Why Is the FDA Inspecting So Little Imported Seafood?

From Mother Jones:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/fda-barely-inspects-imported-seafood

By Mon Oct. 22, 2012

If you eat a lot of fish, likely as not you’re eating something that was raised on a farm and hauled in from thousands of miles away. According to NOAA, we import about 86 percent of the seafood we consume, about half of which comes from from aquaculture. And just because you find it in a gleaming supermarket fish case or on a well-presented restaurant plate doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat.

Over at BusinessWeek, there’s a pretty startling piece on the sanitary conditions on some of those farms. In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the US market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria, BusinessWeek reports. Tilapia in China’s fish farms, meanwhile, literally feed on pig manure—even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia “more susceptible to disease.” Why use hog shit as feed? Simple—it’s cheap, and China’s tilapia farms operate under intense pressure to slash costs and produce as much cheap tilapia as possible.

And, as Wired‘s Maryn McKenna showed in a post earlier this year, harmful bacteria like salmonella aren’t the only potential health problem associated with Asia’s fish and shrimp farms. There’s also the threat of residues from the chemicals farm operators use to control those pathogens. Like US meat farmers, Asia’s shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, traces of which can stay in the shrimp. And many of the antibiotics in use on Asia’s fish farms are banned for use in the US for public-health reasons.

Now, you might think that the Food and Drug Administration, which is charged with overseeing the safety of the food supply, is protecting us from potential harm from these products. The agency is certainly aware of the problem. Testifying before Congress in 2008, then FDA deputy director of food safety Don Kraemer put it like this:

As the aquaculture industry continues to grow, concern about the use of unapproved drugs and unsafe chemicals in aquaculture operations has increased significantly. There is clear scientific evidence that the use of unapproved antibiotics and other drugs and chemicals, such as malachite green, nitrofurans, fluoroquinolones, and gentian violet, can result in the presence of residues in the edible portions of aquacultured seafood.

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/10/fda-barely-inspects-imported-seafood

Posted in Chemical Pollution, Corporate Abuse, Food, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Why Is the FDA Inspecting So Little Imported Seafood?

Making Labor Pay

From Dollars and Sense: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Recent battles in Wisconsin and San Jose show why we need universal pensions.

By Katherine Sciacchitano

This article is from the September/October 2012 issue of Dollars & Sense magazine.

The political economy of the recovery is making the United States even more unequal than it was during the bubble years. Incomes fell across the board during the crisis: median family income is 6.3% below what it was in 2001. But the top 1% garnered 93% of income growth in the first year of recovery. Housing, still the main source of wealth for middle-income families, remains depressed while stocks are close to pre-crash highs. Moreover, the drive for more tax cuts for the wealthy continues. And policy initiatives to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid would weaken the safety net even as it is most needed.

A spate of attacks on state and local public-sector pensions now threatens to make inequality even more entrenched and painful, and to undermine both short- and long-term economic growth.

The power of labor is dead center in this agenda. Despite a long-term decline in workers covered by union contracts, unions have over 16 million members: they are still the social force most capable of combating the assault on workers’ incomes and militating for greater equality. Crippling their political power therefore remains both a tactical and a strategic objective on the right. With only 6.9% of workers in the private sector covered by union contracts, versus 37% in the public sector, public-sector unions are bearing the brunt of the attacks. And public pensions are the battering ram.

Attacking Unions, Eroding Pensions

The trip wire for the assault on pensions was the combined fall in state and local revenues from the bursting of the housing bubble, and the steep losses suffered by pension funds during the resulting stock market slide of 2007-2009: by 2010 there were widely acknowledged public pension funding shortfalls totaling nearly $800 billion

While pension funds are slowly making back market losses, conservative advocates like Andrew Biggs at the American Enterprise Institute are arguing for new measures of shortfalls that would bring them to over $4 trillion, and using this $4 trillion figure to call for a national movement to slash both public-sector pensions and union rights. The implicit threat is that taxpayers will have to pay these trillions now and into the future, even though they themselves may not have pensions. The stated policy objective is to convince taxpayers and politicians that defined benefit pensions are too expensive in the public sector and should be replaced with defined contribution plans.

