Eating Less, Better Meat: Yes We Can

From Civil Eats:

By Lisa Frack
July 18, 2011

I’m a vegetarian. But my husband’s not. And, go figure, my kids aren’t either. Which is exactly why I care about the meat I buy. Yes, I buy meat. I’d rather not, but if it’s coming into the house–and into my kids’ bodies–then I need to know exactly what I’m buying. And I not only want to know how it’s affecting my family’s health, I also care deeply about how it’s affecting our family’s environmental footprint (including climate change).

Enter Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) new Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health. In it, EWG took a close look at how a variety of protein foods rank when their total, “cradle-to-grave” greenhouse gas emissions are calculated. Then we factored in the non-climate environmental impacts (like water pollution) and health effects of meat and confirmed that, indeed, not all meat is created equal.

Different foods generate different amounts of green house gases

Our lifecycle comparison shows that, pound for pound, lamb, beef, cheese, and pork generate the most greenhouse gases (GHGs) of the protein foods we looked at; beef emits four times as many GHGs as chicken! They also tend to be higher in saturated fat and have the worst overall environmental impacts because producing them requires the most resources, mainly chemical fertilizer, feed, fuel, pesticides, and water.

If you’re scratching your head, wondering how exactly eating meat generates GHGs, there are three main sources: Feed production, ruminant digestion, and manure. In other words, growing animal food, farting animal food, and pooping animal food. (Excuse our language, but it’s clearest–and likely more memorable–this way. Plus, my eight-year old son thinks it’s hilarious.) For a bite-sized description of the climate and environmental impacts of each stage of meat production (there are many: Growing feed, grazing, slaughtering, transporting all of it, eating, and wasting), see the meat lifecycle graphic on EWG’s Web site.

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The Scary Religious Ideology Behind Michele Bachmann’s Anti-Gay Crusade

From Alternet:

Does the draconian mandate of Old Testament law drive Michele and Marcus Bachmann’s war on LGBT people?

By Adele M. Stan
July 15, 2011

People who don’t like LGBT people often cite a range of reasons for their disdain. Take GOP presidential contender Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and her husband, Marcus. Gay people are “barbarians,” Marcus Bachmann told a radio interviewer for a Christian program last year. LGBT people practice “sexual anarchy,” Michele Bachmann told a conference of Minnesota educators in 2004, and could wind up recruiting 8-year-old boys to their way of life if openly gay teachers are permitted in the classroom.

And then there’s the Bible, which calls for the death penalty for men who have sex with each other. While Bachmann has never made that call herself, her religious views appear to be heavily influenced by a theological strain known as Christian Reconstructionism, which in matters of sexuality and gender relations places great emphasis on the draconian law of the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.

Writing for Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner this week exposed the Reconstructionist roots of the law school Bachmann attended at Oral Roberts University. The language and theory of Christian Reconstructionism turns up frequently in Bachmann’s speeches.

In the 1970s, as Posner tells it, Oral Roberts University, founded by the famous Pentecostal faith healer, wanted to launch a law school, but at that time, no real model existed for such a school of jurisprudence designed to serve an evangelical student body. Roberts brought in Harvard Law School graduate Herb Titus, a student of the work of John Rousas Rushdoony, the father of Christian Reconstructionism, to build the law school’s program.

Titus would go on to become the 1996 presidential candidate for Howard Phillips’ Constitution Party (then called the U.S. Taxpayers Party). Despite its secular-sounding name, the party’s mission was, according to Posner, “restor[ing] American jurisprudence to its biblical foundations and limit[ing] the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.”

That merging of ideas and sensibilities — the expressive Pentacostal with the stern and austere Reconstructionist — was truly radical at the time. To the liberal mind, all Christian evangelism tends to look the same. But it wasn’t until politics mandated a union of convenience that one would find the likes of Herb Titus, or, for that matter, the fundamentalist Baptist Jerry Falwell and the charismatic dominionist Pat Robertson, playing on the same team.

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No Class Warfare Here!

From The American Prospect:

Harold Meyerson
Posted 07/15/2011

Whenever liberals note that the rich are getting richer while everyone else is either treading water or sinking, or that profits are up while wages are down, or, worse yet, that profits are up because wages are down, those liberals are invariably accused by conservatives of fomenting class warfare.

Well, goodness knows, we at the Prospect would never stoop so low. We would, however, refer our readers to the July 11 “Eye on the Market” report by J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Investment Officer Michael Cembalest, which demonstrates conclusively that, well, profits are up because wages are down. (“Eye on the Market” is a newsletter that Chase circulates to its large investors.)

