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Video: All nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran – Trump

US President Donald Trump has called on the world to isolate Iran. Trump and the Saudi monarch said they need to “contain Iran's malign...

Not rocket science: Former SpaceX technician sues company for cutting corners

A former SpaceX technician alleges in a lawsuit that the company’s corporate culture forces technicians to...
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Video: Cop class: Ohio criminal science students agree to get pepper-sprayed

Ohio criminal science students agreed to get pepper sprayed to experience the possible effects of it Credit: Melody steinhour / ViralHog.com RT LIVE ... Via...

Experts Resign From EPA Subcommittee to Protest Trump's War on Science

Protesting the Trump administration's "continued obfuscation of scientific evidence and the research enterprise," two scientists resigned Friday from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advisory...

EPA to replace half of science advisors, critics fear industry takeover

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt has dismissed half of the EPA’s key scientific review board members. Some fear the Trump administration is “inserting...

Bouncing Back Against the Corruption of Science in Capitalist Society

Part 2 of a 2-part series: The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change Continuing from the first part of this series, one...

Marching in Circles: Faustian Thinking and the Myth of Science

In our society those who have best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it...

The Role of Science in Capitalist Society and Social Change

It was a deary day in Washington, D.C. The rain was pouring down and thousands of people were gathered in a huddled mass, listening...

They Thwarted Me With Science

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They Blinded Me With Science

Khalil Bendib/ OtherWords.org This piece was reprinted from Other Words by RINF Alternative News with permission.
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Video: Hundreds of Thousands Take to the Streets Worldwide for the Global March for...

http://democracynow.org - On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of scientists and science supporters took to the streets around the world in a global March for...
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Video: Iraqi-American Doctor Who Revealed Flint Water Crisis Slams Trump & Travel Ban at...

http://democracynow.org - Among those who spoke out at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., on Saturday was Flint's Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, ... Via Youtube
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Video: Science is Cool! Students, Teachers, Nurses, Researchers & Sci-Fi Writers Join the March...

http://democracynow.org - Among the thousands who braved the stormy weather and marched on Washington, D.C., as part of the first-ever global March for ... Via...

Anti-Science Trump Administration Draws Thousands to the Streets Worldwide

A group of friends rallies with homemade felt hats of different animals that are at risk. (Photo: Zach Roberts) Want to see more original...

Trump omits climate change in Earth Day speech, praises ‘rigorous science & economic growth’

President Trump omitted climate change from his Earth day speech, while proclaiming his commitment to preserving...

9 Reasons to March for Science This Earth Day

This Earth Day, April 22, Marches for Science will take place in DC and countless cities across the country. Here are some reasons to...

In photos: ‘March for Science’ in US, beyond

Thousands of people hit the streets in cities across the United States and beyond to celebrate science and censure disregard for knowledge. Read more

In Photos: Scientists Worldwide Fight Back Against Anti-Science Trump Agenda

Tens of thousands are celebrating Earth Day by marching Saturday against President Donald Trump's ongoing attacks on science, in an unprecedented global uprising of...

Standing Up for Science: 5 Facts About Our Food and Water on Earth Day

This Saturday, Earth Day, The March for Science convenes on Washington, DC. Hundreds of satellite marches have also been organized around the world to...

Trump Administration's War on Science Reaches Justice Department

The Trump administration's anti-science bent has reached the Department of Justice (DOJ), with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying Monday that the department is ending...

AG Sessions scraps forensic science panel, suspends FBI testimony review

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered an end to an independent panel that sought to...

The House Science Committee’s Shameful Climate Sideshow

There are a lot of ways one can imagine, in principle, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology holding a constructive, timely hearing...

A Step Towards De-Politicizing Science

The Trump administration has released its proposed 2018 budget, and within it are some things worth cheering. Trump’s “America First budget” includes needed cuts...

“Skinny Budget” Disregards Science, Placing Communities at Risk

WASHINGTON - President Trump released his proposed “skinny budget” today. Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of UCS. Kimmell is also the former...

Pruitt Flings Open EPA Doors to Anti-Science Conservative Ideologues

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaks at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on February 25, 2017....

With White House Embracing Climate Denial, Will Corporate Media Treat It as Science?

CNBC‘s Joe Kernan interviewing climate denialist EPA chief Scott Pruitt. If the public rollout of the Trump administration’s new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, is any...

Why Social Scientists Should Not Participate in the March for Science

Many social scientists are excited about and poised to participate in the upcoming March for Science, which is being described by the...

Science Isn't Just for Scientists—We Can All Take Part

After he moved to London in his early 20s, Luke Howard became obsessed with the weather. Howard had a day job running a pharmacy...

Stepping Away from Microscopes, Thousands Protest War on Science

Responding to the troubling suppression of science under the Trump administration, thousands of scientists, allies, and frontline communities are holding a rally in Boston's...

England World Cup winner donates brain to medical science

George Cohen, 77, who played with the England team that won the 1966 football World...

‘It Is Not at All Typical to Stifle Basic Scientific Information’ – CounterSpin interview...

Janine Jackson interviewed Andrew Rosenberg about the Trump administration’s hostility toward science for the February 3, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly...

Tyrannic Man’s Dominion: Trump Era Physical Sciences Approaching Social Sciences’ Marginal Status

Photo by Paul Sableman | CC BY 2.0   One of the Trump Administration’s most dramatic departures from preceding administrations is an open hostility to commonly...

You Are the Conscience of This Nation

Protestors took the Philadelphia Center City streets on January 26, 2017 in two large demonstrations as Trump and the GOP met to plan their...

As Trump Attacks Science, Ireland Takes Step to Divest From Fossil Fuels

The climate movement is celebrating a victory after Irish lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would make the country the first to fully...

Why do Hollywood villains always have posh English accents? Science has the answer…

Posh English accents are perceived to be sinister because they imply a higher level of...

Marijuana effective in treating pain & other ailments but some science still lacking –...

Marijuana is effective in treating some illnesses, but there's not enough science to determine its efficacy for others, a new report has found. The...

Video: Trump’s War on Science: Exxon CEO Expected to Head State, While “Enemies List”...

http://democracynow.org - Over the weekend, news reports began to circulate saying President-elect Donald Trump is expected to nominate ExxonMobil CEO ... Via Youtube

If GOP Gets Climate ‘Science’ From Breitbart, God Help the Planet

The US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology recently tweeted an article by Breitbart, stating [email protected]: Global Temperatures Plunge. Icy Silence From Climate...

Climate Advocate: Trump's Racist, Anti-Science Worldview Will Make One in 30 People Worldwide Refugees

The U.N. climate summit in Marrakech is taking place not far from the Mediterranean Sea, where thousands of refugees have drowned while fleeing war...

Respecting “Rules of War” in Societal Battles: Science, Sex and Hate Speech

Summary: I argue that in the many societal battles that serve to repair continually arising unjust features of the societal hierarchy, individuals must respect...

Artificial eggs grown in science lab create living mice

Scientists have created artificial animal eggs in a laboratory to develop living mice in what...
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Video: Science meets religion: Android robot presented to Patriarch Kirill at Orthodox Student Forum

The Russian SAR-401 android robot was presented to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the International Orthodox Student Forum in Moscow. RT LIVE ... Via Youtube

Nuclear Standoff: Human Conscience Dismissed on a Technicality

Values the size of Planet Earth are at stake, as the American presidential election grows ever smaller, ever pettier, ever more certain...

Prove your science behind counter-terrorism schemes, doctors tell government

Experts have called on the government to publish the science behind its counter-terrorism strategy, after programs such as Prevent proved inefficient and a possible...

Assange, Manning, and Snowden, Standing With the Conscience of Truthtellers

Last week, Oliver Stone’s biopic “Snowden” hit the theaters. The film illuminates the life of Edward Snowden between 2004 and...

UKIP’s only MP tries to school science professor on science… and fails

UKIP’s only MP, Douglas Carswell, got into an Twitter spat with a University of Sussex...

Assange, Manning and Snowden: Standing up for the Conscience of Truthtellers

Last week, Oliver Stone’s biopic “Snowden” hit the theaters. The film illuminates the life of Edward Snowden between 2004 and 2013, aiming to humanize...

Science Museum gets a piece of visitors’ minds after male/female brain comparison

An interactive exhibition at London’s Science Museum was criticized for testing its visitors on whether...

Science of kindness? Generosity linked to specific part of brain, study says

While it may seem that generosity comes straight from the heart, a new study suggests...

EPA science advisers push agency to provide more evidence that fracking is safe

The Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific review board wants the agency to provide more evidence for its...
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Video: The Doubt Machine – Inside the Koch Brothers’ War on Climate Science

Investigative journalist, Bruce Livesey has teamed up with TRNN to make a documentary to expose the Koch brothers' war on the environment and their...

Behavioral genetics, one of the fastest growing fields in science, still makes a lot...

Think of someone whose political ideology leads them to ignore and groundlessly reject science. Typically, this often describes those on the right...
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Video: Post Juno Orbital Insertion NASA Science Briefing

RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air Subscribe to RT! http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=RussiaToday Like us on Facebook ... Via Youtube

Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”

Colin Todhunter Unlike their predecessors, early 21st century missionaries do not come armed with bibles. They come as members of a scientific priesthood, spouting slick...

Lying About Science for Politics Is Evil

Demonstrators outside the ExxonMobil shareholder meeting in Dallas, Texas, May 25, 2016. Activist investors want to hold on to their stakes in...

Koch Front Groups Are Defending ExxonMobil's Anti-Science Campaigns

If you're an executive at a big oil company watching as ExxonMobil is finally exposed for studying climate change, covering up the...

GMOs, “Biggest Fraud in the History of Science” – Some ‘Questions and Answers’

Colin Todhunter The decision on whether to renew EU approval for the herbicide glyphosate is to go to an appeals panel on 23 June after...

The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns

The purpose of this piece is to draw readers’ attention to an important chapter from a document by Aruna Rodrigues that discusses the unique...

USA Today Fail: Donald Trump Science Column by Corporate Front Group

USA Today fell to a new low in science and election coverage this week with a column speculating about presidential candidate Donald...

NFL’s War Against Science and Reason

Exclusive: As a powerful corporation and cultural icon, the NFL expects to always get its way whether muscling aside concussion scientists or...

The Good Food Movement Needs Science, Too

Perhaps you’ve heard some organic food advocates say, “We should just roll back the clock and farm the way we used to” — before...

‘Science fiction to fact’: NASA hackathon expands its diversity worldwide

In some 163 locations across 72 countries spanning six continents, hackers joined with scientists, engineers and...

Clintonism the Future? NYT’s Political Science Fiction

Just before the New York primary, the New York Times (4/16/16) published an op-ed by Michael Lind called “Trumpism and Clintonism Are the Future.”...

Birthplace of innovation:’ Astronaut tells RT how NASA’s Space Apps Challenge can change science

NASA’s annual Space Apps Challenge has kicked off in Pasadena, California, with more than a hundred...

Trampling Science to Boost Nuclear Power

When the Washington Post and New York Times are making the same corporate-friendly point, it’s safe to assume that some PR agency somewhere is...

FTC attacks Dr. Mercola over tanning beds, but won’t go after pharma giants for...

In the latest government-waged attack on alternative health practitioners, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered Dr. Joseph Mercola to pay up to $5.3...
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Video: Guilty Conscience? Saudis threaten to sell $750bn of US assets if congress passes...

Saudi Arabia threatens to sell off US assets if Congress passes 9/11 bill The relationship between the two countries has been under pressure in...

Colonialism via Data, Sensors, Genes, Neuroscience

In 2007 I wrote and presented a conceptual paper to an international studies group in Portugal. The subject matter was, generally, the use of...

‘Prisoner of conscience’: Free Bahraini mother convicted for human rights work, demands Amnesty

Bahraini authorities are facing demands to release a human rights campaigner convicted of destroying a...

Stephen Hawking: Brexit would be ‘disaster for UK science’

(RT) - World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking joined 150 top scientists on Thursday in calling for...

Twisted Science, Altered Truth: Inside the Church of Pro-GMO Activism

Last year on Twitter, Monsanto Vice President Robert Fraley provided a link to an article that implied those who are suspicious of genetically modified...
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Video: Frankenscience? Human organs grown in animals to be reportedly approved in UK

The UK Home Office is expected to give the green light this week to a controversial scientific technique developed in the United States. It...

The Fishy Science Behind Mutant Salmon

Americans have been eating genetically modified corn, soybeans, and other crops for nearly two decades. But thanks to the Food and Drug Administration, now...

Charlie Sheen does NOT have HIV… AIDS industry skeptic says it’s all fabricated based...

While the popular media is blowing up over reports that claim Charlie Sheen is HIV positive and may have infected dozens (or...

European Agency Says Monsanto’s Flagship Product Is Not ‘Likely’ Carcinogenic Based on Flawed Science

With the European Union’s approval of glyphosate set to expire at the end of the year, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) today announced...

Science of snooping: Internet spying cost & feasibility examined by MPs

MPs have launched an inquiry into the cost and feasibility of the government’s Investigatory Powers Bill, known as the Snooper’s Charter, to examine how...

For science! US government says it’s OK to hack your car, tablet or smart...

The Library of Congress just granted a set of copyright exemptions, giving the owners of smart TV sets and cars the ability to tinker...
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Video: Trudeau Pledge Tracker: Reinstating 40 Million in Science Funding and Appointing a Chief...

Alana Westwood of Evidence for Democracy says Harper cancelled long form census data collection, it will take years to recover such data gaps for...

16yo teen invents world’s fastest Ebola test, grabs Google science prize

A 16-year old teenager from Connecticut has invented an express test to detect the deadly Ebola virus in just 30 minutes at a cost...

NYT calls out Coca-Cola’s harmful junk food science while ignoring Monsanto’s fraudulent GMO science

The New York Times recently published an in-depth article on one of its blogs exposing the Coca-Cola Company's efforts to promote flawed science downplaying...

STUPID: Washington Post claims omega-3s are useless; science shows they improve diabetes, brain health...

Whenever there's an opportunity to mock and discredit the health benefits of nutrition, the mainstream media is right there, ready to pounce. If nutrition...

The Latest Science on Global Warming

Eric Zuesse Because of the prejudiced coverage of the global warming issue that’s common in much of the press, I have decided to present highlights...
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Video: Skyscraper Tetris: Poland celebrates Palace of Culture and Science 60 yr anniversary

Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, turned its windows into a colorful game of Tetris to celebrate its 60 year anniversary on Thursday,...
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Video: ‘Absolute science fiction, NATO-Russia conflict not going to happen’ — Mayor of Riga

Tensions between Russia and Europe over Ukraine have re-ignited decades-old fears and divisions between the people of the Baltic states. But despite growing ... Via...

Stupidity and Intelligence: Science, GMOs and Our Food

Vandana Shiva (Common Dreams) - "Science" is derived from the scire — "to know". Each of us should know what we are eating, how it was produced,...
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Video: Scientific Precision: Hip-Hop in Tubman City with Precise Science

Emcee and activist Ruffmic of Precise Science talks about liberation hip-hop. Via Youtube
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Video: Pope Francis Goes Green, Balancing Science and Religion (2/2)

In part two, Janet Redman and Blasé Bonpane say the every dollar spent on the military-industrial complex, a leading greenhouse gas emitter, is a...
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Video: Pope Francis Goes Green Balancing Science and Religion

The Pope issues a encyclical to address the climate change crisis, Janet Redman and Blase Bonpane weighs in on this defining moment for the...

Social Science Findings about Conservatism

Eric Zuesse WHAT IS CONSERVATISM? The great empirical social psychologist who specialized in studying bigotry, Bob Altemeyer, in his 1996 The Authoritarian Specter, and his other...

Suppressing Science For Monsanto? Groups Demand Investigation of USDA

'It is imperative that the USDA maintains scientific integrity and does not allow for harassment, censorship or suppression of findings that counter the interests...

Chelsea Manning and the Call of America’s Conscience

April 5th marked the five year anniversary of WikiLeaks publication of theCollateral Murder Video. The footage of a secret US military video depicted an...

Science, Democracy and Choice: Responding To A Pro-GMO Scientist

Writer and researcher Colin Todhunter takes apart the arguments of pro-GMO lobbyist Anthony Trewavas below. There’s more about Trewavas here. The following is in response...

Science, Democracy And Choice: A Response To Professor Tony Trewavas’s Open Letter

The following is in response to an open letter published on the AgBioWorld Facebook page by Professor Tony Trewavas of Edinburgh University. This response is also posted on the GM Watch, Global Research, Countercurrents and RINF websites. 

Tony Trewavais wrote his letter after reading my article ‘So You Want to Help Africa Mr Paterson? Then Stop Promoting Ideology and Falsehoods to Push GMOs’. The article originally appeared on a number of prominent websites. On Global Research, the piece appeared under a different title ‘The Propaganda Campaign in support of GMOs’ (read here).

Professor Trewavas is a prominent supporter of GMOs in Britain. His original letter is provided in full below my response.

Dear Professor Trewavas

I find your response to my piece disappointing. You failed to address many of the issues I discussed (not least that the world can feed itself without GMOs and that hunger and poverty are due to structural factors and not a lack of food, which GMOs have merely exacerbated) and have decided to indulge in the same type of smear-scare tactics that Owen Paterson employed in his Pretoria speech.

