Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Moyers: How Fear of Science Can Destroy Us | Personal Health | AlterNet

Moyers: How Fear of Science Can Destroy Us:
Parents are increasingly opting out of vaccinating their kids. Here's why that's dangerous for the world.

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Moyers: How Fear of Science Can Destroy Us

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, BillMoyers.com
Posted on February 29, 2012, Printed on February 29, 2012
We haven’t even turned the page on the controversy over contraceptives, health care and religious freedom when another thorny one arises involving personal conscience and public health. A flurry of stories over the past few days coincided with seeing a movie that inspires more than passing interest in their subject.

Steven Soderbergh’s film Contagion came out a few months ago and was inexplicably and completely frozen out of the Oscar nominations. But it is the most plausible experience of a global pandemic plague you’re likely to see until the real thing strikes. With outstanding performances from an ensemble cast that includes Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laurence Fishburne, Contagion is stark, beautiful in its own terrifying way, and all-too-believable. The story tracks the swift progress of a deadly airborne virus from Hong Kong to Minneapolis and Tokyo to London -- from a handful of peanuts to a credit card to the cough of a stranger on a subway. Rarely does a film issue such an inescapable invitation to think: it could happen; that could be us. What would we do?

With Contagion making such a powerful impression, for several days news articles seemed to keep popping up about contagious disease and the conflict between religious beliefs and immunization. There was nothing new about the basics: All fifty states require some specific vaccinations for kids, yet all of them grant exemptions for medical reasons – say, for a child with cancer. Almost all of them grant religious exemptions. And twenty states allow exemptions for personal, moral, or other beliefs.

According to the February 15 edition of The Wall Street Journal, a number of pediatricians are dropping families from their practices when the parents refuse immunization for their kids. “In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year,” the paper reported, “some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason." They add:

“By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they ‘routinely’ stopped working with families due to parents' continued vaccine refusal and 16% ‘sometimes’ dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

But some parents still fear a link between vaccinations and autism, a possibility science has largely debunked. Some parents just want to be in charge of what’s put into their children’s bodies, as one West Virginia politician puts it. And some parents just don’t trust science, period -- a few have even been known to fake religion to avoid vaccinating their kids. So there are many loopholes. But now seven states are considering legislation to make it even easier for mothers and fathers to spare their children from vaccinations, especially on religious grounds.

In Oregon, according to a story by Jennifer Anderson in The Portland Tribune, thenumber of kindergartners with religious exemptions is up from 3.7 percent to 5.6 percent in just four years, and continuing to rise. This has public health officials clicking their calculators and keeping their eye on what’s called “herd immunity.” A certain number of any population group needs to have been vaccinated -- 80% for most diseases, 92 percent for whooping cough – to maintain the ability of the whole population -- “the herd” -- to resist the spread of a disease.

Ms. Anderson offers the example of what used to be called “the German measles” – rubella. All it takes are five unvaccinated kids in a class of 25 for the herd immunity to break down, creating an opportunity for the disease to spread to younger siblings and other medically vulnerable people who can’t be vaccinated. If you were traveling to Europe between 2009 and 2011, you may remember warnings about the huge outbreak of measles there, brought on by a failure “to vaccinate susceptible populations.”

Here in the United States, several recent outbreaks of measles have been traced to pockets of unvaccinated children in states that allow personal belief exemptions. The Reuters news service recently reported 13 confirmed cases of measles in central Indiana. Two of them were people who showed up to party two days before the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Patriots and Giants fans back east were alerted. So far, no news is good news.

But this is serious business, made more so by complacency. Older generations remember when measles killed up to 500 people a year before we started vaccinating against them in 1963. The great flu pandemic of 1918 killed ten times more Americans than died in the Great World War that ended that year and took the lives of as many as forty million globally. Our generation was also stalked by small pox, polio, and whooping cough before there were vaccinations.

In a country where few remember those diseases, it’s easy to think, “What’s to worry?” But as the movie Contagion so forcefully and hauntingly reminds us, the earth is now flat. Seven billion people live on it, and our human herd moves on a conveyer belt of perpetual mobility, so that a virus can travel as swiftly as a voice from one cell phone to another.

When and if a contagion strikes, we can’t count on divine intervention to spare us. That’s when you want a darn good scientist in a research lab. We’ll need all the help we can get from knowledge and her offspring.

Veteran journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the show “Moyers & Company.” More at www.billmoyers.com. Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos and a senior writer of Moyers & Company, airing on public television.

© 2012 BillMoyers.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154342/

Monday, February 27, 2012

Radically Changing How We Eat

Alt_News : Message: Fw: Radically Changing How We Eat | How 2011 Changed Us Forever | 9 Laws that Keep Cities from Going Green: We Need to Radically Change the Way We Eat

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AlterNet

Big Food Must Go: Why We Need to Radically Change the Way We Eat

By Christopher D. Cook, AlterNet
Posted on February 26, 2012, Printed on February 27, 2012
http://www.alternet.org/story/154311/big_food_must_go%3A_why_we_need_to_radically_change_the_way_we_eat

Editor's note: Find Christopher D. Cook's book, Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis, here.

It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally occupied the vast majority of human sustenance. The situation is perilous: nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control. The question has become: What do we do about this disastrous alignment of pure profit in something so basic and fundamental to human survival?

It is time -- now, not next year -- to de-occupy Walmart. And Archer Daniels Midland. And Tyson Foods. And Monsanto. And Cargill. And Kraft Foods. And the other large corporations that decide what ends up on our plates. Take all our money out, public and personal, from our shopping dollars to school district lunch contracts to the corporate subsidies that uphold these firms' grip on our food supply, and invest it in a new system that's economically diverse and ecologically sustainable.

These corporations' stranglehold over food has wreaked havoc on the environment, our health, farmers, workers, and our very future. It is time for an end to Big Food, and a societal shift to something radically different. We all deserve a future where what we eat feeds community and land, instead of eroding soils, polluting water and air, and tossing away small farmers and immigrant workers as if they were balance sheet losers.

"Occupying the food system" has emerged as a rallying cry as activists and movements across the country, from Willie Nelson to more than 60 Occupy groups are turning up the heat on "big food" in nationwide actions today. Across the US, online and offline, thousands will be protesting icons of corporate control over food such as Monsanto and Cargill, and literally occupying vacant lots and tilling long-ignored soils in a mass-scale rejuvenation of community-led food production. (Find out more about the day of action here.)

"We want to ignite a robust conversation about corporate control of our food supply," says Laurel Sutherlin, communications manager for Rainforest Action Network, a lead organizer in this growing coalition of food system occupiers. "Occupy has opened a national dialogue about inequality and the dangers of surrendering our basic life-support systems over to corporate control."

The idea that food ought to be spared from the all-consuming machinery of corporate control has gained wide currency, but what does it mean to "occupy" and revamp our food system? Apart from our desire for local heirloom produce and artisanal cheeses, or to save the family farm, what's wrong with a few corporations controlling our food supply?

