Peeling back the layers of the Onion: “Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican Opposition”

August 4, 2011

Bad birthday cake from 2009

Bad birthday cake required by debt ceiling act - replay of 2009

WASHINGTON—After months of heated negotiations and failed attempts to achieve any kind of consensus, President Obama turned 50 years old Thursday, drawing strong criticism from Republicans in Congress. “With the host of problems this country is currently facing, the fact that our president is devoting time to the human process of aging is an affront to Americans everywhere,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who advocated a provision to keep Obama 49 at least through the fall of 2013. “To move forward unilaterally and simply begin the next year of his life without bipartisan support—is that any way to lead a country?” According to White House officials, Obama attempted to work with Republicans right up until the Aug. 4 deadline, but was ultimately left with no choice except to turn a year older.

How many people don’t know what The Onion is, and will assume this as fact?

Tip of the old scrub brush to William Keiser.


Campbell’s soups – “Eww, Eww, toxic?” BPA for lunch?

August 4, 2011

I get e-mail — this time from Moms Rising, wondering whether Campbell’s soup should have Bisphenol-A in it:

Ed,

“Eww Eww Toxic”

That’s our new jingle for Campbell’s soup.  No more  “M’m M’m Good,” we now think “Eww Eww Toxic” is more appropriate.

Why the “Eww” jingle?

Because, according to experts, Campbell’s Soup Company still uses toxic Bisphenol A (BPA) in their canned goods, despite the fact that it’s proven harmful.[1] In April, MomsRising joined the Breast Cancer Fund and over 20,000 parents to ask three major canned food manufacturers, Campbell’s, Del Monte, and General Mills, what they are doing about Bisphenol A (BPA) in their canned goods.  Two companies replied, offering rough timelines for replacing BPA, or sharing details about which products are BPA-free.

We have yet to see the Campbell’s Soup Company respond to those 20,000 people. We’re not going to let the company that markets directly to kids with products like Dora the Explorer “Kidshape Soups” get away with ignoring parents. [2]  Especially when parents have questions about a toxic chemical linked to breast cancer, infertility, early onset puberty, ADHD, and obesity. [3]

Sign on now to our open letter to Campbell’s demanding a response to one key question: What are you doing to phase out BPA in your cans and what safe alternative are you replacing it with?

http://action.momsrising.org/go/1078?akid=2863.152249.ftacUO&t=4

With two billion pounds of BPA produced annually in the U.S., it’s no wonder that over 90% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.[4]

Removing BPA from all canned foods is a great first step in reducing our nation’s BPA exposure.  Canned goods are used in many ways.  And, even if you have the time and resources to get canned goods out of your kitchen, it’s super hard to keep them away from your family.  BPA exposure from canned goods shows up on your plate at the local pizza joint, at a five star restaurant, in your children’s school, or at the local food bank.

Let’s work together to make sure that Campbell’s is serving up some “M’m M’m Good” answers to consumers and taking real action on BPA!

Let Campbell’s know you want a response on how they’re going to phase out BPA today:

http://action.momsrising.org/go/1078?akid=2863.152249.ftacUO&t=6

*And please forward this email along to your friends and family!

Together we can build a safer and healthier nation for all of our children.

— Sarah, Claire, Kristin, and the whole MomsRising Team.

P.S Thank you to our partners on this important issue: Breast Cancer Fund! Learn more about their exciting new study & their work here: www.breastcancerfund.org/foodpackagingstudy

P.P.S. Tell us why you want toxins out of your family’s life.  The personal experiences and thoughts of real moms and dads across this country make a big impact on legislators and can help change the way our country handles toxins.  Share your experience today.

[1] Consumer Reports  and Breast Cancer Fund
[2] Campbell’s Soup Company, Kids Soups
[3] Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
[4] Breast Cancer Fund

Like what we’re doing? Donate: We’re a bootstrap, low overhead, mom run organization. Your donations make the work of MomsRising.org possible–and we deeply appreciate your support. Every little bit counts.

What do you think?  Justified campaign?

Why isn’t there a government agency watching out for us on this issue?  Who stands up for the little mom?

_____________

Need more information?  BPA a new issue for you?