You forward the baseless assertions that GMOs are safe, even though there has not been one long-term epidemiological study conducted to show this.

While condemning Greenpeace and other groups for somehow being authoritarian and anti-choice, you say nothing about agribusiness corporations whose financial clout has brought them political influence that allows them to exert huge control over the WTO and capture regulatory bodies and public research institutions. These corporations have had a key role in driving trade policies from India to Europe, not least in terms of the secretive Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the world’s largest secretive, pro-corporate trade deal, the proposed TTIP. 

Where is the choice and democracy here? 

You have nothing to say on that but proceed to lecture me on the virtues of choice and democracy.

In your opening paragraph alone, you make four fallacious assertions.

First of all, I did not say GMOs would be a disaster for "any" farmer. In India’s Punjab state, for example, some farmers have done quite well from the introduction of petrochemical farming (‘green revolution’). But water tables are falling drastically, pesticides have contaminated the water supply, there is a big cancer problem and many farmers are experiencing economic distress. In Punjab, this form of agriculture is unsustainable. There is now an agrarian crisis and it is a health, environmental and social disaster. My point is that GMOs would similarly be bad for agriculture in general and would have a systemic, detrimental impact on the environment and human health.

Second, you claim that I fear GMOs will not be a disaster for African farmers but a success. Not true. You have ignored the fact that a number of GMO projects in Africa to date have indeed been failures and in my article I provided a link to a report to highlight this (which you go on to conveniently dismiss as a ‘biased’ source).  

Third, you say that the word ‘choice’ is conspicuously absent from my article. Any objective reader would appreciate that the concept is central to it, not least where I discuss the ‘choices’ imposed on Ethiopia via the West’s ‘structural adjustment’ of agriculture (which I refer to at the end of the article). That was not a case of farmers ‘choosing’ to restructure their agriculture, but a case of policies being forced on them at a macro policy level. And this is one of the issues that I have with GMOs.

Although you conveniently do not mention that part of my piece, Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis takes account of the way by which agribusiness conglomerates can and do set rules at the WTO, manipulate market forces and restructure agriculture in foreign countries for their own ends. That is very much related to ‘choice’ and its denial. You talk a great deal about ‘democracy’ but fail to address how this situation fits with your ideas of giving choice to farmers and not imposing authoritarian agendas on people.

You say I should buy a farm and exert my choice to farm as I wish. Talk about exercising such a choice to the people in South America who Helena Paul wrote about (described in my piece). They are being driven out as agribusiness and the planting of GMOs (mainly for export) takes hold. She describes this as ecocide and genocide. Tell it to the peasant farmers who are being forced from their lands by speculators and corporations as described by reports by GRAIN and the Oakland Institute last year. These are the people who feed 80 percent of the ‘developing world’, without GM technology, yet are being squeezed out. Where is choice and democracy?

Certain words are used cheaply by some.

The issue of choice not only concerns the options made available to people, but those which have been closed off. Owen Paterson’s claims that “primitive, inefficient” farming techniques would condemn “billions” to hunger, poverty and underdevelopment is ridiculous. He engages in hyperbole in order to denigrate credible alternatives that are forwarded by the groups he is attacking and thus trying to deny those alternatives.

Fourth, nowhere do I say that only agroecological farming should be implemented to feed the world, as you claim I do. However, there are many studies and official reports that demonstrate the efficacy of organic and agroecological approaches that are well publicised. In my article, I referred to some of these studies and reports. But rather than regurgitating references, I would say that no matter what data is presented, certain people seek to marginalise agroecological approaches and prefer to focus on external input intensive ‘solutions' and proprietary technologies, such as GMOs.
I find it strange that supporters of GMOs talk so much about choice when the GMO biotech industry has spent $100 million in the US to deny choice by preventing labelling of GM food.

Where is the choice for the farmer who uses non-GM crops but has his field contaminated by GMOs? Where was the choice when parts of the US wheat crop were contaminated as a result of open-field trials or when contamination took place because of Liberty Link 601? Where is the choice in West Bengal where GMOs from Bangladesh have been found?

Where is the choice for farmers when the only ones that end up on the market are company seeds, or where thousands of varieties have been reduced to a relative handful?

In my piece, Daniel Maingi and Mariam Mayet mentioned the squeezing out of alternatives as a result of the impact of Western agribusiness in Africa. Are they to be dismissed as ‘biased’ sources too?

You say the following: 

“Most objectors in this area have a political programme not a scientific one but they like to bend science to their own political point of view. Science is by its nature not politics or political propaganda or anything like it. It deals with evidence not superstition, or political or social philosophies. If you have a political programme then please stop trying to justify it by claiming it has scientific support; it does not.”

First of all, I provided valid references which referred to peer-reviewed science in the article (and have again below), but all you can say is that my ‘political programme’ has “no scientific support”. I say to you: please stop justifying your own pro-GMO stance by smearing critics and rejecting any evidence because it does not fit your own agenda. Please do not talk about ‘choice’ and ‘democracy’ when your own agenda is to support powerful corporations who via the distortion of science and the capture of strategic national and international bodies deny choice.

Your view of science is either deliberately misleading or simply naïve. And for someone in your position, I find it difficult to believe it could be the latter. From acquiring funding and formulating the questions to be addressed, to conducting research, interpreting findings and peer review, politics are present in science throughout. The manufacture of scientific knowledge involves a process driven by various sociological, methodological and epistemological conflicts and compromises, both inside the laboratory and beyond. Writers in the field of the sociology of science have written much on this. I refer you to the following link, which contests your lofty view of science and scientists: ‘Monsanto wants to know why people doubt science’.

The very fact you have responded to me in a certain manner discredits your view of scientists, not least because it becomes difficult to appreciate where the line between science and lobbying is in your case.

There is an authoritarian, political agenda behind the GMO project – not set by some environmental group (as you say) that you like to use as a whipping boy – but by the agribusiness concerns behind GMOs and petro-chemical industrial agriculture. Focusing on Greenpeace with its supposed agenda serves as a convenient diversion.

It is not NGOs, groups, activists and campaigners that have failed to provide convincing arguments. And, by the way, to conflate such groups with intolerance, authoritarianism and killings by brutal regimes or groups is ludicrous and smacks of desperation on your part. You are a scientist but are using all the cheap smears and tactics of a lobbyist!

When peer-reviewed science is provided by critics to support their claims, the onslaught by the GMO agritech industry and its mouthpieces against those who legitimately and scientifically contest the claims about the efficacy of GMOs is relentless. Just ask Arpad Pusztai, P. M. Bhargava, Judy Carman, Terje Traavik, Andrés Carrasco, Ignacio Chapela, Allison Snow, Marc Lappé, Britt Bailey, Bela Darvas and G. E. Seralini.

These scientists have all either been threatened, smeared or hindered in their work because their research called into question the safety and/or efficacy of GMOs or associated products.

The hypocrisy of those from the pro-GMO lobby who call for sound science to inform the debate on GMOs is glaringly obvious. Those who argue against GMOs are accused of not having science or facts on their side and of engaging in propaganda, while it is clear the pro-GMO lobby that hurls such allegations is itself guilty of all such things. This tactic goes hand in glove with a strident populist agenda whereby the pro-GMO lobby portrays itself as on the side of the people, while its opponents are ‘elitists’ and are ‘stealing food from the bellies of the poor’.

If you really do value democracy as much as you say and wish to call to account those who show contempt for it, you would do better by reading Steven Druker’s new book ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’. Instead of attacking Greenpeace and other groups, you should be more even handed (and employ just a little ‘scientific objectivity’ in your approach) by looking at the fraudulent practices and processes in US government departments that led to the commercialisation of GMOs in that country.

As far as your point on there being a scientific consensus is concerned, it has been well established in recent months by over 300 scientists in a peer reviewed journal that there is no consensus. Furthermore, you bring the issue of climate change into the debate. If I am to accept your claim that there is overwhelming consensus on climate change then I certainly reject your assertion that the same applies to the GMO issue.

What you claim to be ‘biased’ sources have demonstrated that the claims made on the back of many studies on GMOs are not supported by the evidence and that in many instances certain findings are marginalised as not being significant when they actually are (I supply these two links which provide reference to support my claims, the first of which you have already dismissed as being from a biased source, without addressing the issues raised therein:  'An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of GM crops and food' and 'Adverse impacts of transgenic crops/food: a compilation of scientific references with abstracts').  

Moreover, climate change is fundamentally different to the GMO issue. Climate change may or may not be anthropogenic, but scientists are deliberately genetically engineering food and adopting a wait and see attitude towards the impact. Wouldn’t it be better to prove safety beforehand?

But let’s get one thing clear, as Druker shows, GMOs were placed on the commercial market due to political arm twisting and official bodies in the US ignoring science that pointed out the dangers of this technology. The decision to commercialise GMOs was not based on scientific evidence; in fact, it ignored such evidence. Yet you are still placing the onus on scientists to prove that GMOs are unsafe – and when they show that they are, these scientists are attacked. It seems science is only called on when it suits.

Releasing GMOs onto the commercial market is not like boarding a plane, as you suggest. The genetic engineering of food affects every member of the population. It presents a widespread, systemic risk to the human population. Most planes are safe and have been tested. Moreover, we have a choice to board a plane. We have no other choice than to eat (unlabelled) food. GMO food has not been proven safe.

The GMO biotech industry carries out inadequate, short-term studies and conceals the data produced by its research under the guise of ‘commercial confidentiality’, while independent research highlights the very serious dangers of its products. It has in the past also engaged in fakery in India, bribery in Indonesia, smears and intimidates those who challenge its interests and distorts and censors science by restricting independent research. If science is held in such high regard by the GMO agritech sector, why engage in such practices and why in the US did policy makers release GM food onto the commercial market without proper long-term tests?

Despite its claims to the contrary, the sector cannot win the scientific debate, so it resorts to co-opting key public bodies or individuals to propagate various falsehoods and deceptions. Part of the deception is based on emotional blackmail: the world needs GMOs to feed the hungry, both now and in the future. This myth has been blown apart. In fact, the organisation GRAIN highlights that GMOs have thus far have actually contributed to food insecurity!

You say:

“If agroecological approaches can currently match yield that can be attained by using modern farming methods then by all means use it.”

Why doesn’t Paterson adopt this attitude? He denigrates such alternatives, and you deem it necessary to jump to his defence by responding this way.

“But if not and my understanding is that currently it cannot, then they should not be the farming method of recommended choice at present.”

Perhaps you need to do some more reading and consult a few more UN and scientific reports.   

You say that:

“No-one with any concern for humanity or the welfare of its population should currently consider any other alternative. The groups that campaign for this kind or that kind of farming method and destroy crops to try and bounce others into their point of view have lost that fundamental concern for their own species.”

What a ridiculous assertion. Why do you persist in attacking those who clearly do have compassion? Environmental groups have not engaged in decades of massive criminality, in decades of cover ups and serious environmental pollution. You would do better by focussing on one particular leading company whose record clearly shows that it has no regard whatsoever for humanity, yet which claims it wants to ‘feed the word’ with altruistic intent.

If you really do believe in dispassionate, objective discourse, then adopt an even-handed approach. You talk so much about democracy and choice yet there is no mention whatsoever of the crimes, cover ups and decades of environmental pollution that a certain company that forms part of the pro-GMO lobby has been involved in.

You talk about choice and democracy but say nothing about how big agribusiness has at international and national levels captured policy making bodies to effectively impose ‘choice’ on US consumers and poorer nations and devastate local economies. Where is your condemnation? Where is your condemnation of ‘big list’ studies and fallacious claims made by the likes of Jon Entine about safety and efficacy on the back of them? Or are your condemnations, attacks, misrepresentations and ridiculous assertions reserved for those who flag up such things?

While powerful corporations have instant access to policy makers who work closely together, ordinary people and groups have to resort to Freedom of Information legislation to ascertain what happens behind closed doors. They have to rely on whisteblowers or leaked documents or must go through the courts to gain access to studies that formed the basis of regulatory bodies’ approvals for commercial agribusiness products. And you talk to me about democracy and of how I or some campaign group have scant regard for it?

Your response is full of warm sounding notions about democracy and choice and some high-minded words about science and scientists (of course, only the science that fits your paradigm). Rhetoric, platitudes and clichés do not constitute a considered response. Projecting the pro-GMO lobby’s deficiencies onto its critics is not valid. It’s disappointing from a scientist.

You indulge in cheap, fallacious attacks on critics, which is symptomatic of a very transparent and predictable propaganda campaign aimed at critics.  

In finishing, I would like to make clear that I do not belong to any environmental or campaign group. I received no payment for the article you responded to. This is why I refer to myself as in ‘independent’ (not freelance) writer.

I wonder how many scientists can claim such a level of independence from for-profit corporate entities.

With kind regards,

Colin Todhunter


Open letter from Professor Trewavas

Dear Mr Todhunter

I read your article against GM crops (So You Want to Help Africa Mr Paterson? Then Stop Promoting Ideology and Falsehoods to Push GMOs; http://rinf.com/alt-news/editorials/want-help-africa-mr-paterson-stop-promoting-ideology-falsehoods-push-gmos/) but I searched in vain for one small word, ‘choice’.  It seems never to enter the commentaries of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth or WWF or the other odd environmentalist/activist groupings that appear now and again. Your claim is that Africa can do very well just on agroecology. Well, put your money where your mouth is. Buy a farm in Africa and farm it in the way that you want. But allow others to farm as they wish and if they wish to use GM crops that is their right to do so just as it yours, not to. According to you any African farmer using GM crops will be a disaster so in that case they will stop using them. If it’s not a disaster, which I suspect is what you fear most, then they will reap the benefit and perhaps persuade you in due course to farm like them. Do you want to impose your opinions on others without allowing them to make their own minds up and choose how they wish to farm?

It is an unfortunate situation that in our present world many environmentalist groups have become typically authoritarian in attitude. Greenpeace notably decides its opinions must prevail regardless of others, so it arrogates to itself the right to tear up and destroy things it doesn’t like. That is absolutely typical of people who are unable to convince others by debate and discussion and in the last century such attitudes, amplified obviously, ended up killing people that others did not like. But the same personality type the authoritarian, ‘do as I tell you’, was at the root of it all. Such groups therefore sit uneasily with countries that are democracies. It would be nice if you could say you are a democrat and believe that argument is better than destruction but argument that deals with all the facts and does not select out of those to construct a misleading programme. Misleading selection of limited information is causing considerable problems in various parts of the world that leads some into very violent behaviour, particularly in religious belief. I am sure you agree that this is not a good way forward.

There is a consensus amongst scientists, at least those that have made themselves aware of all reasonable scientific facts, that GM is both safe for consumption and with appropriate regulations for the environment too. Do you agree with that consensus or not? There is another scientific consensus over climate change that is impelling governments to take action. The consensus over GM food safety is stronger amongst scientists than that over climate change, according to a current survey. I assume you accept the one over climate change, most do. But science and scientific fact is not a pick and mix situation, if you accept a scientific consensus on one than you have to accept it for the other. I am sure you will be aware that there are minorities of scientists, different in both cases, that object to both. But I have found that those that do object to the consensus on GM crops always fail to provide an acceptable balance of information in their objections. They select out only the very limited data they consider supports their view and neglect everything else that does not. That is not science that can be used to construct policy. It’s like claiming flying is unsafe because several planes a year crash whilst ignoring the hundreds of thousands every day that haven’t. If you want unbiased information on GM crops go to the many university personnel who can provide it for you. But please do not quote the so obviously-biased publication which you have, as though it were scientific fact.

Most objectors in this area have a political programme not a scientific one but they like to bend science to their own political point of view. Science is by its nature not politics or political propaganda or anything like it. It deals with evidence not superstition, or political or social philosophies. If you have a political programme then please stop trying to justify it by claiming it has scientific support; it does not.

All human activities have costs and benefits, that will include agroecological approaches that you apparently favour, but at the start both costs and benefits have to be drawn up to see what is appropriate to the particular circumstance. Given the rapidly increasing African population I would say that currently yield is crucial but that can change just as farming methods are changing in Europe towards increasing environmental concerns. Farming methods that do both such as no-till or integrated farm management currently offer the best compromise. Malawi, I understand, subsidizes minerals for crop growth and has turned the country from a food importer into a food exporter. That seems an excellent approach at present to solve a pressing problem.

If agroecological approaches can currently match yield that can be attained by using modern farming methods then by all means use it. But if not and my understanding is that currently it cannot, then they should not be the farming method of recommended choice at present.

When Africa has got its population increases under control and producing sufficient to feed everybody then alternatives like agroecology may come to the fore. No-one with any concern for humanity or the welfare of its population should currently consider any other alternative. The groups that campaign for this kind or that kind of farming method and destroy crops to try and bounce others into their point of view have lost that fundamental concern for their own species.

I am not dogmatic about the methods that farmers use since I consider that decision is the province of individual farmers themselves. Whatever their choice is their right in the framework of their country but they must be allowed to make that decision in full knowledge of all the scientific information and advice, not the tiny amount available to support alternative points of view. That is the nature of every democracy that I hope all will finally live under.

