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Toxic air, poverty, obesity: Health warning for London’s most deprived children

Tens of thousands of children from deprived areas of London are exposed to an array...

New Study Reveals American Obesity Rates by Race

A new study has revealed that although 70 percent of Americans are officially classed as “obese or overweight,” Americans Indians are fattest...

How the Obesity Epidemic Got Started

By Dr. Mercola “Fed Up,” narrated by Katie Couric, investigates the misinformation touted by the processed food industry, and how these fallacies have created (and...

Fat vs fair: Pentagon mulls new obesity standards for soldiers

Rising concerns about US soldier obesity are pushing the Pentagon to rewrite fitness standards for the...

Bizarre stomach-pumping device approved in US for fighting obesity (VIDEO)

A new device that sucks food out of your stomach and into the toilet after every...

Coca-Cola ‘trying to manipulate public’ on sugar-obesity link

Coca-Cola has spent millions of pounds funding research institutes and scientists who cast doubt on the link between sugary drinks and obesity. The drinks firm...

What an amazing coincidence! Coca-Cola funds scientists who claim poor diet does not lead...

WOW who'd of thunk it? What great news for the corporation. Thanks for clearing that up, Coke! Oh.. wait now..  something doesn't seem right.. ### Coca-Cola has pumped millions...

Is Coke Illegally Claiming ‘Diet’ Soda is a Treatment for Obesity?

WASHINGTON - U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy group, sent a letter today to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking it...

Obesity is the new smoking: NHS England

NHS England’s chief executive Simon Steven has warned parents and teachers against high sugar consumption and emphasized the need to tackle overeating with the...

Obama-linked firm received ‘unauthorized’ $100,000 contract for Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity effort

dailycaller.comNovember 6, 2013 The marketing firm that created first lady Michelle Obama's “Let's Move” anti-obesity campaign's logo, slogan and web design has close ties to...

North Dakota Woman To Hand Out Anti-Obesity Flyers To Overweight Trick-Or-Treaters

Brilliant, asinine, or both? North Dakota's Valley News Live reports on a regional Halloween controversy: A local woman stated her intentions to take childhood obesity...

Battle of the bulge: US food corporations fueling obesity epidemic with addictive ingredients

Published time: October 26, 2013 12:01 Download video (32.87 MB) By 2030, more than half of Americans could be obese, taxing the nation's health...

Fetal Exposure to Pollutants Produces Childhood Obesity

Have you ever wondered why some infants seem to be naturally heavier than others, even though they may not necessarily be eating more?...

Can We Solve Our Obesity Crisis By Transforming Fast Food?

July 25, 2013  | ...

Acupuncture intervention has a significant effect on reducing abdominal obesity in abdominal obesity patients.

OBJECTIVE: To observe the clinical effect of acupuncture intervention on abdominal obesity by stimulation of"Belt Vessel (Daimai) Regulation Acupoint Recipe".METHODS: A total of 35...

Gene Mutation Linked to Obesity: Mice Gain Weight Even When Fed Normal Amounts of...

Science DailyJuly 19, 2013 Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have identified a genetic cause of severe...

Study uncovers obesity gene mystery

New study conducted by an international team of researchers has unveiled the mystery of a genetic flaw which significantly increases the risk of obesity. A...

How to curb obesity: Tax calories, study says

Peter WhoriskeyThe Washington PostJune 27, 2013 There may be an economic cure for the nation’s obesity:...

With No Evidence, AMA Votes that Obesity Is a Disease

We keep hearing that modern medicine is evidence based. So why did the AMA create the new disease of obesity by popular vote? The...

Americans fatter than ever, obesity officially called a ‘disease’

RTJune 20, 2013 US obesity rates have reached a record high, and physicians have officially classified...

Fox Blames Minorities For Obesity In NYC Firefighter Recruits

Fox host Alisyn Camerota made a deliberate point of linking firefighter flunkies to race when she reported that “as many as 30” New York City firefighter recruits are too obese for the job. Without bothering to point out that obesity rates among firefighters are causing concerns all over the country or that women are also part of the FDNY recruitment efforts, Camerota highlighted increased minority recruitment as the only factor to consider:

Well, they sued for the right to become New York City firefighters but now they’re flunking out. As many as 30 trainees have already dropped out because they’re too overweight to meet the physical demands of the job. And more are expected to go. The first recruited class since 2008 was formed after a judge ordered the department to become more racially diverse. But now veteran firefighters are fuming, saying the candidates are oversized and underperforming and need to be cut breaks to pass their tests.

Do you think anyone in the Fox audience failed to connect the dots?

Apparently, this “news” was based on a similar report from sister company NY Post that also linked the problem to minorities. However, the Post pointed out what Camerota didn’t: the class was not made up of applicants from the general population:

FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano excluded applicants from the general population for this Academy class, limiting the pool to medics, whose ranks include a higher percentage of minorities than is found in firehouses.

…But they were rated only on a written exam. In years past, applicants had to score high on both a written and a physical test.

… The department’s own EMS Academy head, Lt. David Russell, admitted in a 2011 report that even when FDNY recruits from EMS got extra help, “the overall fitness of these recruits is still poor.”

In other words, it's quite likely that the population of medics, whose work, as the article also pointed out, is mostly sedentary, has a lower fitness rate than the general population. But Camerota misleadingly gave the impression that the same people who sued (a black fraternal firefighters organization) are the same people now flunking out.

By the way, those “fuming” “veteran firefighters” Camerota cited in her report seem to be anonymous ranters on a bulletin board not associated with the FDNY. The Post also wrote that “Veteran firefighters are fuming over the quality of the new recruits” and backed that up with comments from a few posters on a site called FDNY Rant.

Obesity, vitamin D deficiency linked

According to a new study conducted in the University College London's Institute of Child Health obesity can lower vitamin D levels in the body.

A team of researchers studied 42,000 participants through analyzing their genetic data, according to the report published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

“Recent study highlights the importance of monitoring and treating vitamin D deficiency in people who are overweight or obese," said the lead author Dr Elina Hypponen from the University College London Institute of Child Health.


The study unraveled that every 10% rise in body mass index (BMI) led to a 4% drop of vitamin D in the body.

While vitamin D is made in the skin after sun exposure and stored in fatty tissue, the larger fat amount in obese people can cause vitamin D to be stored instead of circulated throughout the body.

Vitamin D healthy levels are considered about 50 nanomole per liter and a person with less than 30 nanomole per liter is diagnosed with vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency cause the softening and weakening of bones, leading to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Previous research had indicated that 70 percent of people do not have sufficient levels of vitamin D.

"Food intake and genetics all play a part in obesity but this research is a reminder that physical activity, like walking the dog or going for a run out in the sunshine, should not be forgotten and can help correct both weight and lack of vitamin D," said Professor David Haslam from the National Obesity Forum.

According to the earlier studies, obesity can also cause a series of health problems such as increased risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and stroke.

FGP/FGP

Obesity, vitamin D deficiency linked

According to a new study conducted in the University College London's Institute of Child Health obesity can lower vitamin D levels in the body.

A team of researchers studied 42,000 participants through analyzing their genetic data, according to the report published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

“Recent study highlights the importance of monitoring and treating vitamin D deficiency in people who are overweight or obese," said the lead author Dr Elina Hypponen from the University College London Institute of Child Health.


The study unraveled that every 10% rise in body mass index (BMI) led to a 4% drop of vitamin D in the body.

While vitamin D is made in the skin after sun exposure and stored in fatty tissue, the larger fat amount in obese people can cause vitamin D to be stored instead of circulated throughout the body.

Vitamin D healthy levels are considered about 50 nanomole per liter and a person with less than 30 nanomole per liter is diagnosed with vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency cause the softening and weakening of bones, leading to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

Previous research had indicated that 70 percent of people do not have sufficient levels of vitamin D.

"Food intake and genetics all play a part in obesity but this research is a reminder that physical activity, like walking the dog or going for a run out in the sunshine, should not be forgotten and can help correct both weight and lack of vitamin D," said Professor David Haslam from the National Obesity Forum.

According to the earlier studies, obesity can also cause a series of health problems such as increased risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and stroke.

FGP/FGP

New generation of playground equipment could help fight childhood obesity

For the playstation generation, technology is undoubtedly at the forefront of leisure time, however with sedentary activities topping the list of children’s favourite pastimes,...

What We Sow is What We Eat

Photo by jamiehamelsmith | CC BY 2.0 I am lying in a meadow high in the Rocky Mountains. The sun is warm and comforting. I...

Can an Illegal Drug Help Your Liver?

Cases of fatty liver disease are on the rise as people’s waistlines continue to grow. As fat permeates the liver, the organ becomes unable...

Cultural Imperialism and the Seeds of Catastrophe: Ripping up the Social Fabric of India 

Foreign capital is dictating the prevailing development agenda in India. The aim is to replace current structures with a system of industrial agriculture suited...

Nature as Nurture: Ancient Lessons in Sacred Sustenance

Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.— Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, Counterpoint Press,...

The Stomach-churning Violence of Monsanto, Bayer and the Agrochemical Oligopoly

As humans, we have evolved with the natural environment over millennia. We have learned what to eat and what not to eat, what to...

Oligarchs and Anti-Aging Pills

Rather than the National Institutes of Health designating public funds to further research towards development of an anti-aging pill, a key group of billionaire...

Sleep More, Weigh Less

By Dr. Mercola Nearly 71 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese. Among children, nearly 21 percent of 12- to...

Muslim imams to form national council for more progressive British Islam

Published time: 18 Aug, 2017 09:26 Edited time: 18 Aug, 2017 12:22 British imams are...

Soda Doesn’t ‘Feed the World’

Coca-Cola has a new ad in which a young girl wishes to grow a garden for the whole world. Then, as a grown woman...

OECD: Americans Are World’s Fattest People

Eric Zuesse http://www.oecd.org/health/health-systems/Obesity-Update-2017.pdf ————— Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of...

Smoking is bad for your health, great for the economy! – think tank

Published time: 7 Aug, 2017 13:58 If you’re trying to break the habit, look away...

‘Incredible shrinking airline seat’: Court orders FAA review of seats on US flights

Published time: 29 Jul, 2017 22:17 A US court has ordered the Federal Aviation Authority to...

Indian Independence: Forged in Washington?

India commemorates the end of British rule 70 years ago on 15 August. Now might be an apt moment to consider where India might...

Pastors suing Coca-Cola claim black community loses ‘more people to sweets than streets’

A couple of African American pastors in the Washington, DC area claim that Coke’s sugary drink...

Cheap, Effective, and a Joy To Use

Thanks in large part to the internet and social media, essential oils are becoming a household name. What many people don’t know, however, is...

Future Shock: Imagining India

What might a future India look like? If current policies continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just two...

NYT’s New ‘Reader Center’ Already Proving a Step Backward in Accountability

Without a public editor, the New York Times‘ executive editor gets the last word on the word “torture.” The New York Times’ public editor role...

A Grain of Truth: RCEP and the Corporate Hijack of Indian Agriculture

The plight of farmers in India has been well documented. A combination of debt, economic liberalisation, subsidised imports, rising input costs and a shift...

Forbes’ ‘Go Bust’ Prescription For Indian Farmers Is A Death Warrant

By Binu Mathew and Colin Todhunter Background Washington’s long-term plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system...

Vaccination Fails To Prevent the Flu

Immunologists and public health authorities are going to have to re-think the idea of mass flu vaccination in a growing population of obese Americans. ...

Air Force says it can't fund health study after poisoning water around its base

The US Air Force says it has no authority to pay for a study into the...

900,000 Brits too fat to work, study claims

Almost 900,000 people in Britain are out of work because they are overweight, according to a new study. The figure is five times higher...

Don’t Believe the Lies About Salt

By Dr. Mercola Do you believe high amounts of salt provoke thirst and contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease? If so, you’re likely...

Wisconsin aims to be first state to test for drugs over Medicaid

Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker, is taking steps to make his state the first to require childless...

Michelle Obama Offers Great Question To Ask Trump: 'What Is Wrong With You?'

With her focus on nutritious foods and making sure access to them was expanded to all children in the nation during her time in...

Poor can expect to die 20 years before rich in rural US ‒ study

The difference in life expectancy between rich and poor in the US has grown far larger...

Action Alert: NYT Misleads on Children’s Pre-Existing Conditions

The New York Times called “misleading” Nancy Pelosi’s statement that “up to 17 million children…have pre-existing conditions” because 17 million “is the upper limit...

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...

Trump's USDA Rolls Back School Lunch Guidelines Championed by Michelle Obama

In one of his first orders of business, President Donald Trump's newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took steps to weaken school lunch standards...

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...

Arkansas double-execution the first in US since 2000

Arkansas is set to put to death two men convicted of rape and murder, after their last-ditch efforts appealing to the US Supreme Court...

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...

The Dirty Dozen

By Dr. Mercola In a 2013 survey, 71 percent of Americans expressed a concern over the number of chemicals and pesticides in their food supply.1...

Why Birth Control Is Essential for Americans’ Health

 It is 2020. The American Health Care Act has become law, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has eliminated contraception from...

Enemy of Reason: Behind the Mask of Pro-GMO Neoliberal Ideology

Professor Shanthu Shantharam recently wrote a response to Viva Kermani’s well thought out article about injecting some honesty into the debate about genetically modified (GM) food and...

Corporate Power Reality Check: Organic vs Industrial Chemical-Dependent Agriculture – Philosophies and Practices

What follows is a summary of this article, 'A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed', and is a preamble to...

Message to John Beddington and the Oxford Martin Commission: A System of Food and...

Sir John Beddington is Senior Advisor and Professor of Natural Resources Management at the Oxford Martin School in Oxford, UK. He also belongs to...

Nature’s Perfect Fat

Sally Fallon Morell has written a new book, published last month, titled Nourishing Fats: Why We Need Animal Fats for Health and Happiness. In...

Pro-GMO Scientists Blinded by Technology and Wedded to Ideology

The Oxford Martin School is based at Oxford University in the UK and has set up the ‘Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations’ (OMC). Bringing together...

CIA awards Saudi prince medal for anti-terror efforts

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, Saudi Arabia’s deputy premier and interior minister, has been presented with...

Diabetes in Latino children linked to air pollution ‒ study

Hundreds of Latino children who were studied for over a decade faced a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after exposure to nitrogen...

Pay Attention

By Dr. Mercola How healthy is your diet? Have you ever wondered if recording what you eat on a day-to-day basis might be helpful in...

Economic Update: The Economics of Emotional Labor

This week's episode addresses a new French labor law, the economics of obesity, a universal basic income, a mobile home co-op and Danish day...

From Agriculture to Demonetisation: Not ‘Make in India’ but Made in Washington

Colin Todhunter A version of the following piece was originally published in June 2016. However, since then, India’s PM Narendra Modi has embarked on a...

Fat, drunk, & lazy: 4 out of 5 Brits are overeating, binge drinking, not...

Four in every five British adults are now “overweight, lazy or drink too much,” risking...

The Trouble With Multivitamins

Multivitamins present the most practical and economical opportunity for the public to make up for gaps in the high calorie/nutrient insufficient American diet. Despite alleged...

Junk food ads target black kids 50 percent more than whites – study

African-American and Latino children are more likely to be exposed to junk food ads than their...

Trump and the Pain of Blue-Collar Whites

  Exclusive: The plight of working-class white Americans, as their jobs have disappeared and self-destructive behavior has shortened their lives, helps...

How Did the World Get Addicted to Sugar?

By Dr. Mercola Few would argue that excess refined sugar is pernicious to our health. However, hardly anyone is aware of the manipulation and deceit...

Entrenching Capitalist Agriculture in India Under the Guise of Development

Colin Todhunter Washington's long-term plan has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade based on...

US Life Expectancy Dropping

How on earth do we keep talking about how much “progress” we’ve got going on in this country when people are literally...

Want To Protect Your Eyesight?

By Dr. Mercola It wasn’t long ago, relatively speaking, that humans woke and slept along with the rise and setting of the sun. While the invention...

Butter Is Better

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Dying younger: US life expectancy trending downward – study

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Exposed: Coca-Cola’s Evil Lobbying Campaign

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Device ‘tricks’ brain into thinking broccoli tastes like chocolate

Bland food could soon be a thing of the past after scientists invented a revolutionary...

Study Claims 91 Million Children Aged 5-17 May Be Obese by 2025

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US maternal mortality rate worse than Libya, Palestine – report

The maternal mortality rate in the United States is higher than that of Iran, Palestine, Libya,...

Please Smoke

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A System Of Food Production For Human Need, Not Corporate Greed

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Rise in obese people being rescued by firefighters because they’re too big to move

The number of severely obese people being rescued by firefighters because they are too big...

Maternal mortality rate in Texas highest in industrialized world – study

The Lone Star state is the most dangerous place to give birth in the US. While...

Monsanto and Bayer: Why Food And Agriculture Just Took A Turn For The Worse

Colin Todhunter News broke this week that Monsanto accepted a $66 billion takeover bid from Bayer. The new company would control more than 25 per cent...

British society blamed for world’s lowest breastfeeding rate

Societal pressure to look good and go for a night out in the UK has...

Just 2.5 hours of exercise a week can offset dangers of drinking – study

Drinkers who exercise regularly may be offsetting their risks of alcohol-related diseases, new research suggests. ...

Obese people & smokers to be barred from routine operations in UK – officials

People suffering from obesity and smokers could be denied basic operations across the UK’s National...

Time to Cut the Apron Strings

Well, here’s some more change you can believe in. Right, marijuana remains in the same league as heroin. Makes you wonder about the quality of...

Air Force switching away from cancer-linked firefighting foam

The US Air Force says it will switch to an "environmentally responsible" foam used to extinguish...

Remember Blue-Blockers?

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US maternal death rate soars by 27 percent since 2000

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Media Silence and the Agrochemicals Industry: The Slow Poisoning of Health and the Environment  

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Ignored: Poor Whites

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Monsanto in India: Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss?

In capitalism, the state’s primary role is to secure the interests of private capital. The institutions of globalised capitalism - from the World Bank,...

Sugar-coated Lies: How the Food Lobby Destroys Health in the EU 

Colin Todhunter   Over half the population of the European Union (EU) is overweight or obese. Without effective action, this number will grow substantially in the...

Never Take These Killer Drugs

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Fire in Your Belly?

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Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?  

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Exorcise the Devil From Your Diet

A changing tide in dietary advice in recent years has placed sugar directly in the firing line. The white stuff has been vilified, strung up...

Children's clothing found loaded with endocrine-disrupting chemicals

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Probiotics can ‘potentially’ cure autism-like disorders — study

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‘War on drugs’ has failed, decriminalize now – UK health experts

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

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Go From Fat Storing to Fat Burning

Losing weight is often associated with eating less of certain foods, but a relatively recent study shows that people who add more omega-3s to their...

Cancer Cells Love Sugar

By Dr. Mercola In 1931, Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize  Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that cancer cells have a fundamentally different...

From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never...

The following extract is from the 2011 lecture ‘Healthy Soils, Healthy People’ by Professor John Ikerd. The lecture discussed the legacy of renowned agronomist...

Stop Craving Sugar and Grains

By Dr. Mercola Your body is designed to naturally regulate how much you eat and the energy you burn. Part of how this occurs is...

From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness

What can we do about the powerful transnational agribusiness companies that have captured or at the very least heavily influence regulatory bodies, research institutes, trade...

GMO crops not harming human health, but not boosting yields – report

Consumption of genetically modified food has not harmed human health, according to a new report by...

11K extra deaths by 2030? UK accused of diluting tougher EU limits on air...

The UK government has been trying to “secretly water down” new EU air pollution targets...

Strokes among young adults surge 44% over 10 years – study

The number of young American adults hospitalized due to strokes spiked 44 percent over a 10-year period, a new study shows, even as older...

Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save  

US Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders recently tweeted: “It is no mystery why Monsanto fights against our right to know about GMOs in food –...

UK ‘behind’ developed world on child inequality – UNICEF

Britain is failing to address “concerning gaps” in children’s “health, education and income,” leaving the...

“We are being silently poisoned by thousands of untested and unmonitored chemicals” The case...

On 13 April, the EU Parliament called on the European Commission to restrict certain permitted uses of the toxic herbicide glyphosate, best known in...

Fat or thin, you’re on your own: Britain is failing the obese & people...

Dangerously overweight and underweight people are being let down in Britain, as the glut of...

Why Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speeches Are Relevant

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The Globalisation of Bad Food and Poor Health: Sustainable Development or Sustainable Profits?

The proportion of deaths due to cancer around the world increased from 12 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2013. Globally, cancer is already...

The world’s first ‘healthy towns’ to be unveiled in the U.K

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) has recently launched an ambitious-sounding initiative to build ten new housing developments designed to facilitate healthy lifestyles with the...

Global Agribusiness, Dependency and the Marginalisation of Self-Sufficiency, Organic Farming and Agroecology

Is organic-based farming merely a niche model of agriculture that is not capable of feeding the global population? Or does it have a major role...

