Let’s say no to the pipeline that threatens U.S. heartland

From The Houston Chronicle: http://www.chron.com/opinion/article/Let-s-say-no-to-the-pipeline-that-threatens-U-S-2163626.php

Sept. 12, 2011

SUNDANCE, Utah – Few landscapes anywhere evoke the majesty of our country and the can-do spirit of our people like the sweeping great plains that form the nation’s broad girth.

Watered by some of our most storied rivers – the Missouri, Yellowstone, Arkansas and the Platte – millions of acres of rich black soils yield a bounty of wheat, corn and soy that has made this great region the breadbasket of America and granary to the world.

And yet today, these lands and all they support are threatened by Big Oil and its plan to run a pipeline straight through the vast plains of the American heartland.

The Keystone XL pipeline would transport the dirtiest oil on the planet from the Canadian province of Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, wedding our nation’s energy future to the destructive ways of the past.

It would promote one of the most damaging industrial practices ever deployed, the strip mining and drilling of Canada’s boreal forest, to coax low-grade crude oil from tar sands.

And it would put at risk the farmers, ranchers and croplands upon which our nation depends, exposing them to the kind of ruptures and blowouts that in just the past year have brought environmental disaster to the Yellowstone River, the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

And for what? To extend the fortunes of the oil industry, which posted profits of more than $67 billion in just the first half of this year.

The State Department issued a final Environmental Impact Statement on the project last month, starting the clock on a 90-day window to determine whether this project is in the national interest.

It’s not. Instead of laying pipe across the plains, it’s time to draw a line in the sand. The Keystone XL is a bad idea that needs to be stopped.

Continue reading at:  http://www.chron.com/opinion/article/Let-s-say-no-to-the-pipeline-that-threatens-U-S-2163626.php

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Kucinich on International Policy and its Relationship to the Economy

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Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Law Could Ban Abortions And Birth Control

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/12/mississippi-personhood-law-abortions_n_959100.html

Posted: 9/12/11

Mississippi voters will be allowed to decide on a ballot measure that defines “personhood” from the moment of fertilization, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last week. The measure could potentially outlaw abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research across the state.

Measure 26, which will bypass the legislature and go straight to a popular ballot vote, redefines the term “person” as it appears throughout Mississippi’s Bill of Rights to include “all human beings from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the proposal earlier this year, not based on its content or constitutionality, but because Mississippi state law says a ballot initiative cannot be used to change the Bill of Rights.

The Mississippi Supreme Court rejected the lawsuit in a 7-2 ruling, saying that it had no power to review any ballot initiative before the actual vote takes place.

“We didn’t lose on the merits of the case, but what’s disappointing is that it means the measure does go on the ballot that could later be held unconstitutional,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, an ACLU attorney on the case.

Les Riley, the founder of Personhood Mississippi, whose primary mission is to get Measure 26 passed, told HuffPost that he believes the ballot initiative is legal and valid because it does not alter the state constitution, but simply defines a particular word in it that should have been defined by the Supreme Court in the 38 years since Roe v. Wade.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/12/mississippi-personhood-law-abortions_n_959100.html

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Arctic ice levels hit historic low, researchers say

From CNN: http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/12/arctic-ice-levels-hit-historic-low-researchers-say/

September 12, 2011

The amount of Arctic sea ice has melted to a historic low, with the area of land covered by ice at the smallest level since scientists began observing it with satellites in 1972, researchers from the University of Bremen in Germany report.

The North Pole skull cap shrank to about half a percent under the previous record low set in September 2007, according to the school’s Institute of Environmental Physics.

Researchers, including those from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, had predicted earlier this summer that Arctic sea ice levels could reach extreme lows. But the University of Bremen physicists said there was uncertainty in July about whether the ice melt would surpass the previous record.

They said their studies indicated that continuing ice decline was related to man-made global warming.

“It seems to be clear that this is a further consequence of the man-made global warming with global consequences,” researchers said in their report.  “Directly, the livehood of small animals, algae, fishes and mammals like polar bears and seals is more and more reduced.”