Good science is not set in stone or concrete, the current view on GM crops is simply based on the wealth of the factual and reproducible evidence that all good scientists recognise. But if the evidence indicates change then scientists change with it. Why not join those whose job it is to provide farmers and the populace with unbiased evidence constructed by independent university personnel? You have nothing to lose but the constraints of closed thinking and everything to gain that comes from reasoned and open scientific debate.

With my best wishes
Professor Tony Trewavas FRS
University of Edinburgh
Professor Anthony Trewavas FRS. FRSE
Institute of Molecular Plant Science
Mayfield Road
Edinburgh EH9 3JH



Not Science, Just Lies And Propaganda: The Massive Fraud Behind GMOs Exposed

Counterpunch, RINF, Global Research, Countercurrents, The 4th Media, Morning Star

This is not what the GMO industry wanted to see: banner headlines in major newspapers and across the internet exposing the fraud behind GMOs. But this constitutes much more than a PR nightmare. The story behind the headlines shakes the very foundations upon which the industry is built.

‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ is a new book by the US public interest lawyer Steve Druker. The book is the result of more than 15 years of intensive research and investigation by Druker, who initiated a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that forced it to divulge its files on GM foods. Those files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting these foods to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.

If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.

He also argues that that many well-placed scientists have repeatedly issued misleading statements about GM foods, and so have leading scientific institutions such as the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the UK’s Royal Society.

Druker states that contrary to the claims of biotech advocates, humans have indeed been harmed by consuming the output of genetic engineering. The technology’s first ingestible product (a food supplement of the essential amino acid, L-tryptophan) caused dozens of deaths and seriously sickened thousands of people (permanently disabling many of them). Moreover, the evidence points to the genetic alteration as the most likely cause of the unusual contamination that rendered the supplement toxic.

He explains that laboratory animals have also suffered from eating products of genetic engineering, and well-conducted tests with GM crops have yielded many troubling results, including intestinal abnormalities, liver disturbances, and impaired immune systems.
Druker says:
“Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.”
Eminent environmentalist and anthropologist Jane Goodall has written the foreword to the book and states that Steven Druker is a hero for exposing this massive fraud and is worthy of a Nobel prize for lifting the lid on the truth about GM.

She goes on to state that the industry worked to:
“convince the public and government officials, through the dissemination of false information, that there was an overwhelming expert consensus, based on solid evidence, that the new foods were safe. Yet this, as Druker points out, was clearly not true.”
Goodall adds that the companies have spread disinformation to try and win public support. 

She states:
“Druker describes how amazingly successful the biotech lobby has been – and the extent to which the general public and government decision makers have been hoodwinked by the clever and methodical twisting of the facts and the propagation of many myths. Moreover, it appears that a number of respected scientific institutions, as well as many eminent scientists, were complicit in this relentless spreading of disinformation.”
Jane Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She holds many awards for her environmental and humanitarian work, including the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, the French Legion of Honour, Japan’s Kyoto Prize and the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.

She describes Druker’s work as one of the most important books of the last 50 years, and adds:
“It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it creates. Although this book tells a story that’s in many ways distressing, it’s important that it has finally been told because so much confusion has been spread and so many important decision-makers have apparently been deluded.”
Steven Druker gave a press conference in London on Wednesday and has challenged Britain’s Royal Society to apologise for its pro-GM stance and its part in rubbishing scientists who have safety doubts over the crops and food. (Perhaps the likes of Owen Paterson and Anne Glover should too for their role in dismissing legitimate concerns about GMOs, especially Paterson for his recent tirade against critics see this and this.)

His work highlights research which has found tumours, liver and kidney harm in animals given GM feed in trials. And he complains, that researchers who dare to raise these problems have been pilloried.

He said:
“Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.”
With the TTIP having the potential to open the floodgates to allow GMOs into Europe, Pat Thomas, director of the campaigning group Beyond GM, said:
“Steven Druker’s investigation into the history of fraud and deceit that ushered in the era of GM deserves serious consideration before we take actions that will irreversibly alter the European food supply.”

Not Science, Just Lies and Propaganda: The Massive Fraud Behind GMOs Exposed

This is not what the GMO industry wanted to see: banner headlines today in major newspapers and across the internet exposing the fraud behind...

Monsanto Wants to Know Why People Doubt Science

On Twitter recently, someone asked the question “Why do people doubt science?” Accompanying the tweet was a link to an article in National Geographic that...

Why Do People Doubt Science? Monsanto Wants To Know


RINF, The 4th Media, Countercurrents 12/2/2015, Global Research 13/2/2015, Counterpunch 27/2/2015

On Twitter this week, someone asked the question “Why do people doubt science?” Accompanying the tweet was a link to an article in National Geographic that implied people who are suspicious of vaccines, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), climate change, fluoridated water and various other phenomena are confused, adhere to conspiracy theories, are motivated by ideology or are misinformed as a result of access to the ‘University of Google.’ The remedy, according what is said in the article, is for us all to rely on scientific evidence pertaining to these issues and adopt a ‘scientific method’ of thought and analysis and put irrational thought processes to one side.

Who tweeted the question and posted the link? None other than Robert T Fraley, Monsanto’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.

Before addressing that question, it is worth mentioning that science is not the giver of ‘absolute truth’. That in itself should allow us to develop a healthy sceptism towards the discipline. The ‘truth' is a tricky thing to pin down. Scientific knowledge is built on shaky stilts that rest on shifting foundations. Science historian Thomas Kuhn wrote about the revolutionary paradigm shifts in scientific thought, whereby established theoretical perspectives can play the role of secular theology and serve as a barrier to the advancement of knowledge, until the weight of evidence and pressure from proponents of a new theoretical paradigm is overwhelming. Then, at least according to Kuhn, the old faith gives way and a new 'truth' changes.

Philosopher Paul Feyerabend argued that science is not an 'exact science'. The manufacture of scientific knowledge involves a process driven by various sociological, methodological and epistemological conflicts and compromises, both inside the laboratory and beyond. Writers in the field of the sociology of science have written much on this.


But the answer to the question “Why do people doubt science” is not because they have read Kuhn, Feyerabend or some sociology journal. Neither is it because a bunch of ‘irrational’ activists have scared them witless about GM crops or some other issue. It is because they can see how science is used, corrupted and manipulated by powerful corporations to serve their own ends. It is because they regard these large corporations as largely unaccountable and their activities and products not properly regulated by governments.

That’s why so many doubt science - or more precisely the science corporations fund and promote to support their interests.

US sociologist Robert Merton highlighted the underlying norms of science as involving research that is not warped by vested interests, adheres to the common ownership of scientific discoveries (intellectual property) to promote collective collaboration and subjects findings to organised, rigorous critical scrutiny within the scientific community. The concept of originality was added by later writers in order to fully encapsulate the ethos of science: scientific claims must contribute something new to existing discourse. Based on this brief analysis, secrecy, dogma and vested interest have no place.

This is of course a highly idealised version of what science is or should be because in reality careers, reputations, commercial interests and funding issues all serve to undermine these norms.

But if we really want to look at the role of secrecy, dogma and vested interest in full flow, we could take a look at in the sector to which Robert T Fraley belongs.

Last year, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for “sound science” to underpin food trade between the US and the EU. However, he seems very selective in applying “sound science” to certain issues. Consumer rights groups in the US are pushing for the labelling of GMO foods, but Vilsack said that putting a label on a foodstuff containing a GM product “risks sending a wrong impression that this was a safety issue.”

Despite what Vilsack would have us believe, many scientific studies show that GMOs are indeed a big safety issue and what’s more are also having grave environmental, social and economic consequences (for example, see this and this).

By not wanting to respond to widespread consumer demands to know what they are eating and risk “sending a wrong impression,” Vislack is trying to prevent proper debate about issues that his corporate backers would find unpalatable: profits would collapse if consumers had the choice to reject the GMOs being fed to them. And ‘corporate backers’ must not be taken as a throwaway term here. Big agritech concerns have captured or at the very least seriously compromised key policy and regulatory bodies in the US (see this), Europe (see this), India (see this) and in fact on a global level (see here regarding control of the WTO).

If Robert T Fraley wants to understand why people doubt science, he should consider what Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at Sussex University, says:

“The main reason some multinationals prefer GM technologies over the many alternatives is that GM offers more lucrative ways to control intellectual property and global supply chains. To sideline open discussion of these issues, related interests are now trying to deny the many uncertainties and suppress scientific diversity. This undermines democratic debate – and science itself.” (see here)

Coming from the GMO biotech industry, or its political mouthpieces, the term “sound science” rings extremely hollow. The industry carries out inadequate, short-term studies and conceals the data produced by its research under the guise of ‘commercial confidentiality’ (see this), while independent research highlights the very serious dangers of its products [see this and this). It has in the past also engaged in fakery in India (see this), bribery in Indonesia (see this ) and smears and intimidation against those who challenge its interests [see this), as well as the distortion and the censorship of science (see this  and this).

With its aim to modify organisms to create patents that will secure ever greater control over seeds, markets and the food supply, the widely held suspicion is that the GMO agritech sector is only concerned with a certain type of science: that which supports these aims. Because if science is held in such high regard by these corporations, why isn't Monsanto proud of its products? Why in the US doesn't it label foods containing GMOs and throw open its science to public scrutiny, instead of veiling it with secrecy, restricting independent research on its products or resorting to unsavoury tactics?

If science is held in such high regard by the GMO agritech sector, why in the US did policy makers release GM food onto the commercial market without proper long-term tests? The argument used to justify this is GM food is ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary food. But this is not based on scientific reason. Foreign genes are being inserted into organisms that studies show make them substantially non-equivalent (see this). Substantial equivalence is a trade strategy on behalf of the GM sector that neatly serves to remove its GMOs from the type of scrutiny usually applied to potentially toxic or harmful substances. The attempt to replace processed-based regulation of GMOs in Europe with product-based regulation would result in serving a similar purpose (see this).

The reason why no labelling or testing has taken place in the US is not due to ‘sound science’ having been applied but comes down to the power and political influence of the GMO biotech sector and because a sound scientific approach has not been applied.

The sector cannot win the scientific debate (although its PR likes to tell the world it has) so it resorts to co-opting key public bodies or individuals to propagate various falsehoods and deceptions (see this). Part of the deception is based on emotional blackmail: the world needs GMOs to feed the hungry, both now and in the future. This myth has been blown apart (see thisthis and this). In fact, in the second of those three links, the organisation GRAIN highlights that GM crops that have been planted thus far have actually contributed to food insecurity.

This is a harsh truth that the industry does not like to face.

People’s faith in science is being shaken on many levels, not least because big corporations have secured access to policy makers and governments and are increasingly funding research and setting research agendas.

“As Andrew Neighbour, former administrator at Washington University in St. Louis, who managed the university’s multiyear and multimillion dollar relationship with Monsanto, admits, "There’s no question that industry money comes with strings. It limits what you can do, when you can do it, who it has to be approved by”…  This raises the question: if Agribusiness giant Monsanto [in India] is funding the research, will Indian agricultural researchers pursue such lines of scientific inquiry as “How will this new rice or wheat variety impact the Indian farmer, or health of Indian public?” The reality is, Monsanto is funding the research not for the benefit of either Indian farmer or public, but for its profit. It is paying researchers to ask questions that it is most interested in having answered.” - 'Monsanto, a Contemporary East India Company, and Corporate Knowledge in India'.  

Ultimately, it is not science itself that people have doubts about but science that is pressed into the service of immensely powerful private corporations and regulatory bodies that are effectively co-opted and adopt a ‘don’t look, don’t find approach’ to studies and products (see thisthis  and this).

Or in the case of releasing GMOs onto the commercial market in the US, bypassing proper scientific procedures and engaging in doublespeak about ‘substantial equivalence’ then hypocritically calling for 'sound science' to inform debates.

The same corporate interests are moreover undermining the peer-review process itself and the ability of certain scientists to get published in journals - the benchmark of scientific credibility. In effect, powerful interests increasingly hold sway over funding, career progression as a scientist, journals and peer review (see this and this, which question the reliability of peer review in the area of GMOs).

Going back to the start of the piece, the question that should have been tweeted is: “Why do people doubt corporate-controlled or influenced science?” After that question, it would have been more revealing to have posted a link to this article here about the unscrupulous history of a certain company from St Louis. That history provides very good reason why so many doubt and challenge powerful corporations and the type of science they fund and promote (or attempt to suppress) and the type of world they seek to create (see this).

“Corporations as the dominant institution shaped by capitalist patriarchy thrive on eco-apartheid. They thrive on the Cartesian legacy of dualism which puts nature against humans. It defines nature as female and passively subjugated. Corporatocentrism is thus also androcentric – a patriarchal construction. The false universalism of man as conqueror and owner of the Earth has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering, and nuclear energy. It has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.” Vandana Shiva


Monsanto on the Menu: Science, Power and GMOs 

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Censored! Science and Nonsense: Retracting Seralini’s Study

The biotech sector often yells for “peer review” when the anti-GMO movement refers to analyses or research-based findings to state its case. Despite Professor Seralini publishing his research findings (rats fed on GMOs) that were critical of the health impacts of GMOs in an internationally renowned peer-reviewed journal in 2012, his methodology and findings were nevertheless subjected to sustained attacks by the sector. Personal smears came his way too (1). Now he finds that his paper has been retracted by the journal.

Peer review or no peer review, it seems to matter little to the biotech sector when research findings have the potential to damage its interests. In any case, peer review is only for the sector’s critics. It doesn’t seem to apply much to it. For instance, in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored (2).  

Commercial interest, political strategy and lobbying, not science, is what really counts for this industry. Much of the research it uses to back up its claims is after all carried out by itself and is not fully open to outside scrutiny. Certain negative findings that would be detrimental to its interests are suppressed. According to Open Earth Source in a 2011 article in Huufington Post, this is certainly the case where glysophate (Round Up) has been concerned (3). It is therefore disconcerting that policy makers willingly accept the industry’s claims and facilitate its aims, not least in the UK.    


GeneWatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.


Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said that this shows breath-taking arrogance by these companies which seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. She argues that ministers should not be pushing the GM sector’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense (4). It begs the question: where is the role for independent science (not corporate/industry-backed science) in all of this? The sector seems able to secure political patronage or co-opt key players to its cause as and when necessary.


And the reason for this is clear. Writer Rich Murray highlights on Rense.com how top people from the GM sector have moved with ease to take up many top positions with various US government bodies, such as the FDA (5). William F Engdahl has described a similar effect in Europe (6). In both cases, the revolving door between government and biotech sector ensures the latter’s interests are served.


Seralini’s research team based its experiment on the same protocol as a previous Monsanto study but, importantly, were testing more parameters more frequently. And the GMO-fed rats were studied for much longer. The long time span proved critical. The first tumours only appeared four to seven months into the study. In the industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and the European Food Safety Agency. It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.


In his recent piece in The Ecologist, William F Engdahl argues Seralini’s research is valid and that biotech pressure has led to the journal’s decision to retract Seralini’s paper (7). Engdahl notes that the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, where Seralini’s paper appeared, has itself violated scientific standards by deciding to retract the paper.


It begs the questions: when does science become ‘non-science’ and when can a journal decide to reinvent criteria for publication and retraction? On the Independent Science News website (8), Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham note that in the run-up to the retraction, the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, announced that it had created a new position, that of 'Associate Editor for Biotechnology'. The person they hired to fill it was Richard E Goodman, a former Monsanto employee. Six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A Wallace Hayes, the editor of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, retracted the study by the team of Professor Séralini, citing the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the research findings as the reason.


However, Claire Robinson on the GM Watch site (9) notes that inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction because numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. She rightly states that it is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.


There is something highly suspicious about all of this.


The public is having GMO food pushed on it with no say in the matter thanks to deceit and various forms of institutionalised corruption. Unfortunately, argument stemming from independent scientific findings is too often sidelined in favour of other means of influence. Recall how Dr Arpad Pusztai in the UK was effectively silenced over his research and a campaign was set in motion to destroy his reputation some years ago because his research findings were unpalatable to the biotech sector. Then there is the infamous WikiLeaks cable highlighting how GMOs were being forced into European nations by the US ambassador to France who plotted with other US officials to create a ‘retaliatory target list’ of anyone who tried to regulate GMOs.


In the meantime, evidence questioning the health impacts and efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs mounts (10,11,12,13). But this is of little concern to the industry and its pressure tactics and global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (14).


Is science to fall victim to outside pressures? Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham argue that unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. They argue that Richard Goodman now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved.”


It’s a valid point. As Don Huber, Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, has indicated, getting research findings published that do not coincide with the aims of key commercial interests can be difficult and comes with certain risks (15). With some hugely powerful players involved, many of whom have influence over journal content and have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies, much of the science and the debate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.


Notes





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JFK Conspiracy Fact #5: NOVA’s “Cold Case Kennedy” is Junk Science

Like its fictitious namesake, PBS’s “Cold Case Kennedy” is a made-for-TV junk, full of improbable plot twists, magic bullets, astounding coincidences, and an easy, pat solution. Watching it pleases the simple-minded. It encourages one to not think too hard; just rely on pseudo-experts to do the thinking for you. In the end, you’ll be satisfied with the conclusion. Because in TV land the real murderers never get away with it.

Just one problem. This Cold Case was a real murder, and not just any murder, but the murder of a President who was secretly at war with his own intelligence agency and military chiefs. He had enemies who had the power to muddy any crime scene, kill any witness, destroy tangible evidence, even highjack the body for pre-autopsy alteration. You won’t see this in any TV special. In the JFK case you have to actually do your own thinking instead of relying on some TV contrivance.