The subject of the July 11 report is corporate profits, in particular, the pre-tax profit margins of the S&P 500, the 500 largest publicly-traded companies based in the U.S. Those profit margins, you’ll be glad to know, are close to record highs, nearing 13 percent of company revenues – their highest levels since the mid-1960s. And since medical costs are far higher today than they were back then, how, you may wonder, have those companies climbed back to the profit margins of those earlier, lest costly, more innocent times?

To answer that question, Cembalest looked at the rise in profit margins “from peak to peak” – that is, from their highpoint in 2000, just before the dot-com bust, to their highpoint in 2007, just before the financial crisis. In those seven years, profit margins rose by roughly 1.3 percent – from just under 11 percent of the S&P 500’s revenues to just over 12 percent. (Today, after dipping in the months after the crash, they’re up to near 13 percent, as we noted above.)

Why did they increase from 2000 to 2007? “There are a lot of moving parts in the margin equation,” Cembalest notes, but “reductions in wages and benefits explain the majority of the net improvement in margins. [Emphasis is Cembalest’s.] This trend has continued; as we have shown several times over the last two years, U.S. labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and U.S. GDP.”

According to Cembalest’s calculations, the reduction in wages and benefits as a percentage of company revenue is responsible for about 75 percent of the increase in those companies’ profit margins. You can read the report, complete with graphs and charts, here.

In other words, medical costs may be rising, but companies are passing those cost increases on to their workers – that is, if they covering their workers’ medical expenses at all. And wages increases? What are they?

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The European debt crisis and the threat of dictatorship

From World Socialist Web Site:

Stefan Steinberg
16 July 2011

Just two weeks ago, the Greek parliament passed a fresh round of austerity measures which will have a devastating impact on the living conditions of Greek workers. The parliamentary vote was preceded by a propaganda campaign by the finance houses, banks and leading European politicians, declaring that the new austerity measures were the only way to assuage the money markets and stabilize the euro.

Since then, the European debt crisis has only intensified. In line with the pattern throughout the crisis, the new round of social cuts and privatizations has been seized on as a benchmark to demand even more brutal attacks on the living standards of the working class in Greece, across Europe and internationally.

One week after the passage of the Greek austerity package, Moody’s downgraded Portuguese government bonds to junk status. A few days later a combined assault by hedge funds and rating agencies forced up the interest rate on Italian government bonds and precipitated a near-panic over that country’s sovereign debt.

This move by the financial markets was in response to reports that the austerity program agreed by the Italian government might be watered down in the course of its passage through parliament. Responding to the market offensive, the Italian finance minister announced he was doubling the total of spending cuts to be carried out over the next three-and-a-half years. Within days, a sweeping austerity package for Europe’s third largest economy had been passed.

At the start of this week, European finance ministers met in emergency session to discuss means to pacify the markets. In a major concession, they agreed to reverse their existing policy and make available the resources of the European Union bailout fund to directly buy up Greek debt.

The markets reacted to this concession with a renewed offensive. On Tuesday, Moody’s downgraded Ireland’s debt to junk status, and on Wednesday, Fitch Ratings downgraded Greek sovereign debt, declaring that default by Greece was “a real possibility.”

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Republicans edge US nearer debt crisis

From The Guardian UK:

As deadline nears, Republican party is still blocking President Obama’s compromise package, including $1tn from higher taxes

in New York, Sunday 17 July 2011

A week of high brinkmanship on Capitol Hill opened today with neither side in the impasse over the US debt ceiling prepared to budge and with the US just days away from a potentially catastrophic default.

The White House called a temporary cessation of hostilities, with meetings that have been going on almost solidly for more than a week suspended over the weekend to allow tempers to cool. But despite the hiatus, there was no sign from either the Republicans or Democrats that they were preparing to compromise.

In interviews on the Sunday political shows, the White House budget director, Jack Lew, made clear that tax rises for the rich would have to be on the table – a demand that the Tea party-steeled Republicans have doggedly refused to contemplate. “Can we get a balanced package together? It’s not fair to ask senior citizens to pay a price, to ask families paying for the college education of their children to pay a price, but leave the most privileged out of the equation,” he told ABC’s This Week.

Lew said he was confident a deal would be done but criticised right-wing Republicans, who are taking the crisis to the brink. “The debt will be extended. Notwithstanding the voices of a few who are willing to play with Armageddon, responsible leaders in Washington are not.”