Defined benefit pensions are a form of deferred compensation—pay for work performed; they provide guaranteed lifetime payments in retirement. Defined-contribution plans give workers tax breaks for individual savings; workers invest these savings and then pray they don’t run out. Over the past three decades, defined benefit pensions have been nearly eradicated in the private sector for non-union workers; their abandonment in the public sector would effectively end defined benefit pensions as a norm for retirement security and shift the burden of retirement savings almost entirely to individuals.

Continue reading at:  http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2012/0912sciacchitano.html

Posted in Class War, Corporate Abuse, Economic Issues, Employment, Hard Times, Human Rights. Comments Off on Making Labor Pay

Koch Social Media Policy May Be Unlawful; Employers Still Have Broad Leeway to Limit Employee Speech

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/12150-koch-social-media-policy-may-be-unlawful-employers-still-have-broad-leeway-to-limit-employee-speech

By Brendan Fischer
Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The Koch Industries policy limiting employee speech on social media may be unlawful in light of recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board, but employers still have broad leeway to impose their political views on workers and punish those who disagree.

On October 14, Mike Elk at In These Times reported on how Koch Industries sent a mailer to 45,000 employees of its Georgia-Pacific subsidiary urging them to vote for Mitt Romney and other Republicans, warning that if they don’t, they “may suffer the consequences.” At the same time, the Kochs were limiting employees’ speech through a social media policy that threatened Georgia Pacific workers with disciplinary action or termination if their Facebook posts or tweets “reflect negatively” on the company’s reputation or are “disparaging.” The policy applies even to social media usage outside of working hours, and Elk reports that the policy has deterred some employees from speaking freely in their online posts.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Kochs and other employers can now make partisan political communications directly to their employees. As a private employer the Kochs can even limit their employees’ speech, since the First Amendment only protects against government infringement on free speech and expression. Employers are also afforded wide latitude to fire workers for their political activities.

Despite this, on September 7, 2012 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling that will likely deem the Kochs’ social media policy unlawful.

Social Media Policy Likely Unlawful

“Currently, the legal protections for [the workplace speech of] private sector employees are slim, to say the least,” said Paul Secunda, an associate professor at Marquette Law School who specializes in labor and employment law.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/12150-koch-social-media-policy-may-be-unlawful-employers-still-have-broad-leeway-to-limit-employee-speech

Posted in Corporate Abuse, Uncategorized. Tags: . Comments Off on Koch Social Media Policy May Be Unlawful; Employers Still Have Broad Leeway to Limit Employee Speech

Walmart Workers Issue Black Friday Ultimatum

Posted in Corporate Abuse, Employment, Uncategorized, Unionization, Unions, Workers. Comments Off on Walmart Workers Issue Black Friday Ultimatum

Why I’m standing up to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/17/daryl-hannah-transcanada-keystonexl-pipeline

Don’t buy the tale that this tar sands oil will make the US energy-independent. It’s export for profit, even as spills poison our water


guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 17 October 2012

On 4 October 2012, in rural east Texas, a 78-year-old great-grandmother, Eleanor Fairchild, was arrested for trespassing on her own property … and I was arrested standing beside her, as we held our ground in the path of earth-moving excavators constructing TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Seems there’s showdown in Texas – but, in fact, it’s a battle being waged all over the United States. It’s being fought by ordinary citizens of all colors, economic strata and political persuasions – against the world’s wealthiest multinational corporations, misinformation and deeply embedded fears. While I’m not a fan of war terminology, in these struggles, war analogies seem to highlight both the crisis at hand and perhaps the solution we seek.

Let’s face it, we are in times of great crisis: economic crisis, overpopulation crisis, climate crisis, extinction crisis, water crisis and a humanitarian crisis on so many levels. Energy, and how we create it, is a pivotal issue for many of these crises. It has become increasingly clear that we need to move in a different direction, yet as a species, we humans are uncomfortable with, and resist, change – though we know it is the very nature of life and not only essential, but inevitable.

Scientific findings warn us that a switch to renewable energy is essential if we are to avert disastrous climate change caused by carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. But since scientific findings and the climate crisis have been so successfully politicized – and I loathe politics – I’ll leave the horrifying ramifications of the global climate crisis out of this.

No matter what political rhetoric you choose to follow, or what course we choose to take with our energy options, there are things we all can agree on. As the second World Water Forum wisely stated:

Water is everybody’s business.”