America’s mass apathy and self-destructive fatigue brought on by chemically-laced, nutrient-depleted junk foods and...

There are a lot of folks walking around in a bleary-eyed state of perpetual fatigue and an I-don't-care-what-happens mentality. Chances are, you've witnessed these...

Stressed, drunk & feeling fat: British teens suffer poor life satisfaction – WHO

British 15 year olds are stressed, feel fat and are drinking too much according to...

The food you eat determines which genes get activated or suppressed, controlling disease

Everyone says you are what you eat, but, for some reason, the majority of the world's population seems completely oblivious to this fact. Yet...

Nearly one-third of US food stamp recipients rely on food pantries

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Kate Randall Nearly one-third of US households on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance...

Poisoned, Marginalised, Bankrupt and Dead: The Role of Agroecology in Resisting the Corporate Stranglehold...

It is becoming increasingly apparent that food and agriculture across the world is in crisis. Food is becoming denutrified, unhealthy and poisoned with chemicals...

One quarter of young Americans are too obese to qualify for military service; junk...

Forget back and forth shifts in political decisions, terror threats and changing policies; the latest threat to national security may be the fact that...
British public perceptions

British Public Perceptions Wrong On Most Important Issues

Misinformation, disinformation and propaganda — you are subjected to all three every single day. The problem is that the media in Britain is heavily...

Coke’s PR Scam Explodes

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Media Take Diet Advice From Coke-Funded Academics

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Nothing to Fear But the Fearful Themselves

When I first learned of the recent attacks in Paris, a chill went down my spine. “No,” I thought, “This is all happening too...

Poisoned Agriculture: Depopulation and Human Extinction’

There is a global depopulation agenda. The plan is to remove the ‘undesirables’, ‘the poor’ and others deemed to be ‘unworthy’ and a drain...

Funding crisis, staff shortages leave NHS among world’s worse health services — OECD

Healthcare in the UK is among the worst in the developed world, a new report has concluded, with underequipped and short-staffed hospitals leading to...

White middle-aged people in US dying quicker than in any other developed nation —...

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Angus Deaton and Anne Case have come out with shocking conclusions that white middle-aged Americans are the only first-world group of...

Rainbow Doritos the latest absurd example of corporate #gaywashing

Corporate #gaywashing is becoming so absurd and insulting to the LGBT community that it deserves serious comment. Frito-Lay has just introduced "Rainbow Doritos" which...

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...

Technology, indoor lifestyles destroying humanity’s eyesight

For a long time, we believed that short-sightedness, or myopia, was largely down to our genes. However, over the past 50 years, myopia has...

Is a 3rd World America Inevitable?

Thousands of U.S. troops safeguard the border of South Korea. U.S. warships patrol the South China Sea to stand witness to the territorial claims...

Why One of the Wealthiest Countries in the World Is Failing to Feed Its...

On May 8 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK,...

UK kids turn obese at younger ages

British children are becoming obese at younger ages, according to a major study. The study by University College London (UCL) warned on Wednesday that the...

Toward a Better Food System: Empowering Communities and Regulating Corporations

How we have landed ourselves with a global food system that generates hunger alongside of obesity, and what can we do about it? The...

One in four British children obese

Nearly a quarter of British children under the age of five are overweight or obese, according to a new Europe-wide study.

The research found that out of the 28 countries involved in the study, the UK boasted the second highest proportion of overweight children under the age of five.

The data showed 23.1% of youngsters in the under-five age group were classed as overweight or obese with the UK coming closely behind Ireland, which registered 27.5%.

Albania (22%), Georgia (20%), Bulgaria (19.8%) and Spain (18.4%) followed Ireland and Britain in third, fourth, fifth and sixth place out of a total twenty-eight.

The bottom of the chart showed Kazakhstan had the lowest obesity rate (0.6%), along with nations including Czech Republic (5.5%), Belgium (7%) and Sweden (8%).

The research found that out of the 28 countries involved in the study, the UK boasted the second highest proportion of overweight children under the age of five.

Another study conducted by the Leeds Beckett University found overweight and obese children showed concern and dissatisfaction over their body shape.

The data, collected from over 300 pupils from eight primary schools in the UK city found a higher body dissatisfaction score among girls.

Prof Pinki Sahota, lead researcher of the study said: “The results suggested that body shape dissatisfaction and dietary restraint behaviours may begin in children as young as six to seven years old, and there is an association with increased BMI."

“Obesity prevention programmes need to consider psychological well-being and ensure that it is not compromised. Further research should be conducted on how interventions can help improve psychological well-being in this age group.”

Dr João Breda of the World Health Organisation said early intervention is necessary.

Dr João Breda of the World Health Organisation’s regional office for Europe, who was involved in the first study, said: “Evidence suggests that early intervention, before five years of age, is necessary if the trajectory to overweight in children is to be arrested and action needs to be taken to have consistent surveillance on this specific population.”

The two studies are to be presented at the European congress on obesity in Prague this week.

SU/PHX

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The 4th Media, Global Research, RINF and Countercurrents

Western agribusiness, food processing companies and retail concerns are gaining wider entry into India and through various strategic trade deals are looking to gain a more significant footprint within the country. The Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) and the ongoing India-EU free trade agreement talks have raised serious concerns about the stranglehold that transnational corporations could have on the agriculture and food sectors, including the subsequent impact on the livelihoods of hundreds of millions. For example, see this on the dismantling of Indian agriculture, this on the KIA and the US neoliberal invasion of India and this on the US-Indo free trade deal.

What it all could mean is a trend towards a handful of big companies determining what food is grown, how it is grown, how it is processed, what is in it and who sells it. In other words, a Western model of intensive petro-chemical farming (aka the 'green revolution') and heavily processed grow-fast chemically-tampered-with food passed through a chain that sees it ending up in Western-style convenience supermarkets or fast-food outlets that rely on industrial farms. From seed to field to plate, the entire process would be handed over to a handful of large corporations whose bottom line is not agricultural sustainability, food security, food democracy or healthy nutritious food, but control and fast profit. 

Look no further than the situation in Africa. Daniel Maingi works with small farmers in Kenya and belongs to the organization Growth Partners for Africa. He says here that the ‘green revolution’ approach is based on Western-style agriculture, with its reliance on fertilizer, weed killers and single crops. Maingi was born on a farm in eastern Kenya and studied agriculture from a young age.

He remembers a time when his family would grow and eat a diversity of crops, such as mung beans, green grams, pigeon peas and a variety of fruits now considered ‘wild’. Following the Structural Adjustment Programmes of the 1980s and 1990s and a green revolution meant to boost agricultural efficiency, the foods of his childhood have been replaced with maize, maize, and more maize.

Maingi says here:

“In the morning, you make porridge from maize and send the kids to school. For lunch, boiled maize and a few green beans. In the evening, ugali, [a staple dough-like maize dish, served with meat]… [today] it’s a monoculture diet, being driven by the food system – it’s an injustice.”

In India, farmers are being displaced and policy makers have been facilitating a reliance on corporate seeds and corporate access to the food processing and retail sectors, both of which have traditionally tended to be small scale and key to supporting local (rural) economies and livelihoods. There are of course major implications for food security/sovereignty and the restructuring of society (see this), but what this could mean for the nation’s diet and health is already clear to see.

Although almost half the nation’s under-5s are underweight (the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world, see this), rates of obesity in the country have tripled in the last two decades and the nation is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world (see this).  

Western style fast food outlets have been soaring in number throughout the country. Pizza Hut now operates in 46 Indian cities with 181 restaurants and 132 home delivery locations, a 67 percent increase in the last five years). KFC is now in 73 cities with 296 restaurants, a 770 percent increase. McDonalds is in 61 Indian cities with 242 restaurants as compared to 126 restaurants five years back, a 92 percent increase). According to a recent study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research, the Indian fast food market is growing at the rate of 30-35 percent per annum (see this).

Of course, the dominant paradigm implies such a trend is positive. The commodification of (corporate) seeds, the manufacturing and selling of more and more chemicals to spray on crops or soil, the opening up fast food outlets and the selling of pharmaceuticals or the expansion of private hospitals to address the health impacts of the modern junk food system is ‘good for the economy’. It’s all 'good for business’ as more cash exchanges hands and certain businesses cartels thrive. And what is good for business is good for GDP growth. And what is good GDP growth is good for everyone, or so we are told.

Transnational food companies now see their main growth markets in Asia, Africa and South America, where traditionally (as in India) people have tended to eat food from their own farms or markets that sell locally-produced foods. Taking Mexico as an example, GRAIN describes how agribusiness concerns are infiltrating farming and transnational food retail and processing companies are taking over food distribution channels and replacing local foods with cheap, processed foods, often with the direct support of the government. Free trade and investment agreements have been critical to this process and an alarming picture is set out of the consequences for ordinary people, not least in terms of their diet and health (see GRAIN’s report here). 

In 2012, Mexico’s National Institute for Public Health released the results of a national survey of food security and nutrition. Between 1988 and 2012, the proportion of overweight women between the ages of 20 and 49 increased from 25 to 35 percent and the number of obese women in this age group increased from 9 to 37 percent. Some 29 percent of Mexican children between the ages of 5 and 11 were found to be overweight, as were 35 percent of the youngsters between 11 and 19, while one in ten school age children suffered from anaemia.

The Mexican Diabetes Federation says that more than 7 percent of the Mexican population has diabetes. Diabetes is now the third most common cause of death in Mexico, directly or indirectly. 

The various free trade agreements that Mexico has signed over the past two decades have had a profound impact on the country’s food system. GRAIN explains that after his mission to Mexico in 2012 the then Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, concluded that the trade policies currently in place favour greater reliance on heavily processed and refined foods with a long shelf life rather than on the consumption of fresh and more perishable foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. He added that the overweight and obesity emergency that Mexico is facing could have been avoided, or largely mitigated, if the health concerns linked to shifting diets had been integrated into the design of those policies.

The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to the direct investment in food processing and a change in the retail structure (notably the advent of supermarkets and convenience stores) as well as the emergence of global agribusiness and transnational food companies in Mexico.

NAFTA required Mexico to provide equal treatment to domestic and foreign investors, with the elimination of rules preventing foreign investors from owning more than 49 percent of a company. It also prohibited the application of certain “performance requirements” such as minimum amounts of domestic content in production and increased rights for foreign investors to retain profits and returns from initial investments.

The Agreement triggered an immediate upsurge of direct investment from the US into the Mexican food processing industry. In 1999, US companies invested $5.3 billion in Mexico’s food processing industry, a 25-fold increase from $210 million in 1987.

Another effect of NAFTA on the Mexican food system was an explosive growth of chain supermarkets, discounters and convenience stores. GRAIN highlights how the food corporations began by colonising the existing, dominant food distribution networks of small-scale vendors, known as tiendas (the corner stores). Tiendas have proved critical to the spread of nutritionally poor food as they are the means by which transnationals and domestic food companies sell and promote their foods to poorer populations in small towns and communities.

According to GRAIN, the tiendas are, however, quickly being replaced by corporate retailers that offer the processed food companies even greater opportunities for sales and profits. By 2012, retail chains had displaced tiendas as Mexico’s main source of food sales. For example, Oxxo (owned by Coca-cola subsidiary Femsa) tripled its stores to 3,500 between 1999 and 2004.26 In July 2012, Oxxo was opening its ten thousandth facility, and is aiming to open its 14 thousandth store sometime during 2015.

For De Schutter, a programme that deals effectively with hunger and malnutrition has to focus on Mexico’s small farmers and peasants. They constitute a substantial percentage of the country’s poor and are the ones that can best supply both rural and urban populations with nutritious foods. His view is in line with numerous official reports that emphasise the key role that such farmers have in providing food security and which also stress the importance of agroecological farming (for instance, see this and this). Likewise, GRAIN argues that Mexico could recover its self-sufficiency in food if there were to be official support for peasant agriculture backed with amounts comparable to the support granted to the big corporations. 

In Mexico, the loss of food sovereignty has induced catastrophic changes in the nation's diet. The writing is on the wall for other countries such as India because this scenario is being played out across the world. (Diet aside, there are other severe deleterious health impacts that result from the indiscriminate use of pesticides that have accompanied the 'green revolution', not least in the Indian state of Punjab which has become known as a 'cancer epicentre': see this.) 

The situation is encapsulated by Vandana Shiva who outlines the consequences of opting for a food system that is based on a corporate-controlled, chemical-intensive system based on diminishing variety, fast food and fast profits:

“If we grow millets and pulses, we will have more nutrition per capita. If we grow food by using chemicals, we are growing monocultures — this means that we will have less nutrition per acre, per capita… The agrarian crisis, the food crisis and the nutrition and health crisis are intimately connected. They need to be addressed together. The objective of agriculture policy cannot be based on promoting industrial processing of food. The chemicalisation of agriculture and food are recipes for “denutrification”… The Green Revolution displaced pulses, an important source of proteins, as well as oilseeds, thus reducing nutrition per acre. Monocultures do not produce more food and nutrition. They take up more chemicals and fossil fuels, and hence are profitable for agrochemical companies and oil companies. They produce higher yields of individual commodities but a lower output of food and nutrition.” (See here, ‘The Real Hunger Games’)




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Deccan Herald 29/1/2014 

Last year, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze found that people in 18 countries across Europe had traces of glyphosate (weedkiller) in their urine. They also commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples and found that on average 44 per cent of samples contained glyphosate.

The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with
Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.

Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King's College London, said the levels found are unlikely to be of any significance to health. However, FoE believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest environmental and health impacts from glyphosate warrant concern. It wants to know how the glyphosate found in human urine samples has entered the body, what the impacts of persistent exposure to low levels of glyphosate might be and what happens to the glyphosate that remains in the body.


In Europe, as elsewhere, official approval of glyphosate has been rash, problematic and deeply flawed. A comprehensive review of existing data released in June 2011 by Earth Open Source suggested that industry regulators in Europehad known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were subsequently raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies.

In the same vein, FoE says there is currently very little testing for glyphosate by public authorities, despite its widespread use, and authorities in Europe do not test for glyphosate in humans and tests on food are infrequent. Glyphosate was approved for EU-wide use in 2002, but FoE argues that the European regulatory agencies did not carry out their own safety testing, relying instead on data provided by the manufacturers. That is, data from studies that were not scientifically peer reviewed.

With references to a raft of peer-reviewed studies, FoE draws attention to the often disturbing health and environmental dangers and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the world. The FoE study also highlights concerns around the increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, particularly as the use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified GM crops are grown worldwide. It is after all good for business. GMOs drive sales of glyphosate. Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. There is a serious lack of action by public authorities. 

Using official
US government data, Dr Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Centre for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, states that in the US since 1996 the glysophate rate of application per crop year has tripled on cotton farms, doubled in the case of soybeans and risen 39 per cent on corn. The average annual increase in the pounds of glyphosate applied to cotton, soybeans, and corn has been 18.2 per cent, 9.8 per cent, and 4.3 per cent, respectively, since herbicide tolerant crops were introduced.

Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glysphosate spraying. In the US, biotech crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and sugarbeets, are planted on millions of acres annually. Evidence suggests that Roundup could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a peer-reviewed report from 2013, published in the scientific journal Entropy. The study also concluded that residues of glyphosate have been found in food. These residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a science consultant. 

The authors conclude that many of the health problems that appear to be associated with a Western (petro-chemical-based) diet could be explained by biological disruptions that have already been attributed to glyphosate. These include digestive issues, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, liver diseases, and cancer, among others. While many other environmental toxins obviously also contribute to these diseases and conditions, Seneff and Samsel believe that glyphosate may be the most significant environmental toxin.

In 2010, the provincial government of
Chaco province in Argentina issued a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa. The report showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province.

There are major implications for
India, not least because biotech companies continue to try to force GM crops onto the commercial market here. On the heels of Professor Seralini’s much maligned (by the biotech sector) findings pointing to the deleterious health impacts of gyphosate, according to a study in 2013 by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, glyphosate-based herbicide poses the risk of serious human health hazards including cancer. It all leads us to consider what cost might India pay in the long run. That depends on what price the nation’s policy makers are prepared to put on the public’s health.



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In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

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In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

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In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

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In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

How Our Food Has Become a Dangerous Addiction

In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

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In a new book, "Industrial Diet"...

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Control oil and you control nations,” said US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the 1970s.  “Control food and you control the people.”

Global food control has nearly been achieved, by reducing seed diversity with GMO (genetically modified) seeds that are distributed by only a few transnational corporations. But this agenda has been implemented at grave cost to our health; and if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) passes, control over not just our food but our health, our environment and our financial system will be in the hands of transnational corporations.

Profits Before Populations

Genetic engineering has made proprietary control possible over the seeds on which the world’s food supply depends. “Terminator” genes enable the production of sterile seeds, using a synthetic chemical catalyst appropriately called “Traitor” to induce seed sterility. Farmers must therefore buy seeds from their patent owners year after year. To cover these costs, food prices are raised; but the harm is far greater than to our pocketbooks.

According to an Acres USA interview of plant pathologist Don Huber, Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, two modified traits account for practically all of the genetically modified crops grown in the world today. One involves insect resistance. The other, more disturbing modification involves insensitivity to glyphosate-based herbicides (plant-killing chemicals). Often known as Roundup after the best-selling Monsanto product of that name, glyphosate poisons everything in its path except plants genetically modified to resist it.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are now the most commonly used herbicides in the world. Glyphosate is an essential partner to the GMOs that are the principal business of the burgeoning biotech industry. Glyphosate is a “broad-spectrum” herbicide that destroys indiscriminately, not by killing unwanted plants directly but by tying up access to critical nutrients.

Because of the insidious way in which it works, it has been sold as a relatively benign replacement for the devastating earlier dioxin-based herbicides. But a barrage of experimental data has now shown glyphosate and the GMO foods incorporating it to pose serious dangers to health. Compounding the risk is the toxicity of “inert” ingredients used to make glyphosate more potent. Researchers have found, for example, that the surfactant POEA can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. But these risks have been conveniently ignored.

The widespread use of GMO foods and glyphosate herbicides helps explain the anomaly that the US spends over twice as much per capita on healthcare as the average developed country, yet it is rated far down the scale of the world’s healthiest populations. The World Health Organization has ranked the US LAST out of 17 developed nations for overall health.

Sixty to seventy percent of the foods in US supermarkets are now genetically modified. By contrast, in at least 26 other countries—including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia—GMOs are totally or partially banned; and significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.

A ban on GMO and glyphosate use might go far toward improving the health of Americans. But the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a global trade agreement for which the Obama Administration has sought Fast Track status, would block that sort of cause-focused approach to the healthcare crisis.

Roundup’s Insidious Effects

Roundup-resistant crops escape being killed by glyphosate, but they do not avoid absorbing it into their tissues. Herbicide-tolerant crops have substantially higher levels of herbicide residues than other crops. In fact, many countries have had to increase their legally allowable levels—by up to 50 times—in order to accommodate the introduction of GM crops. In the European Union, residues in food are set to rise 100-150 times if a new proposal by Monsanto is approved. Meanwhile, herbicide-tolerant “super-weeds” have adapted to the chemical, requiring even more toxic doses and new toxic chemicals to kill the plant.

Human enzymes are affected by glyphosate just as plant enzymes are: the chemical blocks the uptake of manganese and other essential minerals. Without those minerals, we cannot properly metabolize our food. That helps explain the rampant epidemic of obesity in the United States. People eat and eat in an attempt to acquire the nutrients that are simply not available in their food.

According to researchers Samsell and Seneff in Biosemiotic Entropy: Disorder, Disease, and Mortality (April 2013):

Glyphosate’s inhibition of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes is an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals. CYP enzymes play crucial roles in biology . . . . Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body. Consequences are most of the diseases and conditions associated with a Western diet, which include gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 40 diseases have been linked to glyphosate use, and more keep appearing. In September 2013, the National University of Rio Cuarto, Argentina, published research finding that glyphosate enhances the growth of fungi that produce aflatoxin B1, one of the most carcinogenic of substances. A doctor from Chaco, Argentina, told Associated Press, “We’ve gone from a pretty healthy population to one with a high rate of cancer, birth defects and illnesses seldom seen before.” Fungi growths have increased significantly in US corn crops.

Glyphosate has also done serious damage to the environment. According to an October 2012 report by the Institute of Science in Society:

Agribusiness claims that glyphosate and glyphosate-tolerant crops will improve crop yields, increase farmers’ profits and benefit the environment by reducing pesticide use. Exactly the opposite is the case. . . . [T]he evidence indicates that glyphosate herbicides and glyphosate-tolerant crops have had wide-ranging detrimental effects, including glyphosate resistant super weeds, virulent plant (and new livestock) pathogens, reduced crop health and yield, harm to off-target species from insects to amphibians and livestock, as well as reduced soil fertility.

Politics Trumps Science

In light of these adverse findings, why have Washington and the European Commission continued to endorse glyphosate as safe? Critics point to lax regulations, heavy influence from corporate lobbyists, and a political agenda that has more to do with power and control than protecting the health of the people.

