Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?

Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?:

Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?

USDA senior scientist sends “emergency” warning to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

Please distribute widely and forward to your elected representatives

An open letter appeared on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance founded and run by Judith McGeary to save family farms in the US [1, 2]. The letter, written by Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, warns of a pathogen “new to science” discovered by “a team of senior plant and animal scientists”. Huber says it should be treated as an “emergency’’, as it could result in “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”

The letter appeared to have been written before Vilsack announced his decision to authorize unrestricted commercial planting of GM alfalfa on 1 February, in the hope of convincing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a moratorium instead on deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) crops.

The new pathogen appears associated with serious pervasive diseases in plants - sudden death syndrome in soybean and Goss' wilt in corn – but its suspected effects on livestock is alarming. Huber refers to “recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”

This could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some scientists including me have been warning for years [3] (see Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication): the unintended creation of new pathogens through assisted horizontal gene transfer and recombination.

Huber writes in closing: “I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”

The complete letter is reproduced below.

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

A team of senior plant and animal scientists have recently brought to my attention the discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings. Based on a review of the data, it is widespread, very serious, and is in much higher concentrations in Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans and corn-suggesting a link with the RR gene or more likely the presence of Roundup. This organism appears NEW to science!

This is highly sensitive information that could result in a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies. On the other hand, this new organism may already be responsible for significant harm (see below). My colleagues and I are therefore moving our investigation forward with speed and discretion, and seek assistance from the USDA and other entities to identify the pathogen's source, prevalence, implications, and remedies.

We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of RR alfalfa. Naturally, if either the RR gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity. Based on the current evidence, the only reasonable action at this time would be to delay deregulation at least until sufficient data has exonerated the RR system, if it does.

For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks. Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman's terms, it should be treated as an emergency.

A diverse set of researchers working on this problem have contributed various pieces of the puzzle, which together presents the following disturbing scenario:

Unique Physical Properties
This previously unknown organism is only visible under an electron microscope (36,000X), with an approximate size range equal to a medium size virus. It is able to reproduce and appears to be a micro-fungal-like organism. If so, it would be the first such micro-fungus ever identified. There is strong evidence that this infectious agent promotes diseases of both plants and mammals, which is very rare.

Pathogen Location and Concentration
It is found in high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybean meal and corn, distillers meal, fermentation feed products, pig stomach contents, and pig and cattle placentas.

Linked with Outbreaks of Plant Disease
The organism is prolific in plants infected with two pervasive diseases that are driving down yields and farmer income-sudden death syndrome (SDS) in soy, and Goss' wilt in corn. The pathogen is also found in the fungal causative agent of SDS (Fusarium solani fsp glycines).

Implicated in Animal Reproductive Failure
Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of this organism in a wide variety of livestock that have experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility. Preliminary results from ongoing research have also been able to reproduce abortions in a clinical setting.

The pathogen may explain the escalating frequency of infertility and spontaneous abortions over the past few years in US cattle, dairy, swine, and horse operations. These include recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.

For example, 450 of 1,000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlege experienced spontaneous abortions. Over the same period, another 1,000 heifers from the same herd that were raised on hay had no abortions. High concentrations of the pathogen were confirmed on the wheatlege, which likely had been under weed management using glyphosate.

Recommendations
In summary, because of the high titer of this new animal pathogen in Roundup Ready crops, and its association with plant and animal diseases that are reaching epidemic proportions, we request USDA's participation in a multi-agency investigation, and an immediate moratorium on the deregulation of RR crops until the causal/predisposing relationship with glyphosate and/or RR plants can be ruled out as a threat to crop and animal production and human health.

It is urgent to examine whether the side-effects of glyphosate use may have facilitated the growth of this pathogen, or allowed it to cause greater harm to weakened plant and animal hosts. It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders. To properly evaluate these factors, we request access to the relevant USDA data.

I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.

Sincerely,

COL (Ret.) Don M. Huber
Emeritus Professor, Purdue University
APS Coordinator, USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System (NPDRS)

References

1. “Researcher: Glyphosate (Roundup) or Roundup Ready Crops May Cause Animal Miscarriages”, Jill Richardson, La Vida Locavore, 18 February 2011
http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/4523

2. “Researcher: Glyphosate (Roundup) or Roundup Ready Crops May Cause Animal Miscarriages”, 18 February 2011, http://farmandranchfreedom.org/gmo-miscarriages

3. Ho MW. Genetic Engineering Dream of Nightmare? The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business, Third World Network, Gateway Books, MacMillan, Continuum, Penang, Malaysia, Bath, UK, Dublin, Ireland, New York, USA, 1998, 1999, 2007 (reprint with extended Introduction). http://www.i-sis.org.uk/genet.php

Monday, February 21, 2011

WHAT TO DO | US Uncut

WHAT TO DO | US Uncut: "I: HOW TO GET STARTED

1. Plan your action for the US Uncut/UK Uncut suggested days of action. Do this by coming to the website, clicking the actions tab, and telling everyone when and where your action will be.

2. Search for or create your local chapter. Search through our twitter feed for mentions of existing US Uncut groups.

3. Spread the word. Mention @usuncut and use the hashtag #usuncut in related posts. Create a facebook event and invite your friends. Call/email your local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations.

II: PLANNING AND TAKING ACTION IN 5 EASY STEPS

1. Choose your target. Go to the 'Targets' tab on the website to find a list of and information on America's most egregious tax dodgers.

2. Plan your specific action. Find one of those companies' local branches in your community. On Saturday, February 26th, US Uncut's suggested target is Bank of America. Local organizers are free to act autonomously and choose a different target if necessary.

3. Bring friends, meet new people. Tell friends, family members, coworkers, business associates, classmates, roommates, neighbors, teammates, fellow churchgoers, significant others and everyone else you know about your action.

4. Be creative, think outside the box. US Uncut follows UK Uncut's example of creative protests. Watch their video here for how to stage a bail-in at your target corporation on the day of action you've planned. Make it fun and interesting!

5. Do it already! On your planned day of action, go to your target and stage your action. Emphasis is on creativity and nonviolent, direct action. Make sure you print out some flyers with useful information on your target's tax dodging activities, tie that to low tax revenues for your state, and how that relates to unnecessary budget cuts. hand it out to everyone you see!