"Occupying the food system is about taking it back from the corporations for the communities and for the people," says Erin Middleton of the California Food and Justice Coalition. "Access to good, healthy, affordable food is a basic human right that has been interfered with in the current capitalistic food system."

Beyond any aesthetic concerns about local versus multinational, or slow food versus fast food, the well-documented reality is that Big Food has attained phenomenal and destructive power over what we eat -- our diets, our health and the planet.

Consider a few quick facts:

  • Four corporations, led by Walmart, control more than half of grocery sales. Walmart alone gets more than one quarter of every grocery dollar spent in the U.S.
  • Three companies -- Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta -- own 47 percent of the world's seeds. And they own 65 percent of the global proprietary maize market.
  • Nearly every major commodity -- wheat, corn, soy -- is controlled by just four corporations.
  • Just four corporations control more than 80 percent of all our meat supply.
  • According to USDA statistics, America loses more than 17,000 farmers a year -- one every half an hour.

This corporate occupation of our food isn't just unfair and wrong; it's impractical and destructive. It's ruining farmers, the land and our future food supply.

This Big Food system produces an astounding 1.3 billion tons of animal waste every year. It sprays half a million tons of toxic pesticides on our food each year. We are literally eating oil, as author Rick Manning has put it: annually 400 gallons of fossil fuel per person, 100 billion gallons a year as a nation. Rivers and streams across America are polluted by this industrial agriculture, which is now a major contributor to climate chaos -- and we're all paying for it.

But at least these corporations feed the world, right? Wrong. Worldwide, more than 850 million people go hungry every day. In the U.S., 48 million people, including 16 million children, do not have a reliable, secure food supply. Twenty percent of families with children are food-insecure.

Why all this hunger amid a global food bounty in which UN Food and Agriculture Organization data show we have far more than enough to feed everyone? Poverty. Unemployment. Underemployment. Here in the U.S., stagnant wages have combined with rising costs for everything to make simply feeding oneself a major economic stressor. We cannot separate "food issues" from economic justice issues. And the corporations that control our food supply are directly to blame.

But at least McDonald's, Walmart, Safeway, et al. offer us "cheap" food, right? Wrong again. We pay more than $100 billion a year in medical costs due to diet-related diseases from Big Food's relentless production and marketing of junk "food" and highly processed foods. We pay countless more dollars for injured and maimed workers who risk life and limb daily on the fast-food assembly line; for environmental cleanups from factory farms' rivers of toxic waste; and we pay roughly $15 billion a year, sometimes more, to subsidize corporate agribusiness commodities like corn and soy -- our tax dollars financing unhealthy sweeteners for soda, and fast food, all those burgers and fries that seem so cheap.

Then there is the brutal sweatshop-style labor we eat. All our food today relies on terribly exploited workers, both in the U.S. and abroad. Our daily meals rest on underpaid, impoverished immigrants, tens of thousands of whom are injured each year. We cannot continue to ignore the abuse of people, land and animals by the corporations that claim to feed the world.

We cannot solve this simply by going vegetarian or vegan, or buying organic and fair trade. The very market that has created this Big Food disaster -- the market that creates monopolies and monocultures -- cannot solve these deep systemic crises. To truly "occupy the food system" we will need nothing less than a fundamental restructuring of the economics and policies that currently enable our corporate food system.

There are great things happening on the good food margins today -- local foods movements, more urban agriculture and community gardens, school gardens, small sustainable food companies, victory gardens, even some fairly radical small-scale entrepreneurialism. But we need something much bigger. We need a radical overhaul of our current food and agriculture system -- and of how our tax dollars are spent on food.

Here are a few ideas. We must pressure Congress, through education, protest and targeted campaigns, to end agribusiness subsidies and begin spending our money on sustainable healthy foods and farming. Pass a 2012 Farm Bill that not only ends subsidies for corporate agribusiness, but that reinvests public money in an economically diversified, ecologically sustainable and more locally-oriented food system. It can be done. Shift the agribusiness subsidies to fund small and mid-sized organics; subsidize smaller-scale organics, and living-wage jobs in organic farming; create public investments for local and regional sustainable agriculture, both rural and urban; stop all food industry mergers today; and ban corporate representatives from all aspects of government food policymaking-no more corporate lobbyists and advisors deciding our nation's food, farming, and nutrition policies. No more revolving door between government and agribusiness. Period.

Beyond that, we need to break up the food oligopoly. Reform anti-trust law so these companies can't control entire food and seed markets. Cargill, for instance, the world's largest privately held corporation, not only controls a huge portion of the global grain business, but it also has a near monopoly over entire regions of American grain elevators, where farmers sell their crops. For the future of the environment and local economies, we must also redistribute land from corporations and agribusiness to small sustainable farms, and reverse the long trend of huge subsidized landholders buying out the family farm.

A few more ideas: Tax fast food corporations at the point of production (not sale, where it just hurts low-income consumers) and use the money to create sustainable urban farms. Create a federal New Deal for Food that invests in a truly sustainable healthy food system that makes good food accessible to all -- reinvesting the dollars we currently throw at agribusiness, into community-driven food production and marketing.

Ultimately, we need to understand that this isn't just a few bad corporations -- this is capitalism doing what it naturally does, exploiting people and land for profit. Even Adam Smith warned of the inherent tendency of capitalism toward ceaseless growth and monopoly power. Whether you're for revolution or reform, let's be honest about the system we're dealing with. Capitalism is unraveling, undermining even its own interests with its tireless demand for more growth, more profits, endless new markets with no protections for local industry, more corporate consolidation and monopoly power over both economics and politics.

Increasingly, activists are making these deeper connections between sustenance and a larger economy. "One of the most important aspects of Occupy the Food System, especially during this time of high unemployment and economic crisis, is rebuilding local economies and creating quality jobs," Tanya Kerssen of Food First wrote in an email to me. "In many communities where unemployment is high and access to healthy food is limited or nonexistent, the food system is an obvious place to start."

Kerssen argues that community-based food production can rebuild and sustain more than just food:, "By localizing the production and consumption of food, we can generate employment along the entire value chain (from production to distribution to retail). We can also rebuild our social fabric, address our health crisis, and significantly reduce our carbon footprint."

Michele Simon, a food policy expert and author of Appetite for Profit, sees the Occupy Big Food actions as "a great opportunity to bring together a rather fragmented good food movement. I'd like to see more connections being made to the industry's massive marketing machine, especially when it comes to children and the impact on public health, which too often gets left out of the food justice critique."

But, Simon adds, "I also think we need much more long-term action. Single-day actions here and there won't cut it when powerful food industry lobbyists are roaming the halls of Congress and state legislatures all over the nation every day of the year. We need to Occupy our political system!"

Indeed, we need to occupy politics, and the economy. Capitalism's endless need for new markets, new products and new lands and people to exploit is putting our entire planet and future in peril. We must re-socialize food and other life essentials. Food is already socialized, but it's corporate socialism: the huge subsidies we all pay, directly and indirectly, to uphold agribusiness.

Reclaiming our food system, says Aaron Lehmer of Bay Localize, "must mean reclaiming control of our land, our labor, and our economy from corporate monopolies. Anything less will leave our communities enslaved by special interests, whose primary goal is extracting more and more value from the common good."