Continue reading at:  http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/12/arctic-ice-levels-hit-historic-low-researchers-say/

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DuPont’s Herbicide Goes Rogue

From Other Words: http://www.otherwords.org/articles/duponts_herbicide_goes_rogue

The company’s landscaping weed-killer turned out to be a tree-killer.

  By Jim Hightower
September 12, 2011

In the corporate world’s tortured language, workers are no longer fired. They just experience an “employment adjustment.” But the most twisted euphemism I’ve heard in a long time comes from DuPont: “We are investigating the reports of these unfavorable tree symptoms,” the pesticide maker recently stated.

How unfavorable? Finito, flat-lined, the tree is dead. Not just one tree, but hundreds of thousands all across the country are suffering the final “symptom.”

The culprit turns out to be Imprelis, a DuPont weed-killer widely applied to lawns, golf courses, and — ironically — cemeteries.

Rather than just poisoning dandelions and other weeds, the herbicide also seems to be causing spruces, pines, willows, poplars, and other unintended victims to croak.

“It’s been devastating,” says a Michigan landscaper who applied Imprelis to about a thousand properties this spring and has already had more than a third of them suffer outbreaks of tree deaths. “It looks like someone took a flamethrower to them,” he says.

At first, DuPont tried to dodge responsibility, claiming that landscape workers might be applying the herbicide improperly. The corporation even urged customers to be patient and leave the tree corpses on their lawns to see if they’d come back to life in a few years.

However, faith-based landscaping was a hard sell. Disgruntled homeowners began filing lawsuits. Then DuPont had its own “aha!” moment when trees on the grounds of the DuPont Country Club also developed the “unfavorable symptoms” of Imprelis poisoning.

So, with DuPont’s cooperation, the EPA has finally banned sales of the tree-killing herbicide. But because of inadequate testing and a rush to profit, the poison will remain in the soil — and our water— for many moons. Trees will continue to die. Will we never learn?

Creative Commons permission Original article at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/duponts_herbicide_goes_rogue

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Is Your Doctor on Big Pharma’s Payroll?

From Daily Finance: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/09/09/is-your-doctor-on-big-pharmas-payroll/

By Loren Berlin

Medical device and pharmaceutical companies are gearing up for a big change in the way they deal with their most important middlemen: doctors. Beginning in 2013, they’ll be required to report every dime they pay out to physicians in speaking fees, consulting, research, meals and business travel to the federal government. You say you didn’t know your doctor was on a pharmaceutical company’s payroll? Neither did I — until this morning, when I searched a new database created by ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization, and discovered that one of mine has received money from two drug companies.

Doctors benefiting from relationships with drug or medical device companies is nothing new. Remember all the pens and stuffed animals and other branded tchotchkes that used to be scattered about doctors’ offices? All those trinkets began disappearing a few years ago, after the pharmaceutical industry in 2009 voluntarily agreed to stop producing them, an effort to “try to counter the impression that gifts to doctors are intended to unduly influence medicine,” reports The New York Times.

“But some critics said the code did not go far enough to address the influence of drug marketing on the practice of medicine,”
the newspaper goes on to say. “The guidelines, for example, still permit drug makers to underwrite free lunches for doctors and their staffs or to sponsor dinners for doctors at restaurants, as long as the meals are accompanied by educational presentations.”

It’s these “educational presentations” that are now gaining attention. According to ProPublica, “Eight pharmaceutical companies, including the nation’s three largest, doled out more than $220 million last year to promotional speakers for their products.” The slides used in the presentations are created by the drug and medical device companies, and these speakers are doctors that the companies pay to make presentations to other doctors about the benefits of various products.

And they can make serious money doing it. Nam Dang, a cancer specialist and speaker for drug manufacturer Cephalon (CEPH), raked in $131,250 in 2009 alone. Zale Bernstein, a Buffalo hematologist, banked $177,800 on the Cephalon circuit in 2010, and that’s excluding the additional $35,000 for travel. Gerald M. Sacks, a Santa Monica, Calif., pain specialist, earned just shy of $500,000 in the last two years for his speaking and consulting gigs with four companies. And again, that excludes whatever he received in reimbursement for travel costs and meals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/09/09/is-your-doctor-on-big-pharmas-payroll/

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Explosion at French nuclear waste plant

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/12/french-nuclear-plant-rocked-explosion

One worker reported dead in blast at Marcoule nuclear waste processing site in southern France

in Paris
guardian.co.uk, Monday 12 September 2011

An explosion at a French nuclear waste processing plant that killed one person and injured four others sparked fears of a radioactive leak on Monday.