6. Bring a video camera. If it isn't captured in video or photographs, it didn't happen. Be sure to share your video with the US Uncut twitter feed and send it to your local media.

Staging your own US Uncut action is easy. This website will serve as your organization's hub to plan local actions at specific targets. Remember- it is entirely up to you to plan and take action.

Let's get to work. See you on the streets.

- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Impeach Gov Scott


High-speed rail backers to rally in Tampa - St. Petersburg Times: "TAMPA — Supporters of high-speed rail will gather Monday in hopes of convincing Florida Gov. Rick Scott to accept federal money before it's offered to other states.

The rally comes a day after Scott said he would be willing to look at a plan that alleviates financial risk to the state. Former Tampa City Council member Linda Saul-Sena is helping organize a "Rally for High Speed Rail" in downtown Tampa on Monday in conjunction with the group Liveable Tampa Roundtable. The rally is scheduled for noon at City Hall Plaza, at the southeast corner of East Kennedy Boulevard and Franklin Street.

10 Developments in the Huge Story of Wisconsin's Uprising:

10 Developments in the Huge Story of Wisconsin's Uprising

The fight over Republican Governor Scott Walker's Union-busting bill may have just begun. Here's a run-down on the unfolding events.



The drama unfolding in Wisconsin enters its second week, and as tens of thousands of workers and their supporters ring the state's capitol expressing outrage over Union-busting Republican Governor Scott Walker's bill, the impasse doesn't appear to be headed towards a resolution anytime soon. AlterNet has stayed on top of this momentous story, and here are the latest developments.
1. Democratic Lawmakers in Exile Want Fair Negotiations

According to the Huffington Post, the Democratic lawmakers who crossed state lines last week to block the passage of Walker's bill aren't going to return until the governor agrees to sit down and negotiate in good faith. Monday is the fifth day of their self-imposed exile. "We'll be here until Gov. Walker decides that he wants to talk," Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) told Amanda Terkel on Saturday.
He added that so far, the governor refuses to meet with them or even return the phone calls from members of the Democratic caucus.
"He's just hard-lined -- will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls," said Carpenter. "In a democracy, I thought we were supposed to talk. But the thing is, he's been a dictator, and just basically said this is the only thing. No amendments, and it's going to be that way."
On Sunday, AlterNet posted video of Wisconsin State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, angrily chastising the GOP majority for pushing Scott Walker's union-busting bill through without giving lawmakers time to read it or allowing for public hearings of any kind. You can watch it here.
2. Massive Crowds for State Workers as a Handful of Tea Partiers Arrive
Last week, Mother Jones reported that masses of Tea Partiers would be bussed in by American Majority, a corporate-backed right-wing astro-turf operation, causing many progressive commenters to note the irony of the Tea Party's new-found devotion to Big Government. As it turned out, approximately 2,000 arrived -- along with Andrew Breitbart -- only to find themselves out-numbered by pro-union demonstrators by a ratio as high as 35 to 1.
Fox "News" spent the whole weekend advancing the specter of thuggish unionists "rioting" at the capitol, which as usual turned out to be wrong. The Madison police Department issued a release after Saturday's protests praising the demonstrators:
On behalf of all the law enforcement agencies that helped keep the peace on the Capitol Square Saturday, a very sincere thank you to all of those who showed up to exercise their First Amendment rights. You conducted yourselves with great decorum and civility, and if the eyes of the nation were upon Wisconsin, then you have shown how democracy can flourish even amongst those who passionately disagree.
According to MPD, there were a few minor scuffles, but no major incidents and no arrests through Saturday night. Kristine Mattis, who blogs at "Rebelpleb," added that "rumblings that protesters have “trashed” the capitol...[are] completely false. Members of unions, particularly the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA) and the Milwaukee Graduate Assistants’ Association (MGAA), have been regularly organizing volunteer crews to clean up trash and litter." Mattis adds that a sign in the Capitol Building informing visitors that firearms aren't permitted within "only emerged, after five days of entirely peaceful protests, when the Tea Party arrived."
3. Wisconsin Uprising Part of a Larger Awakening
On Sunday, economist Robert Kuttner wrote that "something important that was largely missing has been kindled. Popular protest against financial abuses, top-down class warfare, clueless Republicans, and misplaced austerity is finally in the air. The labor movement is leading, and even non-union Americans are realizing why organized labor is all about protecting the middle class generally."
Wisconsin appears to be the beginning of a larger movement, and for good reason. According to CBS News, "Nine other Republican governors from Nevada to New Jersey are also targeting unions with various proposals: decreasing wages and bargaining power in some cases, increasing what workers contribute to pensions and benefits in others."
On Sunday, we reported that America's labor movement is readying for a second show-down with union-busting legislators on Monday, as Indiana considers a so-called "right to work" law similar to that proposed by Wisconsin's governor. A South Bend Tribune editorial warned hoosiers to "beware of the 'right-to-work' hoax that politicians and CEOs are pushing. A right-to-work law won't help business and it won't help workers." Organizers are preparing to do battle in Ohio and Florida as well.
On February 26, US Uncut -- a grassroots coalition that's modeled on the movement that faced tuition hikes in the UK and has been called a liberal answer to the Tea Parties -- is organizing protests across the country. The theme: no austerity while corporate tax dodgers game the system. Find out more about US Uncut here -- find a local protest and mark the date.
Also, in case you missed it, check out Naomi Klein's interview with Chris Hayes here -- the two discuss why Wisconsin is so important, and touch on Uncut US's upcoming mobilization.
4. It's a Ginned-Up "Crisis," but Scott Walker Isn't Entirely to Blame for Wisconsin's Budget Gap
It's been widely reported, including on AlterNet, that Scott Walker inherited a $120 million budget surplus, and then promptly created a budget deficit in order to break the backs of Wisconsin's public employees' unions.