For instance, in TV land bullets can do impossible things like land intact on a hospital stretcher after fracturing human bone and tearing human skin and muscle. In real life this never happens. But in NOVA the magic bullet is pristine after passing through Kennedy’s and Connally’s bodies. The Cold Case scientists concoct, contort, and twist themselves into logic pretzels to accomplish this. They ignore the fact that no other bullet in recorded human history has ever done this. And Dallas doctors found more fragments in Connally's body than are missing from the magic bullet…no mention of this on NOVA.

Then the TV scientists try to make us believe that it is quite common for a person who is shot in the head from behind to have his head move backwards. It all has to do with putty in the head…or play-dough in the brain…I can’t recall which. It was all explained so fast that I could barely follow the logic (which was the whole point, I suppose). It’s meant to rationalize JFK’s head snap backwards while being shot from the back. (No gunshot victim in recorded history has ever done this, but this is TV land where anything is possible.) Most appeasing to the uncritical viewer. But it ignores eyewitnesses’ testimony of hearing and seeing shots from in front of the motorcade. Eyewitness evidence was discretely omitted from the NOVA episode.

Contradictory wound analysis was glossed over. Some doctors got it right; others got it wrong. The ones who agreed with NOVA were right; the others were whimsically wrong. No dissenting experts were given more than brief air time; then they were summarily dismissed as quacks. I'm surprised the NOVA producers did not insist they wear black hats. You see, conflicting medical evidence makes for bad TV…as in not comforting.

JFK’s autopsy photos and x-rays are assumed to be genuine. And only the set which were done at the end of the autopsy are presented. No mention made of earlier photos and x-rays which have just disappeared. And omitted are the Dallas doctors’ observations of frontal entry wounds. These men saw bullet entries in the front of Kennedy’s body and an exit wound to the rear of his head. But an autopsy photo shows the rear of Kennedy's head intact...the bullet exit wound just DISAPPEARED between Dallas and Bethesda. This is too dangerous and confusing information to present to mindless TV viewers, so I guess the NOVA scriptwriters thought it best to ignore the Parkland evidence.

I was left wondering what NOVA really stands for. My best guess is Never Offer Viable Alternatives.

I call on all thinking Americans to boycott PBS. Do not send them your dollars; do not support them in any way. If the network persists in preserving and protecting the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people, then it has outlived its usefulness.

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DEA: Law and Science Unto Itself

In an empty, muted family court, with armed guards at its doors, D.C. Superior Court Judge J. William Ryan released a discovery order revealing that the DEA’s analysts are producing false marijuana test reports resulting in wrongful convictions[1].  By critiquing DEA chemist Heather Hartshorn’s reports and testimony through the prism of the 2009 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on forensic tests,[2] Ryan showed that her marijuana report mirrored the NAS’s example of a totally deficient  report. Their example read: “Results: The green-brown plant material in item 1 was identified as marijuana.”[3] Hartshorn’s report read: “Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana.”[4]

A number of state courts have “held that the [prosecution] should provide more than the bare test results and reports to the defendant in discovery under similar [expert notice] rules.”[5]  For instance, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina has ruled that a defendant charged with selling heroin was entitled to the state laboratory analyst’s “laboratory protocols, incidences of false positive test results, quality control and quality assurance, and proficiency tests.” [6]

The Supreme Court in Jackson v. Virginia has ruled that reports such as Hartshorn’s, based on non-specific, screening tests are not worth the paper they’re printed on because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the presence of marijuana in a seized substance.[7]  Hartshorn herself admitted she used non-specific, screening tests yet testified erroneously that they positively confirmed the presence of marijuana.[8]

Ryan also disclosed that Hartshorn’s report lacked adequate details and data to allow a review of her work by an independent defense analyst to see whether she used valid, reliable tests and applied them correctly.[9] This was a significant failing as the NAS report concluded that many forensic tests “are not based on a body of knowledge that recognizes the underlying limitations of the scientific principles and methodologies for problem solving and discovery (Hartshorn claimed there were no limitations) [and] are not informed by scientific knowledge, or are not developed within the culture of science.”

According to Dr. Vedoster Ingram, a 29-year-veteran of the DEA, this was typical of the DEA. “As reports are normally presented, an official report of analysis is introduced into the court records for litigation without significant explanation.”[10] Reviewable data for Hartshorn’s tests should have included microphotographs of the suspected marijuana sample, highlighting the relevant morphological characteristics; photographs of the Duquenois-Levine (D-L) color chemical test results, including side-by-side contemporaneous images of the suspected marijuana and actual marijuana standard for proper comparison; and photographs or photocopies of the Thin Layered Chromatography (TLC) plate with the measured values and observed colors recorded contemporaneously with the testing.

The NAS report said that such reports were unacceptable and should lead to dismissals of charges.[11] In fact, much of Hartshorn’s report was indecipherable with abbreviations known only to herself. She dismissed this concern by stating that: “It’s not our policy to keep [reviewable data]; it’s not needed.” [12]

Reviewability and reproducibility are at the heart of verification and the scientific method. Regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., the Ninth Circuit Court declared that: “Something doesn’t become ‘scientific knowledge’ just because it’s uttered by a scientist nor can an expert’s self-serving assertions that his conclusions were ‘derived by the scientific method’ be deemed conclusive, else the Supreme Court’s opinion could have ended with footnote 2. As we read the Supreme Court’s teaching in Daubert, therefore, though we are largely untrained in science and certainly no match for any of the witnesses whose testimony we are reviewing, it is our responsibility to determine whether those experts’ proposed testimony amounts to ‘scientific knowledge,’ constitutes ‘good science,’ and was ‘derived by the scientific method.’[13]

Judge Kozinski’s Ninth Circuit opinion noted further that a gate keeping court must decide in part whether “ ‘… scientists have derived their findings through the scientific method or whether their testimony is based on scientifically valid principles….’ (Daubert, 43F. 3d at 1316). In its gate keeping role, the court should view reliability as follows: ‘this means that the expert’s bald assurance of validity is not enough. Rather, the party presenting the expert must show that the expert’s findings are based on sound science, and this will require some objective, independent validation of the expert’s methodology.’”[14] – i.e., review and reproduction of test findings.

The Court of Appeals of Maryland has ruled that: “Access to laboratory information generally is significant for another reason. The validity of testing procedures and principles is assessed in the scientific community by publishing the data in peer review journals …. [P]ublication of a laboratory’s work product and data used in [scientific] analysis, as well as independent replication and validation studies, are essential prerequisites to reliability.”[15] Replication and validation of Hartshorn’s findings were impossible since she presented no supporting data.

For independent reviewability, replication, and validation, lab reports should contain sufficient information to evaluate case notes and interpret the data as well as procedures, standards, blanks, observations, and  test results. Supporting documentation should include charts, graphs, and spectra generated during an analysis. [16]  Since Hartshorn provided none of these details, her reports could not be checked out and proved nothing, least of all that the suspected sample was marijuana.

The DEA founded and presently chairs Scientific Working Group on the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) which provides minimum standards for  scientifically sound  lab and testing procedures. According to SWGDRUG:

Laboratories shall have documented policies establishing protocols for technical and administrative review.

Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures.

Laboratories shall have in place protocols for the sampling of evidence.

Laboratories shall monitor the analytical processes using appropriate controls and traceable standards.

Laboratories shall have and follow documented guidelines for the acceptance and interpretation of data.

Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Section 11.

When analysts determine the identity of a drug in a sample, they shall ensure that the result relates to the right submission. This is best established by the use of at least two appropriate techniques based on different principles and two independent samplings.

Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose. For qualitative analysis (identifying drugs), the parameters that need to be checked are selectivity, limit or detection and reproducibility.

Minimum acceptability criteria should be described along with the means for demonstrating compliance.

Validation documentation is required. Laboratories adopting methods validated elsewhere should verify their methods and establish their own limits of detection and reproducibility.

Documentation shall contain sufficient information to allow a peer to evaluate case notes and interpret the data.

Analytical documentation should include documentation including charts, graphs, and spectra generated during analysis.

Laboratories shall perform proficiency testing in order to verify the laboratory’s performance. [17]

Hartshorn was asked whether she followed DEA protocols or at least the guidelines of SWGDRUG.  “[T]hey aren’t laws, and so, as of right now, that is not our policy,”[18] she casually responded. In other words, the DEA does not follow its own regulatory body. Even worse, the “DEA does not have such guidance set forth in one particular document type or ‘protocol’ that would provide instruction on how one is to test cocaine or marijuana. . . There are no mandatory methods, and the forensic chemists are afforded considerable discretion in determining which testing methods and instruments to use.”[19] This according to Harshorn’s lab director, James Malone, who testified that the DEA has no protocol or standard methodology and does not validate its drug tests; calibrate its testing instrumentation right before testing; or run contemporaneous scientific controls to prevent and detect contamination.[20]

Judge: For marijuana in this case, for example, there is no calibration? 

James Malone: There is not. . .  So we’re not running a positive control on the Duquenois-Levine (marijuana test) on a daily basis.

Prosecutor: Now with regard to standard methodologies, DEA has a standard methodology on how to do examinations?

JM: No, we don’t.

P: So for qualitative analysis, the actual identification of a drug, you don’t have such (validation) studies, as you understood her (defense expert) to mean, correct?

JM: Correct. . . Identification – (validation) studies related to identification are not generally – there are no requirements for that. (SWGDRUG: “Method validation is required to demonstrate that methods are suitable for their intended purpose.”[21])

According to SWGDRUG Recommendations at Part IV.A.6.1.1 (“Laboratories shall have and follow documented analytical procedures”); id at Part IV.A.6.1.6 (“Analytical procedures shall be validated in compliance with Part IV B Validation”); id, at Part IV.B.IA (“All methods shall be validated or verified to demonstrate that they will perform in the normal operational environment when used by individuals expected to utilize the methods on casework”); id at Part IV.B.1.5 (“The entire validation/verification process shall be documented and the documentation shall be retained. Documentation shall include … personnel involved, dates, observations from the process, analytical data, a statement of conclusions and/or recommendations, authorization approval signature”).”

In short, the DEA is not engaged in scientific testing; a conviction machine. Voodoo science as someone commented. It also means that the DEA labs are, in fact, unaccredited because they received their accreditation on the basis that they follow strict protocols and SOPs, determine error rates and test limitations, validate its tests, and run positive and negative controls.

What really set off Ryan, however, was Hartshorn’s testimony that the DEA’s marijuana tests as well as her testing are infallible.  She claimed a zero percent (0%) error rate with the tests and her testing.[22] “Ridiculous on its face,”[23] said Ryan.  “Ms. Hartshorn makes a bold statement in her testimony in which she asserted that the three tests performed in these cases are infallible in their combined ability to conclusively identify marijuana,” wrote defense expert Heather Harris. “She was unable to offer any scientific studies to confirm this assertion, which is a scientific impossibility.”[24]  The NAS report concluded that “no forensic method has been rigorously shown to have the capacity to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source.”[25]

Infallibility claims fly in the face of the fact that uncertainty enters testing in many ways, and each life stage of the evidence is susceptible to error. Contamination or misidentification can occur during the collection of the evidence. Analytical methods have practical and technical limitations. Reference standards and controls may fail quality control checks. Laboratory analysts who oversee the entire analytical process may make mistakes. Transcription errors can occur. In short, contrary to Hartshorn’s testimony, there is a panoply of errors that can occur. The three tests she used were: a microscopic examination, a presumptive color test named Duquenois-Levine (D-L), and Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC). None of these tests provide a specific identification to the exclusion of all other possible substances, and each of these tests has an associated degree of uncertainty or error rate.

With the microscopic exam, DEA analysts look for so-called cystolith hairs which occur on marijuana plants. But many other plant species unrelated to marijuana have cystolith hairs. Thus, a false positive (error) is possible with this examination.  Also according to the NAS report, the microscopic exam can only be done properly by a qualified botanist.[26] The DEA does not employ botanists.

George Nakamura, who is not a botanist, established use of the microscopic exam as a marijuana test. He examined 600 plants and found 80 with cystolith hairs. He then subjected the 80 “similar” plants to the D-L test, and only marijuana passed the entire test.[27]  However there was an elementary scientific flaw in Nakamura’s procedure for which reason his report should not have been published, let alone adopted as a protocol. His plant population sample was woefully inadequate since there are 200 –500, 000 plants he did not examine, and there are at least 24 species of plants with cystolith hairs. Nakamura himself admitted that there were some 30,000 plants which he did not examine.

Nakamura also claimed that the D-L was confirmatory of, and, specific to, marijuana, i. e. identified it to the exclusion of all other substances and did not render false positives. In fact, with the D-L test, false positives are expected based on the analytical mechanism of color tests. Color tests are screening tests that look at molecular groups rather than the specific molecule as a whole. Many unrelated molecules share common molecular groups, so any substance containing the target molecular group would give a positive response. In other words, the D-L test solely identifies the group of chemicals to which marijuana belongs. And there are other chemicals in that group which could give a positive D-L response, i.e., a false positive. Moreover, Nakamura himself reported that there were 25 substances that had been shown to cause false positives with the D-L test. So his claim was contrary to chemical facts and scientific demonstrations, and, again, should not have been published.

The D-L test is actually a combination of two individual tests. With the Duquenois test, a petroleum ether or chloroform extract of the plant extract is added to an ethanolic solution of vanillin and acetaldehyde, followed by addition of concentrated hydrochloric acid. Marijuana gives a deep blue-violet color. With the Levine modification, the blue-violet test mixture obtained in the Duquenois test is shaken with chloroform. With marijuana, the blue-violet color is transferred into the chloroform layer. However, at least 50 legal substances have been shown to give the same color reactions.

As early as 1938, the French pharmacist Pierre Duquenois, who developed the Duquenois test, found that it was not specific and gave false positives.[28] Yet, he reported that the test was specific.[29]  Although he claimed it was specific, he worked to modify the original test into the D-L test to eliminate false positives –  which as noted above was impossible given the nature of the D-L test. As he should have known in advance, the D-L test was no better and rendered false positives. Still, he reported that the D-L test was specific. Duquenois’s lie was repeated in 1972 by John Thornton and George Nakamura who falsely claimed that the D-L test was specific and in conjunction with a microscopic exam was a confirmatory, identification test.[30] Their study is still the protocol for marijuana identification in crime labs throughout the country even though it was false and rebutted by Fullerton and Kurzman and Whitehurst.

With regard to TLC, its ability to identify a substance, which in this case is not marijuana but rather its active ingredient THC, is limited by the number of distinguishable responses possible. TLC is a method of separation, not of identification. “It is prone to confusion because of the appearance of unrecognized peaks or spots on a chromatograph, particularly when an analyst is dealing with a wide variety of biological samples from a number of sources.”[31] The TLC test as generally performed for marijuana evidence has 100 distinct measurable values and 2 to 3 distinguishable colors. This allows for the distinct identification of at most 300 compounds without taking into account the possibility of compounds that will behave the same as the target molecule, THC.  In other words, a positive TLC test could indicate any one of some 300 compounds in addition to THC.

When these three tests are performed in sequence, the uncertainty of the final result is the sum of the uncertainties attributable to each test. In this case, where each of the tests can produce errors, the uncertainty can be great.  Moreover, a main concern with this sequence of testing is that the D-L and TLC tests produce results that are heavily dependent on the analyst’s subjective interpretation of the colors produced. What’s dark blue to one analyst, is purple to another. At a minimum, a standard reference material (a sample of known marijuana) should be tested along with the evidence sample as a comparison sample. The DEA does not do this. In addition, without the proper determination of the variability of positive results, the final identification is still simply the analyst’s subjective opinion.

Confirmation bias is also a concern with this sequence of testing. This is the tendency of an analyst to interpret analytical information in a way that confirms his/her preconceptions about an item of evidence as well as the results of the previous test. In a sequence of testing that relies entirely upon an analyst’s interpretation of test results, this is a likely source of error.

Hartshorn admitted that separately each of the tests is a screening test that renders false positives, i.e. errors. But miraculously when they are conducted in concert, they are error-free as is the analyst. In direct contradiction of Hartshorn’s claims of infallibility was a study done at her own lab which found false positives and a very high 20% error rate.[32] And every independent scientific study has found an error rate and false positives with these tests. For instance, a comprehensive series of studies in 1974 involving no fewer than 14 scientists and two attorneys concluded, in part, as follows.[33]

The probability of error in using screening tests for forensic identification is particularly great with marijuana because:

1. Screening tests are not specific;

2. Many common plants are confused with marijuana by “users” and law officers alike;

3. Inexpertly collected plant samples are not necessarily homogenous, i. e., only a single plant; and

4. The flowering plants include some 200,000 – 500,000 species besides marijuana.

As many as 20% (An Army study found 30%.) of the samples presumed to be marijuana and submitted to forensic laboratories have been found in recent years not to be Cannabis. “If BNDD (Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, predecessor to DEA) files are any indication, many. . . marijuana users are getting ‘high’ on parsely, alfalfa, or some other weed.” Common plants which have been confused with marijuana include tobacco, catnip, parsley, oregano, tea and other substances – sometimes laced with various chemicals.