In the ground-breaking 2007 book Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation, William Engdahl states that global food control and depopulation became US strategic policy under Rockefeller protégé Henry Kissinger. Along with oil geopolitics, they were to be the new “solution” to the threats to US global power and continued US access to cheap raw materials from the developing world. In line with that agenda, the government has shown extreme partisanship in favor of the biotech agribusiness industry, opting for a system in which the industry “voluntarily” polices itself. Bio-engineered foods are treated as “natural food additives,” not needing any special testing.

Jeffrey M. Smith, Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, confirms that US Food and Drug Administration policy allows biotech companies to determine if their own foods are safe. Submission of data is completely voluntary. He concludes:

In the critical arena of food safety research, the biotech industry is without accountability, standards, or peer-review. They’ve got bad science down to a science.

Whether or not depopulation is an intentional part of the agenda, widespread use of GMO and glyphosate is having that result. The endocrine-disrupting properties of glyphosate have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and arrested sexual development. In Russian experiments, animals fed GM soy were sterile by the third generation. Vast amounts of farmland soil are also being systematically ruined by the killing of beneficial microorganisms that allow plant roots to uptake soil nutrients.

In Gary Null’s eye-opening documentary Seeds of Death: Unveiling the Lies of GMOs, Dr. Bruce Lipton warns, “We are leading the world into the sixth mass extinction of life on this planet. . . . Human behavior is undermining the web of life.”

The TPP and International Corporate Control

As the devastating conclusions of these and other researchers awaken people globally to the dangers of Roundup and GMO foods, transnational corporations are working feverishly with the Obama administration to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would strip governments of the power to regulate transnational corporate activities. Negotiations have been kept secret from Congress but not from corporate advisors, 600 of whom have been consulted and know the details. According to Barbara Chicherio in Nation of Change:

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has the potential to become the biggest regional Free Trade Agreement in history. . . .

The chief agricultural negotiator for the US is the former Monsanto lobbyist, Islam Siddique.  If ratified the TPP would impose punishing regulations that give multinational corporations unprecedented right to demand taxpayer compensation for policies that corporations deem a barrier to their profits.

. . . They are carefully crafting the TPP to insure that citizens of the involved countries have no control over food safety, what they will be eating, where it is grown, the conditions under which food is grown and the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Food safety is only one of many rights and protections liable to fall to this super-weapon of international corporate control. In an April 2013 interview on The Real News Network, Kevin Zeese called the TPP “NAFTA on steroids” and “a global corporate coup.” He warned:

No matter what issue you care about—whether its wages, jobs, protecting the environment . . . this issue is going to adversely affect it . . . .

If a country takes a step to try to regulate the financial industry or set up a public bank to represent the public interest, it can be sued . . . .

Return to Nature: Not Too Late

There is a safer, saner, more earth-friendly way to feed nations. While Monsanto and US regulators are forcing GM crops on American families, Russian families are showing what can be done with permaculture methods on simple garden plots. In 2011, 40% of Russia’s food was grown on dachas (cottage gardens or allotments). Dacha gardens produced over 80% of the country’s fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nation’s milk, much of it consumed raw. According to Vladimir Megre, author of the best-selling Ringing Cedars Series:

Essentially, what Russian gardeners do is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.

In the US, only about 0.6 percent of the total agricultural area is devoted to organic farming. This area needs to be vastly expanded if we are to avoid “the sixth mass extinction.” But first, we need to urge our representatives to stop Fast Track, vote no on the TPP, and pursue a global phase-out of glyphosate-based herbicides and GMO foods. Our health, our finances and our environment are at stake.

____________________________

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

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Global Research and Countercurrents 30/10/2013

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The minister also envisaged 85 percent of India’s population eventually living in well-planned, manageable-size cities with proper access to water, health, electricity, education, etc. Based on today’s population size, which is set to continue to rise, that would mean 600 million moving to cities and around 180 million people or their families eventually being directly dependent on agriculture for a living. He stated that urbanisation constitutes ‘natural progress’.


While some argue that unconstitutional land takeovers, the trampling of democratic rights in order to pursue a nuclear energy agenda, increasing  and unsustainable resource usage, and air and water pollution all taking place under the guise of ‘growth’ are adding to the misery and disenfranchisement of the poor, the minister argued that, taking Orissa as an example, the poor there had been poor since the world dawned and that setting up a steel plant or mining the minerals there would only help their situation by providing employment and ultimately helping the area to develop.


After 22 years of neo-liberalism, how much weight do the arguments set out above hold?


The poverty alleviation rate is around the same as it was back in 1991 and even in pre-independence India (0.8 percent) (2), while the ratio between the top and bottom ten percents of the population has doubled during this period. According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, this doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies (3).


There is an implicit and sometimes explicit assertion in some circles that anyone who questions the push towards urbanisation, privatisation and neo-liberalism in general, which Chidambaram’s model of development rests on, ‘lacks perspective’ or is stuck in an outdated mindset that romanticises ‘tradition’ and resents ‘progress’ and the private sector.


Moreover, much mainstream thinking implies that shifting people from agriculture to what are a number of already overburdened, filthy, polluted mega-cities to work in factories, clean the floors of a shopping mall or work as a security guard improves the human condition. Or… to live in slum-like conditions and be unemployed or underemployed, given that 600 million plus are to be booted from the land to achieve Chidambaram’s 85 percent urbanisation figure. After all, there are only so many outscourced jobs to be had or mac-sector work to be done.


It is easy to fall prey to the belief that wholesale urbanisation is inevitable and should therefore be forced through by what Vandana Shiva criticises as being the biggest forced removal of people from their lands in history - and involving on the biggest illegal land grabbing since Columbus, according to a 2009 report commissioned by the rural development ministry and chaired by the then minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh.


Furthermore, if anyone understands history, it becomes apparent that urbanisation was not ‘natural’ and involved social engineering and deliberate policies and the unforeseen outcomes of conflicts and struggles between serfs, lords, peasants, landowners, the emerging bourgousie and class of industrialists, the state and the stealing and enclosing of land. The outcomes of these struggles resulted in different routes to modernity and levels of urbanisation (4,5).


Of course, there is now a struggle now taking place in India. The naxalites and Maoists in India are referred to by the dominant class as left wing extremists who are exploiting the poor. How easy it is to lump legitimate protesters together as such and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of the Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows, massive profits justified on the basis of ‘investment risk’ and unaccountable cartels which aim to maximise profit by beating down labour costs and grabbing resources at the cheapest possible costs. That’s the real extremism. That’s the extremism that is regarded as anything but by the mainstream media.


The mainstream assumption is that the coal must be mined, the ore extracted, the steel produced and the rivers exploited in the name of ‘development’. But who controls this process, who benefits and just what type of development ensues?


Tata, Essar and any number of wealthy corporations are handed over the rights to this process via secretive MoUs and the full military backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land… all for their own good… all to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development that not only forces folk from their lands, but strips the environment bare in the process and ultimately negatively impacts the climate and ecology. And the response: this is inevitable, this is progress, this is necessary because we have ‘the right’ to develop just as the West has and in their image and any social and environmental problems that ensue will be dealt with once we have ‘developed’… once it is too late.      


Development, if it is to have any substance, is about the well-being of people. A number of well-being surveys indicate that happier societies invest heavily in health, welfare and education, are more equal and live within the limits imposed by the environment. Many less wealthy countries (and wealthy) do well in such surveys because cultural priority is placed on family and friends, on social capital rather than financial capital, on social equity rather than corporate power.


The neo-liberal model of development runs counter to this.


Due to the restructuring of agriculture in favour of Western agribusiness, over 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997. And the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed only leads to bad food, bad soil, bad or no water, bad health and bad or falling yields (6,7,8,9). Unconstitutional land grabs for SEZs, resource extraction, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.


There are already 93 million urban slum dwellers in India. How many more if the 85 percent figure of people living in cities is to be achieved?


With economic growth apparently slowing from around eight to nine percent annually to estimates that vary between four and six percent, just where are the jobs going to come from to cater for India’s increasing population, never mind hundreds of millions of former agricultural workers?    


It would be easy to conclude that farmers in India represent some kind of 'problem' to be removed from the land and a problem to be dealt with once removed. Since when did food producers, the genuine wealth producers, become a ‘problem’? The answer is when Western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own profiteering, corporate-controlled image. But this is who is really setting the agenda and constitutes part of the ‘progress’ and ‘natural’ move towards depopulating rural areas that Chidambaram spoke of.  


And if it can’t be done via mass suicide and making it economically  non-viable to continue farming as a result of world trade policies, ‘free’ trade agreements and ‘structurally adjusting’ (ie plundering) traditional agricultural practices and economies to ultimately ensure petro-chemical farming (and thus oil and the US dollar (10)) remains king, let tens of thousands of militia into the tribal areas to displace hundreds of thousands, place 50,000 in camps and carry out rapes and various human rights abuses (11,12).


And if anyone perceives that this ‘natural progress’ is not based on acquiescing to foreign corporations, they should take a look at the current corporate-driven, undemocratic free trade agreement being hammered out behind closed doors between the EU and India (13,14,15). It all adds up to powerful trans-national corporations trying to by-pass legislation that was implemented to safeguard the public’s rights. Kavaljit Singh of the Madhyam research institute in India argues that we could see the Indian government being sued by multinational companies for billions of dollars in private arbitration panels outside of Indian courts if national laws, policies, court decisions or other actions are perceived to interfere with their investments; this is already a reality in many parts of the world whereby legislation is shelved due to even the threat of legal action by corporations (16). Such free trade agreements cement the corporate ability to raid taxpayers’ coffers even further via unaccountable legal tribunals, or to wholly dictate national policies and legislation. 


Of course, the links between the Monsanto/Syngenta/Walmart-backed Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture and the US sanctioning and backing of the opening up of India’s nuclear sector to foreign interests (on the back of a cash for votes scandal in parliament (17)) have already shown what the models of ‘development’ being pushed onto people really entails in terms of the erosion of democracy and the powerful corporate interests that really benefit (18,19).


Industrial developments built with public money and strategic assets, such as energy sources, ports, airports and seeds and infrastructure support for agriculture are being sold off. And how is this all justified? By reference to GDP growth – a single, narrow definition of ‘development’ – a notion of development hijacked by economists and their secular theology which masquerades as economic ‘science’.


In India, that dubious measurement in terms of India's GDP growth has now hit the buffers. Do people really believe India’s future lies in tying itself to a moribund system that has so patently failed in the West and can now only sustain itself by plundering other countries via war or ‘free trade’ agreements, which have little if anything to do with free trade? At best, it shows a lack of imagination. At worst, it displays complete subservience to elite interests at home and abroad.


So what might an alternative vision to forcibly removing 600 million from rural India under the current warped notion of development involve? There are many visions and strategies being pursued. But as a basic starting point, the following offers a credible option:


“… We are therefore committed to resist patents on seeds and life forms promoted by the TRIPS agreement of WTO which lead to the privatization of biodiversity and piracy of traditional knowledge… We are committed to promoting alternatives to non-sustainable agricultural technologies based on toxic chemicals and genetic engineering. We are committed to changing the rules of unfair trade force on small peasants through the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, which are leading to destitution, debt and farmers suicides … Our mission is to promote organic fair trade, based on fairness to the earth and all her species, fairness to producers and fairness to consumers. We will... create another food culture, which respects diversity, local production and food quality… we are committed to creating a future of food and agriculture in which small farmers prosper and biodiversity and cultural diversity thrives… Biodiverse small organic farms increase productivity, improve rural incomes and strengthen ecological security. Large-scale industrial monocultures displace and dispossess small farmers and peasants, destroy the environment and create malnutrition and public health hazards. Our mission is to provide alternatives to a global food system, which is denying one billion people access to food and denying another 1.7 billion the right to healthy food, as they become victims of obesity and related diseases. Our mission is to provide “good food for all” through the promotion of biodiverse organic farming, food literacy and fair trade.” Navdanya Mission Statement (http://www.navdanya.org/about-us/mission)
  

Notes

The only way to roll back the power of corporations and their strategies outlined in the article is by being informed and actively resisting. If you live in the UK/Europe, to challenge the US-EU free trade agreement currently being negotiated, visit Coroprate Europe Observatory at:  http://corporateeurope.org/get-involved


4) Robert Brenner (1976), “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe”.Past and Present 70

5) Barrington Moore (1993) [First published 1966]. Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world (with a new foreword by Edward Friedman and James C. Scott ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.





RINFORMATION

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Sustainable Development: The Evil Facing America

On July 23, 2004, I addressed the fifth annual Freedom 21 Conference in Reno, Nevada. Freedom 21 was the first coalition of limited government/private property advocacy groups. Freedom 21 eventually sponsored 10 national conferences and educated and trained a cadre of leaders to fight Agenda 21. But in 2004, George Bush was in the White House two years after the devastation to individual liberty, free enterprise and private property that defined the Clinton Presidency. Yet, pre-TEA Party, so many Americans failed to understand the threat they faced. The movement was divided into fractured issues. Even the major Conservative organizations refused to mention Agenda 21 (some still do).

To this gathering I delivered a call to arms. We had circled the wagons so tightly, we only had one left. I said we needed to charge! Stop being on the defensive. Go straight at the Sustainablists. Take it to the people. Amazingly, this was 7 years before the tactics I called for in 2004 began to take shape. The TEA Party  brought our people together in a unified force. Battles over Sustainable Development broke out in Spokane, Washington. Then Richard Rothschild and his gallant fellow Commissioners in Carroll County fired the first real shot as they ended the county’s membership in ICLEI – the first to do so. Today, more than 150 communities have taken that same action. Several state legislatures are introducing legislation to stop the spread of Sustainable Development. And the perpetrators like ICLEI and the American Planning Association are “concerned.”

Keep all of that in mind as you read this speech, given so early in the fight, when we hadn’t made a single advancement in our battle. When people in our own movement thought we were crazy conspiracy theorists. As the title of my book reads (which covers much the activity during this time) “Now Tell Me I was Wrong” Most importantly, take it to heart, because I could still give this speech today, calling for the same actions. We’ve made a lot of headway – but we still have a long way to go.      — Tom DeWeese

My friends, we come here today from many walks of life. A wide variety of reasons got each of us started on the road to activism.

Some of us started simply because we noticed something funny about our child's curriculum in school. Some of us were outraged by government trying to take away our guns. A good many of us suddenly found government agents and members of private groups plotting to take away our land. Some have had their livestock confiscated. Some have found themselves facing jail just for doing what their fathers and grandfathers have done on the same land for decades.

Some of us just wanted to be allowed to go to church, pray to God and celebrate Christmas without being fined for it. A few of us would even like to be able to go to a restaurant and order food we like — even if it is greasy, fattening, and full of carbs and calories.

All of us just want to live in an America where our rights and pursuit of happiness is protected. And so we fight. And now we've found ourselves here today in a room with hundreds of others in the same boat.

We Can’t Win This Way

I have one thing to tell you. You are not going to win in the manner we are fighting now.  Because the other side has cut us up into little pieces. They've divided us and conquered us.

They've succeeded because you think your fight is against gun control. Because you think your fight is against bad schools. Because you think your fight is against the Endangered Species Act and roadless programs, and wetlands regulations, and water rights and Heritage Areas. Because you think your fight is against Democrats and not Republicans. Because you think it's a fight between evil liberals and good guy conservatives.

You're wrong. Your fight is against a well-planned, well orchestrated agenda for the complete transformation of America. And unless you learn that fact now, today... and unless you fully educate yourselves to every aspect of that agenda and fight it on the proper terms… then you cannot win!

I'm here to tell you that every one of these issues you are facing is interrelated. There is an agenda being implemented before your very eyes. It's called Sustainable Development.

And I will tell you now, if you want to keep your guns, your property, your children and your God — if you love liberty — then Sustainable Development is your enemy!

So what is Sustainable Development? Imagine an America in which a specific "ruling principle" is created to decide proper societal conduct for every citizen.

That principle would be used to consider everything you eat, what you wear, the kind of homes you live in, the method of transportation used to get to work, the way you dispose of waste, perhaps the number of children you may have, even your education and employment decisions.

Sustainable Development is that "ruling principle" for the implementation of what former Vice President Al Gore said we must all suffer through in order to purify our nation from the horrors of the Twentieth Century's industrial revolution.

In his book, Earth in the Balance, Gore called it a "wrenching transformation of society." Those are pretty powerful words that should concern anyone who values liberty. It's a warning that the rules are changing. That a new power elite is taking control.

Perhaps you are beginning to notice such changes as you go about your daily routine, but haven't understood where those changes, and the ideas behind them, are coming from. But Sustainable Development is a very difficult concept to grasp. It's written in an almost foreign language - designed to mislead and refrain from alarming you.

Let me put it in the simplest language I possibly can. The Atkins Diet is not sustainable. Now, why do I say that? Because on page 350 of the UN's Global Biodiversity Assessment Report it says that the grazing of livestock, including cows, sheep, goats and horses, is not sustainable. One reason for that concept is because Sustainablists contend that the animals pollute streams and damage the river banks.

Getting us to stop eating beef is a major effort needed to fully implement the Sustainable Agenda. Since they are cowards who fear your reaction to an outright banning of eating meat, they have to try to trick you into thinking that not eating meat is your idea. So they use scare tactics. For years they have told you that eating meat raises your cholesterol. Fat is bad for you. Meat causes heart attacks. With PeTA's help they were succeeding in turning us all into little sissies eating salads.

Then along comes Dr. Atkins who shows us that a low-carb beef diet will help you lose weight in a healthy way. Suddenly the nation has gone Atkins crazy. Beef sales are sky rocketing. The Sustainablists are in a tailspin. They've lost control of your eating habits.

Now watch what they are doing to get you back on track. Suddenly reports are being published in leading women's magazines about Atkins being dangerous to your health. Lawsuits have begun to pop up against the diet.

Do you see how it works? That's how the Sustainable Development agenda is implemented. Behavior modification based on fear. Freedom of choice is not part of Sustainable Development. And so I repeat, - the Atkins Diet is not sustainable.

Sustainable Development: A Life Plan Chosen By Someone Else

Now, perhaps you'll understand why there are Sustainable Development papers, guidelines and regulations to impose the ruling principle:

• On our public education system — to prepare our children to live in a "sustainable" world.

• On our economy — to create partnerships between business and government, making sure business becomes a tool to help implement the policies

• On the environment — leading to controls on private property and business.

• On healthcare — the new drive against obesity is leading directly toward controls on what we eat.

• On farming — Sustainable Development policies affect farmers' ability to produce more crops by regulating or banning free farming practices that have fed America and the world for 200 years. 

• On our social and cultural environment — where political correctness is controlling policy, including hiring practices, immigration policy, multiculturalism, marriage laws, etc.

• On our mobility — with emphasis on carpools and public transportation and away from the freedom of personal transportation.

• And on public safety — where the rule of law and the court system is being challenged by new regulations that affect the right to privacy and unreasonable search and seizures.

It's important to understand that these leading issues we face today are not just random concerns that find their way into the forefront of political debate. They are all interconnected to the policies of Sustainable Development.

And you must understand that Sustainable Development is the official policy of the government of the United States of America — and every state, city, and small burg in the nation.

It is completely bi-partisan. It is being equally implemented by Republicans and Democrats. No matter the outcome of any election — the Sustainable Development agenda moves forward unabated.

What I am telling you here today is that Sustainable Development isn't just some land-use policy. It is a complete transformation of American society; away from the rule of law; away from the ideals of property ownership, free enterprise, free travel, and even free association.

Sustainable Development. It's a life plan. Planned by someone else. Not you.

Step By Step Stealth Enforcement

And Sustainable Development is not a myth, or a theory, or a conspiracy — as I've heard some in our own movement call it.

Since the 1970's literally hundreds of issue papers, charters, guidelines, and treaties have been presented at scores of international meetings, each becoming a building block in the creation of what would eventually become Sustainable Development.

Finally in 1992 the UN's Earth Summit in Brazil brought all of these ideas together in two major documents called "Agenda 21" and the "Biodiversity Treaty." Here the ideas were officially presented to world leaders that all government on every level, needed to be transformed into top-down control over housing, food production, energy, water, private property, education, population control, gun control, transportation, social welfare, medical care, and literally every aspect of our lives.

To get the full picture, add to these the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, both of which create UN mandates on abortion, child rearing, and government interference in families.

In 1993 President Clinton created the President's Council on Sustainable Development. From that Council came a flood of policy papers and recommendations to enforce it as government policy.

And the Clinton administration didn't need Congress to get into the act. All Cabinet officials had to do was change some wording of existing programs and reroute already-approved funding to begin to implement the agenda — without Congress and without debate. Former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown told a meeting of the President's Council that he could implement 67 percent of the Sustainable Development agenda in his agency with no new legislation. Other agencies like Interior, EPA, HUD, and more did the same thing. To help it all along, Clinton issued a blizzard of Executive Orders.