Christopher D. Cook is the author of "Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis" (New Press). He has also written for Harper's, the Economist, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor. His Web site is www.christopherdcook.com.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154311/

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How the Wisconsin Uprising Changed America and Why Its Renegade Politics Are Here to Stay | | AlterNet

How the Wisconsin Uprising Changed America and Why Its Renegade Politics Are Here to Stay



By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet
Posted on February 21, 2012, Printed on February 22, 2012
http://www.alternet.org/story/154223/how_the_wisconsin_uprising_changed_america_and_why_its_renegade_politics_are_here_to_stay

John Nichols is a Wisconsinite.

It was an important part of his identity even before his state erupted in protest against a governor who'd gone a step too far stripped collective bargaining rights away from his state's workers. But the pride in the veteran political reporter's voice when he talks about his state now is impossible to miss.

He's many things besides, of course—Washington correspondent for the Nation, associate editor of the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times, an insightful media critic, the author of several books and a frequent guest on MSNBC. But it's the Wisconsinite front and center in his new book, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Occupy Wall Street, contextualizing and celebrating the way his state led the fight back, not just for union rights, but for democracy in America.

Nichols doesn't preserve the uprising in amber, freezing it in place as a piece of history barely a year old. Instead, he connects it to past, present and future, reminding us that the ideals Wisconsin fought for are the ideals the founders (on their best days) fought for and the ideals Occupy Wall Street and activists around the country still fight for.

AlterNet sat down with Nichols to talk about his book, the next steps for Wisconsin, and why the new media may just bring us the democracy we deserve.

Sarah Jaffe: Reading your book, I remembered the excitement of Wisconsin's protests. It was a year ago this week, right?

John Nichols: A year ago this week was the day of the first major demonstration. There had been minor little pickets and things but that day the Teaching Assistants Association, the oldest graduate employees' union in America, decided to march to the capitol. We all know how these marches start and we all know how they end. A couple of hundred people show if you really organize hard, and then maybe you can stretch it and say it was 500. You go, you do your event and everybody goes home. That’s it.

But this one, 1,000 showed, maybe more. They didn’t have to stretch their numbers, they were real. They got to the capitol, they marched, they went straight to the governor’s office and the video of that afternoon showed masses of people trying to push their way into the governor’s office. And I actually think that single event caused a lot of people to say, “Okay, something’s happening at the capitol.”

SJ: I love that you start out really situating the Wisconsin uprising in American history.

JN: Ann Coulter had written a book called Demonic, which came out right at the same time, and she said on TV, “What’s happening in Madison is a pure example of the mob. This is the demonic left on display.” She said this is exactly what Madison and Jefferson feared.

And I thought, well, first off, the people she’s calling demonic are my mom’s 70-year-old friends. They literally came from Burlington, Wisconsin with handmade signs and drove up to be a part of it. It was like a family event.

But secondly, the American Revolution was against empire. It was a revolt against a linkage of a royalism in a political context to a royalism that was economic. The Tea Party went to the ship that had the tea of the British East India Company. There was a sense of corporate power linked directly to political power. And Jefferson and Madison understood that really well, Madison especially.

The thing that I think is lost to history is that the Constitution, when it was written in 1787, it was rejected. They said we've got to have a Bill of Rights. There’s a sense that the Bill of Rights is this crumb thrown to the people after you’ve established this powerful government. Quite the opposite. Madison, when he campaigned for Congress in 1789 said “I’m going to go write a Bill of Rights.”

It was made clear to him that that Bill of Rights had to not be a defense, but also have an offensive component to it. And the offensive component is in the First Amendment. You have a right to freedom of speech, which is great, but a little bit limited by your ability to get a microphone. You have a right to the freedom of the press, which is great, and expanding because of what’s happened digitally. But still, a little bit limited when you’re up against a Rupert Murdoch.

But the great power is that right to assemble. If you can get your friends into a square, then you can petition for the redress of grievances, you can make a demand on power that’s overwhelming. What happened in Madison was this incredibly powerful reminder of that impulse, that grassroots citizens get that if you’re affronted by government, what you’re supposed to do is go and rally and march on the capitol. They came and came and came, in ever-increasing numbers, because they believed, not that they were committing a symbolic act, but that they were challenging government.

They were trying to force government not to do something they found dramatically awful, which is take away collective bargaining rights, take away the civil service, take away local democracy. Here’s the key part. It's suggested that they got beat.

Of course, the governor did implement parts of his agenda, but two days after he signed the bill, 180,000 people came to the square in Madison. What they understood, that our media and our political class has yet to catch up with, is that once you’ve begun to assemble to petition for the redress of grievances, you don’t stop just because they don’t say yes the first time. That is so powerful.

And I would argue that that is a renewal of an American protest tradition that I think really faded after the ‘60s. The Civil Rights Movement didn’t stop with one march. The anti-war movement didn’t. And the women’s movement, in its early days, really had continual action. You have to keep coming back and you have to combine the street, the assembly, with the electoral. The electoral can never exist anymore in isolation. If all that progressive politics is about is electing “the right person,” it’s doomed.

But if you combine the street with the electoral, fascinating things happen. When hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites assembled, Democratic state senators looked out the window and said, we can either be cogs in the machine or we can respond to this demand. The assembly and petition for the redress of grievances worked. You got one of the major political parties to become what it’s supposed to be, a pro-labor party. There’s still a lot of work to do there, but boy, that’s dramatic.

SJ: I love the line you have about citizens don’t elect officials to rule over them, they elect them to be responsive to them.

JN: Of course, elections matter. We respect those who are elected. But we also demand that they respect the people who elect them. It’s an ongoing process.

Jefferson had that great line. “We didn’t fight a revolution to elect a king for four years.” And so I think Wisconsin, and to an even greater extent Ohio, where you had that veto referendum, you saw the realization of the founding promise seen through the progressive promise. This is a really great linkage which we on the left ought not forget.

To the extent that we hearken back to that, we start to create a frame in which we can actually realize democracy. That’s what I think you saw some of in Wisconsin, you saw a lot of in Ohio. And, frankly, I think we’ve seen a lot of it with Occupy, that Occupy has begun to force local elected officials, police officials, others, to really respond to popular demands.

Local politicians are responsive to you but they can also be you. That’s a big deal. One year on from the protests in Madison, is the primary election for local offices. This is county supervisor, school board, stuff like that. A number of people who were on the line in the protest are now running for office. This movement has generated dozens of candidates, many of whom will get elected. People who were on the floor of the capitol during its occupation, people who slept in the capitol, are now going to be city council members, school board members, county board members, state legislators.

I believe in electoral politics. But I don’t believe in electoral politics starting at the top and coming down. I believe in electoral politics that takes street level militants and activists and makes them elected officials and then begins to bubble them up.

SJ: The one thing that I remember talking about very early on, was that Wisconsin public schools teach labor history.