National Toxicology Program assessment of dangers of BPA

National Toxicology Program assessment of dangers of BPA – “The NTP reached the following conclusions on the possible effects of current exposures to bisphenol A on human development and reproduction. Note that the possible levels of concern, from lowest to highest, are negligible concern, minimal concern, some concern, concern, and serious concern.”

And, again from NIEHS’s NTP:

Number seven recycling symbol

Most plastic containers with BPA, but not all, feature a recycling symbol, #3 or #7.

If I am concerned, what can I do to prevent exposure to BPA?

Some animal studies suggest that infants and children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA. Parents and caregivers, can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
  • Polycarbonate containers that contain BPA usually have a #7 on the bottom
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

“It Takes Balls To Execute An Innocent Man”

August 4, 2011

Occasionally I stumble into a discussion of whether anywhere in the U.S. a government may have executed an innocent person.  Generally I note the horrible Texas case in which Texas fought for years for the point that a convicted murderer whose three allowed appeals had been exhausted should not be allowed to reopen his case simply because new evidence of his innocence had emerged.  In Herrera v. Collins (506 US 390, 1993), Texas won the right to not allow evidence of innocence to get a review of the case, and the man was executed.

Ladies and gentlemen I ask you:  Why would a state fight for the right to execute an innocent man, to the Supreme Court, if it did not intend to use that right?

The question rises more frequently these days as Texas Gov. Rick Perry steams toward announcing he will run for the presidency.

I point out that Herrera came down nearly eight years before Perry stumbled into the governor’s chair, his having been standing outside the door as Lieutenant Governor when George W. Bush persuaded the Supreme Court — most of the same justices — to stop both the popular vote and change the electoral vote to give him the presidency.  So we can’t blame that one on Perry.

But we can blame the execution of Todd Willingham on Rick Perry, even understanding that he was relying on what he assumed to be good evidence in his naturally uncurious waltz of destruction across Texas.   Perry could claim he got bad advice.  Though Texas’s governer really has little more than ceremonial power and some appointments, for someone like Perry it is a big job he can barely handle.  People would cut him slack on letting an innocent man die, convicted of a capital crime that as the evidence showed at the time probably did not occur, if he’d just confess it.

Instead, Perry engaged in a four-year campaign to cover up the affair — a cover up that is so far successful.

Jonathan Chait blogging at New Republic cites Politico and The New Yorker on the way to painting all Texans as morally bankrupt for allowing the coverup to go on — justifiably, I think.  While the newspapers cover the story, outrage does not rise from the drought-stricken populace.  New Republic’s blog explained the cover-up, and Texas’s blase attitude:

Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman have a story for Politico about Rick Perry’s limitations as a general election candidate. It’s a really excellent piece on its own terms, but at the same time, it’s a bit of a parody of a Politico story in that it takes a vital moral question, drains it of all its moral significance, and presents it in purely electoral terms. The thesis of the piece is that Perry appeals to very conservative white southerners, but not to anybody else, making him a questionable choice to head the Republican ticket. The piece bears out that thesis pretty well. In the middle it includes a glancing reference to one episode of Perry’s gubernatorial tenure:

Perry would also have to answer for parts of his record that have either never been fully scrutinized in Texas, or that might be far more problematic before a national audience.

Veterans of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s unsuccessful 2010 primary challenge to Perry recalled being stunned at the way attacks bounced off the governor in a strongly conservative state gripped by tea party fever. Multiple former Hutchison advisers recalled asking a focus group about the charge that Perry may have presided over the execution of an innocent man – Cameron Todd Willingham – and got this response from a primary voter: “It takes balls to execute an innocent man.”

The Willingham case is just one episode in Perry’s gubernatorial tenure that could be revived against him in the very different context of a national race, potentially compromising him in a general election.

If you’re not familiar with this episode, David Grann wrote about in for the New Yorker in 2009 in what may be the single greatest piece of journalism I have ever read in my life. (I am biased, as David is a friend and former colleague.) The upshot is that Perry is essentially an accessory to murder. He executed an innocent man, displaying zero interest in the man’s innocence. When a commission subsequently investigated the episode, Perry fired its members.

I’m a Texan, and I’m appalled.  Dear Reader, what can a Texan do?  Please advise.

Surely the rest of America would be concerned and shocked, no?  We can excuse goofs in the histories of our presidential candidates.  Especially since Nixon, we should be doubly wary of those who work hard to cover up their errors, rather than learn from them.

