath. Decades after the plant’s closure, nearby residents continue to suffer health impacts including cancers and birth defects.

The suit was filed by EarthRights International (ERI) on behalf of Bhopal residents whose water and land continues to suffer contamination from the plant. The organization states that “UCC largely abandoned the site, allowing toxic wastes to leach into the local water supply.”‘

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