JN: Yes. And it is absolutely true that some of that is under assault. I think that’s, frankly, one of the reasons, why so much of the right is so passionate about getting rid of universal curriculums and going to charter schools or going to privatization. They don’t mind having a little labor friendly school, as long as most people aren’t taught that.

When you go back and look at videos of the protests, the most brilliant videographer of the protests, a guy named Matt Wisniewski....

SJ: Whose footage was used in the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial.

JN: But they took out the labor signs.

If you go back and look at Matt’s videos--even strong supporters of the Wisconsin struggle forget how young it was. You look at these videos and you see thousands of people and they are all high school and college students. And you’re thinking, well hold it, isn’t labor supposed to be older? No. It was very young. In fact, I would argue, it looked a little younger even than Occupy.

In Madison there were a hell of a lot of high school students and young college students, and they brought rock ‘n roll, they brought passion, they brought courage, but they also brought a purity of vision with regard to labor that the labor movement has not had for a long time.

Labor’s biggest problem for a long time has been that it has been uncomfortable standing up and saying that we are the alternative to corporate power and that we’re good, they’re bad. A lot of unions don’t even want to go to quite that bluntness. But the young people did. And when they did it, then you started to see these older union leaders, go “Wow, okay. I guess we’re popular.” And they started to pick the message up.

SJ: You talk about the labor movement as something people connect to on a personal level, but also as this force that is the only institutional counterweight to corporate power. Yet we’ve seen unions taking on this “partner” mentality when it comes to corporations, we've seen unions backing SOPA, backing Keystone XL and the T-Mobile and AT&T merger. Maybe if they had a better conception of themselves as that alternative to corporate power rather than relying on it....

JN: It has been a challenge for the labor movement, it’s been a pretty raw one. It’s not just those compromises, it’s foreign policy issues in the past. These things are in the history and they’re not pleasant ones.

However, there are two things now that I think are very, very positive. One, the labor movement has a younger leadership. It’s a leadership that recognizes those missteps.

And two, I think that there is something that comes from being under assault, a realization that the bad guys really want to get rid of you. They might partner with you on a particular issue, but at the end of the day, they’d like to see you gone. They would like to pass a ban on collective bargaining. They would like to pass a right-to-work law. This is happening across the country.

If we begin with that concept, it’s much easier to get unions to begin to see beyond themselves. And even if they feel that they have a responsibility to defend their workers in a unionized setting and thus take a stand that you or I might not like, that they acknowledge it as that. I’ve seen smart union leaders make some of those distinctions.

Here’s the thing that Wisconsin brought to this. The governor tried to divide labor. And the division was a classic one. It was the public sector unions that are non-safety -- that’s snowplow drivers, nurses, teachers, they’re going to lose their collective bargaining rights. They’re going to also take huge hits economically. Police and fire are not. This separation was done intentionally.

The amazing thing was, and maybe Governor Walker didn’t calculate this, that Madison Teachers Incorporated is in the same building as Firefighters Local 311. John Matthews, the 40-something-year head of Madison Teachers Inc., which is such a pivotal union in this struggle, and Joe Conway, Jr. the head of the firefighters, they would talk to each other each day. Within a matter of hours, Joe Conway said, “I’m not going to let them divide the house of labor, because if they get you this year they’ll come for us next year.”

There was a moment in Madison at one of the first big rallies, tens of thousands of people were out, and in the distance you heard bagpipes. I want to tell you, it was as good as any movie you have ever seen. The crowd began to part, and through the middle of it came uniformed firefighters with their bagpipes. They marched to the stage and one of their leaders, Mahlon Mitchell, stepped to the stage and he said, “Firefighters are taught that when there’s an emergency you don’t run away from it, you run to it. This is the emergency. They’re trying to burn down the house of labor, and we won’t let them do it.”

It’s that moment, that moment preached every lesson that needs to be learned about solidarity. It also preaches every lesson that needs to be learned about purity of commitment on the part of labor. People who had their protections saying, “We stand with those who do not.” It was so powerful.

This is a lesson not for the kids, not for the young people that have already come in: this is a lesson for labor leaders.

SJ: You have a wonderful section talking about a general strike: could it have worked?

JN: There was a general strike. It just wasn’t declared as such. As a young labor reporter I got to know Harry Bridges, I knew the folks who did the general strike of 1934 in San Francisco, which is widely referenced as the great American general strike. I know the physical layout of that strike, the neighborhoods that were in play. They weren’t bigger than what was going on in Madison. In classic general strikes you want to have a lot of workers out from different sectors, you want small businesses to be supporting them. You want the police to be kind of wavering, taking the side of the workers against the bosses.

Well, look what happened in Madison. Hundreds of thousands of people surrounded the capitol, bringing the whole city, basically, to a halt. They occupied the capitol for 18 days. They slept in the capitol. They forced legislative leaders to make the choice of whether to stand on the side of economic power or on the side of the protesters, and many of them left the capitol to stand in alliance with the workers. The police force, when ordered to clear the capitol, didn’t. Small businesses were rushing food to the capitol. There were kids on bikes coming with pizzas.

You had moments there that mirrored a classic model of a general strike, and it wasn’t just in Madison. It spread: in Platteville, Wisconsin 1,500 people were out, in Juneau, a tiny county, 500 people were out. Students walked out of schools, the first student walkouts came before any teachers had walked out. In Stoughton, kids walked out that first Monday. So what I’m telling you is you had a lot of the models that you would want, but it was never declared.

What I argue is that there were key points, when to my view, the call should have been made. First off, to declare it a general strike, and to say we are either there or on the verge of it; and then secondly to say join us, let’s do it, let’s take this thing statewide, let’s see what we can do. I’ve sat with friends who are labor leaders, who said it wouldn’t have, we couldn’t have done it. I’ve sat with other people who say we absolutely could have. But I do believe that there was a point there, especially when you had 180,000 people at the capitol on March 12, I believe if the message had been, let’s not go to work on Monday, let’s not go to school, let’s not open our businesses, let’s show Governor Walker just how much we disapprove of what he’s done, I have a sense it might have worked.

You can find errors along the way. And yet, I don’t take it as a depressing thing. What I take it as is a very powerful lesson that when you hit critical mass, don’t stop.

SJ: You write about the lack of labor beat coverage, the way the media got the story wrong in Wisconsin.

JN: The fact of the matter is that we do have a lot of bad media in this country, but the biggest problem is we don’t have enough people out there. We don’t have the labor beat anymore, and a paper the size of the New York Times, a paper the size of the Washington Post, an operation like CNN, you should have 10 people covering organized labor. This is a mass movement across this country.

SJ: There's a class bias in media itself. You have to be able to take unpaid internships and go to a fancy school to get into a media job.

JN: You didn’t used to. When I was coming up as a kid if you were willing to go to some out-of-the-way town in Ohio or in Indiana and take a very low-paying job, you could be in media. You could get out of college and be reporting on city council meetings and labor strikes and all sorts of other things, very early on.

Now the problem is that those papers in Indiana, if they exist, have shed three-quarters of their reporters, and as a result, they don’t have those jobs anymore. So young people are forced to take these internships, they’re forced to try and fit into a media system that won’t even pay them minimal amounts.