By the way, in the latest action, the office of the Texas Attorney General issued a report on the duties of the commission established to investigate Texas justice to make it more fair — the commission whose members Perry fired when they got close to the Willingham case.  The report says that that Willingham case is water under the bridge, that the commission may not investigatet cases that predate the commission’s creation.

It’s a gross miscarriage of justice, and an attack on the democratic form of government which relies very much on continuous improvement of governmental processes, especially the due processes of criminal justice.


August 4, 1944: Germans capture Anne Frank and her family

August 4, 2011

When I look at the time line, I feel frustrated and angry.

On August 4, 1944, the German Army in the Netherlands raided the warehouse where Anne Frank’s family hid from the Nazis since 1942.  As you know, Anne died in a concentration camp shortly after — only her father survived from her immediate family.

History students will recognize that this was nearly two months after D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy that set off the events leading to liberation of Europe from Nazi rule and the collapse of Hitler’s grand visions of conquest.  How could Nazi minions not know their time was limited, and oppression ultimately futile?

Germany surrendered in May 1945.  In nine months, the Frank family would not need to hide.  Anne died in March 1945, less than eight weeks before the surrender of Germany.

More:

Photos from the liberation of Amsterdam, which occurred on May 6, 1945:


Hopewell Rocks and 45-foot tides at the Bay of Fundy

August 4, 2011

Great time-lapse video of the tides at Hopewell Rocks, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick.

Teachers, can you get a decent geography warm-up with this video?  Every high school kid should know about the Bay of Fundy, one of nature’s greater phenomena.

More: 

Another time-lapse video of the tides at Fundy, taken at Halls Harbour, a different perspective:

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DDT fanatic a former Monsanto lobbyist?

August 4, 2011

Sometimes in unexpected places you stumble across a factoid that makes sense out of a lot of other factoids, turning them into enlightening, and perhaps useful, information.

Steven Milloy used to be a Monsanto lobbyist?  Is that accurate?

Among the allegations, that Monsanto aggressively protects its patents on seeds and other products sold to farmers, and that the company may not be above a bit of skullduggery to push farmers and, in this case, milk processors, to use Monsanto products.  Watch for Steven Milloy’s name to pop up in the last paragraph.  The site quotes a Vanity Fair  article on Monsanto from 2008.

Even if Monsanto’s efforts to secure across-the-board labeling changes should fall short, there’s nothing to stop state agriculture departments from restricting labeling on a dairy-by-dairy basis. Beyond that, Monsanto also has allies whose foot soldiers will almost certainly keep up the pressure on dairies that don’t use Monsanto’s artificial hormone. Jeff Kleinpeter knows about them, too.

He got a call one day from the man who prints the labels for his milk cartons, asking if he had seen the attack on Kleinpeter Dairy that had been posted on the Internet. Kleinpeter went online to a site called StopLabelingLies, which claims to “help consumers by publicizing examples of false and misleading food and other product labels.” There, sure enough, Kleinpeter and other dairies that didn’t use Monsanto’s product were being accused of making misleading claims to sell their milk.

There was no address or phone number on the Web site, only a list of groups that apparently contribute to the site and whose issues range from disparaging organic farming to downplaying the impact of global warming. “They were criticizing people like me for doing what we had a right to do, had gone through a government agency to do,” says Kleinpeter. “We never could get to the bottom of that Web site to get that corrected.”

As it turns out, the Web site counts among its contributors Steven Milloy, the “junk science” commentator for FoxNews.com and operator of junkscience.com, which claims to debunk “faulty scientific data and analysis.” It may come as no surprise that earlier in his career, Milloy, who calls himself the “junkman,” was a registered lobbyist for Monsanto.

If accurate, it’s a sort of “origins” story — I don’t think it explains Milloy’s current advocacy of DDT and almost all other things anti-environmentally-wise.  Nor does it explain Milloy’s penchant for making things up whole cloth.  Does Fox News disclose this anywhere?

It does suggest his dirty tricks chops against environmentalists and scientists get exercised more than I had imagined.

The story is an interesting and odd footnote in the debunking of the unholy War on Science that claims Rachel Carson was wrong, and DDT is harmless and right.

More: 


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