An emergency safety cordon was thrown around the Marcoule nuclear site near Nimes in the south of France immediately after a furnace used to melt nuclear waste exploded and caused a fire. It was lifted later in the day after France’s nuclear safety agency, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), said there was no danger to the public.

Reports said the body of one male worker at the plant had been “found carbonised”, but there was no evidence that the explosion had caused any radioactive leak, though the ASN admitted there was the “possibility of a leak of low-level radioactivity, but no shooting of radioactivity in the air”. There was no information as to the cause of the explosion.

The accident came just a week after the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, bucked the anti-nuclear trend following Japan’s Fukushima disaster and pledged €1bn (£860m) of new investment in atomic power.

Despite growing worldwide concern about the safety of nuclear plants – Germany has announced it is phasing its nuclear plants out — Sarkozy said the moratorium on new nuclear reactors adopted by some countries since the Japanese nuclear crisis in March “makes no sense”.

“There is no alternative to nuclear energy today,” he told journalists at the time. “We are going to devote €1bn to the nuclear programme of the future, particularly fourth-generation technology.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/12/french-nuclear-plant-rocked-explosion

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Robert Reich explains ‘big lies’ about the economy

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Who’s Building the Do-It-Ourselves Economy?

From Yes Magazine: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/new-livelihoods/whos-building-the-do-it-ourselves-economy

Corporations aren’t hiring, and Washington is gridlocked. Here’s how we take charge of our own livelihoods.
posted Sep 07, 2011

Corbyn Hightower was doing everything right. She worked long hours selling natural skin care products, flying between cities to meet customers, staying in posh hotels. She pulled down a salary that provided her family of five with a comfortable home in a planned community, a Honda SUV, health insurance, and regular shopping trips for the best natural foods, clothes, shoes, and toys.

Then the recession hit. Her commissions dried up, and the layoff soon followed. Life for Corbyn, her stay-at-home husband, and three children changed quickly.

First the family moved to a low-rent house down the street from a homeless shelter. They dropped cable TV, Wi-Fi, gym membership, and most of the shopping. Giving up health insurance was the most difficult step—it seemed to Corbyn that she was failing to provide for her young daughters. Giving up the car was nearly as difficult.

As our economy goes through tectonic shifts, this sort of adaptation is becoming the new normal. Security for our families will increasingly depend on rebuilding our local and regional economies and on our own adaptability and skills at working together. At the same time, we need government to work on behalf of struggling families and to make the investments that create jobs now and opportunities for coming generations. That will require popular movements of ordinary people, willing to push back against powerful moneyed interests.

Where Are the Jobs?

How did we get to an economy in which millions are struggling?

Officially, the “Great Recession” ended in the second quarter of 2009. For some people, the recovery is well under way. Corporate profits are at or above pre-recession levels, and the CEOs of the 200 biggest corporations averaged over $10 million in compensation in 2010—a 23 percent increase over 2009.

But for most Americans, there’s no recovery, and some are confronting homelessness and hunger. Twenty-five million are unemployed, under-employed, or have given up looking for work. Forty-five percent of unemployed people have been without a job for more than 27 weeks, the highest percentage since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping track in 1948. There’s a growing army of “99ers,” people who have been unemployed for more than 99 weeks and have exhausted all unemployment benefits.

Fifty-three percent of Americans say jobs and the economy are the most important issues facing the country; just 7 percent say the deficit is the most important. Yet budget cuts and austerity have replaced job creation in the national dialogue.

American workers have become expendable to many of the corporations that run the economy; NAFTA and other trade laws opened the floodgates of outsourcing to low-wage countries. Many of the jobs that can’t be outsourced are being eliminated, or hours, pay, and benefits are being cut.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/new-livelihoods/whos-building-the-do-it-ourselves-economy

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