It’s a nightmare. It is a dysfunctional situation for a democracy because we have vast areas which just get uncovered. And labor has been the most victimized of all of these. When you don’t cover it, you diminish it.

The wonderful thing about Wisconsin is that it was so identified with labor. And same with Ohio, and to some extent, Occupy. We haven’t won much but we have shifted a little bit of the discourse. We’ve forced media itself, by the power of literally putting hundreds of thousands of people in the street, to begin to cover a little bit of the story of labor.

Now we’ve got to pick that up and there’s two things that people have to do. Number one, we have to keep it in the streets. To simply steer into electoral politics is a disastrous move. You could do electoral, but don’t lose the street, because it’s the image, it’s the power, it’s the force.

Secondly, we have to recognize that people, during the Wisconsin fight, in Ohio, through Occupy, they’ve learned to do a lot of their own media, and this next media system that they’re developing is incredibly powerful. It blows apart the old debates between old media and new media.

So what we have is, we’ve got working journalists like yourself. You do a good story. Some working mom in Wisconsin sees Sarah Jaffe did a great story, okay, I’m going to put that on my Facebook and I’m going to like it. In fact, I like it so much I’m going to Twitter something about it. But I’m also going to get Matt Wisniewski’s video of the protests at the capitol, I’m going to put that on my page too. I went out myself and took some pictures. I’m going to put those up. Here’s my kid there. And wow, I just read this economic article that a friend of mine sent me. That’s really good too. So you start putting it all together on this Facebook page and then tweeting out saying, “Come look at this.” It’s like that Facebook page is a great newspaper.

That’s journalism. That’s news. That isn’t just organizing. If we begin to harness this, recognize that we still have to give resources to working journalists, we’ve got to have people go out and do the stories, but we also are going to have to give props and power to students, working moms. We have to make sure that people who go out and do this are celebrated for what they are.

They are the Tom Paines of our time, because Tom Paine was an unemployed, or under-employed journalist, who wrote a pamphlet, Common Sense, and he said on the back of it, I think these are really important ideas but I can’t go everywhere in America. If you like this pamphlet, the copyright is off. Copy it, print it up, give it out to the next person. That’s forwarding an e-mail. We were founded as a country by grassroots, independent journalists. We just didn’t have the same words.

If we get democracy in America--we’re a long way from it--it’s going to come because we have a small-d democratic communications feeding into a small-d democratic protest movement that is massive, that is unrelenting, unyielding, that is coming toward power without apology, and that, might just give us the country we want.

SJ: Let’s finish up with the Walker recall. What’s going on?

JN: The thing I love about the Walker recall is what I loved about the Ohio referendum fight. It’s renegade politics. It’s politics that scares the political elites in both parties--the funny thing is that Walker and his partisans will say that this is the Democratic Party driving this, or this is the unions driving this. Democrats and unions were scared about it.

The process is struggling a little because even grassroots citizens are sort of obsessed with the political strategy, you know, who is the candidate going to be? How are we going to structure this? And that’s a danger.

Look, we have to be practical about politics. We have to be realistic. We have to recognize that when you schedule an election you’ve got to have a candidate, you’ve got to raise money. But the one thing that will decide whether the Walker recall succeeds or fails is the extent to which it remains a renegade, challenging political endeavor that does not follow the rules of existing parties and existing players.

Walker is following the rules. He is raising money like crazy at a rate of almost $5 million a month and he is doing all the stuff you’re supposed to do. The other side is only beginning to get itself together. But its response must be much more popular. There’s no way you’re going to counter Walker’s money. But when you’ve got 30,000 volunteers, that’s huge.

Now, the other thing too about the Walker recall, and this is a practical reality of why I think it will probably succeed, is that while we care very much about these labor issues, and these popular democracy issues, corrupt corporate power tends to be corrupt. Walker is the subject of a John Doe investigation in Wisconsin that continues to reveal increasing amounts of illegal activity by his aides. The revelations are devastating politically to him. I’ve seen the polling that suggests that it really moves numbers even among moderate Republicans.

So my sense is that the Walker recall will succeed in part because Walker will be in a lot of trouble. But it must succeed as a popular movement that isn’t just about money and politics, it’s got to be real and it’s got to have something to it that excites people because politics shouldn’t be a boring spectator sport.

That’s what Wisconsin was in February and March. People who had never gone to demonstrations decided they wanted to go to demonstrations. You've got to make an election campaign that’s so exciting that people who have never voted want to vote.

Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @seasonothebitch.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154223/

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How to disable IE9 add-on

How to disable IE9 add-on performance notifications, you Idiots

Within days of an almost painless deployment of Internet Explorer 9 across the site, I began to spot this annoying little git popping up on some of the older machines:

Speed up browsing by disabling add-ons

This is a new and well-intentioned feature of IE9 called the Add-on Performance Advisor. Yes, a lot of add-ons are bloated, steaming, piles of manure, which is precisely why I don’t permit my users to install them. Unfortunately, just having Java on many of my older machines is enough to trigger this, and if kids go around disabling that, the next thing that happens is I get a lot of calls from ICT lessons when all the sites they still use that rely on Java don’t work.


So, if you want your add-ons and do not want the stupid warning, here's the way:
1. Start Group Policy Editor (click Start and in the search/run box type gpedit.msc and hit return);
2. In the Policy Management Window that appears, navigate down to:Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorerand locate Disable add-on performance notifications - double-click on it to open it
3. Select Enabled and click OK (check visually that it now says Enabled)
4. Close Group Policy Editor and restart IE9

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Have Bees Become Canaries In the Coal Mine? Why Massive Bee Dieoffs May Be a Warning About Our Own Health | | AlterNet

Have Bees Become Canaries In the Coal Mine? Why Massive Bee Dieoffs May Be a Warning About Our Own Health | | AlterNet: Have Bees Become Canaries In the Coal Mine?

Have Bees Become Canaries In the Coal Mine? Why Massive Bee Dieoffs May Be a Warning About Our Own Health

By Jill Richardson, AlterNet

AlterNet

Posted on February 12, 2012, Printed on February 18, 2012
http://www.alternet.org/story/154039/have_bees_become_canaries_in_the_coal_mine_why_massive_bee_dieoffs_may_be_a_warning_about_our_own_health

It's often said that we have bees to thank for one out of every three bites we take of food. In addition to producing honey, honeybees literally criss-cross the United States, pollinating almonds, oranges, melons, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, and more. And while carrots are a biennial root crop that are harvested long before they flower, all carrots are planted from seed, and honeybees pollinate the carrot flowers that produce the seeds. Other species of bees, both social and solitary bees, pollinate other crops. And the populations of all these species of bees are in decline.

The decline of bees has been in the headlines for several years, and theories to explain their deaths abound. But perhaps there is not just one single cause. University of California San Diego professor of biology James Nieh studies foraging, communication and health of bees. "I would say it's a combination of four factors; pesticides, disease, parasites, and human mismanagement," says Nieh. Bees might be weakened by having a very low level of exposure to insecticides or fungicides, making them more susceptible if they are attacked by viruses or parasites. "It's kind of like taking a patient who is not doing so well -- very weak, poor diet, exposing them to pathogens, and then throwing more things at them. It's not surprising that honeybees are not very healthy."