The American Heritage Rivers Initiative was born that way. So were roadless policies designed to stop logging in national forests. National parks have become core biosphere reserves designed to shut out any human activity. And the buffer zones around them are designed to shut off existing human activity, allowing the core to continually grow like a cancer tumor.

Any possible excuse to control human development or activities began to sprout up — from rails-to-trails bikeways to wetlands regulations to historic preservation projects. Endangered species, real or made up, have been used to close down industry and steal private lands. Valuable natural resources have been locked away in national parks and preserves.

In this way an international agenda to transform the world into global governance under Sustainable Development policy took hold and became official policy of the United States of America.

The red states from the 2000 election are made up of the desperate Americans who rushed to the polls hoping to get a breath of fresh air — a champion to turn these smothering policies around. But in four years, other than throwing a few bones on roadless areas, President Bush has yet to undo a single Clinton Executive Order on Sustainable Development. It is still the official policy of the United States government.

Every day more of the agenda is implemented. This is what you are fighting at home — no matter what the issue. Almost every community in America now has some sort of "visioning statement" designed to control development and property use, while dictating rules for business, transportation, water use, food production, and much more.

Our public schools have been transformed away from academic institutions, becoming, instead, factories that pump out a worker class to fill the needs of a centrally-controlled sustainable economy.

Christianity has come under attack because it is the foundation of Western civilization, which is the root of the ideas of limited government and individual freedom. Those ideals must be crushed in the new Sustainable world where individual thought would turn the well-ordered society of Sustainable Development into chaos. And in such a world, you dare not have any armed citizens. As I said, it is all one crushing transformation stemming from Agenda 21 and Sustainable Development.

It’s a House of Cards and They Know It!

But so many of us fail to see that. We just focus on our one issue, refusing to see that we are fighting a massive power structure.

Do you think it's just a coincidence that school curriculum makes no sense? If so, you're looking at it all wrong. You still think the schools are supposed to teach your children academics. You think your job is just to fix some misguided policies. The fact is the public school system is working perfectly for what it was designed to do. And, if you understand the Sustainablist agenda, it will all make perfect sense.

Do you think it's just a coincidence that all of these environmental regulations have popped up to lock away the land? Read Agenda 21 and you will find that every issue you're facing, from endangered species to wetlands to grazing policy to water policy to smart growth to the expansion of national parks are all described in detail. Read it and everything will be as clear as a road map. Ignore it and you will be rolled on your single issue.

If you don't grasp the fact that you are dealing with an agenda that is driving all of these issues — and that they are not just single issues — then you cannot win! I am not saying change the issues you are involved in. Of course, keep fighting on your individual issues as you always have, but just know that there is an overall agenda behind your adversaries.

Can you imagine what we could do if we all "got it"? If we all came to the realization that we are fighting the same foe, the same agenda? Divided we lose. United we can blow down their house of cards. Because that's what it is, a house of cards built on lies and very bad policy.

Do you know that, as we sit here feeling down and somewhat hopeless, that the other side is terrified of you? They fear that you will finally understand their agenda and that you will unify and begin to fight back as an effective force rather than in a bunch of splinter groups.

Did you know that the web has been burning up with e-mails and memos about Freedom 21 meeting here this week in Reno, at the Nugget? You see, the Nugget was the site of a series of meetings in the nineties called the Wise Use Movement. Those meetings were the first attempts for property rights advocates, ranchers, and the timber and mining industries to organize and fight back. Those meetings were what brought me and lots of other folks in this room into the fight.

The Sustainablists did everything possible to vilify us as violent reactionaries who just wanted to pave the Earth. They call us the "astro-turf crowd." Now, here we are again with some of the original organizers of the Wise Use Movement on our program. That has set off the alarm bells in Sustainablist circles.

But now there are three times more of us and we're not just ranchers and timber people. I believe that the inclusion of Niger Innis and the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) is one of the most important developments in the past ten years for our movement. In addition, we've joined forces with Second Amendment advocates and academic education activists and many more.

Down at the politburo their heads are spinning. One of the groups which has been sending out hysterical briefing memos on Freedom 21 is the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most vicious groups in the nation. There are many more such groups involved, but I have personally seen those from the ADL, so I mention them. They view themselves as the keepers of moral thought and they view you as equal to the KKK.

We Choose Freedom

Some of their lackeys may be among us today with the mission to report back to their handlers about what is said here at Freedom 21. Well here's the message I want them to take back. Tell them that this week at Freedom 21 our movement has been reborn.

Tell them that property rights and multiple-use activists understand that the Sustainable Development agenda is the core of all of the individual land use issues facing us; property rights activists "get it" and choose liberty over Sustainable Development.

Tell them that education activists now understand that the true agenda isn't just misguided education policies, but a transformation of the process to implement the Sustainablist agenda. Education activists "get it" and choose liberty over Sustainable Development.

Tell them that Christians understand that the assault on their religion is necessary to destroy Western Culture in order to replace it with Sustainablism. Christians "get it" and choose liberty over Sustainable Development.

Tell them that gun owners understand that the universal drive to disarm the nation is necessary in order to implement the Sustainablist agenda. Gun owners "get it" and choose liberty over Sustainable Development.

Tell them that Niger Innis and the Congress on Racial Equality understand that Sustainable Development is starving and killing blacks in Africa and around the world. CORE "gets it" and chooses liberty over Sustainable Development.

That's the message I want the lackeys to take back to those who are working every waking hour to enforce their philosophy of death on free Americans.

How To Fight Back

Now, let me quickly give you one idea that we might use to effectively fight back and stop Sustainable Development. There is a flaw in their implementation system. The fact is Congress does not pass laws making regulations mandatory for implementation of the Sustainable Development agenda. That would be a violation of the 10th Amendment. To get around it, Congress sets up a system of grants that come with strings. In order to get the money you have to "voluntarily" comply with the rules that go with it. The system has been set up with the help of groups like the Sierra Club, the National Education Association, and Planned Parenthood, to name a few.

They all fully understand the game and its rules. And they have over 12,000 fellow organizations on the state and local level to agitate and enforce those rules by applying pressure to local community councilmen and commissioners. That's how the Sustainable Development agenda is being implemented in every single community and school in the nation.

My friends, there are about 3,300 counties in this nation. I propose that as we continue to pressure Congress and State Houses on our chosen issues, that we spend a major part of our efforts to elect county commissioners and city councilmen. We have to find men and women of integrity who understand the Sustainablist agenda. They would have to be activists who could resist the pressure and not accept the federal Trojan Horse of grant money. If we could do this successfully in just 10 or even 5 counties in the country, the news would spread like wildfire and more would join us.

No, it won't stop the Forest Service and the Park Service S.W.A.T. teams from invading your land, but it will begin to change the dynamics of the battle. Congress will respond. Whether you're supporting a third party or doing it through one of the two major parties, we would build an unstoppable power base that would spread across the nation.

I can tell you now, that if we keep trying to pressure Congress as our only tactic or try to elect a president who will listen, we will fail.

To save liberty in America, Sustainable Development must be stopped. We have to start at the local level where our grassroots efforts are strongest. Where it's easiest to win. We can find five county commissioners. We can get them elected one at a time. And then get more to join them. And we can begin to build a prairie fire across the nation.

Do these things my friends, but first understand that whatever issue you have chosen to fight for is actually part of the Sustainable Development scheme.

Arm yourselves with that knowledge, and then step-by-step work to elect local representatives who will resist the Sustainablist agenda and its money. The money is the key. Take back your communities and in that way, step-by-step, take back America.

Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence. Go to americanpolicy.org for more information

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Historians may look back and write about how willing we are to sacrifice our children and jeopardize future generations with a massive experiment that is based on false promises and flawed science just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise. So said Don Huber in referring to the use of glyphosate and genetically modified crops. Huber was speaking at Organic Connections conference in ReginaCanada, late 2012.
Huber is an emeritus professor in plant pathology at Purdue University in the US and has worked with the Department of Homeland Security to reduce the impact of plant disease outbreaks. His words are well worth bearing in mind given that a new study commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze has found that people in 18 countries across Europehave been found to have traces of glyphosate in their urine (1).

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned laboratory tests on urine samples from volunteers in 18 countries across Europeand found that on average 44 percent of samples contained glyphosate. The proportion of positive samples varied between countries, with Malta, Germany, the UK and Poland having the most positive tests, and lower levels detected in Macedonia and Switzerland. All the volunteers who provided samples live in cities, and none had handled or used glyphosate products in the run-up to the tests.

The influence of the biotech sector on safety and regulation

Although ‘weedkiller in urine’ sounds alarming, Tom Sanders, head of the nutritional sciences research division at King's College London, says the levels found are unlikely to be of any significance to health because they are 300 times lower than the level which might cause concern. Alison Haughton, head of the Pollination Ecology Group at Rothamsted Research, said that if FoE and GM Freeze want their work to have scientific credibility and provide a genuine contribution to the debate on pesticide residues, they should submit their work for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Valid points, you might think. But FoE believes that there is sufficient evidence to suggest environmental and health impacts from glyphosate warrant concern. It wants to know how the glyphosate found in human urine samples has entered the body, what the impacts of persistent exposure to low levels of glyphosate might be and what happens to the glyphosate that remains in the body. New research published in the journal Entropy sheds disturbing light on such concerns (discussed later in this article).


In 2011, Earth Open Source said that official approval of glyphosate had been rash, problematic and deeply flawed. A comprehensive review of existing data released in June 2011 by Earth Open Source suggested that industry regulators in Europe had known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies (2).


In the same vein, FoE says there is currently very little testing for glyphosate by public authorities, despite its widespread use, and authorities in Europe do not test for glyphosate in humans and tests on food are infrequent. Glyphosate was approved for EU-wide use in 2002, but FoE argues that the European regulatory agencies did not carry out their own safety testing, relying instead on data provided by the manufacturers.


Of course there are certain scientists (usually with links to the agro-industry) who always seem to be strident in calling for peer-reviewed evidence when people are critical of the biotech sector, but then rubbish it and smear or intimidate the scientists involved when that occurs, as has been the case with Dr Arsad Pusztai in the UK or Professor Seralini in France. It is therefore quite revealing that most of the data pertaining to glyphosate safety came from industry studies, not from peer-reviewed science, and the original data are not available for independent scrutiny.   


Increasing use


With references to a raft of peer-reviewed studies, FoE also brings attention to the often disturbing health and environmental dangers and impacts of glyphosate-based herbicides throughout the world (1). The FoE study also highlights concerns around the increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weed killers, particularly as the use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more genetically modified (GM) crops are grown. It is after all good for business. And the biggest producer of glyphosate is Monsanto, which sells it under the brand name ‘Roundup’.


“The figures don’t lie; GMOs drive glyphosate sales.” (3)


Despite its widespread use, there is currently little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the wider environment. The FoE commissioned study is the first time monitoring has been carried out across Europe for the presence of the weed killer in human bodies. FoE Europe’s spokesperson Adrian Bebb argues that there is a serious lack of action by public authorities and indicates that this weed killer is being widely overused. 


This certainly needs to be addressed not least because the prediction concerning increasing exposure to glyphosate is not without substance. The introduction of Roundup Ready crops has already resulted in an increase of glyphosate use. Using official US government data, Dr Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University, states that since 1996 the glysophate rate of application per crop year has tripled on cotton farms, doubled in the case of soybeans and risen 39 percent on corn (4). The average annual increase in the pounds of glyphosate applied to cotton, soybeans, and corn has been 18.2 percent, 9.8 percent, and 4.3 percent, respectively, since herbicide tolerant crops were introduced.


Glyphosate is used on many genetically modified crops. 14 new GM crops designed to be cultivated with glyphosate are currently waiting for approval to be grown in Europe. Approval of these crops would inevitably lead to a further increase of glysphosate spraying. In the US, biotech crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and sugarbeets, are planted on millions of acres annually.  


Increasing dangers


Evidence suggests that Roundup could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a new peer-reviewed report, published recently in the scientific journal Entropy (5). The study also concluded that residues of glyphosate have been found in food.


These residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a science consultant. The study says that negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.


In 2010, the provincial government of Chaco province in Argentina issued a report on health statistics from the town La Leonesa. The report showed that from 2000 to 2009, following the expansion of genetically-modified soy and rice crops in the region (and the use of glyphosate), the childhood cancer rate tripled in La Leonesa and the rate of birth defects increased nearly fourfold over the entire province (6).


Professor Huber also notes the health risks associated with the (increasing) use of glyphosate. He says a number of plant pathogens are emerging, which when consumed could impact human health. Based on research that he alludes to (he refuses to make his research public or identify his fellow researchers, who he claims could suffer substantial professional backlash from academic employers who received research funding from the biotechnology industry), Huber notes that the use of glyphosate changes the soil ecology, killing many bacteria, while giving other bacteria a competitive advantage. This makes plants highly susceptible to soil borne diseases. At the same time, glyphosate has a negative effect on a number of beneficial soil organisms (7).


Huber’s concerns about the impact of long term use of glyphosate on soil sterility are similar to concerns expressed by Elaine Ingham, a soil ecologist with the Rodale Institute, and also research carried out in by Navdanya in India (8).

As for GM crops, Huber says they have lower water use efficiency, tend to be nutrient deficient, have increased bud and fruit abortion and are predisposed to infectious diseases and insect damage. He suggests that Roundup Ready crops, treated with glyphosate, have higher levels of mycotoxins and lower nutrient levels than conventional crops.

“… you could say that what you’re doing with glyphosate is you’re giving the plant a bad case of AIDS. You’ve shut down the immune system or the defense system.” Professor Ron Huber (7)

He concludes that, when consumed, the GM crops were more likely to cause disease, infertility, birth defects, cancer and allergic reactions than conventional crops.

Huber claims that consumption of food or feed that was genetically modified could bring the altered genes in contact with the microbes in the guts of the livestock or people who eat them. He feels this increases diseases, such as celiac disease, allergies, asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, gluten intolerance, irritable bowel disease, miscarriage, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

While none of these findings conclusively prove that plant (or animal) diseases are caused by the glyphosate, Huber feels safety evaluations have been inadequate, suggesting that previous (GM sector) research was substandard and extremely misleading in its interpretation of results - or worse.

With some hugely powerful players involved here, many of whom have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies (9), much of the science and the ensuing debate surrounding glyphosate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.

“… publishing in this area can also be difficult. I know from the International Symposium on Glyphosate that they had to find a journal publisher outside this country (the US) to publish the research data and symposium proceedings. It’s pretty hard to get it published in the States. There are also some hazards to publishing if you’re a young researcher doing research that runs counter to the current popular concepts. A lot of research on safety of genetic engineering is done outside of this country because it’s difficult to gain access to the materials, or the statements you have to sign to have access to those materials stating that you won’t publish without permission of the supplier. I think the 26 entomologists who sent their letter to EPA in 2009 stated it aptly when they said that objective data wasn’t available to the EPA because the materials haven’t been available to them or that they’re denied the opportunity to publish their data.” Professor Ron Huber (7)


Notes 





20 Examples Of How America Is Rapidly Going Down The Toilet

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Experts warn on world child malnutrition

Researchers have warned that poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths of children under the age of five, about 3.1 million kids, every year...

Diet Drinks: America’s Passion for Poison

There is a great controversy raging between good and evil at the soda fountain or pop machine but the general public does not seem...

9-Year-Old Challenges Fast Food Giant CEO

Stop tricking kids into eating your food all the time, a 9-year-old girl told Don Thompson, McDonald's Corp. CEO, at the company's annual shareholder...

Genetic Engineering: Two Million People In 52 Countries March Against Monsanto

 Monsanto’s Arguments Debunked 2 million people in 52 countries protested against Monsanto today. (Pictures here.) In response to the protest, Monsanto’s spokesperson said: Among the challenges facing...

9-Year-Old Challenges Fast Food Giant CEO

Stop tricking kids into eating your food all the time, a 9-year-old girl told Don Thompson, McDonald's Corp. CEO, at the company's annual shareholder...

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Marching in Chicago: Resisting Rahm Emanuel’s Neoliberal Savagery

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If Ronald McDonald Goes, Can Cap’n Crunch And SpongeBob SquarePants Be Far Behind?

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Roundup herbicide causes smorgasbord of fatal diseases, new study concludes

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New Legislation Would Push Genetically Modified Foods Onto Our Plates

Bill Would Strip Courts of Power … And Push Genetically Modified Foods Onto Our Plates

America has been decimated by the breakdown of the separation of powers between different branches of government.  For example, the executive branch is negotiating laws in secret – and grabbing powers – without telling Congress.

And life-and-death decisions about who the government labels an “enemy combatant” and assassinates are being kept away from the judges altogether.

At the same time, government agencies like the FDA go to great lengths to cover up the potential health damage from genetically modified foods, and to keep the consumer in the dark about what they’re really eating.  Remember, genetically engineered foods have been linked to obesity, cancer, liver failure, infertility and all sorts of other diseases (brief, must-watch videos here and here).

Things are about to get a lot worse within the next week … unless we stand up and say “NO!”

Specifically, a law has been snuck into the Agriculture Appropriations bill – which will be approved by March 27th – which would destroy the separation of powers by stripping courts of the power to challenge genetically modified foods.

 Do We Have a Right to Know If Our Food Has Been Genetically Modified?

Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com.

 How?

The “Monsanto Rider” (section 735) uses “farmer-friendly” happy talk, but is an iron-fisted ploy to allow GMO crops to be planted even if a court has ruled that planting them is illegal.

If the United States Department of Agriculture – which suffered “regulatory capture” by the big food companies decades ago – approves a genetically modified food without any testing, a court can enjoin (i.e. halt) production of that food until testing occurs.

Yet the Monsanto Rider would strip the courts of power, and would allow GMO crops to be planted and put in our food … no matter what a judge has ruled.

As the Weston Price Foundation notes:

If a GMO crop approval was shown to violate the law and require further analysis of its harmful impacts (as several courts have concluded in recent years, for example with GMO alfalfa and GMO sugar beets) this provision would override any court-mandated caution and allow continued planting and commercialization while further review takes place.

Luckily, Senator Tester has introduced an amendment to kill the Monsanto Rider.  Tester’s amendment – Amendment 74 – is backed by Senators Boxer, Gillibrand, and Leahy.

Amendment 74 will help to keep genetically engineered foods out of your rood … and help to preserve the Constitutional principal of separation of powers.

It is urgent that you call both of your senators today … and tell the to vote for Senator Tester’s Amendment 74 to the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

NAFTA at 20: The New Spin

Intel engineers test new microprocessors at Intel's research unit in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city on July 23, 2008. (Photo: Janet Jarman / The New York Times)Intel engineers test new microprocessors at Intel's research unit in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city on July 23, 2008. (Photo: Janet Jarman / The New York Times)Only a few years ago, analysts were warning that Mexico was at risk of becoming a “failed state.” These days, the Mexican government appears to be doing a much better PR job. 

Despite the devastating and ongoing drug war, the story now goes that Mexico is poised to become a “middle-class” society. As establishment apostle Thomas Friedman put it in the New York Times, Mexico is now one of “the more dominant economic powers in the 21st century.”

But this spin is based on superficial assumptions. The small signs of economic recovery in Mexico are grounded largely on the return of maquiladora factories from China, where wages have been increasing as Mexican wages have stagnated. Under-cutting China on labor costs is hardly something to celebrate. This trend is nothing but the return of the same “free-trade” model that has failed the Mexican people for 20 years. 

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was ratified in 1993 and went into effect in 1994, was touted as the cure for Mexico’s economic “backwardness.” Promoters argued that the trilateral trade agreement would dig Mexico out of its economic rut and modernize it along the lines of its mighty neighbor, the United States.

The story went like this:

NAFTA was going to bring new U.S. technology and capital to complement Mexico’s surplus labor. This in turn would lead Mexico to industrialize and increase productivity, thereby making the country more competitive abroad. The spike in productivity and competiveness would automatically cause wages in Mexico to increase. The higher wages would expand economic opportunities in Mexico, slowing migration to the United States.

In the words of the former President Bill Clinton, NAFTA was going to “promote more growth, more equality and better preservation of the environment and a greater possibility of world peace.” Mexico’s president at the time, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, echoed Clinton’s sentiments during a commencement address at MIT: “NAFTA is a job-creating agreement," he said. "It is an environment improvement agreement.” More importantly, Salinas boasted, “it is a wage-increasing agreement.” 

As the 20th anniversary of NAFTA approaches, however, the verdict is indisputable: NAFTA failed to spur meaningful and inclusive economic growth in Mexico, pull Mexicans out of unemployment and underemployment, or reduce poverty. By all accounts, it has done just the opposite.

The Verdict Is In 

Official statistics show that from 2006 to 2010, more than 12 million people joined the ranks of the impoverished in Mexico, causing the poverty level to jump to 51.3 percent of the population. According to the United Nations, in the past decade Mexico saw the slowest reduction in poverty in all of Latin America. 