Politifact did an analysis of this issue which shows that Walker in fact inherited a manageable, long-term budget gap and then spun it as an imminent crisis that must be addressed this year.
The reports stem from a a Jan. 31, 2011 memo prepared by Robert Lang, the director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that was picked up by the Associated Press and a number of other outlets. It does state that Wisconsin was on course for a surplus this year, which the media reported that in good faith. The issue is what Politifact refers to as the memo's "fine print."
[It] outlines $258 million in unpaid bills or expected shortfalls in programs such as Medicaid services for the needy ($174 million alone), the public defender’s office and corrections. Additionally, the state owes Minnesota $58.7 million under a discontinued tax reciprocity deal.
The result, by our math and Lang’s, is the $137 million shortfall.
It's important to understand that this doesn't change the fact that Walker dishonestly portrayed his union-busting bill as a budget fix, which, as you'll see below, it is not.
5. More Evidence that Walker's Bill Has Nothing to do With Wages, Benefits and the State's Budget Gap
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has a long history trying to break public sector unions. But last week, as the Milwaukee Business Times reported, he insisted that "his bill was strictly based on the need to cut the budget and was not based on any political agenda." Indeed, the bill was introduced by the governor as an "emergency measure... needed to balance the state budget and give government the tools to manage during economic crisis."
But, as we reported on Sunday, a close reading of the governor's own press release announcing the measure shows just how misleading that claim really is.
Here's the problem, according to Walker's release:
The state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1. In addition, bill collectors are waiting to collect over $225 million for a prior raid of the Patients’ Compensation Fund.
There is a $137 million shortfall for this year. Regarding the Patients' Compensation Fund, Politifact reports that "a court ruling is pending in that matter, so the money might not have to be transferred until next budget year."
But here are three important points from the governor's release that show quite clearly that this bill has nothing at all to do with closing Wisconsin's budget gap in the near-term -- as an emergency measure that wasn't even subject to public debate.
1. "The budget repair will also restructure the state debt, lowering the state’s interest rate, saving the state $165 million." That's right, restructuring the state's outstanding debt yields more savings than the projected shortfall, and nobody is objecting to that provision.
2. "It will require state employees to pay about 5.8% toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12% of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average). These changes will help the state save $30 million in the last three months of the current fiscal year." Yes, those give-backs would yield less than 20 percent of what the debt restructuring would bring in. And, as I mentioned earlier, the public employees' unions offered to make those concessions in exchange for losing the provision that would bar them from negotiating their benefits package in the future, and the GOP flatly refused the offer.
3. The collective bargaining provision wouldn't kick in until after the current contracts expire, meaning that the measure would yield exactly zero savings in the current budget.
Random Lengths News' Paul Rosenberg caught this, and adds that Walker is also sitting on an "unused cache of $73 million" in the state's economic development fund -- "more than twice what’s being sought from public sector workers.”
Samuel Smith at Scholars and Rogues has more detail.
AlterNet also reported over the weekend that while far too many pundits continue to buy Scott Walker's spin that the Wisconsin uprising is a response to the state's public employees being asked to shoulder more of the burden for their health-care and pension costs, the reality is that it's really all about the union-busting.

According to the Milwaukee Business Times, the unions have in fact agreed to all of the GOP's demands on wages and benefits, in exchange for Republicans dropping the provision that would strip them of the right to negotiate in the future:
Although union leaders and Wisconsin Democratic Senators are offering to accept the wage and benefit concessions Gov. Scott Walker is demanding, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said today a bill taking away collective bargaining rights from public employees is not negotiable.
Democrats and union leaders said they're willing to agree to the parts of Walker's budget repair bill that would double their health insurance contributions and require them to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary to their pensions. However, the union leaders want to keep their collective bargaining rights.
"I have been informed that all state and local public employees – including teachers - have agreed to the financial aspects of Governor Walker's request," Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) said. "This includes Walker's requested concessions on public employee health care and pension. In return they ask only that the provisions that deny their right to collectively bargain are removed. This will solve the budget challenge. This is a real opportunity for us to come together and resolve the issue and move on. It is incumbent upon Governor Walker to seriously consider and hopefully accept this offer as soon as possible."
However, Fitzgerald said the terms of the bill are not negotiable, and he called upon Democrats who left the state this week to stall a vote on the bill to return to the Capitol.
On a related note, Business Insider, citing research by economist Menzie Chinn, reported that "Wisconsin's public sector workers get paid LESS than the private sector." Almost 5 percent less, even including healthcare and retirement benefits.
Now, we have some quick hits:
6. Bubba Arriving on the Scene?
Mike Elk reports that rumors are swirling around the capitol that Bill Clinton may be headed to Wisconsin as an act of solidarity with the unions that helped Hillary's presidential campaign.
7. Foxed
Crooks and Liars highlighted a bogus smear being pushed by Fox "News" -- one that originated, naturally, with one of ACORN-killer James O'Keefe's former associates.
Raw Story reported that "protesters shouted 'Fox lies! Fox lies!' throughout a Fox News segment on the demonstration in Wisconsin Friday."
8. Business Community Unhappy With Walker?
Mike Elk also reported that Wisconsin's local business community is showing signs of turning against Scott Walker.
9. Rage Against the Machine
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that "Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Wayne Kramer, Street Dogs and other musicians just announced they'll join pro-union protesters at the Capitol" today.
10. Egyptian Workers Express Solidarity with Wisconsin's Public Workers
Michael Moore.com has posted a statement of support, "from a place very close to Tahrir Square in Cairo," by Kamal Abbas, the General Coordinator of the CTUWS, which is "an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt." We posted this picture over the weekend:

What You Can Do -- Big Weeks Ahead
The Wisconsin Uprising appears to be an opening shot in a genuinely grassroots push-back against the corporate Right's attack on the labor movement and, more broadly, our social safety net. We'll continue following events as they unfold.
You can offer your solidarity in a number of ways. Check out US Uncut, get out and make your voice heard.
In the meantime, you can send the protesters in Wisconsin a pizza! On Sunday, Ian's Pizza on State Street announced on its Facebook page that it was suspending its normal in-store and delivery operations "to keep up with the high volume of calls it was receiving from people all over the country and the world seeking to buy pizza for the protesters at the Capitol." According to New York Magazine, "Ian’s gave away 1,057 donated slices yesterday and delivered more than 300 pizzas. The blackboard behind the counter now has a running list of places where donations have come from, and it includes China and Egypt."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Activation: Power of Creation

Activation: Power of Creation: "We invite all Planetary Light Servers to sponsor a certain geographical region in which to help establish a stronger pathway of love and light. You may choose any area upon the earth that remains in great density of consciousness, warring, conflict and suffering. Your special geo focus will then be part of the pivotal energy transmission this full moon as we invoke and join the Elohim creation powers of nature.



- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tea Party Patriots Investigated: 'They Use You and Abuse You' | | AlterNet

Tea Party Patriots Investigated: 'They Use You and Abuse You'

To read more articles like this one, subscribe to Mother Jones.

Two years ago, Tea Party Patriots got its start as a scrappy, ground-up conservative organization. Its rowdy activists demanded more transparency and less business-as-usual in the nation's capital, and they worked hard to elect candidates who they believed wouldn't succumb to the ways of Washington. But it didn't take long for the grassroots tea party organization to embrace the DC establishment—and some of its more questionable practices.

Lately, Tea Party Patriots (TPP) has started to resemble the Beltway lobbying operations its members have denounced. The group's leaders have cozied up to political insiders implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and have paid themselves significant salaries. TPP accepted the use of a private jet and a large donation of anonymous cash right before a key election, and its top officials have refused to discuss how the money was spent. And recently, the group has hired several big-time fundraising and public relations firms that work for the who's who of the Republican political class, including some of the GOP's most secretive campaign operations.

As TPP's leaders entrench themselves in Washington, local activists the group represents have accused them of exploiting the grassroots for their own fame and fortune while failing to deliver any meaningful political results. "Tea Party Patriots? I can't attribute one victory to them at all," says Laura Boatright, a former TPP regional coordinator in Southern California who has become an outspoken critic. "Where's the success with what they've done with all this money? My view is that it's just a career plan" for its national leaders—namely Jenny Beth Martin, who in 2010 was named by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and Mark Meckler, now a regular commentator on Fox News. (Meckler and Martin did not respond to a request to comment for this story.)

In August, TPP inked a contract with MDS Communications, an Arizona-based phone fundraising firm that counts as clients the Republican National Committee and most of the GOP's congressional campaign organizations. MDS even handled the telephone fundraising for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign. The firm specializes in working with the GOP's evangelical foot soldiers, including the National Right to Life Committee, Concerned Women for America, and the Family Research Council. It has been heavily involved in anti-gay marriage activities, once donating its services to help raise more than $7 million for Arizona's Proposition 102, which created a state ban on gay marriage.

The MDS deal with TPP is anything but cheap. Documents filed with the Colorado secretary of state indicate that MDS will keep at least 70 percent of the money it raises—nearly $3 out of every $4. In 2005, California's attorney generalreleased a report (PDF) showing that MDS was among a number of fundraising companies that returned less than 15 percent of what they raised to some of the charities they worked for. Out of more than $585,000 MDS pulled in for the Concerned Women for America, for instance, not a dime went back to the nonprofit group, according to the report.

TPP's leaders negotiated a similar deal with Capitol Resources, the most formidable GOP phone fundraising operation in the presidential bellwether state of Iowa. Corporate filings show the company will keep 75 percent of the money it raises hitting up tea partiers for donations.

The firm's owner, Nicole Schlinger, is a longtime GOP operative. She was the finance director of the Iowa Republican Party in the late 1990s, and she directed Mitt Romney's victorious 2007 Iowa presidential straw poll campaign. Schlinger also served as the original president and sole board member of the American Future Fund, an outside expenditure group that spent millions from anonymous donors during the 2010 midterms attacking Democratic candidates. (Earlier this month, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the IRS to investigate the group for allegedly violating its tax-exempt status.)

Rounding out TPP's new stable of political consultants is the Richard Norman Company, a Virginia-based direct-mail fundraising and PR firm. Norman, like the other firms on TPP's payroll, represents some of the country's most prominent GOP players, including the political action committee of former uber-lobbyist and current Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

TPP has long insisted that it wants to avoid divisive social issues like abortion to focus on the core values of fiscal responsibility and limited government. But in hiring the Norman firm (and MDS, too), it has joined the ranks of a long list of evangelical organizations affiliated with the far-right wing that are represented by the company.

Norman clients include the Foundation for Moral Law, the group founded by the defrocked Alabama Supreme Court judge Roy Moore, who was kicked out of office for his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments sculpture from his courtroom. Also on the firm's client roster are several anti-immigration groups, including the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Norman even represents a group headed by birther Gary Kreep.

TPP's new coterie of consultants and fundraisers may put the group in a new league politically—but they have sparked bitter complaints by affiliated tea party groups, whose members are tired of being hounded for money. Some see TPP morphing into the very type of slick, DC-centric special interest group they have been fighting against.

In an interview with Congress.com last month, TPP's Martin tried to play down such notions. "Any possible solutions that we come up with, especially policy related, we're going to go back to the local coordinators and say, 'Do you agree with this?'" she said.

Rank-and-file tea partiers aren't buying it. Last month, Jeanie Backus Coates, then the New Mexico state coordinator for TPP, sent out an urgent email to her grassroots compatriotswarning that TPP was using telemarketers to raise money from local activists. In a January 13 email, she wrote:

The Tea Party Patriots national website clearly states that 100% of the funds raised go to furthering OUR efforts. Well, I guess that's true AFTER paying out salaries, consultants, telemarketers, attorneys, etc...

And yes, Jenny Beth and [coordinator] Mark Meckler hired a consultant without most of us even knowing about it and now that consultant has encouraged and those two have decided to start soliciting donations from our own local tea party participants so that they can pay themselves, their consultant, their telemarketers, and their attorneys.

Coates was particularly angered because the national TPP leaders have relentlessly pressured local affiliates to turn over their valuable membership contact lists to the national organization, which the group is now using to sic telemarketers on tea partiers.

The list controversy dates back to September, when TPP announced that it had received a $1 million grant from an anonymous donor to conduct get out the vote work before the midterm elections. The money was distributed to local tea party groups, but initially only on the condition that they turn over their membership lists to the national organization, a move that raised suspicions that TPP intended to sell this valuable data. (Fueling these suspicions was the fact that Meckler works for a lead-generation company that provides email contacts to companies often considered to be pyramid schemes.)