Inexpertly collected plant samples commonly contain some extraneous plant materials – a weed grabbed by mistake, a plant which looked like the others, etc. The forensic analyst then needs to be concerned with one plant passing one screening test, and a contaminant passing another. (Furthermore, it’s not possible to determine if ground-up plant samples are from the same species. To avoid a misidentification, the analyst should assume the sample is adulterated or contaminated.) Because of this factor, and the common presence of added chemicals, the specificity of marijuana screening tests, even when used in combination, is no greater than the specificity of the most specific single test.

Because Hartshorne’s testimony raised serious concerns about her qualifications and “integrity” as well as a “flaw” in her testing, Ryan ordered that the prosecution produce all information verifying that the three tests in combination were infallible.[34] What Ryan apparently did not realize was that Hartshorn was repeating unsupported infallibility claims made by DEA lab directors since at least 1999. For instance, on April 9, 1999, Joseph P. Bono, director of the DEA’s Mid-Atlantic Laboratory submitted a sworn affidavit to the courts that all DEA analyses and tests are “incapable of producing a false positive. . . In other words, even if the test results are inaccurate, the results will not indicate the presence of a controlled substance when none is present in the unknown sample. Even if the instruments used in the testing are not properly calibrated, if no controlled substance is present in the exhibit, then no controlled substance will be identified . . . even when an instrument is not functioning properly, it will not identify cocaine, or any other controlled substance, as being present in a sample, unless that controlled substance is actually present.”[35]

Bono’s successor at this lab, Richard Fox, was more specific in his sworn affidavit which stated, in part, that:

“There is no other plant material that will give a positive result for all three tests. . . Neither the analyst in this case, nor any other DEA analyst, has ever misidentified marijuana. . . As such, the uncertainty measurement associated with the conclusions reached by the analyst resulting in the identification of marijuana is zero.[36]

Fox’s successor, James Malone, who is also Hartshorn’s supervisor who has signed off on her reports, has testified, in part, as follows in another marijuana case in D.C.

Prosecutor: To your knowledge, while you’ve been at the lab, has the laboratory ever misidentified a controlled substance?

James Malone: No.

P: And when you say – what are you basing that on?

JM: On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory. We have not misidentified anything.

P: Are you aware of anything which shows that a mis-calibrated system or chromatographer in this case, but any system that was not calibrated correctly would create a false positive for cocaine or a controlled substance?

JM: No

P: Have you ever seen it in the lab? 

JM: Have I ever seen what?

P: A false positive from a mis-calibrated system.

JM: No.

Judge: But Mr. Chawla’s position was, can it ever – can a mis-calibrated machine ever give a false positive?

JM:  No. A mis-calibrated machine isn’t going to give you a positive cocaine if there’s not cocaine.

Judge: Why not?

JM: It just wouldn’t. . .

P: More specifically, if the reagent isn’t working, is it going to show that the substance isn’t marijuana? In other words, if the reagent isn’t working, what’s the result of the Duquenois-Levine going to be?

JM: It’s going to be negative.

P: Would I get a positive out of a Duquenois-Levine test? If I used a reagent that wasn’t working anymore and tried to run a Duquenois-Levine with that reagent, what would happen?

JM: You wouldn’t get a false positive, no.

P: With regard to identification techniques, is there any – do you have any reason to believe that a mis-calibrated or non-calibrated device would result in a false positive?

JM: No, I don’t.[37]

Malone’s testimony makes clear that he is basing his infallibility claim on ipse dixit evidence as were Bono and Fox who have never presented data to support their unheard of assertions.

Decades before their infallibility claims, several high courts including the U.S. Supreme Court found that the tests did not prove the presence of marijuana beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled in 1973 that: “An expert opinion that the substance is probably marijuana (based on a microscopic examination, D-L test and TLC) is not sufficient to meet the burden of proving the identity of the substance beyond a reasonable doubt. . . If this were a possession case, the tests would be insufficient. . . It is quite true that the tests used by Mr. Michael Rehburg, a chemist and witness for the prosecution, were not specific for marijuana. . . . He admitted, . . .  these tests were not specific for marijuana.”[38]

In 1979, a trial judge in North Carolina found that the D-L test was “not specific for marijuana” and had “no scientific acceptance as a reliable and accurate means of identifying the controlled substance marijuana.”[39] This finding was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals as well as the North Carolina Supreme Court which found that: “The determination that the test used was not scientifically acceptable because it was not specific for marijuana was amply supported by the facts. . . The trial court’s ruling that the results of the tests conducted on green vegetable matter by using the Duquenois-Levine color test in the Sirchie drug kit were inadmissible in evidence was supported by the court’s findings that the test is not scientifically accepted, reliable or accurate and that the test is not specific for marijuana because it reportedly also gives a positive reaction for some brands of coffee and aspirin. . . . The conclusion to exclude the test results is amply supported by these findings of fact . . . and the test results were properly suppressed . . .”[40]

Also in 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jackson v Virginia ruled that nonspecific tests could not be the basis for advancing a prosecution or a conviction because they do not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt.[41]

Ultimately, Judge Ryan concluded that “such claims of infallibility belie one of the most basic tenets of science: that some degree of error is inherent in every scientific test, process, or analysis. . .While explaining that each of these tests used alone is presumptive, as distinct from confirmatory, Ms. Hartshorn nonetheless maintained their infallibility when used in concert. With the designation that these tests are merely presumptive, the DEA chemist acknowledged that there is some degree of inherent error calculable with respect to each of these tests when they are performed in isolation. That there is some distinct and additional degree of error calculable with respect to this analyst’s performance of each test is also without question.”[42]

It is clear from Judge Ryan’s remarks that he would have denied admission of the test results as evidence as well as Hartshorn’s testimony at trial, and this would have resulted in a withdrawal of the charges. He did not do so because defense counsel did not request it. Since Kurzman’s study and others occurred before this case as well as applicable court decisions such as Jackson, Daubert and Kumho Tire, defense counsel should have requested an evidentiary hearing for challenging the tests and sufficiency of evidence. Their failure to do so amounted to ineffective counsel.

This is exactly what U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner concluded in a similar case wherein the defense counsel did not request an evidentiary hearing to challenge the forensic evidence. This is seen if one simply substitutes “marijuana” in her following remarks. “Under the ‘prevailing professional norms,’ reasonably competent counsel should have moved for a Daubert/Kumho Tire hearing before trial on all the expert testimony — a) on the [marijuana] laboratory analysis based on the investigator’s failure to use a comparison or control sample and not test beyond the generic finding of [“Exhibit 1 contains a measurable amount of marijuana”]; b) on the [marijuana] evidence, highlighting problems with proficiency testing and emphasizing the limited scope of the testimony; and, c) on the expert cause-and-origin testimony, when the expert’s proposed testimony was scientifically flawed. If counsel had requested such a hearing, there is more than a ‘reasonable probability’ that it would have been granted, that the laboratory analysis and the [marijuana] evidence would have been excluded, or severely limited, at the very least. . . .  As the Court held in Daubert, some testimony may be so problematic that the usual trial techniques are just not enough to prevent a jury from giving it far more credence than it deserves. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 596-97. The testimony should not reach the jury at all. (This was absolutely true with Judge Ryan’s case.) Here, the scientific literature cast doubt on the significance of the [marijuana tests] and even raised concerns about . . . “proficiency” testing, concerns counsel never raised. . . just what the law and literature caution against”[43]

It is instructive to compare the two cases in detail because like Judge Ryan, Judge Gertner also critiqued the government’s evidence and experts through the prism of the NAS report. Gertner pointed out that it was significant that by 2006, a number of articles in legal journals and cases had cast a critical eye on the scientific reliability of arson evidence, methodologies, and techniques. Because of this, competent counsel should have been aware that defendants had been convicted and sentenced on the basis of flawed arson evidence and taken appropriate steps to litigate the issues using all the tools available including challenging the tests and requesting an evidentiary hearing.

The same was even more true of marijuana evidence by the time of Judge Ryan’s case.  The marijuana tests had been scientifically established as unreliable and inaccurate, and previous court decisions had excluded admission of the marijuana test results as evidence.

Gertner found that there was ineffective counsel because the defense attorneys did not move for a Daubert hearing prior to trial on any expert issue. They did not seek exclusion of any of the proposed expert testimony or move for its limitation. They did not argue that the expert testimony failed to meet the minimal threshold for reliability of scientific evidence and should not have been admitted at all. They did not alert the Court to the ways in which the government’s investigation undermined their very ability to present a defense.

The same was true with the case of Judge Ryan who called Hartshorn’s testimony “[R]idiculous on its face” and lacking in “integrity.”

In addition, Gertner argued that it was crucial to try to exclude expert testimony before trial because “a certain patina attaches to an expert’s testimony unlike any other witness; this is ‘science,’ a professional’s judgment, the jury may think, and give more credence to the testimony than it may deserve. United States v. Hines, 55 F. Supp. 2d 62, 64 (D. Mass. 1999); see also Michigan Millers Mut. Ins. Corp. v. Benfield, 140 F.3d 915, 920 (11th Cir. 1998) (‘The use of ‘science’ to explain how something occurred has the potential to carry great weight with a jury, explaining both why counsel might seek to couch an expert witness’s testimony in terms of science, as well as why the trial judge plays an important role as the gate-keeper in monitoring the evidentiary reliability of such testimony.’).”[44]

This again was even more true with Judge Ryan’s case because DEA chemists were poised to testify that the marijuana tests as well as their testing were infallible, and that no DEA analyst had ever misidentified marijuana. In fact, defense counsel in Judge Ryan’s case had been involved in previous marijuana case wherein DEA analysts had claimed infallibility under oath. All the more reason why they should have sought to exclude the evidence.

For its part, the DEA was ethically and scientifically bound to suspend Hartshorn and Malone and investigate all their previous marijuana cases. In fact, Hartshorn and Malone were subsequently both witnesses in another discovery hearing in the same court room opposed by the same defense counsel who again had not requested an evidentiary hearing to challenge the same marijuana tests. This hearing was presided over by Judge Florence Y. Pan who had read Judge Ryan’s order.[45] Heather Harris, who was highly praised by Judge Ryan, was the defense expert in this hearing as well. With no justification, Pan found Hartshorn and Malone to be credible as opposed to Harris even though Malone claimed infallibility without any proof. “On my knowledge of the operations of the laboratory,” he said, “We have not misidentified anything.” He also said that “a mis-calibrated instrument would never cause a false positive result.” Asked why by Pan, he replied:  “It just wouldn’t.”[46]

As we saw, Malone further testified that the DEA has no protocols or standard operating procedures and does not validate its tests or run sufficient numbers of controls.[47]  He threw in that the Analysis of Drugs Manual and the Analytical Sufficiency Document  are “the closest thing the DEA has to standard operating procedures for the chemists.”[48] Again, no problem for Pan even though Malone said these documents were “DEA proprietary,”[49] and SWGDRUG and scientific practice require protocols, test validations, and controls. Malone claimed there were published studies validating the tests, but this is not true.

Harris disagreed with Malone on all accounts.  No problem for Pan who decreed that: “To the extent the testimony of the witnesses conflicts, however, the Court credits the testimony of Mr. Malone. . . the Court found the testimony of Mr. Malone to be extremely credible and persuasive [and was] impressed by Mr. Malone’s candor, expertise, and professional demeanor. . . His testimony was very clear and logical, and the Court found him to be forthright.”[50] Pan did not mention the lack of scientific data or explanations for Malone’s testimony or that it showed the DEA was at odds with SWGDRUG requirements and scientific practice.

In short, there were more than enough scientific studies and favorable case law before Judge Pan’s case, not to mention Judge Ryan’s order, to justify requesting an evidentiary hearing in an attempt to deny admission of the test results as evidence. Defense counsel also had a highly qualified expert to confirm that the tests results did not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the DEA’s proffered evidence and testimony were false.

As Judge Gertner observed: “If the lawyers do not tee up the issue, the evidence will be introduced without objection.”[51] This is exactly what happens in nearly all marijuana cases. Defense attorneys do not challenge the tests or the sufficiency of the evidence. In 2010, 853, 839 people were arrested on marijuana charges, and you can count on one hand the number of defense attorneys who challenged the tests or even the subjective opinions of arresting police officers.

This failure on the part of defense attorneys is particularly irresponsible because claims of infallibility can be to the advantage of a defendant as they undermine the admissibility of marijuana test results and the credibility of a prosecutor’s expert witnesses. Before a trial, a defense attorney can request an evidentiary hearing wherein he or she can examine the qualifications of the prosecution’s forensic analysts, the laboratory, and the nature and manner of the testing procedures used in identifying the drug the defendant was charged with possessing or selling. If this examination reveals deficiencies or inadequacies, the attorney can challenge the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence and seek a dismissal.  Dr. Bruce Stein et al have reported that: “Based on our survey, such a challenge would be warranted in many cases.”[52]

The possibilities of these challenges was seen in a recent case in Michigan in 2010.   Defense attorney Michael Nichols obtained a pre-trial evidentiary hearing and cross examined Michigan State Police lab analyst Jerome Waldron who testified that in more than 6,000 cases, he had never encountered a false positive, and that the marijuana tests had an error rate of zero. Nichols then entered a motion to exclude Waldron’s testimony from trial as well as use of the test results as evidence, citing scientific articles, prior court decisions, and Waldron’s lack of credibility. Even before the judge rendered his decision, the prosecutor withdrew the charges.[53]

If lab conditions or procedures do not conform to scientific guidelines and principles or court rulings such as Daubert, the defense attorney can motion to exclude the test results as well as testimony from the analyst at trial. Below is a list of such requests which have led to pre-trial dismissals of marijuana charges because they revealed deficiencies in the lab.

1. Evidence collection forms or logs (description of evidence, packaging, identification of specimens, identification of individuals collecting samples, sample collection procedures.

2. Chain-of-custody records (field-to-lab transfers, and all transfers of evidence and associated analytical samples within the laboratory).

3. Laboratory receiving records (records documenting the date, time and condition of receipt of the evidence in question; laboratory-assigned identifiers; storage location).

4. Laboratory procedures for subsampling (collection of analytical aliquots) and contamination control.

5. Copies of technical procedures in effect at the time the subject testing was performed (often termed Standard Operating Procedures, or SOP’s) for each procedure used during sample screening and confirmation, including; sample preparation, sample analysis, data reporting, and instrument operation.

6. Copies of the two bracketing controlled substance proficiency results for each analyst and technician responsible for preparation or analysis of subject specimens, including raw data and reported results, target values and acceptance ranges, performance scores, and all related correspondence.

7. Copies of traceability documentation for standards and reference materials used during analysis, including unique identifications, origins, dates of preparation and use, composition and concentration of prepared materials, certifications or traceability records from suppliers, assigned shelf lives and storage conditions.

8. Sample preparation records, including dates and conditions of preparation, responsible analyst, procedural reference, purity, concentration and origins of solvents, reagents, and control materials prepared and used, samples processed concurrently, extract volume.

9. Copies of bench notes, log books, and any other records pertaining to case samples or instruments; records documenting observations, notations, or measurements regarding case testing.

10. Instrument run log with identification of all standards, reference materials, sample blanks, rinses, and controls analyzed during the day/shift with subject samples (as appropriate: run sequence, origins, times of analysis and aborted run sequences).

11. Record of instrument operating conditions and criteria for variables, including as appropriate: Gas chromatograph column, instrument file identification, tuning criteria, instrument performance check (e.g., ion abundance criteria), initial calibration, continuing calibration checks, calibration verification.

12. Record of instrument maintenance status and activities for instruments used in subject testing, documenting routine and as-needed maintenance activities in the weeks surrounding subject testing.

13. Raw data for the complete measurement sequence (opening and closing quality control included) that includes the subject samples.  For GC-MS analysis, this would include: areas and retention times, injection volumes, dilution factors, chromatograms and mass spectra.  As prepared and as determined values for all quality control samples.

14. A description of the library used for spectral matches for the purpose of qualitative identification of controlled substances, including source(s) and number of reference spectra.

15. Copy of records documenting computation of illicit drug laboratory’s theoretical production yield, including the basis for the computation, and the algorithm used, as appropriate.

16. Procedure(s) for operation and calibration checks of analytical balances used to weigh controlled substances

17. Results of calibration checks and documentation of mass traceability for gravimetric determinations.

18. Results of contamination control surveys for trace level analytes relevant to test methods at the time of analysis, including sampling design and analytical procedures.

19. Records and results of internal reviews of subject data.

20.  Method validation records documenting the laboratory’s performance characteristics for qualitative identification and quantitative determinations of the controlled substance, to include data documenting specificity, accuracy, precision, linearity, and method detection limits.

21. Copy of the laboratory’s Quality Manual in effect at the time the subject samples were tested as well as the laboratory’s most recent Quality Manual (however named; the document that describes the laboratory’s quality objects and policies).

22. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB application for accreditation, and most recent Annual Accreditation Review Report, as appropriate.

23. Statement of qualifications of each analyst and/or technician responsible for processing case samples to include all names, locations and jurisdictions of cases in which these personnel testified concerning the same substances found in the present case.

24. Copy of the laboratory’s ASCLD-LAB on-site inspection report, as appropriate, as well as any reports of on-site inspections by any other testing laboratory audit organization.