Clean, regenerative energy could provide a way past peak oil and our detrimental fossil fuel addiction – if we collectively had the will to employ renewables, and addressed the change as urgently as the US did during the second world war when we unleashed our scientific creativity and industrial ingenuity to support the war effort. But there is no escape from peak water. We simply cannot live without uncontaminated water and food.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/17/daryl-hannah-transcanada-keystonexl-pipeline

Posted in Chemical Pollution, Corporate Abuse, Ecology, Environment, Fracking, Uncategorized. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Why I’m standing up to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in east Texas

The Risky Business of Eating in America

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

By Jill Richardson
October 17, 2012

Long before human beings decoded the human genome or split the atom, they discovered that arsenic is very good at killing things. The ancient Romans prized it as a murder weapon because it could be mixed into food or drink without altering its color, taste, or smell. Plus, a tiny dose kills without fail.

What the Romans didn’t know about arsenic, and what scientists didn’t discover until the 20th century, is that a form of it — inorganic arsenic — causes cancer. And in 1999, the National Academy of Sciences found that the amount of arsenic legally allowed in U.S. drinking water posed serious cancer risks.

Since then, the U.S. government slashed the amount allowed in drinking water from 50 micrograms per liter to just 10. The potent carcinogenicity of arsenic was what Donald Rumsfeld might call an “unknown unknown” for most of human history. So was the fact that Americans can consume dangerous amounts of inorganic arsenic in one of our most common foods: rice.

Consumer Reports dropped that bombshell on the nation in September, recommending that adults limit rice consumption to just two servings per week if they wish to reduce their cancer risk from inorganic arsenic. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration didn’t go so far as to recommend Americans limit their rice intake. But the agency did say that “consumers should continue to eat a balanced diet that includes a wide variety of grains.” They also published their own data on arsenic in rice. It was consistent with the findings of Consumer Reports.

How did such a healthy food — often one of the first solid foods parents spoon into their babies’ mouths — suddenly become a deadly, cancer-causing agent? For one thing, rice is the only major crop grown under water. That allows it to absorb arsenic more easily than other crops. And though some arsenic will always occur naturally in soil and water, humans have added a whole lot more.

Continue reading at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_risky_business_of_eating_in_america

Posted in Corporate Abuse, Environment, Food, Medical Studies, Uncategorized. Tags: , . Comments Off on The Risky Business of Eating in America

Mitt Romney’s Bain Helped Philip Morris Get U.S. High Schoolers Hooked On Cigarettes

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/mitt-romney-bain-philip-morris_n_1968152.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

10/16/2012

WASHINGTON — When Mitt Romney served as CEO of Bain & Co., his consulting firm helped tobacco giant Philip Morris develop a groundbreaking sales strategy that researchers say has been linked to an unprecedented spike in youth smoking.

On Friday April 2, 1993, Philip Morris stunned Wall Street and tobacco experts by the slashing price on its flagship Marlboro brand by 40 cents a pack, to $1.80. It was a landmark day for the tobacco industry, one that became known as “Marlboro Friday” to public health experts.

The radical move was deemed by top Philip Morris executives as necessary based in part on more than two years of Bain research. Marlboro sales were slumping amid pressure from an expanding discount cigarette market, and the prospect of higher cigarette taxes had the company concerned about long-term profitability.

Investors initially pummeled Philip Morris for the price cut, chopping more than 20 percent from the company’s stock price in a day. But within weeks, a cigarette price war was raging, with R.J. Reynolds slashing the price of Camels to compete with the cheaper Marlboro varieties. A year later, Philip Morris stock had fully recovered, and continued to make steady gains over the coming four years. Marlboro Friday ultimately proved to be the tobacco industry’s most successful effort to increase domestic profit in the face of heavier regulations.

The profit was the result of soaring sales that coincided with an unprecedented jump in smoking among high school- aged youth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, found that the portion of young people who had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous month rose nearly 20 percent from 1993 to 1997. Youth smoking increased in all categories from that occasional user to the regular user.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/16/mitt-romney-bain-philip-morris_n_1968152.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

Posted in Corporate Abuse. Comments Off on Mitt Romney’s Bain Helped Philip Morris Get U.S. High Schoolers Hooked On Cigarettes