"They make it seem like they help local groups. None of that money ever goes back to local groups."

Now, activists are furious to discover that TPP is leveraging those lists to mine tea partiers for money that will fund such things as Meckler and Martin's salaries, a winter conference in Phoenix, and of course, the high-priced fundraisers themselves.

Disgruntled former TPP volunteers and activists say that rather than partners in a movement, they have increasingly come to feel like fundraising marks. TPP's fundraising appeals, they say, can be quite deceptive.

One sent out recently by TPP's Martin pleads with "patriots" to donate to pay for sound-stage equipment, event security, travel expenses for speakers, and other tea party rally trappings. She promises that the money will fund the group's efforts to meet with local tea party groups and "to give them the advice, direction, and the logistical support they need to get off the ground." Respondents can return a form pre-addressed to Martin that reads, "Dear Jenny Beth, Thank you for sacrificing your former way of life to fight for our liberty and for the core values and principles our great nation was founded on."

Some tea partiers point out that Martin's "way of life" has improved considerably since she started making a reported $6,000 a month as TPP's national coordinator. Before she became a tea party star, she was working as a maid, scrubbing toilets for Atlanta suburbanites after her husband's company went belly up.

Cindy Chafian, the co-coordinator of California's Chino Hills Tea Party in California, used to donate monthly to TPP. She has since grown disillusioned with the group and its leaders. Far from helping local activists like her, Chafian says, TPP's fundraising efforts are actually diverting resources from the local groups that need them. "They make it seem like they help local groups," she says. "None of that money ever goes back to local groups."

TPP's nonstop fundraising efforts have reached the point where the group's weekly conference calls with activists have turned into little more than telethons, says the organization's former Georgia state coordinator, Joy McGraw. And, far from bolstering local groups, the national organization has left them holding the bag for bills they incur advancing the movement. Such was the case with McGraw, who says she arranged an event attended by Martin and Meckler that featured GOP talking head Dick Morris. McGraw says Martin had her deal with all the logistics for the event, even signing contracts for catering and other expenses, but refused to let her handle any of the money raised to pay for it, including through ticket sales. When the $5,000 catering bill came due, the national coordinators refused to pay, she says. When creditors began to come after her, McGraw was forced to raise money from fellow activists to pay off the debt.

"Tea Party Patriots don't really do anything for the local groups," she says."There are a lot of frustrated people. There are a lot of other people in the country who've done events and have gotten screwed over. We are all volunteers. We do not get paid like [Martin] does. They don't say, 'Thank you.' They use you and abuse you."**

The money TPP has raised is significant, and the hiring of professional fundraisers should only help matters. According to a financial statement filed with the Colorado secretary of state, TPP raised $538,009 between June 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010. It would later receive the $1 million donation. Given the amount of cash that has sloshed through TPP's coffers in the past two years, much of it from individual grassroots donors, many activists have begun to wonder how it's been spent by an organization that doesn't even have an office. Yet TPP has proven virtually inscrutable, and its leaders have refused to answer the question: Where's all the money going?

**Update 2/14/10 Mother Jones asked a tea party spokesman to comment on this story last week but did not get a response. After the story was published, Debbie Dooley, a TPP national coordinator in Georgia, emailed Mother Jones disputing McGraw's account of events, saying that McGraw approached TPP about doing the event with Dick Morris and offered to sign a contract pledging to handle all the expenses and debt from the event, in exchange for taking a 15 percent cut of any profits, with the rest going to the Atlanta Tea Party.

Stephanie Mencimer is a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. For more of her stories, click here. You can also follow her on twitter. Get Stephanie Mencimer's RSS feed.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Defeating Corporations

Vision: How Small, Mostly Conservative Towns Have Found the Trick to Defeating Corporations | | AlterNet: "Towns Have Found the Trick to Defeating Corporations
As the Right pushes privatization as a solution to the economic collapse, one organization is teaching communities how to defeat corporations.

Across the country, small, disparate groups of people are wising up and taking action to combat corporate control by using a new strategy. And these citizens are winning. One of the first rallying calls has been against the privatization of public water infrastructure and attempts by corporate water bottlers to pilfer spring water, as well. Communities are welcoming "Democracy Schools," run by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, into their towns, in an attempt to better understand the laws that protect corporations and the ways to defeat them.

It's too early yet to call these small revolutions a movement, but something is afoot, mostly in America's rural towns, and if it continues to grow it may very well prove transformative.

Water For Sale

Falling on hard times, Coatesville, Penn. decided to sell off its drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in 2001 and invest the money in a trust fund to be used for city services. But privatization hasn't been the economic boon the city was hoping for. After even tougher economic times hit Coatesville, the trust has already been drained by two-thirds and residents have seen their water and sewer rates jump 85 percent since American Water, the larger water corporation in the country, took the helm. Last year the company even proposed a 229-percent rate hike for sewer services, forcing the city to cobble together money for legal fees to fight back.

The story of Coatesville is a wake-up call of sorts. Most of us don't think too much about where our water comes from, and it's usually one of our least expensive monthly bills. And right now, the vast majority of us (80 percent) get our water from a public utility. But this figure has multinational water corporations drooling -- the U.S. is a huge market that could be exploited if Americans can be persuaded (or tricked) into giving up control of their most important resource.

For decades private companies, mostly multinational corporations, have made inroads in the U.S. (and they've had great success elsewhere in the world). But their progress hasn't been major and an inspection of municipalities that have gone from public to private shows that consumers usually end up seeing higher rates and crappier services. And while those facts don't seem like they're changing anytime soon, more and more communities are contemplating privatization, thanks to disaster capitalism.

In a new report, "Trends in Water Privatization," Food and Water Watch found that from 1991 to 2010, private companies bought or leased about 144 public water systems -- an average of about seven deals a year. But since the economic collapse, things are changing. As of October 2010, at least 39 communities were considering whether they should sell or lease their water infrastructure. And the reasons for privatization are changing. Corporations used to swoop in to try and "rescue" communities when they couldn't afford expensive upgrades, but now, even cities with well-functioning, in-the-black water systems are looking to sell or lease them in hopes that privatization will bring an influx of cash to pay for other programs.