Rampant poverty in Mexico is a product of IMF and World Bank-led neoliberal policies—such as anti-inflationary policies that have kept wages stagnant—of which “free-trade” pacts like NAFTA are part and parcel. Another factor is the systematic failure to create good jobs in the formal sectors of the economy. During Felipe Calderon’s presidency, the share of the Mexican labor force relying on informal work—such as selling chewing gum and other low-cost products on the street—grew to nearly 50 percent.

Even the wages in the manufacturing sector, which NAFTA cheerleaders argued would benefit the most from trade liberalization, have remained extremely low. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mexican manufacturing workers made an average hourly wage of only $4.53 in 2011, compared to $26.87 for their U.S. counterparts. Between 1997 and 2011, the U.S.-Mexico manufacturing wage gap narrowed only slightly, with Mexican wages rising from 13 to 17 percent of the level earned by American workers. In Brazil, by contrast, manufacturing wages are almost double Mexico’s, and in Argentina almost triple. 

Mexico’s stagnant wages are celebrated by free traders as an opportunity for U.S. businesses interested in outsourcing. According to one report by the McKinsey management consulting firm, “for a company motivated primarily by cost, Mexico holds the most attractive position among the Latin American countries we studied. … Mexico’s advantages start with low labor costs.” 

But even as the damning evidence against NAFTA continues to roll in, entrenched advocates of the trade agreement have been busy crafting new arguments. In his recent book, Mexico: A Middle Class Society, NAFTA negotiator Luis De la Calle and his co-author argue that the trade agreement has given rise to a growing Mexican middle class by providing consumers with higher quality, U.S- made goods. The authors proclaim that “NAFTA has dramatically reduced the costs of goods for Mexican families at the same time that the quality and variety of goods and services in the country grew.” 

Most of the economic indicators included in the book conveniently fail to account for the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which hit Mexico worse than almost any other Latin American country. The result has been skyrocketing inequality. As the Guardian reported last December, “ever more Mexican families have acquired the trappings of middle-class life such as cars, fridges, and washing machines, but about half of the population still lives in poverty.”

The indicators of consumption that suggest the rise of Mexico’s middle class also exclude the dramatic increase in food prices in recent years, which has condemned millions of Mexicans to hunger. Twenty-eight million Mexicans are facing “food poverty,” meaning they lack access to sufficient nutritious food. According to official statistics, more than 50,000 people died of malnutrition between 2006 and 2011. That’s almost as many as have died in Mexico's drug war, which dramatically escalated under Calderon and has continued under President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

The food crisis has coincided with the “Walmartization” of the country. In 1994 there were only 14 Walmart retail stores in all of Mexico. Now there are more than 1,724 retail and wholesale stores. This is almost half the number of U.S. Walmarts, and far more than any other country outside the United States. The proliferation of Walmart and other U.S. big-box stores in Mexico since NAFTA came into effect has ushered in a new era of consumerism—in part through an aggressive expansion built on political bribes and the destruction of ancient Aztec ruins.  

The arguments developed prior to the signing of NAFTA focused primarily on the claim that the trade agreement would make Mexico a nation of producers and exporters. These initial promises failed to deliver. Throughout the NAFTA years, the bulk of Mexico’s manufacturing “exports” have come from transnational car and technology companies. Not surprisingly, Mexico’s intra-industry trade with the United Sates is the highest of any Latin American country. Yet the percentage of Mexican companies that are actually exporters is vanishingly small, and imports of food into Mexico have surged.

Same Snake Oil, Different Pitch 

Because their initial promises utterly failed to deliver, the NAFTA pushers are now hyping “consumer benefits” to justify new trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. One of the most extreme examples of this spin is an article in The Washington Post that celebrates a “growing middle class” in Mexico that is “buying more U.S. goods than ever, while turning Mexico into a more democratic, dynamic and prosperous American ally.” Devoid of all logic, it goes on to say that “Mexico's growth as a manufacturing hub is boosted by low wages.” How can low wages make people more prosperous? 

The Post also boasts that in “Mexico’s Costco stores, staples such as tortilla chips and chipotle salsa are trucked in from factories in California and Texas that produce for both sides of the border.” Is this something to celebrate? The influx of traditional Mexican food staples, starting with maize, and goods from the United States has displaced and dislocated millions of Mexican small-scale farmers, producers, and small businesses. And not only that, Mexicans’ increasing consumption of processed foods and beverages from the United States has made the country the second-most obese in the world. 

In essence, NAFTA advocates have been reduced to saying: “so maybe NAFTA didn’t help Mexico reduce poverty or increase wages. But hey! At least it gave it Walmart, Costcos, and sweat shops.”

The bankruptcy of NAFTA’s promises is only compounded by the poverty of this consolation.

The Globalization of “Fast Food”. Behind the Brand: McDonald’s

The Globalization of "Fast Food". Behind the Brand: McDonald’s

The Above image of the McDonald label, Copyright McDonald’s 2011

This article was first published in The Ecologist

In the first of a major new series following on from the ground breaking Behind the Label, Peter Salisbury takes a look at one of the biggest brands in the world – McDonald’s – and asks: has the burger giant done enough to clean-up its act?

Chances are that you have had a McDonald’s meal in the past or if not, you certainly know a lot of people who have. It’s the biggest fast food chain in the world, with 32,000 outlets in 117 countries. The clown-fronted burger outfit employs a staggering 1.7 million people, and in the first three months of 2011 alone it made $1.2bn in profits on the back of revenues of $6.1bn. The company has come in for huge amounts of criticism over the past 20 years, for the impact it has on the diets of people worldwide, its labour practices and the impact its business has had on the environment. From Fast Food Nation to Supersize Me by the way of the McLibel trials of the 1990s, plenty has been written and broadcast to tarnish the golden arches’ shine.

Declining sales in the early 2000s, which saw franchises being shut for the first time in the company’s history, caused a major rethink of the way McDonald’s operates, and its recent rhetoric has been that of a firm with a newly discovered zeal for ethical end eco-friendly practices, garnering praise from champions as unlikely as Greenpeace and the Carbon Trust. But is this just marketing hype or has McDonald’s had a genuine change of heart?

The answer is yes and no. First of all, because of the way the company is run, it’s hard to generalise. Around 80 per cent of McDonald’s outlets are run by franchisees who have to meet standards set by the company, but who can – and do – go above and beyond them. Further, McDonald’s branches are run by country and regional offices, each of which are subject to domestic standards. The production of much of the raw products which go into McDonald’s meals, from burger patties to sauces, is subcontracted to different suppliers, making it impossible to assess the company in terms of a single golden standard. Its sole global supplier (for soft drinks) is Coca-Cola.

The UK branch of the company has certainly made great strides since the 1990s, when it became embroiled in the 1997 McLibel court case, in which McDonald’s Corporation and McDonald’s Restaurants Limited sued Helen Steel and Dave Morris, a former gardener and a postman, for libel after they published a series of leaflets denouncing the company.

Exploitation

The judge overseeing the case decided that, although the pair could not prove some of their accusations – that McDonald’s destroyed rainforests, caused starvation in the third world or disease and cancer in developed countries – it could be agreed that the company exploited children, falsely advertised their food as nutritious, indirectly sponsored cruelty to animals and paid their workers low wages: a major blow to the brand in an age of increasing consumer-consciousness.

Since then, the UK branch has committed to a number of initiatives to improve its image, running an aggressive marketing campaign at the same time to portray itself as an ethical employer which is both farmer and eco-friendly. It has also moved to become more transparent, putting ingredients lists for all of its products on its website and setting up another website, Make Up Your Own Mind, inviting customers to voice concerns and publishing accounts of critics’ visits to its production sites.

All of this should be taken with a grain of salt however. It’s not surprising that a multibillion-dollar corporation, which has been hurt in the past by concerns over its practices, will do its utmost to sell itself as a reformed character. And it’s suspicious that any web search of the company brings up a hit list of sites almost exclusively maintained by the company.

Yet research conducted by the Ecologist shows that in many areas the company has improved its record of ethical and environmental awareness over the last decade. The company’s burgers, for example, are now 100 per cent beef, and contain no preservatives or added flavours whatsoever. All of McDonald’s UK’s burgers are provided by Germany’s Esca Food Solutions, which claims to maintain rigorous standards at its abattoirs and production plants, and which works closely with 16,000 independent farmers in the UK and Ireland to maintain high standards.

‘No GM’

Since the early 2000s, McDonald’s UK has maintained that none of its beef, bacon or chicken is fed genetically modified grain. Farmers working for McDonald’s have independently confirmed to the Ecologist and Esca that they have a ‘decent’ working relationship with the company.

In 2007, Esca won the UK Food Manufacturing Excellence Awards for its burgers, and in 2010 McDonald’s announced that it was launching a three-year study into reducing the carbon emissions caused by the cattle used in its burgers (cattle account for four per cent of the UK’s emissions). Meanwhile, all of the fish used in Filet-O-Fish and Fish Finger meals in Europe are sourced from sustainable fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. Fries are largely sourced from McCain’s, the world’s biggest potato supplier, and McDonald’s claims that the vast majority are produced in the UK, again by independent farmers. The fries are prepared in-store and are cooked in vegetable oil containing no hydrogenated fats. At the beginning of the potato-growing season, dextrose – a form of glucose – is added as a sweetener, and salt is added after cooking (the company claims to have reduced the amount of salt used by 23 per cent since 2008).

The bread for McDonald’s buns and muffins is sourced from a single unnamed supplier based in Heywood, Manchester, and Banbury, Oxfordshire. McDonald’s would not comment on where it sources the grain for the bakeries but says once more that it does not buy genetically modified crops. Meanwhile, the company has been working with its suppliers and franchise-holders to make sure that they are as energy efficient as possible. In 2010, The Carbon Trust awarded McDonald’s its Carbon Trust Standard for reducing its overall carbon emissions by 4.5 per cent between 2007 and 2009. The company is currently experimenting with a series of energy initiatives based around turning its waste, from packaging – which is 80 per cent recycled – to vegetable oil into energy.

Certification

Since 2007, the company – which is one of the world’s biggest coffee retailers – has committed to selling only Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. Although the certification body has certainly been responsible for improving conditions and practices in many farming operations worldwide, it has been the subject of controversy – most recently after an undercover investigation by the Ecologist revealed allegations of sexual harassment and poor conditions for some workers at its certified Kericho tea plantation in Kenya which supplies the PG Tips brand.

Certification issues aside, McDonald’s has undoubtedly become considerably better at taking criticism. In 2006, Greenpeace activists stormed McDonald’s restaurants across the world dressed in chicken suits in protest at the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, which they attributed to greedy soy producers – who in turn were selling their produce to chicken farms, of whom McDonald’s was a major customer. They subsequently praised the fast food chain for leading a unified response among soy buyers, pressuring producers to adopt a ‘zero destruction’ approach to growing their crops. Despite praise from Greenpeace, the Carbon Trust and personalities such as Jamie Oliver who have praised the company for its ethical stance on meat and buying its produce locally, the firm is by no means perfect.

One of the biggest incongruencies in its newly discovered zeal for ethical practices comes from its seemingly differing approaches to the conditions chickens live in depending on whether they produce eggs or are used as meat in Chicken McNuggets and similar meals. The firm proudly trumpets that its UK branch only buys eggs from Lion-certified free-range producers, a laudable effort from a huge buyer of eggs, and that the meat in each nugget is 100 per cent chicken breast (the final product is around 65:35 meat and batter).

Factory farming

Yet by the same token, the company buys most of its chicken from two suppliers, Sun Valley in the UK and Moy Park in Northern Ireland, who are in turn owned by the controversial American firm, Cargill, and Brazil’s Marfrig. Sun Valley has been accused of using intensive chicken farming methods to produce their meat, which campaigners say can typically involve birds being cooped up in giant warehouses for much of their natural lives with barely any space to move. Sun Valley was embroiled in a scandal in 2008 when the activist group Compassion in World Farming secretly filmed poor conditions at its supplier Uphampton Farm near Leominster.

Furthermore, although McDonald’s is happy to advertise the provenance of its beef, dairy products and eggs, it is more circumspect about chicken meat. This may be because up to 90 per cent of the meat it uses in the UK is sourced from Cargill and Marfrag facilities in Thailand and Brazil, where regulations in the farming sector are perhaps less stringent than in the UK.

Meanwhile, the fact remains that despite attempts in recent years to cultivate a more healthy image, McDonald’s primary sales come from fast food in a time when there is increasing recognition that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the UK and the US. Although the European, and in particular the UK arm of the company, have become increasingly ethically aware, the same cannot be said for the US arm, which uses livestock farmed using intensive methods and fed in some cases on GM crops. And by buying McDonald’s in the UK, you are still buying from the same clown.

Useful links:

McDonalds: www.mcdonalds.co.uk

Greenpeace: www.greenpeace.org.uk

Compassion in World Farming: www.ciwf.org.uk

The Carbon Trust: www.carbontrust.co.uk

The REAL Source of Cavities and Gum Disease

healthcare

Our modern stereotype is that – until recently – people were plagued with rotting teeth, cavities and gum disease.

But the truth is that prehistoric people had much better oral health than we do today.

As NPR reports:

Prehistoric humans didn’t have toothbrushes. They didn’t have floss or toothpaste, and they certainly didn’t have Listerine. Yet somehow, their mouths were a lot healthier than ours are today.

Hunter-gatherers had really good teeth,” says Alan Cooper, director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA. “[But] as soon as you get to farming populations, you see this massive change. Huge amounts of gum disease. And cavities start cropping up.”

And thousands of years later, we’re still waging, and often losing, our war against oral disease.

Our changing diets are largely to blame.

In a study published in the latest Nature Genetics, Cooper and his research team looked at calcified plaque on ancient teeth from 34 prehistoric human skeletons. What they found was that as our diets changed over time — shifting from meat, vegetables and nuts to carbohydrates and sugar — so too did the composition of bacteria in our mouths.

***

However, the researchers found that as prehistoric humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming, certain types of disease-causing bacteria that were particularly efficient at using carbohydrates started to win out over other types of “friendly” bacteria in human mouths. The addition of processed flour and sugar during the Industrial Revolution only made matters worse.

“What you’ve really created is an ecosystem which is very low in diversity and full of opportunistic pathogens that have jumped in to utilize the resources which are now free,” Cooper says.

And that’s a problem, because the dominance of harmful bacteria means that our mouths are basically in a constant state of disease.

“You’re walking around with a permanent immune response, which is not a good thing,” says Cooper. “It causes problems all over the place.”

***

According to Cooper, bacteria make up approximately 90 percent of the cells in our bodies. [Background; and graphics.] He believes that we focus too much on ourselves and not enough on this so-called microbiome.

We brush our teeth and we floss, and we think that we’ve got good oral hygiene. But [we're] completely failing to deal with the underlying problem,” he says. “Ten years from now, I think we’re going to find that the whole microbiome is a key part of what you get monitored for and treated for.

While this seems counter-intuitive at first, it makes sense after a little reflection. After all, we evolved as hunters and gatherers. We haven’t had time to adapt – in an evolutionary times frame – to a life of farming … let alone processed foods.

No wonder – according to the New York Times:

More than 75% of American adults have some form of gum disease.

The science of healthy internal bugs is in its infancy. As Live Science notes:

“The concept of a probiotic to help reestablish our baseline microbiota after an antibiotic is a good concept,” [microbiologist Martin Blaser of the NYU School of Medicine] told LiveScience. “But the idea that, of all thousand species in our bodies, taking a single species that comes from cow or cheese is naïve.” Current probiotics are very well marketed, Blaser said, but there’s not much benefit. He does think medicine will one day develop probiotics that will be used to treat illness, but as of now, “it’s a very young field,” he said.

Ingesting too many antibiotics has also been linked to obesity, as it kills – often permanently – helpful intestinal bacteria (and see this and this), hypertension. Probiotics – which replace healthy intestinal bacteria – can promote weight loss, at least in people who don’t have a thriving community of natural intestinal flora.

Indeed, a healthy microbiome is also important for mental health:

Live Science reports:

Researchers have increasingly begun to suspect the gut was somehow linked with the brain. For instance, bowel disorders seem linked with stress-related psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression in people.

To learn more, scientists experimented with mice by feeding them a broth containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus JB-1. This species naturally lives in our gut, and scientists are exploring whether strains of it can be used as “probiotics” to improve our health. They discovered these rodents displayed significantly less behavior linked with stress, anxiety and depression than mice fed plain broth. Bacteria-fed mice also had significantly lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone in response to stressful situations such as mazes.

“By affecting gut bacteria, you can have very robust and quite broad-spectrum effects on brain chemistry and behavior,” researcher John Cryan, a neuroscientist at University College Cork in Ireland, told LiveScience.

“Without overstating things, this does open up the concept that we could develop therapies that can treat psychiatric disorders by targeting the gut,” Cryan added. “You could take a yogurt with a probiotic in it instead of an antidepressant.”

***

The investigators found that one GABA receptor component was present in higher levels in bacteria-fed mice in parts of the brain where it is normally lowered during depression. In addition, several GABA receptor components were reduced in parts of the brain where they are normally increased in stressed or anxious animals.

Next, the researchers severed the vagus nerve, which helps alert the central nervous system to changes in the gastrointestinal tract. They found the bacteria-induced effects on behavior and GABA receptors were diminished, suggesting this nerve is the pathway by which changes in the gut can influence the brain.

Vagal nerve stimulations have been used at times to treat depression resistant to other therapies, but “that’s a surgical technique,” Cryan said. “By targeting the gut with probiotics, we could indirectly target the vagus nerve without surgery.”

And see this.

***
Many native cultures ate a lot of fermented foods containing healthy bacteria. Think yogurt, miso and Inuit fermented seal blubber (gross, we know …)

***

Given that the modern diet contains less fermented foods, and that antibiotics have killed off some of our healthy intestinal flora, probiotics – sold in health food stores – are an important preventative measure against depression.

So it should come as no surprise that probiotics can help our oral health, as shown by scientific studies published in the American Journal of Dentistry, European Journal of Dentistry, and elsewhere.

In a couple of years, we will be able to get the right probiotics to kill the bad bugs in our mouth without destroying the good guys like antibiotics do.

In the meantime, good oral hygiene – conscientious tooth brushing and flossing – is important. Indeed, an overwhelming number of scientific studies conclude that cavity levels are falling worldwide … even in countries which don’t fluoridate water.

World Health Organization Data (2004) -
Tooth Decay Trends (12 year olds) in Fluoridated vs. Unfluoridated Countries:

who dmft An Overwhelming Number of Scientific Studies Conclude That Cavity Levels are Falling Worldwide ... Even In Countries Which Dont Fluoridate Water

This is due to increased education about the importance of oral hygiene.

In addition, we should cut out refined flour and refined sugar. As Live Science notes:

Cooper suggests that one way to help return your microbiome to a healthier, more balanced state might be to cut out all of those processed carbs and start eating like our ancestors.

Cranberry juice contains a chemical that blocks cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Drinking some unsweetened cranberry juice during the day can reduce cavities.

Finally, brushing with baking soda (or a toothpaste containing baking soda) is safe, and helps to reduce plaque … even in hard-to-reach areas.

Fat tax on sugary drinks urged by doctors

Britain's doctors want the cost of sugary drinks increased by a fifth and a ban on unhealthy food in hospitals, according to reports.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges says the moves would help to break the cycle of "generation after generation falling victim to obesity-related illnesses and death".

The Guardian cited a report by the academy which says doctors are "united" in seeing obesity as the greatest public health crisis facing the UK.

The academy said government efforts so far have been "piecemeal and disappointingly ineffective", given the scale of the problem.

Figures show that one in four adults in England is obese. Obesity can lead to heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The academy's chairman, Professor Terence Stephenson, said the report did not claim to offer a full solution to obesity, but "it does say we need together to do more, starting right now, before the problem becomes worse and the NHS can no longer cope".

Its recommendations include an experimental 20% tax on sugary soft drinks for at least a year, to see what effect it has on sales.

The academy believes the potential £1bn annual tax yield could help fund an increase in weight management programmes.

Local councils are also urged to limit the number of fast food outlets near schools and leisure centres.

And NHS staff should routinely talk to overweight patients about their eating and exercise habits, the report adds.

Chef and anti-obesity campaigner Jamie Oliver welcomed the report as "the clearest warning sign yet that the medical profession is deeply concerned about obesity".

But the Food and Drink Federation , which represents produce manufacturers, said the report was a "damp squib" that added "little to an important debate".

The British Soft Drinks Association said its products accounted for just 2% of calories in an average diet and it is what people consume overall that needs to be addressed.

Its director-general Gavin Partington said: "Over the last 10 years, the consumption of soft drinks containing added sugar has fallen by 9% while the incidence of obesity has been increasing, and 61% of soft drinks now contain no added sugar.

"Soft drinks companies are also committing to further, voluntary action as part of the Government's Responsibility Deal Calorie Reduction Pledge.