25.  Copy of internal audit reports generated during the period subject samples were tested..

26.  List of capital instrumentation in the laboratory at the time subject testing was performed, including manufacturer, model number, and major accessories.

27. Production throughput data for the drug testing section: numbers of tests performed per month or per year, and the number of Full Time Equivalent personnel in the drug testing section of the laboratory.[54]

Marijuana field tests also have specific requirements that are seldom observed by the police. For instance, the field tests used by police officers have expiration dates because the chemicals and reagents in the tubes deteriorate over time and as a result of heat or cold. Before going to a hearing or trial, a defense attorney can find out exactly what brand of field test kit was used with his/her client. This can be done through a public records request and sometimes by simply asking the prosecutor. The defense attorney can then purchase the exact same kit online. In court, the defense attorney can show the judge that the test has an expiration date after which the test would be inaccurate. If the police officer did not check the expiration date before using the test, then the test results should be assumed to be invalid. Under the law, any tests or equipment that are not in good working order produce results that are inadmissible as evidence. If the police officer cannot attest to the expiration date or whether the test was used after its expiration date, the drug charges should be dismissed. Some search warrants are based on positive kit results and may be ruled invalid if the police officer did not know the expiration date of the kit. This should also result in a dismissal of charges.

Even if the field test has not expired, the test does not prove the presence of marijuana in a seized substance because it is a presumptive or screening test only. Information accompanying the kits indicate this fact. For instance, the carton containing one commonly used NIK field test states that it is: “A specially formulated reagent system for the presumptive identification of Marijuana.”  In other words, the company itself is saying that the test does not prove the presence of marijuana. It is further stated that: “The results of a single test may or may not yield a valid result. . . There is no existing chemical reagent test, adaptable to field use that will continually eliminate the occurrence of an occasional invalid test results [sic]. A complete forensic laboratory would be required to qualitatively identify an unknown suspect substance.”[55]  A defense attorney can show this to a judge or jury and explain what it means. Therefore, if the only evidence is positive results from a field test, the charges should be dismissed or the defendant acquitted.

Recently, defense attorneys in Colorado did challenge the DEA’s test results and blocked their admission as evidence including results from Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis, the gold standard of drug testing. U.S. District Court Judge Marcia S. Krieger of Colorado ruled on April 21, 2011 that based on DEA information and the testimony of DEA chemist Anthea Chan, the prosecution failed to show the existence of reliable, accurate testing being reliably applied that proved the presence of amphetamines. She therefore denied admission of the test results as evidence at trial.[56]

The hearing, known as a Rule 702 (of the Federal Rules of Evidence) Hearing, provided a rare glimpse into the inner workings of a DEA lab. It was meant to determine whether their testing conformed to Rule 702 requirements for scientifically sound testing. Rule 702 requirements are all but identical to Daubert requirements. Krieger’s first task was to determine whether Chan had correctly tested according to DEA protocols and SOPs. Chan testified that she followed no protocols or SOPs and, in fact, was not aware of any protocols or SOPs.[57] These facts alone, said Krieger, were enough to deny admission of the test results as evidence because it was impossible to determine whether Chan reliably applied reliable tests.

Krieger did, not, however, rule at this point because she wanted her ruling to encompass  defense expert Janine Arvizu’s findings. Arvizu attempted to reconstruct the practices, protocols, and results relevant to Chan’s qualitative and quantitative test conclusions and whether they adhered to quality requirements and universally accepted standards designed to ensure the quality and reliability of tests, specifically, what’s known as ISO 17025 standards. However, as was the case in Washington, only a very limited amount of laboratory discoverable material was made available making it impossible to determine or evaluate the laboratory’s technical requirements or quality controls during the subject testing.

“That’s exactly the position the Court finds itself in,” noted Judge Krieger, “because it does not have evidence as to the protocol that was used, the reliability of the protocol compared to other labs, or whether Ms. Chan complied with the protocol in a reliable fashion.”[58]

Arvizu was, however, able to determine that Chan’s testing in particular was unreliable and inaccurate. Chan first used the Marquis chemical color test as a screening test, and the suspected substance turned orange/brown suggesting it was amphetamines.  But the test was unreliable and meaningless because she did not use a color chart with which to compare her results. As she herself testified: “I believe it’s the same as you saying something is blue and me saying it’s light blue. It’s subjective.”[59] Subjective tests are unreliable by definition.

Her next test was a GC/MS analysis.  Chan first ran a “blank” or negative control to check for contamination. The test consisted of putting the suspected amphetamines into a solution and then placing this solution onto the machine. But she first put the solution alone onto the machine, to see whether it would register positive. It did, meaning the machine was contaminated.[60] As Arvizu testified: “When quality control samples fail, the run should be terminated and the failure should be investigated and corrective action taken before unknown sample are tested.”[61] Inexplicably, Chan continued the testing with the contaminated machine.

Actually, even before beginning her test, Chan should have also run a positive control by placing a known quantity of amphetamines, known as a standard, on the machine to calibrate it and see whether it was working properly. DEA analysts are required under ASCLD/LAB and ISO 17025 guidelines to run standards immediately before testing. Chan said she was not familiar with these guidelines and was not required to do so. Chan’s superior Shana Irby, who approved her testing, also testified that it is not required to run contemporaneous standards, and that it suffices if the machine has been checked ten months prior.[62] She claimed to have never seen any protocol requiring the running of contemporaneous standards, and that “as soon as I walk up to an instrument, I know – I generally know if it’s working or not.”[63] She also claimed it was not necessary to check beforehand whether the standard had disintegrated because “[M]ethamphetamine to my knowledge does not degrade.”[64] This is false, and these standards come with an expiration date beyond which they are not useable.

DEA labs are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/ Laboratory Accreditation Board ((ASCLD/LAB) under the international criteria detailed in ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and the 2006 ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Accreditation certifies that the management and technical operations of the laboratory comply with the program requirements, including any corrective action that was required during any of audits. (Details regarding the accreditation program may be obtained from www.ascld-lab.org.) In other words, DEA labs are accredited on the basis that they ascribe to ISO/IEC 17025 and ASCLD/LAB International Supplemental Requirements. Arvizu said the DEA adheres to neither, and is, therefore, de facto, unaccredited.

Why Did Popular Science Can Its Comments Section?

Why Did Popular Science Can Its Comments Section?

Posted on Oct 17, 2013
kevin dooley (CC BY 2.0)

Editors of the Popular Science website last month announced they would no longer accept readers’ comments under new articles. Why? Because studies suggest Internet “trolls” don’t just spoil the chance for intellectual debate, they create doubt where there should be none.

“It wasn’t a decision we made lightly,” wrote Suzanne LaBarre, the magazine’s online content director. “As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former, diminishing our ability to do the latter.”

LaBarre cited a study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Dominique Brossard, in which 1,183 Americans were asked to read a fake blog post on a science topic and state in a survey how they felt about the subject. Then they were randomly assigned either “epithet- and insult-laden comments” or “civil comments,” LaBarre explained.

The study’s authors said of the results in a New York Times op-ed:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.

In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.

Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

Another similar study determined that disagreements between commenters that were firmly worded but not uncivil still impacted readers’ perception of science, LaBarre reported.

“If you carry out those results to their logical end,” LaBarre wrote, “commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded—you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the ‘off’ switch.”

“A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to ‘debate’ on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.”

“Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader’s perception of a story,” LaBarre wrote.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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Watkins Glen, New York made Yahoo! Travel’s top 10 list of America’s coolest small towns. This Finger Lake village is described as having “Award-winning wineries, awe-inspiring gorges and waterfalls, and a racetrack that draws visitors to auto-racing events.” The story mentions hiking, NASCAR and “crisp Rieslings.”

Here’s what it doesn’t say about this dream town: it’s at the heart of the battle over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for unconventional shale gas in the Marcellus. 

Companies aren’t drilling for gas here, but they’re drilling into the land in order to store fracked gas. Sandra Steingraber was among a group of individuals willing to put her body between drilling rig trucks and their destination on shores of Seneca Lake on Monday. Steingraber was arrested for her bravery, which is but one step in her evolving journey as a scientist, writer, and now activist.

Steingraber is a renowned scientist, currently a scholar in residence in Ithaca College. She’s also a lyrical writer, author of four books: Post-Diagnosis (written after being diagnosed with bladder cancer at age 20); Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment (later optioned as a film); Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood; and most recently Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis.

On World Water Day, this is a good time to reflect on the threats of drought and water contamination, in which fracking plays a key role. Steingraber talked with AlterNet about the health effects of fracking, her own personal connection to the issue, and what keeps her up at night. (Spoiler: it’s cement, but more on that soon.)

Tara Lohan: If I’m reading the news correctly, it looks like you were arrested earlier this week.

Sandra Steingraber: Yes, I was.

TL: How did you get involved in that action?

SS: It has an odd trajectory. I was writing about three other people who were arrested for civil disobedience at that same facility last September. One of them, the night before, showed up on my front porch and asked me if I would come the next morning to bear witness to what he was about to do and be available to talk to the press about compressor stations, which was something I was researching. I was happy to talk about the kinds of chemicals that compressor stations put into the atmosphere and what the problem is with this whole project. The whole project being a storage facility for fracked gases that a company called Inergy from Kansas City is trying to build. The plan they have for this part of the world is to use depleted salt caverns where salt mining has been done for probably a century at least, and use it as a storage facility for gas from the fracking fields in Pennsylvania. The idea is that the gas would be pressurized to the point of liquidification, then injected into salt caverns.

So I went last September and served as a sort of science writer/interpreter and witness and what impressed me was that the three people who chained themselves to this fence were not young people. The youngest was my age and I’m 53, she was a nurse. And then there was Rev. Gary Judson who is a retired Methodist minister who is 72 and he spoke eloquently about the underground geology of these caverns, about the history of salt caverns being used to store liquified petroleum products and their terrible track record with catastrophic accidents in other states. And then there was also the moral and ethical issue of using these caverns to store something toxic and explosive knowing that they have cracks and fissures and that this is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. He, himself was an avid fisherman and he felt strongly that this was a treasure and we are called to defend creation.

FDA Ready to Approve Frankenfish Despite Fishy Science

Some day soon, you might tuck into a plate of salmon without knowing that the fish you are eating was genetically engineered. The so-called AquAdvantage salmon, a salmon genetically engineered to grow faster than normal salmon, just moved one step closer to legalization. If so, (Photo: Andrea Pokrzywinski via Flickr)it will be the first genetically engineered (GE) animal allowed for consumption in the United States. Thus, every part of the regulatory process related to the GE salmon sets a precedent for all future GE animals in the United States – and so far, according to experts, that precedent is a sloppy, inadequate one.

What Is AquAdvantage Salmon?

To create the GE salmon, the Boston-based public company  AquaBounty Technologies inserted DNA from another salmon species and an eel-like fish into the genome of an Atlantic salmon. The new genes make the GE salmon produce growth hormone all year round instead of just for three months a year as they normally would. This helps them grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of the usual 30 months required for an Atlantic salmon.

To prevent any GE salmon from escaping into the wild, surviving, and reproducing there, AquaBounty will only produce female GE salmon, each with three sets of DNA instead of the normal two. Triploids, as organisms with three sets of DNA are called, are infertile. Therefore, producing only female, triploid GE fish should provide two mechanisms of preventing reproduction should any fish escape into the wild. (Obviously, it takes a bit of scientific tinkering to create an all-female triploid fish population and the process used to do this might make your stomach turn.)

AquaBounty will produce salmon eggs in Prince Edward Island, Canada. Then it will transport them to an inland facility in Panama, where it will grow the fish, harvest, and process them. The firm claims no live fish will ever enter the United States.

How Are GE Animals Regulated?

The next question one might ask is how the federal government goes about deciding whether or not a GE animal should be allowed in our food supply. Under a 1980s decision, written by anti-regulation ideologues in the Reagan and Bush I era before any GE foods – plants or animals – were ready for commercialization, the government decided that no new laws were needed to regulate GE plants or animals. This decision is called “the Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology,” or the Coordinated Framework for short.

Whereas the European Union debated the regulation of GE foods and drafted new laws to address issues such as safety, traceability, allergenicity and environmental impacts, the U.S. never passed any new laws specific to GE animals or had the kind of public debate passing a new law would require. Instead, they decided to regulate GE animals as “animal drugs,” using laws that are not well-suited to the unique, complex issues posed by GE animals. Specifically, the government considers the extra DNA added to the GE animals as the “animal drug.” New Animal Drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and they receive input from the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee (VMAC) – a committee mostly made up of veterinarians, not genetic engineering experts.

When a new animal drug is approved, it is only approved for production in a specific facility. Therefore, if you invent a new pill for cats, you submit data on its production in a specific facility, and you receive approval to produce it only in that facility. If you decide to build eight more factories because your drug is so popular, you must go back to the FDA to receive approval for the eight new facilities.

2010: Sloppy Science on Trial

Back in 2010, the FDA took the first steps to approve AquaBounty’s application to produce the GE salmon. It released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and several hundred pages of safety testing data from experiments performed by AquaBounty on the GE salmon. Then it gave the public a mere two weeks to comment on the data, and it convened VMAC to advise it on the GE salmon.

For watchdog groups, this was the first signal that something was, well, fishy. Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen excoriated the safety data as “sloppy,” “misleading,” and “woefully inadequate.” In addition to using small sample sizes and culling deformed fish and thus skewing the data, AquaBounty only provided data gathered in its Prince Edward Island facility, where it will produce GE salmon eggs. But, by law, it must also provide data from its Panama facility, where it will grow the salmon to full size.

The VMAC committee didn’t give a resounding approval either. The New York Times summarized their findings, saying, “While a genetically engineered salmon is almost certainly safe to eat, the government should pursue a more rigorous analysis of the fish's possible health effects and environmental impact.” However, the committee only advises the FDA, and its decisions are not binding.

2012: FDA Readies Its Rubber Stamp

Following the VMAC meeting and a second, public meeting on labeling issues surrounding the GE salmon, the FDA went silent. Over the next two years, it quietly examined the public comments and the input from the VMAC committee. But despite VMAC’s suggestion for a more rigorous analysis, the FDA moved the application one step closer to approval without really addressing the gaping holes in the AquaBounty’s science. In May of 2012, it produced an ever-so-slightly improved Environmental Assessment (EA) compared to the original draft it made public in 2010, and a preliminary “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI).

The preliminary FONSI and draft EA were not made public until they were published in the Federal Register on December 26, 2012. At that point, the FDA began a 60-day period in which the public could review its findings and submit comments.

What happened between 2010 and 2012 to improve our confidence that the GE salmon is safe for human consumption and for the environment? Nothing. There’s no new data whatsoever. The only changes are a few minor additions to the EA – certainly not enough to inspire confidence that the government heard the critiques made in 2010 and addressed them.

After a group of Senators led by Mark Begich (D-AK) sent the FDA a letter asking for a 60-day extension to the comment period, the FDA agreed to take comments until April 26, 2013.

What’s Fishy About the GE Salmon?

“There are still unanswered safety and nutritional questions and the quality of the data that was submitted to the FDA was the worst stuff I've ever seen submitted for a GMO. There's stuff there that couldn't make it through a high school science class,” reflected Hansen in early 2013, after reviewing the newly released documents.

Almost laughing, Hansen remarks on the obvious flaws in AquaBounty’s scientific justification of the fish’s safety, saying, “That's not science, that's a joke!" Becoming more serious, he adds, “There's allergenicity questions and other health questions. It shouldn't be approved. They don't have any data to show that it's safe."

"There are environmental issues as well,” Hansen continues. “Not so much in Panama, but on Prince Edward Island. That's where they're going to producing eggs. Guess what, to produce eggs, you've gotta have fertile adults." Before the wild Atlantic salmon population was decimated, the waters around Prince Edward Island was salmon habitat. An escaped GE fish could easily thrive there. “Yet,” adds Hansen, “they conclude that even if they get out the water's too cold!”

In an interview with Flash in the Pan, environmental risk scientist Anne Kapuscinski also criticized the FDA’s process. Back in the 1990s, she authored the reports on how to perform environmental risk assessment. But, by 2007, her 1990s publications were so out of date that she led a team of scientists to write an updated book on the subject. Despite the updated scientific methods, the FDA opted to use the old, outdated methods from the 1990s to conduct its environmental risk assessment on the GE salmon.

The 2007 publication was rigorously peer reviewed by reviewers from around the world. Yet, the FDA ignored it. Kapuscinski calls their methods unscientific, adding that if the FDA were a student who submitted this report for a grade, it would fail. “Students would get into serious trouble if they were citing really old methods, and there had been huge advances in the methods since then and they ignored that. That would be a reason to fail them.”

She submitted comments back in 2010, but says, “it looks like either they didn’t read our comments or they just decided to ignore them.” She points out that the Panama facility that AquaBounty will use to grow the fish out of is not large enough for a commercial venture. “It’s at a scale to show proof of concept of the commercial viability of this,” she said. “Once the company scales up to selling millions and millions of eggs, the fish will be farmed by producers with all kinds of facilities.” Those facilities might not be as well protected as the one in Panama. Unless the FDA brings its risk assessment methods up to date, we have no adequate, scientific assurance that GE salmon won’t escape into the wild.