Sadly, that's not usually how it pans out. "It's always the same false claim: Private is more efficient than public. The public unions are impossible to work with, they'll say, and we have a corporation that can save us dollars," Jack E. Lohman, author of Politicians: Owned and Operated by Corporate America, wrote in the Capital Times. "Rarely is that true, especially after they add all of the exorbitant salaries, bonuses, shareholder profits, marketing and political bribes that must be passed on to the taxpayer. These costs usually far exceed government waste, unless offset by egregiously low salaries that further harm the economy."

Any sane financial adviser would know that selling off a recurring revenue stream for a one-time boost to the budget doesn't make sense in the long run. After looking at the 10 largest sales and concessions of public water systems, Food and Water Watch found that rates went up an average of 15 percent a year in the 12 years following a privatization deal.

Not only it does it end up being an economic loss for residents and their governments, but it is a huge abdication of power. Water is the lifeblood of our communities. By turning this over to corporations, whose first responsibility is to shareholders, how can we guarantee safe and affordable drinking water for everyone? Should corporations, whose short-sighted drive for profit brought our economy to its knees, really be trusted with our most vital resource?

Communities Revolt

From big cities like Atlanta, Georgia to small towns such as Felton, Calif., communities have fought back to regain public control after water privatization deals went sour. But it's not just drinking water infrastructure that has towns concerned -- water bottling companies, run by multinationals like Nestle, have also been targeting rural communities' spring and well water.

In the small town of McCloud, Calif., a former logging town in the shadow of Mount Shasta, Nestle quietly signed a 100-year deal to bottle 200 million gallons of spring water a year and unlimited amounts of groundwater without any public input and without an environmental impact statement. Concerned community members joined together to fight back, and six years later they succeeded in sending Nestle packing. While residents may have been successful in McCloud, their battle was resource- and time-intensive. Across the country, similar fights were also going on, as small towns worried about depletion and degradation of their water resources fought back against bottling companies, but only sometimes emerged victorious.

Thomas Linzey knows of an easier way to do things. Instead of trying to beat out corporations by fighting the regulatory system, Linzey has helped people to see a different path forward. A founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Linzey and his colleagues help "communities to draft and adopt legally binding laws in which they asserted their right to self-govern," according to the organization's Web site.

"We think today's contemporary activism is the wrong frame, and in addition it is aimed at the wrong thing," Linzey said. "Most of it's federal and state activism. We think those things are pretty much dead. The only place where there is a window to operate is at the local level and then that can be used to up-end the state and federal to build a new system of law, which I think our communities are recognizing is needed."

Essentially, Linzey believes, the last 40 years of environmental activism hasn't accomplished very much, and by fighting within the regulatory system, we've been barking up the wrong tree.

His colleague Gail Darrell, an organizer in New England, explains, "Under the regulatory structure you're not allowed to say no to anything permitted by the state -- water withdrawals, sewage sludge, biomass plants, toxic waste dumps, landfills -- all of that is regulated and permitted by state agencies and they issue permits to industry guided by their regulatory statues that allow them to cause harm to the environment within in certain limits. But that structure doesn't allow a municipality to say no to any of those practices. Your feet are cut off at the beginning. When an industry goes to the regulatory agency and gets an application, once that application is administratively complete that permit must be issued by right."

Combine this regulatory bias with corporate rights being ingrained in our Constitution (yes, long before Citizens United) and the tables are stacked against ordinary folks. "Corporations have the same rights as people -- the first, fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendments," said Linzey. "They also have rights derived from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution that allows them to sue communities to overturn laws dealing with commerce." Before Citizens United there were 80-100 years of cases ingraining corporate rights, he said.

To even the playing field a bit, CELDF has helped around 120 communities pass binding ordinances that give them the ability to say no to corporate control. Ordinances they've helped to draft have given towns the right to eliminate corporate personhood -- to say no to water bottling companies drilling for water in their towns, for instance -- and to assert the rights of nature.

"Any citizen can stand in the shoes of that river or other piece of nature and advocate for it -- we don't have to own that piece of property" said Darrell. "And if there is a gas spill that happens from a tanker crossing the bridge and it dumps into our river, we can use our rights of nature language to force that corporation to recover the damages and those are paid to the town to restore the river."

Most of this work has been successful in small, rural towns. The organization has its roots in Pennsylvania, working first with communities that wanted to ban corporate factory farms and then with towns that didn't want sewage sludge being dumped where they lived. Later the work branched out to help communities fighting water bottlers, like Nestle, and most recently with towns concerned about the natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The towns where they've been successful, Linzey says, are not liberal enclaves by any stretch; in fact, it's been just the opposite because it started out as a rights issue -- a conservative Republican issue.

"The hardest places to work are the liberal progressive communities because they think we have a democracy and they are intent on working within the existing structure to try to find a remedy rather than tossing it and working on something from scratch," said Linzey. "What's been fascinating to me is when you have south and north-central Pennsylvania towns passing binding local ordinances that refuse to endow corporations with constitutional rights in their communities. But in the liberal progressive bastion of Berkeley, they were passing non-binding resolutions urging Congress to do something about it. I think that difference in approach has become clear to me over the last decade. Here are rural conservatives passing things saying we won't let our rights be taken away and are using a local law as a municipal, collective civil disobedience tool to actually push up against the state to say 'fuck you.' Whereas in Berkeley people get in a huff and do some hand-wringing and pass a resolution which begs and pleads Congress to do something about corporate rights, which is never going to happen, at least in the next 20-30 years."

While most of CELDF's work has been in small towns, this fall the city of Pittsburgh became the largest municipality they've worked with to ban corporate personhood, establish the rights of nature and tell gas drillers interested in fracking to get out of town.

This big victory comes on the heels of many smaller wins that have gone under the radar.

Darrell lives in the town of Barnstead, New Hampshire. After spending years watching a neighboring town try to prevent a bottling company from extracting water in their community (it's going on nine years now), folks in Barnstead got together to find a different solution. They ended up working with CELDF, attending the organization's Democracy School, and passing an ordinance that protects them from bottling companies and corporate control and also establishes the rights of nature. Soon, other nearby towns followed suit.