"Don't forget that there already is a 20% tax on soft drinks, 10p out of every 60p can of drink already goes to the Government thanks to VAT.

"Putting up taxes even further will put pressure on people's purses at a time when they can ill afford it," he added.

Is The Dietitians’ Trade Group in Bed with the Junk Food Industry?

The largest trade group of nutrition professionals—the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—has a serious credibility problem.

The Academy represents 74,000 dietitians in the United States, and its mission is to promote optimal nutrition and well being for all people. But according to an explosive report released by Food Revolution Summit speaker Michele Simon and her organization, the industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics, the Academy is sponsored by folks like ConAgra, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kellogg’s, Mars, and the National Dairy Council.

AND

Some Academy sponsors can become an “Academy Partner,” which entitles them to “educate” nutrition professionals about the health benefits of their products, co-sponsor events, and conduct educational sessions at meetings.  They also can use the Academy’s logo in marketing campaigns.

The report from Eat Drink Politics details how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children. In addition to Coca-Cola, companies on the Academy’s list of approved continuing education providers include Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo.

Despite its enormous clout, and its nutritional advocacy mission, the Academy has thus far refused to endorse some of the steps that many experts agree could improve public health and expand health freedom, including limits on soft drink sizes, taxes on sugary sodas, or the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Could there be any connection between the millions of dollars in sponsorship the Academy receives from junk food manufacturers, and a seeming lack of initiative on behalf of the public welfare?

Fortunately, not all dietitians pass on the propaganda of the Academy’s sponsors. There are many hard-working and dedicated dietitians who base the guidance they offer their clients on the latest learnings of nutritional science. One of the inspiring dietitians of our times is bestselling author, plant-strong nutrition expert, and 2013 Food Revolution Summit speaker Brenda Davis, R.D,.

Brenda notes that many dietitians feel uncomfortable having their trade association intertwined with the processed food industry, and references a survey which found that 80% of them feel that the Academy is endorsing corporate sponsors and their products when it allows their sponsorship.

She comments: “It’s time for us to base the nutritional guidance we offer, and the policies we support, on what we know is best for the health and wellness of a population that is riddled with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The science is clear: a whole foods, plant-strong diet that is low in sugar and processed foods, and high in nutrients and fresh foods, can help you thrive, and can dramatically reduce your risk of diet and lifestyle-induced diseases.”

Inspired by Michele Simon’s report, and fed up with their association’s junk food ties, on February 12 a group of dietitians launched Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Their goal is to advocate for more ethical, socially responsible, and relevant corporate sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  More than 500 members joined in the first two days.

For more on Eat Drink Politics, or to sign up their informative newsletter, click here.

To join the Food Revolution, and get free tools, inspiration and support to help you take action for healthier food and food systems, click here.

Ocean Robbins

Ocean Robbins serves as adjunct professor at Chapman University and is co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) and CEO of the 85,000 member Food Revolution Network.
Find out more and sign up for free here.

US Food Industry Battles Against Regulation

Why are Americans getting fatter, and who's to blame? It's a question members of the US Congress need to be asking. 

Like the war on tobacco decades ago, the US is now fighting a new battle on obesity. On one side are US public health officials advocating for their government to put in place better nutrition policies. But those efforts have met stiff resistance, in part because the $1 trillion US food and beverage industry is fighting regulation with a powerful weapon: its deep pockets. 

It's no secret the standard American diet is relatively inexpensive, convenient and satisfying. Whether it's highly marketed fast food or highly processed, packaged foods in the supermarket, what Americans eat has changed dramatically over decades.

And it shows. The US has the highest rate of obesity in the industrialised world. One-third of Americans over the age of 20 are obese, according to government figures. For children, this figure is 17 percent.

"It's really expensive to get healthy food in the United States," said a shopper at a mall in McLean, Virginia when asked why the number of obese Americans is rising. "Fast food is much too accessible." Another man explained, "The government can stop the advertising, can stop all the bad foods and yet they let it keep going, and then they complain about obesity."

The American diet is strongly influenced by the US Congress: the US food and beverage industry has for the past two decades spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying for government regulations that favour its finances. One unfavourable policy could cost a company millions. 

A former government food policymaker who now lobbies for the US food and beverage industry, John Bode works to ensure Congress limits regulations on behalf of his clients. "Economics are a big part of it, no doubt about it," Bode told Al Jazeera. "Food companies are in the business to make money."

Indeed, since the 1990s, the food and beverage industry has been one of the United States' biggest political campaign donors, spending almost $107m on congressional and presidential campaigns. Last year, the industry gave nearly $24m to politicians running for Congress. Seventy-one percent of that went to Republican candidates, and 29 percent to Democrats.

In turn, many of those politicians have voted for subsidies to keep food industry ingredient costs low. Since the mid-1990s, $17bn has gone to crops like corn and soybeans, mainstay ingredients of the junk food industry. That's a sharp contrast to the $260m in subsidies given to healthier menu options like fruit and vegetables. 

Although mounting data suggests processed food can lead to obesity, lobbyists have also convinced lawmakers to back voluntary guidelines instead of advertising restrictions, soda taxes and even an attempt to ban French fries from school lunches.

Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told Al Jazeera "we have a very loud voice among the lobbying community. They speak loudly, because they have a lot of money to hire a lot of people to focus on shaping and influencing policy, and shaping the opinions of our lawmakers. There is no voice - or if there is, it's very weak on the other side of the table."

Bode disagrees, arguing that the industry is already heavily regulated. The last thing he believes it needs is more regulation. "If we start regulating in ways that outlaw various foods, what we are really doing is denying consumers choice," he told Al Jazeera.

But others like Krumholz counter that US consumers are making their menu choices based in part on government policies which favour the food industry's wallets, not consumer health. With so much big money backing fast food lobby efforts, she said, those advocating for healthy food choices don't stand a chance.

Being American Is Bad for Your Health

We're not getting sicker by accident.

February 7, 2013  |  

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"Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations."

That stark sentence  appears in the January 2013 issue of the  Journal of the American Medical Association, and it comes from the authors of a landmark  report -- "Shorter Lives, Poorer Health" -- on differences among high-income countries.

You probably already know that America spends more on health care than any other country. That was one of the few facts to survive the political food fight pretending to be a serious national debate about the Affordable Care Act.

But the airwaves also thrummed with so many sound bites from so many jingoistic know-nothings claiming that America has the best health care system in the world that today, most people don't realize how shockingly damaging it is to your wellness and longevity to be born in the U.S.A.

This is made achingly clear in the study of the "U.S. health disadvantage" recently issued by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, which was conducted over 18 months by experts in medicine and public health, demography, social science, political science, economics, behavioral science and epidemiology.

Compare the health of the American people with our peer nations -- with Britain, Canada and Australia; with Japan; with the Scandinavian countries; with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Side by side with the world's wealthy democracies, America comes in last, and over the past several decades, it's only gotten worse.

With few exceptions -- like death rates from breast cancer -- we suck. Our newborns are less likely to reach their first birthday, or their fifth birthday. Our adolescents die at higher rates from car crashes and homicides, and they have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections. Americans have the highest incidence of AIDS, the highest obesity rates, the highest diabetes rates among adults 20 and older, the highest rates of chronic lung disease and heart disease and drug-related deaths.

There is one bright spot. Americans who live past their 75th birthday have the longest life expectancy. But for everyone else -- from babies to baby boomers and beyond -- your chances of living a long life are the butt-ugly worst among all the 17 rich nations in our peer group.

In case you're tempted to blow off these bleak statistics about American longevity by deciding that they don't apply to someone like you -- before you attribute them to, how shall we put it, the special burdens that our racially and economically diverse and culturally heterogeneous nation has nobly chosen to bear -- chew on this: "Even non-Hispanic white adults or those with health insurance, a college education, high incomes, or healthy behaviors appear to be in worse health (e.g., higher infant mortality, higher rates of chronic diseases, lower life expectancy) in the United States than in other high-income countries." And by the way, "the nation's large population of recent immigrants is generally in better health than native-born Americans."

Why are we trailing so badly? Some of the causes catalogued by the report:

The U.S. public health and medical care systems: Our employer -- and private insurance-- based health care system has long set us apart from our peer nations, who provide universal access. The right loves to rail against "socialized medicine," but on health outcomes, the other guys win.

Individual behavior: Tobacco, diet, physical inactivity, alcohol and other drug use and sexual practices play a part, but there's not a whole lot of evidence that uniquely nails Americans' behavior. The big exception is injurious behavior. We loves us our firearms, and we don't much like wearing seat belts or motorcycle helmets.

The World Until Yesterday

The World Until Yesterday

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Posted on Feb 5, 2013

By Rachel Newcomb

“The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?”
A book by Jared Diamond

With “The World Until Yesterday,” polymath and popular science writer Jared Diamond is back with a sweeping and potentially controversial new work that aims to show readers what is missing from modern life.

A professor of geography at UCLA, Diamond has attracted criticism for his insistence that environmental factors explain the rise and fall of many of the world’s great civilizations. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” he argued that the advent of settled agricultural communities ultimately led to European dominance, while in “Collapse,” he contended that the downfall of great societies was linked to their failure to adapt to environmental changes.

His latest work moves away from environmental explanations and instead compares the lifestyles and customs of so-called traditional and modern societies. He aims to answer the book’s subtitle—“What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?”—with a range of evidence from several small-scale societies around the world that have only recently begun to experience Westernization in earnest. Examining topics such as child-rearing, old age, conflict resolution, and nutrition and diet, Diamond asserts that while humans basically benefit from modernity, there are a number of areas in which traditional societies may have an edge.

To better know ourselves, Diamond believes, we can study the features of the traditional societies that are still in existence. “The world of yesterday wasn’t erased and replaced by a new world of today,” he writes. “Much of yesterday is still with us.”

book cover

The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies

By Jared Diamond

Viking Adult, 512 pages

Buy the book

Until relatively recently, most humans lived in small, face-to-face communities where we knew everyone, and we rarely ventured beyond the confines of our villages or towns. Diamond reminds readers that “ ‘modern’ conditions have prevailed, even just locally, for only a tiny fraction of human history; all human societies have been traditional for far longer than any society has been modern.”

From 6 million years ago until roughly 11,000 years ago, humans were hunter-gatherers, foraging for food and living in small groups. Then farming appeared. Agriculture further enabled population growth, which ultimately necessitated governments, first arising around 5,400 years ago.

State societies, Diamond argues, brought law and order to conditions of great insecurity, in which vigilante justice often kept warring groups locked in cycles of violence. Most of us are glad to surrender some measure of our liberty for the protection of the state. Yet when crimes occur, the anonymity of court proceedings and their resolution can feel unsatisfying. One fundamental “defect of state civil justice,” Diamond writes, is “that it is concerned with damages, and that emotional closure and reconciliation are secondary or irrelevant.”

Instead, he suggests emulating traditional practices of mediation in Papua New Guinea, which bring together aggrieved parties not only for the purpose of compensation but also to promote forgiveness and emotional closure. He describes an incident in which a boy was accidentally struck and killed by a minibus driven by a member of a different ethnic group. A mediator brought together the deceased boy’s family and the driver, averting a possible revenge killing while also brokering “emotional reconciliation between the two sides, and restoration of their previous relationship.”

To see long excerpts from “The World Until Yesterday” at Google Books, click here.

Diamond continues this approach throughout, describing where traditional practices have existed until very recently, noting which were worth eliminating — such as infanticide, which was prevalent because small, nomadic societies often could not support too many children in infancy — and which we could learn something from, such as diet and nutrition.

The catch is that many of the ways of life that Diamond suggests we imitate seem to disappear once traditional societies become integrated into the global economy. Diabetes, for example, is almost nonexistent in societies that depend on hunting and gathering or small-scale agriculture, but with the adoption of the modern Western diet, high in processed foods and fats, rates of the disease soar. Take the Nauru islanders of the Pacific, who in the 1920s abandoned their fishing and agricultural lifestyle for phosphate wealth. Today, in addition to obesity, two-thirds of the population over age 55 suffers from diabetes, less than a century after the disease first made its appearance.

Although Diamond is not an anthropologist by training, “The World Until Yesterday” covers much of the territory of an introductory anthropology class, where the principal concern is often to compare the everyday lives of people in traditional societies with our own, albeit without the implicit claims to progress in Diamond’s writings. Some parts of the book tread over familiar ground. A chapter on the evolution of religion, for example, offers standard explanations for the presence of religion in society: assuaging anxieties about the unknown or fostering obedience among citizens who fear divine punishments.

There are also important areas this study ignores, such as the diversity of gender roles and marriage practices around the world. These are notable for their absence only because of Diamond’s exploration of other topics that strike at the heart of what it means to be human. The culture wars over the definition of marriage could be informed by descriptions of traditional practices, which are so diverse that the idea that marriage has always been about one man and one woman is a mistaken assumption. Consider woman-marriage, for example, found in at least 40 pre-colonial African societies, in which one woman married another, often to maintain control of her own economic interests and to pass inheritances directly to her children.

Aside from some discussion of breast-feeding and child-rearing, women are nearly absent from Diamond’s account. Many anthropologists believe that women enjoyed greater equality with men in hunter-gatherer societies. Through foraging for food, they contributed more to the family’s economic well-being than women did after the rise of agriculture. But most of the cultural practices Diamond describes speak to a non-gender-specific humanity, giving little sense of women’s roles or gender dynamics. One reason for this may be that some of his examples are brief, when there could be more extensive stories from the rich ethnographic record he is clearly drawing from.

Still, Diamond’s examples from traditional societies show that many aspects of modern life may be maladaptive. For an audience that may consider the present moment uncritically, “The World Until Yesterday” reminds us that in the headlong rush to modernity, much has been lost. While noting that the advantages of modern society far outweigh the insecurities of traditional life, Diamond nonetheless makes a compelling case for the lessons that traditional societies have to teach us.

Rachel Newcomb is an associate professor of anthropology at Rollins College and the author of “Women of Fes: Ambiguities of Urban Life in Morocco.”

©2013, Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group

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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Movement Against Standardized Testing Grows, and More

In today's On the News segment: The NRA's enemies list includes major health, education and law enforcement professional organizations, and more.

Jim Javinsky here - in for Thom Hartmann – on the news...

You need to know this. If the NRA, and its foaming-at-the-mouth leader, Wayne LaPierre weren't scary enough, it turns out the gun-happy organization has now created an enemies list. As the ThinkProgress blog points out – the NRA's "Nixonian enemies list" is comprised of individuals, and organizations, that have "lent monetary, grassroots or some other type of direct support to an anti-gun organization." The list includes medical organizations, that often have to deal with gun violence first hand in hospitals, like the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association. The list also includes educators, who are now too often the victims of gun violence, including the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Law enforcement groups tasked with patrolling gun violence also made the list, like the National Association of Police Organizations. So, too, have religious organizations, and even several musicians, like Art Garfunkel, Frank Zappa, and Boyz 2 Men. Apparently, MacGyver even made the list. And the NRA's descent into madness continues.

In screwed news...if at first you don't succeed at rigging an election, then try, try, try again. After a few legislative defeats, and several prominent Republicans coming out against plans to rig the Electoral College in several blue states, it looked as though Republicans had come to their senses about pursuing these blatantly undemocratic tactics, to try and steal the election. But Republicans in Pennsylvania have now said, "not so fast." According to the New Castle News, Pennsylvania's Republican state Senate leader, Dominic Pileggi, will introduce legislation that divides the states Electoral College votes proportionately, based on the popular vote – rather than the winner-take-all system, that's currently in place. Had this plan been in effect last November, Mitt Romney would have received 8 of Pennsylvania's Electoral College votes, rather than the zero he actually received. While this won't benefit Republicans quite as much as the last scheme, which doled out Electoral College votes based on Congressional districts, it will still make it much more difficult for Democrats to win the White House in future elections. That's why this effort in Pennsylvania, cannot be ignored.

In the best of the rest of the news...

Super Bowl 47 is in the books – and the Baltimore Ravens captured their second world championship on Sunday night. In what was dubbed "The Har-bowl" with two competing Harbaugh brothers coaching both teams, the Ravens were able to hold off a huge comeback in the second half by the 49ers. The game didn't exactly go off without a hitch though. A massive power outage in the stadium, at the start of the second half, delayed the game by more than a half-hour. It's also worth mentioning that the Superdome in New Orleans, which hosted last night's game, was renovated to accommodate the Super Bowl, thanks in large part to $470 million of taxpayer funds, following Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately most of the financial gains from hosting the Super Bowl won't go to the taxpayers, but instead billionaire sports-team owners.

We don't need no standardized tests! Across the nation, more and more teachers are fighting back against mandatory standardized testing. Over the last few decades, the use of standardized testing in our schools has exploded, as part of the corporate school reform agenda. These tests do little to improve the actual education of students, but do funnel huge profits to standardized testing companies. In Seattle, teachers at three schools have come forward saying the will sit out this year's mandatory testing. Teachers in Providence, Rhode Island and Portland, Oregon have also stood up against their states' standardized testing regime. And in Illinois, the Chicago Teachers Union launched a new campaign last week, to eliminate certain types of standardized testing. This movement is growing – stay tuned.

In the post-Bush Great Recession economy, it's harder and harder for Americans to have a good retirement. According to a new survey by the organization – Conference Board – two-thirds of workers between the ages of 45 and 60, are now planning to delay their retirement. That's a big jump from 2010 – when only 42% of workers had plans to put off their retirement. Job losses, low salaries, and declining home values are some of the main reason why Americans can no longer stick to their retirement plans.

Vending machines at school may soon disappear. The USDA has proposed a new rule, which could go into effect as early as next year, that would ban most candy, sugar-filled drinks, and greasy foods from being sold in our schools. The new rule would require schools to provide snacks that have less than 200 calories. Over the next 60 days, the USDA will take comments and feedback about the proposed rule. According to data, local and state regulations on unhealthy vending machines may have played a role in slowing childhood obesity rates.

And finally... Abbottabad, Pakistan will forever be remembered as the city where Osama Bin Laden was found, and eventually killed in his compound, by U.S. Special Forces. But the local government wants the city remembered for something else – namely – an amusement park. Pakistan is planning to build a $30 million amusement park and zoo in Abbottabad. The entire complex will span 500 acres, and include restaurants, attractions, and other touristy clubs. The local government says its decision to build the park has nothing to do with the 2011 Bin Laden raid at all – and is strictly about promoting tourism.

And that's the way it is today – Monday, February 4th, 2012. I'm Jim Javinsky - in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.

Food Manufacturers are Fraudulently Diluting High-Quality Food with Inferior – Sometimes DANGEROUS – Quality...

 

Some of the Fake Ingredients Added to Food May be DANGEROUS

In a predictable trend, food manufacturers are fraudulently diluting high-quality food with inferior quality items.

As ABC News reports:

A new scientific examination by the non-profit food fraud detectives the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), discovered rising numbers of fake ingredients in products from olive oil to spices to fruit juice.

"Food products are not always what they purport to be," Markus Lipp, senior director for Food Standards for the independent lab in Maryland, told ABC News.

In a new database to be released Wednesday, and obtained exclusively by ABC News today, USP warns consumers, the FDA and manufacturers that the amount of food fraud they found is up by 60 percent this year.

In addition, 70% of all ground beef  was found to contain "pink slime".

Butchers use "meat glue" to create "bigger" cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and fish, even though it leads to much higher levels of food poisoning:

British hamburgers were found to contain horse meat and pork ... and it could happen in the U.S. as well.

Indeed, modern red meat is arguably not really meat at all.

And selling genetically modified food without labeling them as such is arguably food fraud as well, since a large majority of Americans  want genetically modified foods to be labeled, genetically engineered foods have been linked to obesity, cancer, liver failure, infertility and all sorts of other diseases (brief videos here and here), and the Food and Drug Administration doesn't even test the safety of such foods.

Bad Policy Made Food Fraud Predictable

This trend was predictable because food manufacturers have been trying to hide food inflation in various ways.

The inflation in food prices, in turn, has been caused by quantitative easing - printed in an attempt to hide bank fraud - and the use of the printed money for wild speculation by the big banks has driven up food and related commodity prices.

And - instead of fighting for safer food - the Department of Justice and FDA often target whistleblowers and do everything they can to cover up wrongdoing. The Department of Agriculture is no better.  And the Feds are treating people who expose abuse in factory farms as potential errorists ... and the states want the same power.

Widespread food fraud is the predictable result.

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Buffalo Wing Shortage

Buffalo Wing Shortage

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Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Adam Zyglis, Cagle Cartoons, The Buffalo News

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Buffalo Wing Shortage

Buffalo Wing Shortage

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Posted on Feb 3, 2013

Adam Zyglis, Cagle Cartoons, The Buffalo News

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Pemex Building Bombed in Mexico

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Hip-Hop and the Politics of Social Engineering: Lupe Fiasco, Jay-Z and Barack Obama’s Inauguration

lupofiasco2

One particular story during President Obama’s inauguration did not make headlines in the main stream media.  Rapper Lupe Fiasco was performing live at the StartUp RockOn concert to celebrate the re-election of President Barack H. Obama on January 21st at the Hamilton in Washington D.C. 