Next Steps

Despite the scientific questions, there’s no sign that the FDA will overturn its preliminary decision to allow commercialization of the GE salmon. The best Michael Hansen is hoping for at this point is a requirement that the GE salmon – one legalized – will be labeled as genetically engineered. He calls this “an outside chance.”

Unfortunately, as Hansen notes, "This is to set a precedent. If they let the GE salmon go through, why would any other company that wants to get a genetically engineered animal through bother” producing rigorous, scientifically valid data to prove its product’s safety?

If you don’t want to see GE salmon in your local supermarket in as little as a few years, you can take action. The FDA is accepting public comments until April 26, 2013. You can write your own message and submit it at Regulations.gov or you can join Food and Water Watch’s campaign against the GE salmon here. You can also write your representatives to let them know your point of view.

© 2013 Center for Media and Democracy

Jill Richardson

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Bradley Manning: The Conscience of America

Pfc. Bradley Manning last week explained how and more importantly, why, he leaked military and government documents. As Ratner frames it: 'He saw wrongdoing and he acted.' (Credit: Reuters)

“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information… this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general…” —Pfc. Bradley Manning in his plea statement, February 28th, 2013

This past Thursday, I was among a handful of individuals seated in the small windowless room at the military court facility in Fort Meade, Maryland, where Private First Class Bradley Manning would confess as the source of the largest leak of classified information in history. 

Sitting in his dark blue full military uniform, Private Manning responded thoughtfully each time the judge addressed him, as he prepared to read aloud a 35-page statement that precisely detailed his actions and motivations for each of 10 charges.  But as I witnessed this momentous occurrence, I was struck by a glaring inconsistency: the young soldier I saw in front of me – poised, resolute – bore absolutely no resemblance to his common depictions in the media from the last three years.  
 
For over 1000 days, Private Manning has been held in military detention, in Iraq, Kuwait, Quantico, Virginia and Leavenworth, Kansas.  Reports from these facilities and the media depicted Manning as unstable, depressed, weak, and worse.  While imprisoned, he has endured some of the worst treatment imaginable at the hands of his own government, notably characterized by the UN special rapporteur for torture as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading,” possibly amounting to torture. Worse yet, this abuse comes in response to actions which Manning believed, and continues to believe, were in the service of both his country and international human rights law.  Given all that he has endured, if the characterizations about his mental state were accurate, it would hardly come as a surprise. 

Yet, facing life in prison, possibly execution (which the government says it will not request), and all but sealing his fate for at least a lengthy prison term by his guilty admission to 10 of 22 charges against him, Bradley Manning exhibited calm, collection, great intelligence and, yet again, incredible bravery. In fact, if there was any room for doubt about Manning acting from a powerful moral compass, and representing the best and bravest of our military, the plea into which Manning entered must remove it. 

The last 10 years have brought to light egregious acts committed by U.S. soldiers who, when exposed, cower under the defense of “just following orders,” or claim to have been influenced by institutional culture.  Yet, remarkably, at just 22 years of age, a heroic young man began exposing the worst of this culture not to harm the country, but to better it.  He saw wrongdoing and he acted.

Over the course of nearly two hours, Private Manning detailed with startling clarity his precise motivations for each leak.  On the Iraq War Logs and Afghan War Logs, he expressed his shock and dismay at the rampant use of targeted killings as a conflict-resolution tactic.  On the Reykjavik 13 cable: the world should know of the U.S. and U.K.’s bullying tactics against Iceland to accept austerity measures in the wake of the global financial meltdown.  On the Iraqi police’s arrests and disappearances of anti-corruption leafleters: that U.S. should not support those stifling democratic processes in Iraq.  On the Guantanamo detainee files: the Obama administration’s stance is two-faced, claiming on the one hand to want to close the prison, yet on the other, knowingly holding innocent and low-level prisoners.  On the State Department cable leak: the so-called “leader of the free world” engaged in “seemingly criminal activity” via backdoor deals is wrong and hypocritical. And on the most famous of his leaks, the “Collateral Murder” video: the soldiers’ “bloodlust” as they wantonly shot Reuters journalists whom they had mistaken for insurgents from an apache helicopter, along with the ensuing cover-up must be open to public review.

And though the words imply powerful moral and ethical motivations for the actions, Manning did not allow for any ambiguity regarding his ownership of the leaks.  Toward the end of his statement, Manning added, “the decisions that I made to send documents and information to [Wikileaks] were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility…”

One might question why Private Manning would make such a naked admission of guilt.  To this, it should be stated clearly that the plea into which he entered does not function in the same way as those in civilian court: as a deal with a prosecutor to confess to lesser charges for leniency in sentencing.  On the contrary, Manning’s plea, actually designated a “naked plea” in colloquial terms, not only leaves the door open for the U.S. government to pursue the remaining 12 charges against him – charges which, ridiculously, include “aiding the enemy” – but provide them with ammunition in the form of his confession statement, should they decide to do so. The implications of such an action are unsurprising given Private Manning’s record: simply that his commitment to placing the truth into the public record is a priority that exceeds concern for his personal well-being.

Unfortunately for Private Manning, he faces an administration that seems intent on criminalizing every conceivable act of whistleblowing, in effect deleting its vital function from our democratic system.  Not only has the Obama Administration pursued a greater number of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, but it has recently announced that Private Manning’s plea will have no bearing on its pursuit of the remaining charges.

The sad irony in Private Manning’s case is that while the Obama Administration throws the book at him, even accuses him of aiding the enemy by exposing great wrongs in U.S. foreign policy, he actually serves as one of the most redeeming examples of service our country could ask for.  The last 10 years have brought to light egregious acts committed by U.S. soldiers who, when exposed, cower under the defense of “just following orders,” or claim to have been influenced by institutional culture.  Yet, remarkably, at just 22 years of age, a heroic young man began exposing the worst of this culture not to harm the country, but to better it.  He saw wrongdoing and he acted.

In processing these actions another quote comes to mind:

“I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.”

No, these are not the words of Private Manning; they were spoken by Daniel Ellsberg on June 28, 1971 upon his admission to leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press.

The fact that these words ring as true now, in Private Manning’s current circumstance, as when they were spoken, is no coincidence.  Daniel Ellsberg too was maligned by many at the time of his confession.  Now history regards his action as a profound contribution to the public good.  There is little doubt that Bradley Manning’s contributions will be regarded with the same heroism in due time. 

Bradley Manning is being punished for failing to follow authority.  Yet, from a very young age, he realized an unshakable moral and ethical imperative to answer to a higher authority than his superiors: the Constitution, and the rule of law.

Hopefully, Bradley Manning’s statement will someday be read in classrooms all across the country as example of the duty each of us has to act in the face of criminality and evil.  Hopefully, he will be free to add to the discussion, remark on his terrible ordeal and be recognized as the hero he is. But no matter how long he is imprisoned, we all must recognize that to lock him up for even a day is to lock up the conscience of our nation.

Michael Ratner

Michael Ratner is the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and currently serves as attorney for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He is co-author with Margaret Ratner Kunstler of “Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century”.

6 Secrets to Happiness (According to Science)

February 11, 2013  |  

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Science has all the answers, right? Wrong. But it has a pretty good sense of things, a lot of the time. So what does science have to say about the pursuit of happiness? A lot. Like,  build-an-entire-industry-around-it, even-the-pseudo-scientific-stuff a lot.

So let's look at some of the more recent things science has had to say about happiness and how you can score some for yourself — including one tip that might actually work (and you won't even have to pay us to hear it).

1. Surround yourself with happy people
Or, at the very least, surround yourself with people who surround themselves with happy people. A longitudinal investigation conducted over 20 years in collaboration with the Framingham Heart Study revealed that shifts in individual happiness can cascade through social networks like an emotional contagion. That's right, happiness is kind of like a disease. (The researchers don't mean Facebook, btw, but physical, old-school networks — like live-in friends, partners and spouses; and siblings, friends and neighbors who live close by.)

"Most important from our perspective is the recognition that people are embedded in social networks and that the health and wellbeing of one person affects the health and wellbeing of others,"  conclude the researchers, noting that the relationship between people's happiness was found to extend up to three degrees of separation (i.e. all the way to friends of friends of friends). "This fundamental fact of existence provides a fundamental conceptual justification for the specialty of public health. Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals."

Also worth noting: the researchers found sadness to be nowhere near as "infectious" as happiness.

2. Master a skill
This one is kind of a tradeoff: a study published in a 2009 issue of the 100% real Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who dedicate themselves to mastering a skill or ability tend to experience more stress in the moment, but reported greater happiness and satisfaction on an hourly, daily, and longterm basis as a result of their investment.

"No pain, no gain is the rule when it comes to gaining happiness from increasing our competence at something," said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University in a statement. "People often give up their goals because they are stressful, but we found that there is benefit at the end of the day from learning to do something well."

3. Self-government is key
The same study that found mastering a skill could bolster overall, longterm happiness found that the minute-to-minute stresses of mastering a skill could be lessened by self-direction and a sense of fellowship. "Our results suggest that you can decrease the momentary stress associated with improving your skill or ability by ensuring you are also meeting the need for autonomy and connectedness," explains Howell. "For example, performing the activity alongside other people or making sure it is something you have chosen to do and is true to who you are."

4. Smile for once
Darwin laid it out for us all the way back in 1872: "The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it," he wrote. And recent studies — involving botox, of all things — suggest he was onto something. SciAm's Melinda Wenner explains:

Psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that people whose ability to frown is comp­romised by cosmetic botox inject­ions are happier, on average, than people who can frown. The researchers administered an anxiety and depression questionnaire to 25 females, half of whom had received frown-inhibiting botox injections. The botox recipients reported feeling happier and less anxious in general; more important, they did not report feeling any more attractive, which suggests that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment's cosmetic nature.

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At a time when Democrats and Republicans appear incapable of working together on even the simplest of matters, one area of surprising agreement has...

Prominent Lawyer Prashant Bhushan Urges Indian Government to Stop Commercialisation of GM Mustard

The environment ministry in India will make the final call after the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee recently gave a positive recommendation for the commercial...

Fat for Fuel

“Dr. Joseph Mercola has been a shining beacon of health wisdom and freedom for decades. His latest book, Fat for Fuel, is a masterpiece of...

The Pope Criticizes Libertarianism

As one of the leaders of the libertarian movement, I am exceedingly grateful to the Holy Father Pope Francis for his recent criticism of...

Trump Nixes Nixon: Where Watergate Goes to Die

President Donald Trump at a news conference, at the White House in Washington, April 12, 2017. (Al Drago / The New York Times) Let's you...

Comey: a New Hero of the Left?

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0 Behavioral science can determine with a measure of accuracy just how many exposures to a stimulus it...

Christopher Columbus: Master Double Agent

Henry IV of Spain – known as “The Impotent” for his weakness, both on the throne and (allegedly) in the marriage chamber – died...

Mining in Alaska may return as EPA scraps Obama-era regulations

A company with a mining operation in Alaska has reached a settlement with the EPA, reversing...

Scientists Resign From EPA in Protest

Sierra ClubAs reported by POLITICO Pro, scientists resigned today from an EPA advisory panel in protest of Administrator Scott Pruitt’s recent decision not to...

From glitch to ‘awesomesauce’: Astronauts perform 200th space station spacewalk

Published time: 12 May, 2017 21:11 Astronauts replaced an important piece of equipment on the International...

The Coming Crisis for the World’s Farmers

Remember the climate crisis? It’s still happening. Having a government that resembles a circus, it turns out, hasn’t stopped the clock on the level...

‘The New York Times Wants to Have a Very Circumscribed Discussion’

Janine Jackson interviewed Jim Naureckas about Bret Stephens for the May 5, 2017, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript. ...

John McCain, Human Rights and Our National Mental Illness

There’s that lay definition of mental illness where you come to believe you’re the only sane person left in the room. I think that’s...

The End of Western Civilization

Nick Giambruno: The decline of Western Civilization is on a lot of people’s minds. Let’s talk about this trend. Doug Casey: Western Civilization has its origins in...

The Latest Study of School Vouchers in DC Shows Why DeVos' Plan Is Dangerous

The nation's capital is the only city in the US where, for more than a decade, the federal government has been giving vouchers to...

Lockheed Martin-Funded Experts Agree: South Korea Needs More Lockheed Martin Missiles

The THAAD anti-missile system sure is great, say analysts whose salaries are partly paid for by THAAD’s manufacturer. (photo: DoD/Lockheed Martin) As tensions between the...

North Korea confirms US citizen detained over ‘hostile acts’

Pyongyang has confirmed that an American citizen was detained in late April over “criminal acts of hostility” targeting the North Korean government. North Korean officials...

US citizen ‘detained’ in North Korea – state news agency

Published time: 7 May, 2017 14:48 A US citizen is reportedly being held by authorities in...

What Was the Trigger for Violence in Syria?

If the base upon which an edifice is arranged is defective, then the edifice will topple when the base crumples. In the case of...

It’s Time to Reawaken the Spirit of Occupy for the Starving Millions

The world is now facing an unprecedented emergency of hunger and famine, with a record number of people requiring life-saving food and medical assistance...

Do Climate Activists Have a Legal Justification for Civil Disobedience?

As the Trump administration reverses federal action to combat climate change in the midst of unprecedented warming, climate activists are gearing up for a...

How Trump Fixes Facts Around Policy

President Trump’s disdain for inconvenient truth has led to the deletion of climate science from the EPA’s web site and...

A Radical’s Struggle To Remake America

By Michael R. Maharrey May 6, 2017 This is not your typical biography. There have been countless books written on Jefferson, but Gutzman tills a lot...

Puerto Rico to shut 179 schools, relocate 27k students amid historic bankruptcy

The largest mass shuttering of public schools in Puerto Rico’s history follows the island declaring bankruptcy...

Trayvon Martin awarded posthumous aviation degree from Florida university

Published time: 5 May, 2017 16:43 Florida Memorial University has announced it is awarding Trayvon Martin,...

Noise pollution affects majority of US protected areas with ‘real impact on animals’ –...

A new study finds noise pollution is twice as loud as normal background sound levels in nearly two-thirds of protected areas in the US....

I Have Never Seen Lawmakers So Deeply Hurt So Many of Their Own Constituents

House Republican lawmakers voted today to add more than 20 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured; require millions more people to pay...

The Metropolis Project and George Soros

In countries with a shred of self-respect, the idea of a politician or policy-maker openly colluding with the likes of George Soros,...

Drumming for Planet Earth

At the climate rally in Chicago last week, people started drumming in the rain. Pardon me while I walk uncertain ground here, looking for clues...

How Much to Buy a Congressional Vote? New Research Seeks Answer

While it is conventional wisdom that money influences politics, researchers released a report Tuesday aiming to answer the longstanding question of exactly how much...

Unvaccinated Children Pose Zero Risk

By Erin Elizabeth Health Nut News May 3, 2017 Dear Legislator: My name is Tetyana Obukhanych.  I hold a Ph.D. in Immunology.  I am writing this letter...

Three Reasons Bret Stephens Should Not Be a NYT Columnist–and the Real Reason He...

You know the reasons why Bret Stephens should not be a New York Times columnist: 1. He’s a climate denier. Wall Street Journal (7/1/08) Here’s a question...

Britain Must Break Free from the Agrochemical Cartel: Rosemary Mason Calls on ECP to...

Agrochemical manufacturers are knowingly poisoning people and the environment in the name of profit and greed. Communities, countries, ecosystems and species have become disposable...

Monsanto accused of hiring army of trolls to silence online dissent – court papers

Biotech giant Monsanto is being accused of hiring, through third parties, an army of Internet trolls...

Bigoted Americans Far More Supportive of War Against Syria

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org —— On April 23rd, the U.S. mega-corporate and government-funded National Public Radio network, NPR, interviewed voters about their views on...

Ignorant and Violent

As Mark Twain might say, our students are being taught a lot of facts that just ain’t so – by a lot of academics...

Is Francis a Fascist?

Fresh off a hate-filled rant against populism (a.k.a. consent of the governed), Pope Francis recently delivered another mean-spirited, hateful diatribe about the “grave risks...

100 Percent Renewable Energy Bill – A First Foot Forward

This week, Sens. Merkley (D-OR) and Sanders (I-VT) launched a bill that takes a huge step toward aligning government policy with what climate science...

Hey, teacher – Leave them kids alone! Spate of educator arrests for sex, drugs...

It’s as if Pink Floyd wrote a song about this week, but instead of another brick...

100 Days of Media Hoping for a New, Improved Trump

Nearly 100 days into the Trump presidency, corporate media are still struggling to reckon with the man that occupies the White House. An administration...

Foe of Endangered Species, Public Lands Nominated for Deputy Interior Secretary

WASHINGTON - Industry lobbyist David Bernhardt has been nominated for deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior, where he would directly oversee management...

Exposing Big Pharma’s Vaccine Lies

Robert F. Kennedy Jr was recently a guest on Tucker Carlson’s show for Fox News, and in it he revealed it was only the...

An Avocado a Day….

By Dr. Mercola Sometimes people have more than one serious health complication. If those problems happen to be three or more of the most prevalent...

Trump’s Next Most Dangerous Possibility

Assuming President Trump doesn’t blunder into World War III, the next greatest harm he may do is reverse the modest...

Why Scientists Marched

Hundreds of thousands of scientists and their supporters recently took to the streets, marching in favor of science-based policies. How did our science-denying president...