The idea is pretty simple, but it's also radical. "We're the first folks to talk about really the need to rewrite the Constitution itself, to create a new constitutional structure and most folks aren't touching that," said Linzey. "You can't talk about it in polite company. People talk about amendments, we think the thing is archaic in many ways other than the Bill of Rights. We need a new constitutional structure that recognizes community local self-governance as well as the rights of nature. We can't get there with the document we have which was written in the 1780s. The question is, will enough people come together across the country to actually rise up to demand a new structure?"

Linzey and Darrell both believe the answer is a long way down the road -- perhaps 20 or 30 years. "We need a complete revolt of sorts from the local level," said Linzey, adding that communities in Pennsylvania and New England were already teaming up to try to influence change at higher levels. "I think all that is positive but it is too early, I don't think it's a movement at all, it's just disparate people in disparate places trying to grapple with what this structure delivered to them and figure out what they need to do to fix it."

As the campaign of disaster capitalism marches on, we may begin to see a groundswell of communities rising up to reclaim the rights of people against the advances of corporations. In many places it may spring from a desire to protect what is most critical -- such as water -- but it always, Linzey says, "takes real imminent harm -- that's the only thing powerful enough to get people to rip off the blinders."

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

"We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider | | AlterNet


Asked what most viewers anservers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: “I don’t think people would believe it’s as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up.”Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch’s cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.

We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider "They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news,' says a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch.

We Were a Stalin-esque Mouthpiece for Bush" -- Fox News Insider

"They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news," says a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch.
“It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats,” says the source. “They’re a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news.”
And that’s the word from inside Fox News.
Note the story here isn’t that Fox News leans right. Everyone knows the channel pushes a conservative-friendly version of the news. Everyone who’s been paying attention has known that since the channel’s inception more than a decade ago. The real story, and the real danger posed by the cable outlet, is that over time Fox News stopped simply leaning to the right and instead became an open and active political player, sort of one-part character assassin and one-part propagandist, depending on which party was in power. And that the operation thrives on fabrications and falsehoods.
“They say one thing and do another. They insist on maintaining this charade, this fa├žade, that they’re balanced or that they’re not right-wing extreme propagandist,” says the source. But it’s all a well-orchestrated lie, according this former insider. It’s a lie that permeates the entire Fox News culture and one that staffers and producers have to learn quickly in order to survive professionally.
“You have to work there for a while to understand the nods and the winks,” says the source. “And God help you if you don’t because sooner or later you’re going to get burned.”
The source explains:
“Like any news channel there’s lot of room for non-news content. The content that wasn’t ‘news,’ they didn’t care what we did with as long as it was amusing or quirky or entertaining; as along as it brought in eyeballs. But anything—anything--that was a news story you had to understand what the spin should be on it. If it was a big enough story it was explained to you in the morning [editorial] meeting. If it wasn’t explained, it was up to you to know the conservative take on it. There’s a conservative take on every story no matter what it is. So you either get told what it is or you better intuitively know what it is.”
What if Fox News staffers aren’t instinctively conservative or don’t have an intuitive feeling for what the spin on a story should be? “My internal compass was to think like an intolerant meathead,” the source explains. “You could never error on the side of not being intolerant enough.”
The source recalls how Fox News changed over time:
“When I first got there back in the day, and I don’t know how they indoctrinate people now, but back in the day when they were “training” you, as it were, they would say, ‘Here’s how we’re different.’ They’d say if there is an execution of a condemned man at midnight and there are all the live truck outside the prison and all the lives shots. CNN would go, ‘Yes, tonight John Jackson, 25 of Mississippi, is going to die by lethal injection for the murder of two girls.’ MSNBC would say the same thing.
“We would come out and say, ‘Tonight, John Jackson who kidnapped an innocent two year old, raped her, sawed her head off and threw it in the school yard, is going to get the punishment that a jury of his peers thought he should get.’ And they say that’s the way we do it here. And you’re going , alright, it’s a bit of an extreme example but it’s something to think about. It’s not unreasonable.
"When you first get in they tell you we’re a bit of a counterpart to the screaming left wing lib media. So automatically you have to buy into the idea that the other media is howling left-wing. Don’t even start arguing that or you won’t even last your first day.
For the first few years it was let’s take the conservative take on things. And then after a few years it evolved into, well it’s not just the conservative take on things, we’re going to take the Republican take on things which is not necessarily in lock step with the conservative point of view.
“And then two, three, five years into that it was, we’re taking the Bush line on things, which was different than the GOP. We were a Stalin-esque mouthpiece. It was just what Bush says goes on our channel. And by that point it was just totally dangerous. Hopefully most people understand how dangerous it is for a media outfit to be a straight, unfiltered mouthpiece for an unchecked president.”
It’s worth noting that Fox News employees, either current or former, rarely speak to the press, even anonymously. And it’s even rarer for Fox News sources to bad mouth Murdoch’s channel. That’s partly because of strict non-disclosure agreements that most exiting employees sign and which forbid them from discussing their former employer. But it also stems from a pervasive us-vs.-them attitude that permeates Fox News. It’s a siege mentality that network boss Roger Ailes encourages, and one that colors the coverage his team produces.
“It was a kick ass mentality too,” says the former Fox News insider. “It was relentless and it never went away. If one controversy faded, goddamn it they would find another one. They were in search of these points of friction real or imagined. And most of them were imagined or fabricated. You always have to seem to be under siege. You always have to seem like your values are under attack. The brain trust just knew instinctively which stories to do, like the War on Christmas.”
According to the insider, Ailes is obsessed with presenting a unified Fox News front to the outside world; an obsession that may explain Ailes’ refusal to publically criticize or even critique his own team regardless of how outlandish their on-air behavior. “There may be internal squabbles. But what [Ailes] continually preaches is never piss outside the tent,” says the source. “When he gets really crazy is when stuff leaks out the door. He goes mental on that. He can’t stand that. He says in a dynamic enterprise like a network newsroom there’s going to be in fighting and ego, but he says keep it in the house.”
It’s clear that Fox News has become a misleading, partisan outlet. But here’s what the source stresses: Fox News is designed to mislead its viewers and designed to engage in a purely political enterprise.
In 2010, all sorts of evidence tumbled out to confirm that fact, like the recently leaked emails from inside Fox News, in which a top editor instructed his newsroom staffers (not just the opinion show hosts) to slant the news when reporting on key stories such as climate change and health care reform.
Meanwhile, Media Matters revealed that during the 2009-2010 election cycle, dozens of Fox News personalities endorsed, raised money, or campaigned for Republican candidates or organizations in more than 600 instances. And in terms of free TV airtime that Fox News handed over to GOP hopefuls, Media Matters calculated the channel essentially donated $55 million worth of airtime to Republican presidential hopefuls last year who also collect Fox News paychecks.
And of course, that’s when Murdoch wasn’t writing $1 million checks in the hopes of electing more Republican politicians.
So, Fox News as a legitimate news outlet? The source laughs at the suggestion, and thinks much of the public, along with the Beltway press corps, has been duped by Murdoch’s marketing campaign over the years. “People assume you need a license to call yourself a news channel. You don’t. So because they call themselves Fox News, people probably give them a pass on a lot of things,” says the source.
The source continues: “I don’t think people understand that it’s an organization that’s built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats. People tend think that stuff that’s on TV is real, especially under the guise of news. You’d think that people would wise up, but they don’t.”
As for the press, the former Fox News employee gives reporters and pundits low grades for refusing, over the years, to call out Fox News for being the propaganda outlet that it so clearly is. The source suggests there are a variety of reasons for the newsroom timidity.
“They don’t have enough staff or enough balls or don’t have enough money or don’t have enough interest to spend the time it takes to expose Fox News. Or it’s not worth the trouble. If you take on Fox, they’ll kick you in the ass,” says the source. “I’m sure most [journalists] know that. It’s not worth being Swift Boated for your effort,” a reference to how Fox News traditionally attacks journalists who write, or are perceived to have written, anything negative things about the channel.
The former insider admits to being perplexed in late 2009 when the Obama White House called out Murdoch’s operation as not being a legitimate new source, only to have major Beltway media players rush to the aid of Fox News and admonish the White House for daring to criticize the cable channel.
“That blew me away,” says the source, who stresses the White House’s critique of Fox News “happens to be true.”
Eric Boehlert is is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. He's the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006) and Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, 2009). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sitting Long Is Dangerous To Heart Health -- Jon Barron Blog