Lupe Fiasco (Wasalu Muhammad Jaco) was kicked off the stage by Obama’s secret service detail because he was singing Anti-Obama lyrics that annoyed many of the President’s Supporters.

He was singing one of his most political songs called “Words I never said” which was released back on 2011.

The lyrics to the song that got Fiasco escorted off the stage was “Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist. Gaza strip was getting bombed.  Obama didn’t say sh*t. That’s why I ain’t vote for him, next one either.” 

In an article published by the London based newspaper The Guardian who interviewed Lupe Fiasco in April of 2008 called “Lupe’s Dreams”.

Lupe said “With my mother in the ‘hood, it was a house full of National Geographics, political and social discourse and no television,” he remembers. “Then all this stuff I would read about in those books, my father would be doing. I saw him shut down crackhouses, open karate schools for free, run non-profit organisations, pass out Black Panther party literature…”

Lupe Fiasco in Washington DC (right)

Lupe Fiasco is not a rapper like Jay-Z or Kanye West.

Lupe Fiasco in Washington DC

His parents had positive influences in his life early on, despite living in Chicago, one of the most crime-ridden cities in the United States.  In a CBS interview, an online segment called ‘What’s Trending’ with Shira Lazar on June, 8th, 2011, Lupe Fiasco made it known, who he thought was a terrorist:

“My fight against terrorism, to me, the biggest terrorist is Obama in the United States of America. I’m trying to fight the terrorism that’s actually causing the other forms of terrorism. You know, the root cause of terrorism is the stuff the U.S. government allows to happen. The foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists.”

Lupe Fiasco reiterated his stance on the Obama administration in a Fox News interview with Bill O’ Reilly of the ‘O Reilly Factor’:

O’REILLY: You know, President Obama is not a terrorist. He’s trying to do what he believes is the right thing to do. The United States is not a bad nation. It’s a noble nation. We’re trying to defend ourselves against people who killed us on 9/11. And then you go out there and you talk to a lot of younger people. And this is what gets me, that your constituency are not exactly political science Ph.Ds, OK? They’re impressionable kids.

FIASCO: I don’t think that that matters. I don’t think you need to have a political Ph.D…

Lupe Fiasco with Bill O'Reilly

Lupe Fiasco with Bill O’Reilly

O’REILLY: But they listen to you…

FIASCO: …to understand — to understand politics. To understand politics I don’t think you necessarily need that. And I don’t think that politics are as complex as people like to make them seem or out to be.

Richard Nixon said that, you know, if you — they reduced fear by reducing the causes of fear. And then in that same interview, which I spoke about, you know, calling Obama a terrorist and every president before and after him a terrorist, right? Is that if you’re going to fight terrorism, right? True terrorism, you know, weaponized fear. In defense of ourselves, we’re fighting — actively fighting something else. But if you’re going to fight terrorism, to me, you fight the root causes of terrorism.

Fox news pundit Bill O’Reilly was stating that Fiasco’s fan base were “Impressionable kids” that did not have any sense of politics because they did not have PhDs.

Therefore, Fiasco should not call President Obama a terrorist because it will have a negative impact on how Obama is seen by Hip-Hop fans across the world.

Bill O’ Reilly comes from a news station that had a poll conducted on November 21st, 2011 by Farleigh Dickinson University called the Public Mind Poll with the result that Fox News viewers knew less than people who did not watch any news at all.  Lupe Fiasco was correct to point out what President Obama’s foreign policy was responsible for, which includes drone strikes that has claimed many lives in Pakistan and Yemen.  In an interview with Philadelphia’s Power 99 with Mina SayWhat in July 2012, Lupe Fiasco explained what President Obama’s Foreign Policy is:

“One hand, you have someone who is a great speaker, but kills little children—our president,” Lupe told Philadelphia’s Power 99. “I’m talking about ordering a drone attack. Ordering drone attacks that go and kill mothers, innocent bystanders, children. Militants, too, but the collateral damage. You’re responsible for that, too.

“Drug dealers can say the same thing, Lupe continued. “‘I didn’t mean to kill all the people in the restaurant. I was just trying to get that one dude who killed my cousin. Just so happened that that little girl was there.’ Same thing.”

President Obama’s foreign policy is the same as that of former President George W. Bush with the expansion of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) where US troops would be stationed in more than 35 African nations. Obama declared war on Libya which led to Muammar Gaddafi’s death.

Barack and Michelle Obama dance at the inauguration ball

Barack and Michelle Obama dance at the inauguration ball

He continued wars in Afghanistan and maintained a military presence in Iraq and continued war threats against Iran and Syria.   Obama is also responsible for the erosion of civil liberties within the United States.  Obama has secretly sent US Special forces to more than 75 countries.  Obama has signed an agreement with Colombia to open several bases.  Obama was instrumental in opening a base in Chile. There are many other actions Obama undertook during his presidency.  But there is one important factor to take in consideration, Black America.Under President Obama, the Black population in the United States has witnessed a steady decline in their living standards.

According to the Washington Times, an interview with NAACP President Ben Jealous with Dick Gregory on Meet the Press, Jealous said:“The country’s back to pretty much where it was when this president started,” said Jealous. “White people in this country are doing a bit better. Black people are doing far worse.”The black unemployment rate was 12.7 percent when Mr. Obama took office. While the unemployment rate in the U.S. as a whole is below 8 percent, the Labor Department reported the black jobless rate was up from 12.9 percent to 14 percent for December.The worst during Mr Obama’s first term was in September 2011, with 16.7 percent unemployment for blacks — the highest since 1983, the Department of Labor reports. The black teen jobless rate hit a staggering 39.3 percent in July 2012.”According to Jealous, African-Americans “are doing far worse” under President Obama than under President George W. Bush.  With Obama bailing out Banks and the Obamacare (which imposes healthcare taxes on small businesses will lead to more layoffs) to take effect in 2014, the future for employment within the Black community in America will be bleak.

 Corporate Exploitation of the African-American Community 

Rappers such as Jay-Z and Kanye West who are supporters of President Obama associate themselves with the political and corporate elites are immune to reality of the problems Black America faces although they both come from inner-city ghettos.  Money and influence has corrupted their minds with music that has “dumbed–down” their fan base.  Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) actually helped Lupe Fiasco with the production of his debut album in 2008 called ‘Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor’ . However, Jay-Z has reached a plateau where he became partners with major corporations.  The major corporations include Budweiser, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Reebok and Microsoft.  Jay-Z collaborated with Coca-Cola, a product that affects the Black community with obesity, diabetes epidemics and high-rates of heart disease.Jay-Z and Kanye West with the illuminati sign. They are not part of any Secret Society. They are exploited by the elites.

Jay-Z and Kanye West with the illuminati sign. They are not part of any Secret Society. They are exploited by the elites.

According to the Office of Minority Health (OMH) which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) stated that African American adults are twice as likely than non-Hispanic white adults to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician” and “in 2009, African Americans were 2.2 times as likely as non-Hispanic Whites to die from diabetes.”  The Obesity problem in the United States affects African-Americans more than any other group.  The Office of Minority Health also stated that African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S.  About four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.” Coca-Cola has a number of dangerous ingredients in their sodas including Aspartame.

Keep in mind that Aspartame has been linked to hallucinations, diarrhea, seizures, depression, migraine, fatigue and insomnia, tumors, cancer and infertility according to numerous complaints made to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which was submitted by the Department of Health and Human Services back on April 20th, 1995.It was also responsible for having union leaders in Latin America murdered by paramilitary death squads which Coca-Cola denies.  For more information watch the 2010 Documentary ‘The Coca-Cola Case’ by directors German Gutierrez and Carmen Garcia and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.  Microsoft is another major corporation that Jay-Z represents owned by Bill Gates who has a philanthropy called the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Bill Gates wants to help third world nations with vaccines with the continent of Africa as one of his main targets.

Bill Gates has stated publicly that “The world today has 6.8 billion people… that’s headed up to about 9 billion. Now if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent.”

Major corporations are exploiting many rap stars that target their communities to sell their products which are harmful to Black and Latino communities.  Jay-Z also represents Budweiser.  Alcoholism is a major problem for the black community.  Jay-Z is not the only rap star exploited by corporations.  You have hundreds of artists that contribute to the degradation of the African-American, Latino, White and Asian communities such as Nikki Manage, Kanye West, 50 Cent, DMX and many others whose lyrics degrade women and glorify gangsters.  They rap about how much money they got and all of the gold chains they possess.  These are songs that have a hidden message to consume or to become a “Gangster”.  Rap music is a weapon used by the elites to keep certain segments of society in control.

Propaganda Then and Now

Corporations that exploit certain groups of people such as women or the black community is nothing new.  Corporations have been interested in finding ways to attract consumers to their products for decades regardless of race or sex.  The Psychological use of Rap music to socially engineer Black and Latino Youth to the life of crime which contributes to the Prison-Industrial Complex, consumerism and the mistreatment of women has been in the making since the late 1920’s.

In 1928, Edward Bernays’ ‘Propaganda’ was used as a manual to entice consumers to buy certain products.  One of the most known tactics used in the business world was Bernays use of women for cigarette companies.  Bernays used women to show how cigarettes can be made fashionable to the public. Bernays actually helped the smoking industry overcome one of the most problematic obstacles for the cigarette industry which was women smoking in public which was illegal in the 1920’s.  Bernays used Women models to smoke ‘Lucky Strikes’ to show the ‘Torches of Freedom’ to the public.  It boosted the profits of cigarette companies since Bernays created a new consumer for their product.  Bernays was also involved in politics when he worked under President Woodrow Wilson on the Committee of Public Information in order for America to be involved in the aspect of bringing democracy to all of Europe”.  In ‘Propaganda’ Bernays laid out ways how corporations can use ‘aesthetic’ values in various forms of art:

“In applied and commercial art, propaganda makes greater opportunities for the artist than ever before.  This arises from the fact that mass production reaches an impasse when it competes on a price basis only.  It must, therefore, in a large number of fields create a field of competition bases on aesthetic values.  Business of many types capitalizes the aesthetic values.  Business of many types capitalizes the aesthetic sense to increase markets and profits.  Which is only another way of saying that the artist has the opportunity of collaborating with industry in such a way as to improve the public taste, injecting beautiful instead of ugly motifs in the articles of common use, and, furthermore, securing recognition and money for himself.                                        

Propaganda can play a part in pointing out what is and what is not beautiful, and business can definitely help in this way to raise the level of American culture.  In this process propaganda will naturally make use of the authority of group leaders whose taste and opinion are recognized”    

In an Association for Consumer Research article published in 1992 by M. Elizabeth Blair and Mark N. Hatala of Ohio University called ‘The Use of Rap Music in Children’s Advertising” stated that:

“Music in advertising is being studied by marketing scholars in an increasingly diverse number of ways. Initially, there was an emphasis on the measurement of aesthetic qualities of the music (Holbrook and Huber 1979; Holbrook and Bertges 1981). In these studies a number of semantic differential items were factor analyzed and the factors were given names that corresponded with certain qualities of the piece of music (e.g. activity, coolness, heaviness, and sadness). Several years later, Gorn (1982) stimulated interest in the use of music in the background of advertisements. This study provided evidence that preferences for products could be classically conditioned through the use of music.  Bruner (1990) recently reviewed the diversity of ways in which music has been studied by marketing scholars and, like the Holbrook studies cited above, emphasizes the decomposition of the music into components such as time (includes rhythm and tempo), pitch and texture. A new rhetorical approach to the study of music in advertising was introduced by Scott (1990). This article criticizes previous music-in-advertising research for ignoring the cognitive involvement of the listener. It is emphasized that music can be informative or affective, and should not be separated from its social context and meanings that are culturally shared. Culturally-shared meanings in music have been largely ignored in previous studies and the current research is one of the first to examine advertising music from an anthropological/ sociological perspective.

Rap music, with its boastful rhymes and synthesizer-created claps and pops, has moved out of the ghetto and into the mainstream of popular culture. In rap music, African-Americans have found a powerful expression of their culture. Some rap artists have attempted to use this force to bring about social change, for example, by speaking out about black-on-black violence. Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and the British Knights athletic footwear company have all signed popular rap artists to promote their products. Rap’s rhythmic chants and hip style fit the image of products like sneakers and soft drinks, especially with young consumers. Because children and teens are the major consumers of rap music, it is only logical that rap should be used to promote products to these age groups. Advertisers believe that rap music facilitates memorization of the product information and creates excitement (Barber 1987). Rap music also allows more lyrics per 30 seconds than any other form of music (Winters 1990)”

Corporations have been using Edward Bernays model to gain advantage on what consumers would desire instead of what they need.  Rap music is a tool used by corporations to sell their products or services.  Many artists were signed with major record companies in the 90’s including Jay-Z in 1996 with ‘Reasonable Doubt” with a single ‘Can’t Knock the Hustle’ about drug dealing and life on the street.  Rap Music does not cause crime per se as much as the Columbine massacre in Colorado was not caused by the music of Marilyn Manson who was blamed for the incident.  It is fair to say that there are other factors that contribute to crime such as poverty and the War on Drugs.  However, Rap music is persuasive towards consumerism.  It glorifies women as sexual objects or as “Strippers”.  Gangster Rap songs involve drug dealing and foments rivalries between gangs and regions (East Coast vs.

The West Coast rivalry of the 1990’s).  The history of Rap music dates back to the 1970’s in New York City when block parties in African-American communities were popular with DJ’s and rappers who created Hip-Hop music.  Corporate interests and the globalist elites turned Hip-Hop into a negative genre not just for the black community but every other community that listens to Hip-Hop. Lupe Fiasco is positive especially towards Women where many rappers call women “Bitches”.  In one of his singles “Bitch Bad” about how the word “bitch” is normalized among youths when they are talking about women.  In comparison to many rap artists who call women “bitches” is accepted as normal.  This type of influence on youths will have a negative perception of women.  They will be seen as sex objects, not worthy of respect.

Will the FBI consider Lupe Fiasco a “Security Threat” to the United States?

In 1956, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had files on Elvis Presley due to an extortion case involving Elvis’s safety and his performances.  J. Edgar Hoover received a letter from Army Intelligence that stated Elvis Presley’s performance was a danger to the United States because his “actions and motions were such as to rouse the sexual passions of teenaged youth.”  Imagine Lupe Fiasco’s criticism of Barack Obama and several other rappers that are in the same category such as Mos Def, Taleb Kweli, Immortal Technique, Calle 13 (Puerto Rico) and London-based rapper Lo-Key.  Lupe Fiasco would be targeted for criticizing the President and can be labeled a terrorist himself.

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

Anything is possible in the United States, especially after Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2011.

Can Rap Music bring change to Urban Youths?

Hip-Hop music can be used in a positive direction to spread awareness on many issues, including drugs and crime.  Lupe Fiasco has demonstrated that his music can be a positive force for the youth in the United States as well as the World.  Rap music including “Gangster Rap” is a mind control mechanism that allows youths to be controlled by corporate interests to become consumers or to be used by political interests through the influence of Rap stars such as Jay-Z and Kanye West.  Rap music can be used in a positive direction in terms of educating the public or by informing them on what the real issues are.  One thing is for sure, as long as the Music industry continues to reap billions of dollars in profits with Hip-Hop music that involves gangsters, drugs and sex, youths in America and throughout the world will continue down a path that would not benefit their families or communities.

Jay-Z and all other rappers who are exploited by the elites will continue their talents that will only benefit corporations and the elite that own them.  Who knows why Obama invited Lupe Fiasco to the inauguration event.  Maybe Obama never heard Lupe Fiasco’s music.  If he did, Obama would have never invited Lupe Fiasco in the first place.    At least one thing is certain, as they say in the world of Hip-Hop, Lupe Fiasco is keeping it “Real.” Maybe other rappers would wake-up one day and create music that inspires, not music that destroys the mind.  Then maybe urban youths would be interested in knowledge, not gold chains and fancy cars to pick up the “Bitches”.

Then hope for a better life out of the ghettos can become a reality.

The Super Bowl Ad That Coke And Pepsi Desperately Don’t Want You To See

Pressure from the mammoth corporations led CBS to take an ad down from its programming.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Tiago M Nunes

February 2, 2013  |  

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This Sunday’s Super Bowl will be punctuated by dozens of ads featuring everything from adorable puppies to kids in Star Wars outfits. But one commercial you won’t see is a provocative ad by the carbonated beverage company SodaStream — an Israeli company that is no stranger to controversy — that takes on soda giants Coca Cola and Pepsi.

That’s because the ad has been pulled after pressure from the mammoth corporations led Super Bowl host CBS to take it down from its programming. Reportedly, Coke and Pepsi were upset with the commercials’ implied criticism of the soda industry’s use of plastic bottles and the subsequent harmful effects on the environment:

CBS rejected the ad, reportedly because of its direct assault on the big two carbonated-beverage makers (CBS didn’t return calls for comment). As the music from the movie Deliverance trills, deliverymen from Coke and Pepsi show up at a supermarket and rush to deliver their products. But the bottles pop and disappear, creating a mess. The ad then pans to a shot of a guy using SodaStream. The implication is that SodaStream will make bottled sodas irrelevant. [...]

Like many upstarts, SodaStream has taken an in-your-face, hyperbolic approach to marketing. The company doesn’t just suggest that SodaStream is a money-saving artisanal device. Rather, it suggests that some of the world’s popular brands (and biggest advertisers) are effectively evil forces. Why? They promote the production of polluting bottles and cans.

“SodaStream empowers consumers to make their own fresh soda at home in seconds, without the devastating environmental impact of plastic soda bottles and cans, which litter our parks and oceans,” said Daniel Birnbaum, the chief executive officer of SodaStream International, in a statement. “ Our ad confronts the beverage industry and its arguably out-dated business model by showing people that there exists a smarter way to enjoy soft drinks. One day we will look back on plastic soda bottles the way we now view cigarettes; as a dangerous vice, not as an easily-accepted feature of everyday life.”

Watch the ad here:

Americans throw away enough trash every year to cover the state of Texas — twice. And this isn’t the first time that beverage giants have found themselves in hot water over public health issues. Just last month, Coca Cola launched a deceptive new ad campaign attempting to mask the harmful effects of calorie-laden sodas on America’s obesity and diabetes epidemics.

The End of the Farm Bill? And the Beginning of Better Food System

“There is absolutely no way to explain this other than agriculture is just not a priority,” said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on the Senate Floor on New Year’s Day.(Photo: Justin Russell/Flickr)

She was describing the bare-bones Farm Bill extension agreed to as part of the stop-gap budget deal.

Most astonishing was how Congress and the White House seemed to ignore the longstanding importance of this legislation when they failed to provide mandatory funding for a whole host of programs in the absence of its full renewal.

The Farm Bill is the nation’s largest piece of agricultural legislation. It’s the usual vehicle for far-reaching programs to boost crop production, protect farmers, advance rural development, conserve energy, provide for international food aid, and, notably, run nutrition assistance programs. And it’s in limbo.

This stripped-down extension came just after the House allowed the Farm Bill to expire, never even calling for a vote. House Speaker John Boehner simply didn’t bother. He clearly didn’t pay any political cost for that — he was overwhelmingly reelected as House Speaker shortly thereafter.

Is this the end of the Farm Bill? Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, seems to think so.

The Minnesota lawmaker has written House leadership asking for an agreement to bring a Farm Bill to a vote if it comes out of committee — otherwise, he just won’t bother writing one. As importantly, he asks whether their plan is simply to renew the Farm Bill (rather than actually writing the traditional five-year bill) and look for ways to scale back the bill each year.

The reality is that this key legislation has drifted a long way from its original form passed during the Great Depression. Back then, it was called the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Originally, it was designed to address the oversupply of agricultural commodities while ensuring that the marketplace paid farmers a fair price.

Now, managing supply and stabilizing prices for farmers and consumers — despite evidence of enormous taxpayer savings — isn’t a priority in Washington. The modern-day Farm Bill, while having many good programs, virtually ignores the biggest and most pressing challenges in agriculture: wild market volatility that threatens financial stability for farmers and access for consumers, climate-induced droughts and floods, and the increasing monopoly power of corporations. Nor does it address major problems of the food system as a whole, such as the health crisis associated with childhood obesity or the exploitation of workers all along the food chain.

Instead of acting as a vehicle for real reform, Congress has made it clear that the Farm Bill will be, in essence, a step down from the status quo. The skeletal structure stays in place as it’s bled by a thousand budget cuts.

It’s time we pay attention to the messages Congress is sending and begin to look beyond the Farm Bill to build a new policy framework for a fair, sustainable, and healthy food system.

We need policies — many of which are starting to appear at the community and state level, rather than out of the bumbling federal framework — that get to the heart of the challenges farmers face. We need fair and transparent pricing, adequate insurance programs, financing options for farmers or food business operators, and fair competition in the marketplace. We need our labor laws to catch up with the challenges of farm workers, food processing workers, and those working in restaurants and supermarkets.