Those “voices of a few” include that of the presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who confirmed last week that she would vote against raising the debt ceiling, whatever the outcome of the talks.

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Rick Perry’s Army of God

From The Texas Observer:

A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.

by Forrest Wilder
Published on: Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On September 28, 2009, at 1:40 p.m., God’s messengers visited Rick Perry.

On this day, the Lord’s messengers arrived in the form of two Texas pastors, Tom Schlueter of Arlington and Bob Long of San Marcos, who called on Perry in the governor’s office inside the state Capitol. Schlueter and Long both oversee small congregations, but they are more than just pastors. They consider themselves modern-day apostles and prophets, blessed with the same gifts as Old Testament prophets or New Testament apostles.

The pastors told Perry of God’s grand plan for Texas. A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was “The Prophet State,” anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role.

The day before the meeting, Schlueter had received a prophetic message from Chuck Pierce, an influential prophet from Denton, Texas. God had apparently commanded Schlueter—through Pierce—to “pray by lifting the hand of the one I show you that is in the place of civil rule.”

Gov. Perry, it seemed.

Schlueter had prayed before his congregation: “Lord Jesus I bring to you today Gov. Perry. … I am just bringing you his hand and I pray Lord that he will grasp ahold of it. For if he does you will use him mightily.”

And grasp ahold the governor did. At the end of their meeting, Perry asked the two pastors to pray over him. As the pastors would later recount, the Lord spoke prophetically as Schlueter laid his hands on Perry, their heads bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo. Schlueter “declared over [Perry] that there was a leadership role beyond Texas and that Texas had a role beyond what people understand,” Long later told his congregation.

So you have to wonder: Is Rick Perry God’s man for president?

Schlueter, Long and other prayer warriors in a little-known but increasingly influential movement at the periphery of American Christianity seem to think so. The movement is called the New Apostolic Reformation. Believers fashion themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. They have taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot.

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China Oil Spill Six Times Size of Singapore: Govt

From Common Dreams:

by Frederic J. Brown
Published on Friday, July 15, 2011 by Agence France Presse

A huge oil spill off the Chinese coast has now contaminated an area around six times the size of Singapore, state media reported Friday, as the government said it may seek compensation for the leak.

Chinese oil producer CNOOC, in partnership with ConocoPhillips China, a subsidiary of the US oil giant, operates an oil field in Bohai Bay, off China’s eastern coast, where a massive oil slick was detected on June 4 but only made public on Friday (AFP)

The spill from the oil field has polluted a total area of almost 4,250 square kilometres (1,650 square miles), government figures showed.

The figures, which were announced on the State Oceanic Administration website earlier this week but only reported on Friday, were almost five times the size of the 840-square-kilometre area previously reported.

The administration says that area remains worst affected by the spill, but that another 3,400 square kilometres have also been contaminated to a lesser degree by the oil.

The spill was kept secret by the authorities for several weeks before being made public this month, sparking suspicions of an official cover-up, and the disaster has triggered a furious public response in China.

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New Herbicide Suspected in Tree Deaths

From The New York Times:

Published: July 14, 2011

A recently approved herbicide called Imprelis, widely used by landscapers because it was thought to be environmentally friendly, has emerged as the leading suspect in the deaths of thousands of Norway spruces, eastern white pines and other trees on lawns and golf courses across the country.

Manufactured by DuPont and conditionally approved for sale last October by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Imprelis is used for killing broadleaf weeds like dandelion and clover and is sold to lawn care professionals only. Reports of dying trees started surfacing around Memorial Day, prompting an inquiry by DuPont scientists.

“We are investigating the reports of these unfavorable tree symptoms,” said Kate Childress, a spokeswoman for DuPont. “Until this investigation is complete, it’s difficult to say what variables contributed to the symptoms.”

DuPont continues to sell the product, which is registered for use in all states except California and New York. The company said that there were many places where the product had been used without damaging trees.

The E.P.A. has begun gathering information on the deaths from state officials and DuPont as well as through its own investigators. “E.P.A. is taking this very seriously,” the agency said in a statement.

In a June 17 letter to its landscape customers, Michael McDermott, a DuPont products official, seemed to put the onus for the tree deaths on workers applying Imprelis. He wrote that customers with affected trees might not have mixed the herbicide properly or might have combined it with other herbicides. DuPont officials have also suggested that the trees may come back, and have asked landscapers to leave them in the ground.

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And remember “The parrot is not dead, it is merely resting….”

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