Sitting Negates Workout Benefits

When Jon first wrote Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, he titled the chapter on exercise "Move or Die." Recent studies now show that's even more true than Jon thought at the time. It turns out that getting up from your desk even for a moment or two goes a long way toward preventing diabetes and heart disease. In fact, if you don't get up frequently, you raise your risk of disease even if you go to the gym for vigorous workouts.

A study of 4,757 adults just published in the European Health Journal found that those sedentary employees who barely moved from their desks during working hours imperiled their health. In general, the subjects who moved the least during working hours had the most risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, while those who both moved frequently during the day and engaged in regular exercise had the least.

The participants in the study wore devices called accelerometers attached to their hips. These devices measure walking, running, and standing activity. They also had regular testing of waist circumference, cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood protein concentrations over a three-year period, from 2003 to 2006. The most sedentary participants were inactive for over 21 hours per day according to the report, while at the other end of the scale, the most active participants sat only two hours a day. But it was the number of breaks that subjects took rather than the number of hours they sat that made the biggest health difference -- even when the breaks lasted only a minute.

Lead researcher Genevieve Healy of the University of Queensland, Australia, says it isn't clear why breaking up long sedentary periods with frequent movement is so helpful, but she postulates that by regularly contracting large posture muscles, we "flush out the bad stuff." In fact, in her study, those who took the most breaks had the lowest levels of "bad stuff"-- lower levels of blood fats, higher levels of good cholesterol, less insulin resistance, and fewer protein inflammation markers. In other words, they have a decreased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Those who took the most breaks also had waist circumference measurements an average of 4.1 centimeters (1.6 inches) smaller than those who stayed glued to their desks the most.

Dr. Healy says, "Even if you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes a day, what you do for the rest of the day may also be important for your cardiovascular health. This research suggests that even small changes to a person's activity levels [as little as standing up regularly] might help to lower cardiovascular risk."

And Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, adds, "This is perhaps the most convincing evidence yet that prolonged sitting is dangerous to our health. It may be an independent risk factor for heart disease, even after accounting for structured exercise." (Think DVT on a long plane flight.)

How many breaks does it take to protect your health? The data showed that the most active subjects took up to 1,300 breaks per week, compared to only around 100 for the most sedentary. Consider that three breaks an hour in a 40-hour week only comes to 120 breaks -- and that's the lowest end of the scale. Also remember that the data showed that you can't make up for prolonged periods of inactivity by cramming it in on the weekend. Again, it's sitting for long periods of time without breaks that creates the problems, and exercise later on in the day doesn't compensate adequately.

On the other hand, the data does NOT suggest that you should run out to Starbucks for a Grande concoction every 15 minutes, nor that you should give up your afternoon jog because you stood up and stretched 40 times on Tuesday. The bottom line here is that activity leads to good health, and that means activity spread throughout the day and throughout all endeavors. If you have a sedentary desk job, you need to figure out how to keep yourself moving without going so kinetic that the boss calls in the EAP folks to administer valium. And surprise, it's not as hard as you think. There are countless opportunities throughout the day.

The experts suggest standing while talking on the phone, walking over to colleagues rather than emailing them, taking the stairs and strolling the corridors. All obvious stuff, but as the chair of the American Council for Fitness & Nutrition, Susan Finn, points out, "Setting up huge goals for people to get them to devote huge blocks of time during the day to exercise just doesn't work. People won't do it. Instead, getting people to engage in purposeful activity, trying to motivate small changes, is the way to go. It's all about making this stuff, these small changes, doable for people, and the workplace is a very good example, a very good place to start."

Now, if Jon can only figure out how to write his next book while standing up.

Hiyaguha Cohen
www.jonbarron.org