For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab

The rapid mobilization that’s necessary to stop a greenhouse meltdown won’t be happening in the near future, given that in Washington attitudes toward effective...

In OtherWords: April 26, 2017

This week’s OtherWords package falls between two huge marches on Washington, along with hundreds of other communities. Last Saturday, Earth Day, the Science March brought...

Environmentalists Are Dead Wrong

Each year, Earth Day is accompanied by predictions of doom. Let’s take a look at past predictions to determine just how much confidence we...

The GOP Fraud

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) has a warped view of federalism. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Science, Space, &...

Why Vault 7 Tools Used by Private Contractors Shows US Intel Needs a Ground-Up...

So, let's begin at the end. The fastest way to get things done on a geopolitical level has become hiring the private Intel and...

The Premiere of “Bill Nye Saves the World” Sparks Massive Backlash

The Friday premiere of talk show “Bill Nye Saves the World” sparked a massive backlash after the show hosted a comedian,...

UK must harness power of machine learning before it’s too late – Royal Society

Machine learning has long been a topic of both fear and fascination for the public,...
video

Video: “I’m a Black Girl Who Rocks STEM”: Young, Trans, Black & Native Scientists...

http://democracynow.org - On Saturday, tens of thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C., for the first-ever March for Science. Among those who took ... Via...

American Dream in Freefall: It's This Bad

Whither the American Dream? It may not be totally dead, but a new study suggests that it is certainly on life support. Published in the American...

Talking to the president, hanging from wall: Trump calls record-setting astronaut in space

President Donald Trump has called NASA Commander Peggy Whitson aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to...

Remaining Animal

The philosopher David Abram wrote a book called Becoming Animal (2011), which was, in part, an exploration of shamanism and an attempt to understand...

31% of Americans view Russia as ‘greatest danger’ to US, highest rate in 3...

Answering an open-ended question, 31% of Americans said Russia currently represents the “greatest danger” to the US, according to a new poll. It is...

A Great Comet Struck the Earth In 11,000 BC.

Ancient stone carvings confirm that a comet struck the Earth around 11,000BC, a devastating event which wiped out wooly mammoths and sparked the rise...

Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers

Photo by Nathaniel St. Clair One of the least understood aspects of global warming is entire countries threatened by loss of major rivers, for example,...

In French Elections, None of Three Main Candidates Would Advance Real Climate Progress

The birthplace of the Paris Climate Agreements, the first round of France's presidential election on starts on Sunday, April 23. Throughout the campaign debates...

Coal Miners’ Futures in Renewable Energy

Exclusive: President Trump has scored political points by touting coal-mining jobs, but he could create more real jobs in coal...

Why This Scientist Is Marching

"Science is real" and "Objective reality exists" read the signs that covered Jessie Square in San Francisco last December. "Immigrants make science great" read...

Fountain of Youth?

By Dr. Mercola Discovering the fountain of youth has been one of the world’s most sought-after but elusive endeavors. New information suggests that enhanced metabolism...

From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial

World Environment Day (WED) occurs on 5 June every year. Promoted by the United Nations, its aim is to encourage global awareness and action for...

What’s Wrong With This Picture? Fawning Praise of Bush’s Veteran Art Ignores Iraqi Victims

George W. Bush’s recent public relations tour, designed to rebuild his image as a tortured artist wrestling with the demons—a flawed but morally introspective...

US regressing into a developing nation for most people, MIT professor warns

Growing income inequality is turning the US into a dual economy, with one economy for the...

Dow Chem pushes regulators to scuttle findings of pesticide study – report

Dow Chemical is pressuring Trump Administration regulators to withdraw biological findings that show three insecticides used...

Climate Change as Genocide

Not since World War II have more human beings been at risk from disease and starvation than at this very moment. On March 10th,...

“Making America Great Again” by Reducing the World to Ashes?

In the event of a nuclear war, there will be no chances, there will be no survivors – all will be obliterated… nuclear devastation...

Sea creatures ‘dissolving’ in warming Pacific ocean – study

Published time: 19 Apr, 2017 12:59Edited time: 19 Apr, 2017 13:03 The mixture of warming waters and...

Saturn Moon Able to Support Life

Saturn Moon Able to Support LifeRed Ice NewsDispelling the Mythmakers One of Saturn's moons - known as Enceladus may now be the single...

Keystone XL Opponents Target Banks Funding Climate Destruction

Kicking off a week of actions targeting the institutions financing the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipelines, activists on Saturday protested at banks...

See You In Space

  In a cool feat of "suborbital dissent," members of the international, community-based, DIY Autonomous Space Agency Network have launched the first protest in space...

Will Grigg Was a Mighty Voice for Justice and Liberty

William Norman Grigg died this afternoon. He was a journalist, broadcaster, editor, musician, father, husband, and a self-described Christian Individualist. He was also my...

The Political Push Rightwards in Canada

A leadership race is an opportunity to promote bold ideas and invigorate a political movement. Canada’s right wing party seems to understand this, the...

"Trump Forest" Blooms to Counter "Trump's Monumental Stupidity" and Attack on Earth

Want to help counter President Donald Trump's war on climate action and combat climate change? Help plant Trump Forest. The brainchaid of climate scientist Dan...

War in the Gulf (No, Not That Gulf!)

It’s war in the Gulf and the U.S. Navy is on hand to protect us. No, not that Gulf! I’m talking about the Gulf...

Caribbean Reparations Movement Must Put Capitalism on Trial

Why is the reparations movement in the Anglophone Caribbean not putting capitalism on trial in its campaign to force British imperialism to provide financial...

Your Bug Barometer

This year's mild winter and wet spring will lead to insect pests coming out in full force for much of the US By Cecile Borkhataria...

Nigel Farage turns on ally Donald Trump after US missile strike on Syria

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has criticized his ally US President Donald Trump for ordering...

Caligula with Orange Hair

So maybe this is how the U.S. demilitarizes, or the American public at least returns to the consciousness of the late ’60s, when protests...

Study: Millennials Delaying Entry into Adulthood

The traditional markers of adulthood, such as independence, marriage, children, and homeownership, show that the millennial generation is greatly lagging behind baby...

Free Speech is Not the Issue; Intellectual Power Is

Photo by Qusai Al Shidi | CC BY 2.0   Abstract rights are in the air. They have recently become the subject of endless obsequious commentary...

Ilan Pappé on Viewing Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Settler-Colonialism

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference March 24, 2017 at the National Press Club The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was...

The Death of a Fake Culture

(RINF) - History teaches us that a few people had ideas and that the rest found their identities in following the lead of movers...

The Antarctic Ice Shelf Is Breaking Up–and USA Today Tells Us to ‘Chill Out’

The headline over USA Today‘s story (4/4/17) about an Antarctic ice shelf threatening to break off into an iceberg the size of Delaware: “Chill...

Putin Derangement Syndrome Arrives

So Michael Flynn, who was Donald Trump's national security adviser before he got busted talking out of school to Russia's ambassador, has reportedly offered to...

Proposed #CollegeForAll Plan Would Tax Wall Street to Destroy Student Debt Crisis

In a progressive push-back to the Trump administration's right-wing agenda—and amid rising inequality—Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday unveiled...

Medieval villagers ‘mutilated corpses to stop rise of living dead’

Published time: 3 Apr, 2017 12:16 Villagers in medieval Yorkshire were so afraid of the dead...

Study: Sean Spicer’s Handpicked Press Corps

The White House press corps has not exactly been a haven for inspirational adversarial journalism over the years. Made up almost exclusively of corporate...

College Students Penalized for Offensive Words

Universities penalise undergraduates for 'offensive' gender phrases in essays and exams By Katie french Daily Mail April 3, 2017 Essays will be marked down unless they use...

Are the Russians Insouciant?

On March 1 the US National Reconnaissance Office launched a spy satellite carried by an Atlas V rocket that was powered by a Russian RD-180 engine. The Unites States,...

Google blood money

President Trump’s Climate Action Sells the Future Short

On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order that decimates his predecessor’s policies on climate change. One casualty is the social cost of carbon(SCC),...

No joke: Comet will be historically close to Earth on April 1

Published time: 31 Mar, 2017 17:52Edited time: 1 Apr, 2017 16:05 On April Fool’s Day, the comet...

Obama’s Bulwark against Torture: Will It Stop Trump?

Just after President Trump’s Inauguration, a draft of an executive order was leaked which indicated his intent to seek a formal review on whether...

End of encryption? Tech giants ordered to clamp down on online extremism

Published time: 30 Mar, 2017 10:25Edited time: 31 Mar, 2017 12:02 Tech firms must do more...

Why Vault 7 Tools Used by Private Contractors Shows US Intel Needs a Ground-Up...

The Vault 7 exposé by WikiLeaks neglected to mention the most important part of the disclosure. Sure, the CIA has all these tools available....

Five Promising Signs (From This Week Alone) That Single-Payer's Gaining Steam

As the national healthcare debate rages in the wake of the GOP's TrumpCare disaster, universal healthcare advocates have identified an opening to advance the...

2 journalists on ‘kill list’ sue Trump & US agencies

Two journalists added to the US' terrorist “kill list” under President Barack Obama are suing to...

Study: Sean Spicer’s Handpicked Press Corps – 45 percent of reporters he's called on...

The White House press corps has not exactly been a haven for inspirational adversarial journalism over the years. Made up almost exclusively of corporate...

John Mearsheimer: What Has Changed Since Publication of The Israel Lobby and What the...

Delivered to The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference March 24, 2017 at the National Press Club The Israel Lobby and American Policy conference was...

Women have right to sell their bodies for sex, says Cambridge professor

Published time: 31 Mar, 2017 16:04 Prostitution should be as respected as being in the armed...

‘Critical’ NASA Climate Missions Targeted in Budget Cuts

In his most recent weekly address, President Trump praised NASA’s “mission of exploration and discovery” and its ability to allow mankind to “look to...

Lawsuits Pile Up, Resistance Revs Up Against Trump's KXL Order

Rising to the challenge set by the Trump administration's approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, environmental organizations and Indigenous groups are already firing back...

Fight against deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria gets cash infusion for R&D

A major global partnership has announced an injection of cash for researchers seeking to develop the...

Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs

When Barack Obama announced the Clean Power Plan, Scientific American used his own words to criticize it for not going far enough. “There is such...

My Autistic Child Isn’t ‘Diseased’

Finding out that your child is autistic is usually presented as a disaster, a financial and emotional drain that needs a long period of...

Smart kids more likely to smoke weed & drink alcohol as teens — study

Published time: 28 Mar, 2017 17:23 Children who do well in school are more likely to...

‘Nasty little backwater’: Richard Dawkins lambasts England ahead of #IndyRef2 vote

Published time: 28 Mar, 2017 13:43 Evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins branded England a “nasty...

Sheer Reckless Folly!

WASHINGTON - Today, President Trump will sign an executive order rolling back climate progress. The executive order will instruct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to...

Fall of the American Galactic Empire

“The fall of Empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative,...

Top British universities found producing ‘fake research’

Hundreds of allegations of “fake research” conducted at some of the UK’s top universities were reported between 2011 and 2016, figures show. According to figures...

A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers

Never before in the history of the human species has climate set so many spine-chilling new records as last year, 2016. That dire assessment...

A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers

Photo by Ian D. Keating | CC BY 2.0   Never before in the history of the human species has climate set so many spine-chilling new...

Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?

On February 22rd, Pres. Donald Trump signed an executive order reversing Pres. Barack Obama’s earlier order protecting transgender youths under Title IX from so-called...

‘Obamacare will explode’ warns Trump after Republicans pull healthcare bill

Published time: 25 Mar, 2017 17:10 US President Donald Trump is recruiting the entire population of the...

'Follow the Facts': Top Dem Demands Independent Trump-Russia Commission

Matching a growing popular demand, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Saturday urged Congress to create an independent commission to investigate...

MEDIA ADVISORY: "Trump's a Climate Emergency, Cuomo Show Some Urgency"

WASHINGTON - President Trump just approved the Keystone XL pipeline, a dangerous and destructive project that threatens our climate and communities.  New Yorkers will...

Colorado must protect health & environment before allowing fracking, court rules

The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision on fracking, siding with a group...

Trump Restarts Keystone XL Fight, Not the Tar Sands Pipeline

The Trump Administration’s approval of the cross-border permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline marks the beginning of what is likely to be...

Pretending Israel Is Innocent of Apartheid

Without doubt Israel practices apartheid toward Palestinians who are broadly denied human rights, but Israel’s political clout is such that...

NYPD filmed Occupy and BLM protests over 400 times without authorization – report

Published time: 24 Mar, 2017 01:59 A Freedom of Information Act request has uncovered evidence that the...

Monsanto’s Violence in India: The Sacred and the Profane

From Hinduism and Paganism to Thor, Woden and Monsanto, humans have lost their ancient beliefs, practices and connection with nature. The old practices, so...

Google Maps & local utilities team up to fight methane leaks

Published time: 23 Mar, 2017 03:21Edited time: 23 Mar, 2017 08:55 Google Maps is about to chart...

Right-Wing Foundation, Scary Nuke Maps Drive Narrative on North Korea ‘Threat’

Tensions between the United States and North Korea are making their way back into the news after a series of missile tests and presidential...

Trump signs NASA funding bill to send astronauts to Mars

President Donald Trump has signed a bill authorizing $19.5 billion in funding for NASA, which includes...

President Trump and the Crisis of Governance

America is in a crisis of governance. There is no adult in charge. Instead, we have as president an unhinged narcissistic child who tweets absurd...

Stephen Hawking plans space voyage on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic

Professor Stephen Hawking is heading into space after billionaire Richard Branson offered to take him on his Virgin Galactic spaceship – once it’s actually...

’Teach the controversy’: States introduce bills to teach evolution as debatable theory

Texas is the eighth state this year to introduce legislation that would protect teachers who present...

Trump’s Budget Assault on the Environment Packs a Wallop

Donald Trump’s first budget makes his antipathy to the environment clear—and his love for fossil fuels and nuclear power even clearer. In addition to slashing...

The Crimes of Apartheid

Photo by jasonwhat | CC BY 2.0   Apartheid is a powerful word, with evocations of the South African experience and with implications of crimes against...

Trump Budget Brings Harsh Cuts to Indian Country

Remember the sequester? Ah, the good old days. The new Trump Administration budget is short on details, but clear on direction. And we do...

Trump Lies; Ethics Dies

In the White House, anti-science, alt-facts and frequent lying are commonplace, and it is taking a toll on our youngest generation. President Trump’s reaction to...

Left-Wing CEOs of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley is teeming with psychopaths, it has been claimed. According to a panel of experts at SXSW festival this week, the tech hotspot harbors...

Milo Yiannopoulos wants to ban Muslim group on Glasgow campus ‘to protect LGBT students’

Protests are expected at Glasgow University against the nomination of ‘alt-right’ figure Milo Yiannopoulos as...

Paranoid schizophrenic killed young woman with screwdriver & ‘chewed’ her face, inquest told

A paranoid schizophrenic man accused of “chewing” a young woman's face after brutally murdering her was released from prison just two weeks earlier without...

‘We decided not to go forward with additional patients’: Stem cell clinic blinds 3...

One woman has been left completely blind and two others partially lost their sight after stem cells were injected into their eyeballs as part...

Mises Destroyed Marx

If asked to name the foremost critic of Marxism, most economists sympathetic to the free market would name Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, who in his...

Trump's Budget Won't Balance Federal Spending, but It'll Move a Lot of Money to...

The political theater that passes for serious policy debate is about to run into an unfortunate reality as Donald Trump's budget plan comes face...

Three-parent baby could be born this year after new fertility technique gets go-ahead

Published time: 16 Mar, 2017 16:58 Britain’s first three-parent babies could be born this year, after...

First woman in space Valentina Tereshkova shares life tips at London expo (VIDEO)

Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman and civilian to visit space, has shared her secret to...

Stop Protecting the Criminality of the Global Pesticides Industry

The agrichemicals industry wallows like an overblown hog in a cesspool of corruption. With its snout firmly embedded in the trough of corporate profit...

Naval Exercises Add Trillions of Pieces of Plastic Debris to Oceans

US Navy helicopters fire flares alongside a US aircraft carrier on August 2, 2012. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary A. Anderson / US...

‘5-second rule’ for food dropped on the floor is true, germ scientists prove

Published time: 15 Mar, 2017 11:02 You can safely eat food dropped on the floor as...

Blue Pill, Red Pill

Headlines were made last week when the results of an experiment by two New York University professors went viral.  The study was designed to...

‘A priority for us all’: 17 Republicans introduce legislation to combat climate change

Breaking ranks with their own party, more than a dozen House Republicans have put forward legislation...

Media Find Room for ‘Trumpcare Too Progressive,’ but Not for Single-Payer – Right-wing critics...

In May 2009, at the infancy of the healthcare reform battle that led to the Affordable Care Act, a group of nurses and single-payer...

Testing the Principle of Free Speech

A surge in hateful speech toward minorities in the Age of Trump has been met by  a pushback from angry...

‘Security breach’ probed after Theresa May’s travel diary found on train

The government is investigating a “serious security breach,” as documents containing sensitive information regarding Prime Minister Theresa May’s travel plans were found by a...