One class of pesticides, neonicotinoids in particular has received a lot of attention for harming bees. In late 2010, the EPA came under fire from beekeepers and pesticide watchdog organizations. This happened when Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald spoke out about how the EPA allowed clothianidin to be used without any proof it was safe and despite the fact that the EPA's own scientists believed it "has the potential for toxic risk to honey bees, as well as other pollinators."

At that time Theobald had reported losing up to 40 percent of his bees, and now, things are looking even worse. "As a business, I think it's over," he says. "I think my business is no longer viable. I'll continue to keep bees as best I can and may be able to pull off a halfway decent crop for another year or two but the trendline is down and over the edge of a cliff and that's typical of what's going on nationally."

A recently published study sheds a little more light on the impact of clothianidin. The study, which focuses on pesticide exposure in bees, looks at two pesticides that are used by treating seeds prior to planting. Each corn seed contains enough pesticide to kill 80,000 honeybees. Once the plant develops, all parts of the plant -- including the pollen collected by bees -- contain lower doses of the pesticide. One of the main revelations of the study is that bees get a hefty dose of these pesticides, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, during spring planting as the seeds are coated in talc to keep them from sticking together and then much of the talc enters the environment either with the seed or behind the planter through its exhaust fan.

The study found the pesticides on the soil of fields -- even unplanted fields -- and on nearby weeds, as well as in dead honeybees and in pollen collected by honeybees. Clothianidin is used on both corn and canola in the U.S., and while corn does not rely on honeybees for pollination (it is wind pollinated), the study found that "maize pollen comprised over 50 percent of the pollen collected by bees, by volume, in 10 of 20 samples."

Tucked in the middle of the study is a bombshell: "The levels of clothianidin in bee-collected pollen [from treated maize] that we found are approximately 10-fold higher than reported from experiments conducted in canola grown from clothianidin-treated seed."

This is significant because the pesticide clothianidin was deemed safe to bees by the EPA following a study of bees exposed to treated canola, a minor crop in the United States. However, according to the study, the pesticide dose bees are exposed to in the U.S. is usually ten times that, as corn (maize) covers more than 137,000 square miles in the U.S. -- an area larger than the state of New Mexico. So even though bees aren't pollinating corn directly, they still may be getting a toxic dose of pesticides from it.

To beekeepers, the news is not terribly surprising. Beekeeper Dave Hackenberg says, "You talk to more and more beekeepers across the country that don't really understand what's going on that are losing bees in the spring of the year when nobody's really spraying. You ask if there's corn there, and yeah, there's corn everywhere."

Hackenberg, a commercial beekeeper with 3,000 hives, somewhat unwittingly alerted the world to the mass deaths of bees after suffering major losses of his own bees in November 2006. "We were knocking our heads out trying to figure out what went wrong," he recalls. First he checked the hives for mites but found none. He called in experts from Penn State, who worked day and night, combing through the hives, and taking all kinds of samples. "Within four or five days they said 'We're finding stuff we've never seen before and you definitely don't have the virus we were looking for.' They saw paralysis in the bees, crystallization in their intestines, things that nobody had seen before, but nobody looked probably."

Several months later, Hackenberg's troubles were written up in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Within two days, his story appeared in 487 newspapers around the world. Hackenberg says that, for beekeepers, "Somebody changed the rules and forgot to tell us."

In addition to pesticides and diseases, using bees to pollinate monocultures and moving the bees around the country might be factors in their decline. Just as a person needs a varied diet, so do bees. According to Nieh, moving bees (as beekeepers like Hackenberg do several times a year) may cause them to lose some adult foragers. Bees begin their adult lives as nurse bees, become guard bees, and then spend the last few weeks of their lives as foragers. "Adult foragers learn where their home is based on solar and landscape cues." When they move, the adult foragers may leave the colony to gather honey and be unable to find their way home. "This may not be too difficult for the hive to weather, but it's just one more thing for an already weak colony," says Nieh. "The loss of a certain number of bees would not normally be fatal to the colony, but would not be good for a weakened colony."

"Monoculture and a homogeneous diet could be harmful, but the main thing is that bees are exposed to what we spray on crops, including fungicides that can harm bees because they have synergistic effects with insecticides and other toxins," says Nieh. "These factors are all combining in unexpected ways."

Nieh's research found that a very low dose of the pesticide imidacloprid, a relative of clothianidin that came onto the market in the mid-1990s, makes bees become, in essence, pickier eaters. "We find that it changes the sugar preferences of bees so that bees which previously would have accepted sugar solutions or nectars that were not very sweet, now will only feed at nectars that are much sweeter. And this is a problem because the amount of nectar out there that is very sweet is relatively limited. There is far more availability of nectar that has lower sugar concentrations ... Overall, this results in fewer calories flowing into the colony."

Hackenberg isn't doing as poorly as he was several years ago, but he attributes that to feeding the bees protein and supplements like brewers yeast and eggs and "kicking them in the pants with all kinds of nutrition because what they are gathering out there in nature is not what it's supposed to be." Hackenberg says, "We -- America or the world -- has messed up the bees' diet. Not only the bees' diet but everyone else's diet. We just don't have the nutrition that's out there in the food and bees are telling us this because what they are bringing home -- they can't make it anymore. We're supplementing them... and the bees are eating it... But go back 10-15 years ago, we didn't need this stuff."

A key question is whether the problem is simply a laundry list of unrelated factors (i.e. pesticides, disease, parasites, etc.) or whether those factors interact synergistically to kill bees. For example, does a sub-lethal dose of a relatively new pesticide make bees susceptible to die from a disease they would normally be able to recover from? This is important because it impacts the way the EPA should handle regulation of pesticides. If pesticides kill some bees, but parasites or diseases kill others, then the EPA's role is to merely ensure that the doses of pesticides used are low enough that they don't kill bees while scientists do their best to uncover how to treat parasites and disease. However, if low doses of pesticides weaken bees, making them susceptible to death by other causes (just like AIDS makes a patient susceptible to diseases that would not kill a healthy person), then the EPA will need to take more action.

Beekeepers see their bees as the canaries in the coal mine. All living beings are exposed to the cocktail of pesticides and other chemicals in our midst, each in sub-lethal doses but all mixing together and interacting in our bodies. Many Americans, like bees used to pollinate monocultures, do not eat very healthy or nutritious diets, and our stressful and sedentary lifestyles put us at even more risk of succumbing to illness. Are the bees giving us a message we should be heeding?

Dr. Nieh suggests that large growers could keep their own bees to give them "skin in the game." Currently, he says, one "focus is how much do I have to pay this year to rent honeybee colonies." If farmers kept their own bees, they would be "really invested in keeping these colonies healthy because these are the colonies that are pollinating their cash crop." Additionally, reducing the movement of bees around the country would slow the spread of diseases.