In the short term, we can’t forget the important programs the Farm Bill funds. But real change will require a new approach that values the needs of farmers and society as a whole over the demands of corporations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Jim Harkness

Sugary drink tax ‘could pay for school meals’

Sugary drinks should be taxed at up to 20p a litre, say health campaigners – with the proceeds helping to pay for free school meals.

Food and farming charity Sustain said the Government could raise £1bn a year from the duty, while also saving lives by cutting excessive consumption of unhealthy drinks.

The report has been backed by more than 60 organisations, including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, Friends of the Earth, the National Heart Forum and the Royal Society for Public Health.

Diet-related illness is now costing the NHS £6bn every year, said the report.

Sustain urged Chancellor George Osborne to introduce the duty in his March 20 Budget and to channel most of the cash raised into a Children's Future Fund for programmes to improve children's health.

Money could be spent on campaigns to encourage youngsters to eat more fruit and vegetables, the report said.

The group's campaigns manager, Charlie Powell, said: "Sugar-laden drinks are mini-health time bombs, contributing to dental diseases, obesity and a host of life-threatening illnesses which cost the NHS billions each year.

"We are delighted that so many organisations want to challenge the Government to show it has a public health backbone by including a sugary drinks duty in Budget 2013.

"It's a simple and easy-to-understand measure which will help save lives by reducing sugar in our diets and raising much-needed money to protect children's health."

Sustain chairman Mike Rayner, of Oxford University's Department of Public Health, added: "Just as we use fiscal measures to discourage drinking and smoking and help prevent people from dying early, there is now lots of evidence that the same approach would work for food.

"Our obesity epidemic causes debilitating illness, life-threatening diseases and misery for millions of people. It is high time Government did something effective about this problem."

‘You Can Pick Out Poor Children Because They Are Fat’ Claims Health Minister

Children from poor families are easily identified because they tend to be fat, the public health minister has said. Anna Soubry said when she was at school pupils from deprived backgrounds tended to be "skinny runts". But cheap and easily available ju...

Extreme Wealth vs Global Sharing

Last year alone, the world's 100 richest people earned a combined additional income of $241 billion. According to new calculations, redistributing just a quarter of this vast quantity of money would enable governments to wipe out extreme poverty for an entire year. Unfortunately for the 40,000 people who die needlessly every day from poverty-related causes, these billionaires are as unlikely to share their earnings voluntarily as governments are to enact policies that redistribute their excessive incomes more fairly across society.Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

In the latest in a string of reports, books and public protests by those calling for sharing and justice to guide social and economic policy, Oxfam has put forward a robust argument for putting an end to extreme wealth by 2025. In their media briefing, ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all', the charity gives a litany of reasons why extreme inequality is bad for the economy, the environment and society in general.

According to the briefing, the incomes of the top 1% of the world's population have increased 60% in the past twenty years. While joblessness rocketed across the US and Europe after the financial crisis of 2008, the income of this elite group of multimillionaires continued to expand. And the growth in income for the top 0.01% has been even greater - there are now around 1200 billionaires in the world. Unsurprisingly, the market for luxury goods has ‘registered double-digit growth every year since the [financial] crisis hit'.

Despite notable reductions in the number of people living in extreme poverty, the paper also highlights the rapid escalation of inequality in developing countries. For example, in China the top 10% of the population now earn nearly 60% of the country's income, which places it almost on par with South Africa as one of the most unequal countries on earth. This trend has been just as pronounced in rich countries such as the UK, where inequality levels are fast reaching Dickensian proportions. Similarly, in the US the share of national income since 1980 has doubled for the top 1% and quadrupled for the top 0.01%.

The slow death of neoliberalism

It is important to understand the root cause of this all-pervasive growth in inequality and determine whether it constitutes a serious problem for society. As George Monbiot reminded us in a recent article, for many decades policymakers have regarded inequality as a necessary by-product of the neoliberal ideology to which they subscribe. For adherents of this extreme pro-market belief system, any attempts to enact policies to reduce inequality interfere with the efficiency of the free market and should be avoided at all costs. Instead more should be done to further deregulate economies, privatise resources, services and industry, downsize the public sector and open up markets to even more competition both within and between nations. As a theory based on the principles of individualism and self-interest, neoliberalism seeks to remove collective public oversight from economic activity, even when this could have dire implications for society and the environment.  

But the neoliberal experiment, which was most vociferously pursued by Thatcher, Regan, Kohl and others from the 1980s onwards, is now widely regarded as having been an utter failure - most notably in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. As Monbiot explains, the growth in rich nations that occurred prior to the 1980s "was made possible by the destruction of the wealth and power of the elite, as a result of the Depression and the second world war." The neoliberal experiment reversed these trends and, despite the weight of evidence against these policies, five years after the financial crisis the thrust of economic policy remains almost wholly neoliberal in nature.

There is of course the age-old moral argument against allowing excessive levels of wealth and riches to exist alongside extreme poverty and deprivation. This is a basic ethical notion that rings true to the majority of people in rich and poor countries alike, and it has been a cornerstone of spiritual and religious philosophy for millennia. But even within the sadly amoral framework of economic decision-making today, it is widely accepted that neoliberal polices have failed to share the proceeds of growth fairly and led to levels of inequality that now threaten to undermine the very fabric of society.

The consequences of inequality

Oxfam is only one of a number of organisations that have reported on the human, economic and environmental impact of inequality in recent years, and the issue has been central to the discourse on a post-2015 development goal that can address inequality head on. In a misguided world where the pursuit of short-term economic growth remains the holy grail of public policy, even the International Monetary Fund is beginning to accede that inequality can stymie efficiency. In a recent report entitled ‘Fair Share', the Fund suggests that governments in both rich and developing countries should place more emphasis on progressive taxation and redistribution - policies that essentially embody the principle of sharing. 

Also highlighted in the Oxfam briefing is the way extreme wealth can damage democracy, especially through the enormous influence over the political process that money and power can buy. Many billions of dollars are spent each year by the financial industry and large corporations in lobbying politicians to pursue a market friendly agenda - the same neoliberal policies that have widened inequalities and eventually led to a global financial collapse in 2008. Resuscitating representative democracy will inevitably entail curbing the ability of any minority group to exert a disproportionate influence over political outcomes, which in turn might require limiting the excessive wealth that can facilitate this distortion.   

Policies that exaggerate inequality have also been a key driver of environmental degradation, as people in rich nations consume far more than their fair share of the earth's finite resources. As Oxfam also previously highlighted in a discussion paper on planetary boundaries, it will be impossible to address ecological and social crises unless we share available resources more equitably and sustainably. The aim of development and environmental policy must be to ensure that people in all nations can secure their basic needs without transgressing environmental limits. Such statements have huge implications for policies that widen inequalities as they point to an urgent need for convergence and equity.   

As the historic events of 2011 demonstrated, inequality can also spur violent civil unrest. The experience of inequality and injustice over many years ultimately sparked the Arab Spring protests as well as many other spontaneous public demonstrations - from the global Occupy Movement to the protests in Spain, Greece, Israel and other countries in the same year. Many of those involved in these public mobilisations had first-hand experience of the social consequences of inequality that campaigners and analysts have long warned of. As explicitly detailed in the classic book The Spirit Level, it is now widely accepted  that inequality impacts adversely on almost all indicators of societal wellbeing, from crime and obesity to mental health.

Sharing as the obvious antidote

Whether in discussions about the post-2015 development goals or in proposals for how to create an environmentally sustainable economy, it is increasingly difficult for policymakers to ignore the need to reverse decades of neoliberal policies and instead strengthen forms of sharing and redistribution. Policies guided by the principle of sharing are inimical to the neoliberal agenda as the very process of sharing is cooperative rather than individualistic. Systems of sharing such as progressive taxation and the provision of social welfare and public services have the power to build solidarity, bring communities and nations together, and help close the inequality gap.

Oxfam's report on the costs of inequality adds further weight to a growing body of research pointing to how forms of sharing and redistribution could have an important role in reducing inequality. Redistributing the combined annual income of the richest 100 billionaires may not be a workable temporary solution to world poverty unless the wealthy voluntarily share their bounty. But as Oxfam acknowledge, policy solutions for reducing inequality are plentiful and widely known. As one practical example, our recent report on ‘Financing the global sharing economy' demonstrates that governments could redistribute trillions of dollars to reduce extreme inequality through a variety of measures that range from tax and debt justice to redirecting perverse government subsidies.

Regardless of the specific policies employed, sharing wealth and resources more equitably will require governments to overcome their fixation on an unsustainable model of development based on outdated assumptions about human nature. And however much neoliberals find it anathema, this will inevitably require government intervention: new policies, regulations and laws that guarantee fairness and equity in society, both nationally and globally.

Will ordinary people lead the way?

While governments remain preoccupied in trying to resurrect the old economic order, many questions will no doubt occupy the minds of campaigners and progressives across the world. In light of the mounting need for sharing and redistribution, what will the public have to do to wrestle politicians away from their fixation on policies that promote inequality? For how much longer will policymakers continue to ignore the common sense alternatives that millions of people across the world are calling for? What can be done to strengthen democracy and remind politicians that they are in office to serve ordinary people, not corporations?

Perhaps the only answer is the mass mobilisation of engaged citizens in a common cause against rising inequality that extends beyond national borders. Or perhaps only further financial crises, environmental chaos and economic hardship will eventually force policymakers to rethink their distorted priorities. Irrespective of how transformative change finally takes place, it is clear that a much greater emphasis on sharing and redistribution will need to be at the heart of any program to reduce inequality and secure human needs within planetary limits. Otherwise, it might not be long before the annual income of the world's richest person alone is sufficient to end global poverty.

© 2012 Share the World's Resources

Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana is the executive director of Share The World's Resources, (STWR),  a London-based NGO campaigning for essential resources - such as land, energy, water and the atmosphere - to be shared internationally and sustainably in order to secure basic human needs.  He can be contacted at [email protected]

Extreme Wealth vs Global Sharing

Last year alone, the world's 100 richest people earned a combined additional income of $241 billion. According to new calculations, redistributing just a quarter of this vast quantity of money would enable governments to wipe out extreme poverty for an entire year. Unfortunately for the 40,000 people who die needlessly every day from poverty-related causes, these billionaires are as unlikely to share their earnings voluntarily as governments are to enact policies that redistribute their excessive incomes more fairly across society.Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

In the latest in a string of reports, books and public protests by those calling for sharing and justice to guide social and economic policy, Oxfam has put forward a robust argument for putting an end to extreme wealth by 2025. In their media briefing, ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all', the charity gives a litany of reasons why extreme inequality is bad for the economy, the environment and society in general.

According to the briefing, the incomes of the top 1% of the world's population have increased 60% in the past twenty years. While joblessness rocketed across the US and Europe after the financial crisis of 2008, the income of this elite group of multimillionaires continued to expand. And the growth in income for the top 0.01% has been even greater - there are now around 1200 billionaires in the world. Unsurprisingly, the market for luxury goods has ‘registered double-digit growth every year since the [financial] crisis hit'.

Despite notable reductions in the number of people living in extreme poverty, the paper also highlights the rapid escalation of inequality in developing countries. For example, in China the top 10% of the population now earn nearly 60% of the country's income, which places it almost on par with South Africa as one of the most unequal countries on earth. This trend has been just as pronounced in rich countries such as the UK, where inequality levels are fast reaching Dickensian proportions. Similarly, in the US the share of national income since 1980 has doubled for the top 1% and quadrupled for the top 0.01%.

The slow death of neoliberalism

It is important to understand the root cause of this all-pervasive growth in inequality and determine whether it constitutes a serious problem for society. As George Monbiot reminded us in a recent article, for many decades policymakers have regarded inequality as a necessary by-product of the neoliberal ideology to which they subscribe. For adherents of this extreme pro-market belief system, any attempts to enact policies to reduce inequality interfere with the efficiency of the free market and should be avoided at all costs. Instead more should be done to further deregulate economies, privatise resources, services and industry, downsize the public sector and open up markets to even more competition both within and between nations. As a theory based on the principles of individualism and self-interest, neoliberalism seeks to remove collective public oversight from economic activity, even when this could have dire implications for society and the environment.  

But the neoliberal experiment, which was most vociferously pursued by Thatcher, Regan, Kohl and others from the 1980s onwards, is now widely regarded as having been an utter failure - most notably in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. As Monbiot explains, the growth in rich nations that occurred prior to the 1980s "was made possible by the destruction of the wealth and power of the elite, as a result of the Depression and the second world war." The neoliberal experiment reversed these trends and, despite the weight of evidence against these policies, five years after the financial crisis the thrust of economic policy remains almost wholly neoliberal in nature.

There is of course the age-old moral argument against allowing excessive levels of wealth and riches to exist alongside extreme poverty and deprivation. This is a basic ethical notion that rings true to the majority of people in rich and poor countries alike, and it has been a cornerstone of spiritual and religious philosophy for millennia. But even within the sadly amoral framework of economic decision-making today, it is widely accepted that neoliberal polices have failed to share the proceeds of growth fairly and led to levels of inequality that now threaten to undermine the very fabric of society.

The consequences of inequality

Oxfam is only one of a number of organisations that have reported on the human, economic and environmental impact of inequality in recent years, and the issue has been central to the discourse on a post-2015 development goal that can address inequality head on. In a misguided world where the pursuit of short-term economic growth remains the holy grail of public policy, even the International Monetary Fund is beginning to accede that inequality can stymie efficiency. In a recent report entitled ‘Fair Share', the Fund suggests that governments in both rich and developing countries should place more emphasis on progressive taxation and redistribution - policies that essentially embody the principle of sharing. 

Also highlighted in the Oxfam briefing is the way extreme wealth can damage democracy, especially through the enormous influence over the political process that money and power can buy. Many billions of dollars are spent each year by the financial industry and large corporations in lobbying politicians to pursue a market friendly agenda - the same neoliberal policies that have widened inequalities and eventually led to a global financial collapse in 2008. Resuscitating representative democracy will inevitably entail curbing the ability of any minority group to exert a disproportionate influence over political outcomes, which in turn might require limiting the excessive wealth that can facilitate this distortion.   

Policies that exaggerate inequality have also been a key driver of environmental degradation, as people in rich nations consume far more than their fair share of the earth's finite resources. As Oxfam also previously highlighted in a discussion paper on planetary boundaries, it will be impossible to address ecological and social crises unless we share available resources more equitably and sustainably. The aim of development and environmental policy must be to ensure that people in all nations can secure their basic needs without transgressing environmental limits. Such statements have huge implications for policies that widen inequalities as they point to an urgent need for convergence and equity.   

As the historic events of 2011 demonstrated, inequality can also spur violent civil unrest. The experience of inequality and injustice over many years ultimately sparked the Arab Spring protests as well as many other spontaneous public demonstrations - from the global Occupy Movement to the protests in Spain, Greece, Israel and other countries in the same year. Many of those involved in these public mobilisations had first-hand experience of the social consequences of inequality that campaigners and analysts have long warned of. As explicitly detailed in the classic book The Spirit Level, it is now widely accepted  that inequality impacts adversely on almost all indicators of societal wellbeing, from crime and obesity to mental health.

Sharing as the obvious antidote

Whether in discussions about the post-2015 development goals or in proposals for how to create an environmentally sustainable economy, it is increasingly difficult for policymakers to ignore the need to reverse decades of neoliberal policies and instead strengthen forms of sharing and redistribution. Policies guided by the principle of sharing are inimical to the neoliberal agenda as the very process of sharing is cooperative rather than individualistic. Systems of sharing such as progressive taxation and the provision of social welfare and public services have the power to build solidarity, bring communities and nations together, and help close the inequality gap.

Oxfam's report on the costs of inequality adds further weight to a growing body of research pointing to how forms of sharing and redistribution could have an important role in reducing inequality. Redistributing the combined annual income of the richest 100 billionaires may not be a workable temporary solution to world poverty unless the wealthy voluntarily share their bounty. But as Oxfam acknowledge, policy solutions for reducing inequality are plentiful and widely known. As one practical example, our recent report on ‘Financing the global sharing economy' demonstrates that governments could redistribute trillions of dollars to reduce extreme inequality through a variety of measures that range from tax and debt justice to redirecting perverse government subsidies.

Regardless of the specific policies employed, sharing wealth and resources more equitably will require governments to overcome their fixation on an unsustainable model of development based on outdated assumptions about human nature. And however much neoliberals find it anathema, this will inevitably require government intervention: new policies, regulations and laws that guarantee fairness and equity in society, both nationally and globally.

Will ordinary people lead the way?

While governments remain preoccupied in trying to resurrect the old economic order, many questions will no doubt occupy the minds of campaigners and progressives across the world. In light of the mounting need for sharing and redistribution, what will the public have to do to wrestle politicians away from their fixation on policies that promote inequality? For how much longer will policymakers continue to ignore the common sense alternatives that millions of people across the world are calling for? What can be done to strengthen democracy and remind politicians that they are in office to serve ordinary people, not corporations?

Perhaps the only answer is the mass mobilisation of engaged citizens in a common cause against rising inequality that extends beyond national borders. Or perhaps only further financial crises, environmental chaos and economic hardship will eventually force policymakers to rethink their distorted priorities. Irrespective of how transformative change finally takes place, it is clear that a much greater emphasis on sharing and redistribution will need to be at the heart of any program to reduce inequality and secure human needs within planetary limits. Otherwise, it might not be long before the annual income of the world's richest person alone is sufficient to end global poverty.

© 2012 Share the World's Resources

Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana is the executive director of Share The World's Resources, (STWR),  a London-based NGO campaigning for essential resources - such as land, energy, water and the atmosphere - to be shared internationally and sustainably in order to secure basic human needs.  He can be contacted at [email protected]

The Real Truth About Weight Gain and Contraception

Come post-holiday season, many of us feel a little outside our comfort zone weight-wise, and we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.

For many women, one question that inevitably comes up is whether contraception is making weight management harder. Modern Western women spend almost 40 years trying not to get pregnant. We have close to 400 fertile cycles out of which we want to get pregnant maybe once or twice or four times or not at all. That’s a lot of women spending a lot of time engaged in some kind of contraception, and consequently rumors abound about contraceptives and weight gain. What’s real?

The real scoop includes some bad news: Normal healthy women gain weight during their fertile years with or without contraception. At age 20, American women weigh on average 125-130 pounds. By age 55, the average iscloser to 165, a total gain of 35 pounds.  (Weight gain during the teen years is even more rapid, an average of 30 pounds in six years. Even long-distance runners tend to gain over time.) The net-net is that any time a woman is contracepting is a time she is also likely to be gaining weight, regardless of any effects from contraception. This is borne out in the fact that in all clinical trials of contraceptives some percentage of women complains of weight gain, and consequently, virtually all contraceptives subsequently list weight gain as a possible side-effect. Only after the fact, as data accumulate, are researchers able to tease apart normal weight gain from possible effects of contraceptive hormones.

This means that as a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze. The best research compares women with and without a given method over a span of months or years, but research like that can be hard to find. The kind of information that spreads the fastest and furthest is stories. Anxiety, in particular, is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral.

Sometimes we forget the big picture: Pregnancy and childbearing have such big effects on our bodies that with rare but noteworthy exceptions the most significant health question related to any contraceptive is--how well does it work? Many women don’t realize how often most contraceptives fail with “human factors” built into the equation. On the Pill, 1 in 12 women gets pregnant each year; relying on condoms alone, that rate is 1 in 8. (For no contraception the annual rate is 85%; abstinence commitments may cut that 85% rate by about half.) With a long-acting method like an implant or IUD, the pregnancy rate drops to 1 in 500 or less. If you are concerned about managing weight for health or lifestyle reasons, efficacy should be a primary consideration in choosing among contraceptive options.

Independent of the question of efficacy, the best research available suggests that most contraceptives have little effect on weight, with a few important exceptions. Here is the lay of the land.  

IUD’s: The copper IUD is in the top category for efficacy (99%+) and at the same time is a completely non-hormonal method. This means that, despite some challenges in insertion and adjustment, it is the gold standard forwomen who want no artificial hormones. Its only effect on weight is through reducing unintended pregnancies. Hormonal IUDs boost contraceptive effectiveness (and also decrease menstrual symptoms) by releasing a mostly local micro-dose of a progestin, Levonorgestrel. When it comes to weight gain or loss, though, the difference appears minimal. One study showed slightly more gain in hormonal IUD than copper IUD users, but a longer study found that women with hormonal IUDs gained slightly less weight than women with no hormonal contraceptive. Other research reported modest weight loss for women on both kinds of IUD. Since the differences appear small and inconsistent, don’t assume either IUD will prevent normal weight changes.

Implants:Like IUDs, implants are in the top category of contraceptive efficacy (99%+). Unlike an IUD, an implant releases a systemic dose of hormone, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, information about implants and weight is lacking controlled research. In an o