Nieh also sees a potential conflict of interest in the way that pesticides are approved by the EPA. "The approval process of pesticides would benefit from greater transparency and probably should undergo a more rigorous review process than it has in the past," he says. "It is a problem to require someone, a company like Bayer that has a vested interest in the approval, to pay for studies to show their pesticide is harmless."

For average Americans, in addition to eating foods grown without the use of pesticides, there are easy ways to support bees -- both honeybees and native bees. To attract and nourish pollinators, plant flowers in varieties of shapes, sizes and colors. Native plants are the best to attract native species of bees. Plant flowers in clumps instead of singly or in rows, and be sure that there is something blooming at all times during the year (at least, when your yard or garden is not covered in snow). Bees also need a water source, preferably shallow water so they will not drown. For more advice, visit the Xerces Society website.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It..

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154039/

Monday, February 13, 2012

300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court: Decision on March 31st to Go to Trial | NationofChange

300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court: Decision on March 31st to Go to Trial | NationofChange:

Little did Willie Nelson know when he recorded “Crazy” years ago just how crazy it would become for our cherished family farmers in America. Nelson, President of Farm Aid, has recently called for the national Occupy movement to declare an “Occupy the Food System” action.

Nelson states, “Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil…”

Hundreds of citizens, (even including NYC chefs in their white chef hats) joined Occupy the Food System groups, ie Food Democracy Now, gathered outside the Federal Courts in Manhattan on January 31st, to support organic family farmers in their landmark lawsuit against Big Agribusiness giant Monsanto. (Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto) Oral arguments were heard that day concerning the lawsuit by 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 organic farmers, organic seed growers, and organic seed businesses.

The lawsuit addresses the bizarre and shocking issue of Monsanto harassing and threatening organic farmers with lawsuits of “patent infringement” if any organic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their organic farmland.

Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto, maker of GM seeds, [and additionally, Agent Orange, dioxin, etc.]

After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.

Not only does this lawsuit debate the issue of Monsanto potentially ruining the organic farmers’ pure seeds and crops with the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) seeds anywhere near the organic farms, but additionally any nearby GM fields can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides, thus possibly further contaminating the organic farms nearby if Roundup is used.

Of course, the organic farmers don’t want anything to do with that ole contaminated GM seed in the first place. In fact, that is why they are certified organic farmers. Hello? But now they have to worry about getting sued by the very monster they abhor, and even have to spend extra money and land (for buffers which only sometimes deter the contaminated seed from being swept by the wind into their crop land). At this point, they are even having to resort to not growing at all the following organic plants: soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola, …just to protect themselves from having any (unwanted) plant that Monsanto could possibly sue them over.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…..”

The farmers are suffering the threat of possible loss of Right Livelihood. They are creating good jobs for Americans, and supplying our purest foods. These organic farmers are bringing Americans healthy food so we can be a healthy Nation, instead of the undernourished and obese kids and adults that President Obama worries so much about us becoming.

So what was President Obama doing when he appointed Michael Taylor, a former VP of Monsanto, as Sr. Advisor to the Commissioner at the FDA? The FDA is responsible for “label requirements” and recently ruled under Michael Taylor’s time as FDA Food Czar that GMO products did not need to be labeled as such, even though national consumer groups loudly professed the public’s right to know what is genetically modified in the food system. Sadly to remember: President Obama promised in campaign speeches that he would “let folks know what foods are genetically modified.” These are the conflict of interests that lead to the 99% movement standing up for the family farmers.

Just look at the confusing headlines lately that revealed that mid-western farms of GM corn will be sprayed with 2,4-D toxins found in the deadly Agent Orange. Just refer to the previous lawsuits taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by U.S. Veterans who tried to argue the dangers of Monsanto’s Agent Orange, and high rates of cancers in our soldiers who had to suffer the side effects from their wartime exposures in Vietnam.

Article image
In 1980 alone, when all this mess started with corporations wiping out the livelihoods of family farmers, the National Farm Medicine Center reported that 900 male farmers in the Upper Midwest committed suicide. That was nearly double the national average for white men. Even sadder is the fact that some of the farmers’ children also committed suicide. Studies show that when one generation of family farmers lose their farms, then the next generation usually can’t revive the family business and traditions later.

Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th generation family farmers being pushed off their farms today, and because of a “climate of fear” (from possible lawsuits from Monsanto), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.

These farmers are the ones who have been able to survive the changes over the past twenty years by choosing to go into the budding niche of organic farming. Now look at what they have to deal with while trying to grow successful businesses: Monsanto’s threats.

Even organic dairy farmers have had to suffer lawsuits ( from Monsanto) when they labeled their organic milk “non-BGH” referring to Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone used by conventional dairies.

Consumers want organic food, and they want America’s pure food source to stay protected in America. Made in America, organically, is the way of the future, and family farmers and seed businesses should be free to maintain their high standards for organic foods. They deserve protection from Big Agribusiness’ dangerous seeds trespassing on their croplands, not to mention the use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops. The organic industry has an “organic seal” which is also important to the success of family businesses, and even that stamp of quality is threatened by the spread of Monsanto’s GM seed contaminating their pure seed banks.

The Banking industry is also partly to blame. Years before the mortgages and home fiasco we have now, the farmers were the first to feel the squeeze. I interviewed Willie Nelson in the 1980’s, and he mentioned even then the high rates of farmer suicides, and that Farm Aid was receiving letters from family farmers saying the banks had “called in their loans”, even though “we had never missed a payment”. Was this just a veiled land grab for fertile lands, or to intentionally bankrupt independent family farmers?

It was so inspiring years ago when Michelle Obama planted an organic garden at the White House. It was a great precedent for the future, but what happened? It was ruined when they discovered sewer sludge from previous Administrations had contaminated their beautiful soil where the organic vegetables were planted. Just one small upset but it was remedied for future plantings. What about our whole country’s organic food supply being contaminated by previous Adminstrations’ bad choices? Why did they ever allow Monsanto to introduce genetically engineered seeds into our pure, organic, and heirloom stockpiles across America in the first place?

Recently, the Obama Administration, in an effort to boost food exports, signed joint agreements with agricultural biotechnology industry giants, including Monsanto, to remove the last barriers for the spread of more genetically modified crops.

But in this recent lawsuit filed by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, it was argued that a previous contamination of a “genetically engineered variety of rice”, named Liberty Link 601, in 2006, before it was approved for human consumption, “extensively contaminated the commercial rice supply, resulting in multiple countries banning the import of U.S. rice.” The worldwide economic loss was “upward to $1.285 billion dollars” due to the presence of GMOs…

What are everyday Americans going to do to turn it around, to get rid of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and its dangerous threat to America’s heirloom and organic seed caches?

There is high rate of cancer in America, and eating healthier, especially organic foods, has been shown to have great benefits in beating cancer and other diseases. When we have Agribusiness threatening independent family farmers, which leads to the farmers feeling so scared that they don’t even plant their organic crops that Americans need, then perhaps we can all see what the 99% Occupy Movement is trying to say about their conflict of interest and seemingly abuse of powers.

Willie Nelson just released a new poem on You Tube: “We stand with Humanity, against the Insanity, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for… We’re the Seeds and we’re the Core, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for; We’re the ones with the 99%.”

Monsanto’s practices are a clear example of the wrong direction that the 99% want our country to go in. How about shining some light on Monsanto, and before it is too late, realize the dangers of genetically modified seeds which are contaminating the world’s food supply.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…… 99%


300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court: Decision on March 31st to Go to Trial

By Jane Ayers

Little did Willie Nelson know when he recorded “Crazy” years ago just how crazy it would become for our cherished family farmers in America. Nelson, President of Farm Aid, has recently called for the national Occupy movement to declare an “Occupy the Food System” action.

Nelson states, “Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil…”

Hundreds of citizens, (even including NYC chefs in their white chef hats) joined Occupy the Food System groups, ie Food Democracy Now, gathered outside the Federal Courts in Manhattan on January 31st, to support organic family farmers in their landmark lawsuit against Big Agribusiness giant Monsanto. (Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto) Oral arguments were heard that day concerning the lawsuit by 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 organic farmers, organic seed growers, and organic seed businesses.

The lawsuit addresses the bizarre and shocking issue of Monsanto harassing and threatening organic farmers with lawsuits of “patent infringement” if any organic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their organic farmland.

Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto, maker of GM seeds, [and additionally, Agent Orange, dioxin, etc.]

After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.

Not only does this lawsuit debate the issue of Monsanto potentially ruining the organic farmers’ pure seeds and crops with the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) seeds anywhere near the organic farms, but additionally any nearby GM fields can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides, thus possibly further contaminating the organic farms nearby if Roundup is used.

Of course, the organic farmers don’t want anything to do with that ole contaminated GM seed in the first place. In fact, that is why they are certified organic farmers. Hello? But now they have to worry about getting sued by the very monster they abhor, and even have to spend extra money and land (for buffers which only sometimes deter the contaminated seed from being swept by the wind into their crop land). At this point, they are even having to resort to not growing at all the following organic plants: soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola, …just to protect themselves from having any (unwanted) plant that Monsanto could possibly sue them over.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…..”

The farmers are suffering the threat of possible loss of Right Livelihood. They are creating good jobs for Americans, and supplying our purest foods. These organic farmers are bringing Americans healthy food so we can be a healthy Nation, instead of the undernourished and obese kids and adults that President Obama worries so much about us becoming.

So what was President Obama doing when he appointed Michael Taylor, a former VP of Monsanto, as Sr. Advisor to the Commissioner at the FDA? The FDA is responsible for “label requirements” and recently ruled under Michael Taylor’s time as FDA Food Czar that GMO products did not need to be labeled as such, even though national consumer groups loudly professed the public’s right to know what is genetically modified in the food system. Sadly to remember: President Obama promised in campaign speeches that he would “let folks know what foods are genetically modified.” These are the conflict of interests that lead to the 99% movement standing up for the family farmers.

Just look at the confusing headlines lately that revealed that mid-western farms of GM corn will be sprayed with 2,4-D toxins found in the deadly Agent Orange. Just refer to the previous lawsuits taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by U.S. Veterans who tried to argue the dangers of Monsanto’s Agent Orange, and high rates of cancers in our soldiers who had to suffer the side effects from their wartime exposures in Vietnam.

In 1980 alone, when all this mess started with corporations wiping out the livelihoods of family farmers, the National Farm Medicine Center reported that 900 male farmers in the Upper Midwest committed suicide. That was nearly double the national average for white men. Even sadder is the fact that some of the farmers’ children also committed suicide. Studies show that when one generation of family farmers lose their farms, then the next generation usually can’t revive the family business and traditions later.

Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th generation family farmers being pushed off their farms today, and because of a “climate of fear” (from possible lawsuits from Monsanto), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.

These farmers are the ones who have been able to survive the changes over the past twenty years by choosing to go into the budding niche of organic farming. Now look at what they have to deal with while trying to grow successful businesses: Monsanto’s threats.

Even organic dairy farmers have had to suffer lawsuits ( from Monsanto) when they labeled their organic milk “non-BGH” referring to Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone used by conventional dairies.

Consumers want organic food, and they want America’s pure food source to stay protected in America. Made in America, organically, is the way of the future, and family farmers and seed businesses should be free to maintain their high standards for organic foods. They deserve protection from Big Agribusiness’ dangerous seeds trespassing on their croplands, not to mention the use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops. The organic industry has an “organic seal” which is also important to the success of family businesses, and even that stamp of quality is threatened by the spread of Monsanto’s GM seed contaminating their pure seed banks.

The Banking industry is also partly to blame. Years before the mortgages and home fiasco we have now, the farmers were the first to feel the squeeze. I interviewed Willie Nelson in the 1980’s, and he mentioned even then the high rates of farmer suicides, and that Farm Aid was receiving letters from family farmers saying the banks had “called in their loans”, even though “we had never missed a payment”. Was this just a veiled land grab for fertile lands, or to intentionally bankrupt independent family farmers?

It was so inspiring years ago when Michelle Obama planted an organic garden at the White House. It was a great precedent for the future, but what happened? It was ruined when they discovered sewer sludge from previous Administrations had contaminated their beautiful soil where the organic vegetables were planted. Just one small upset but it was remedied for future plantings. What about our whole country’s organic food supply being contaminated by previous Adminstrations’ bad choices? Why did they ever allow Monsanto to introduce genetically engineered seeds into our pure, organic, and heirloom stockpiles across America in the first place?

Recently, the Obama Administration, in an effort to boost food exports, signed joint agreements with agricultural biotechnology industry giants, including Monsanto, to remove the last barriers for the spread of more genetically modified crops.

But in this recent lawsuit filed by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, it was argued that a previous contamination of a “genetically engineered variety of rice”, named Liberty Link 601, in 2006, before it was approved for human consumption, “extensively contaminated the commercial rice supply, resulting in multiple countries banning the import of U.S. rice.” The worldwide economic loss was “upward to $1.285 billion dollars” due to the presence of GMOs…

What are everyday Americans going to do to turn it around, to get rid of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and its dangerous threat to America’s heirloom and organic seed caches?

There is high rate of cancer in America, and eating healthier, especially organic foods, has been shown to have great benefits in beating cancer and other diseases. When we have Agribusiness threatening independent family farmers, which leads to the farmers feeling so scared that they don’t even plant their organic crops that Americans need, then perhaps we can all see what the 99% Occupy Movement is trying to say about their conflict of interest and seemingly abuse of powers.

Willie Nelson just released a new poem on You Tube: “We stand with Humanity, against the Insanity, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for… We’re the Seeds and we’re the Core, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for; We’re the ones with the 99%.”

Monsanto’s practices are a clear example of the wrong direction. How about shining some light on Monsanto, and before it is too late, realize the dangers of genetically modified seeds which are contaminating the world’s food supply.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…… 99% .

This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/300000-organic-farmers-sue-monsanto-federal-court-decision-march-31st-go-trial-1329059467. All rights are reserved.

Little did Willie Nelson know when he recorded “Crazy” years ago just how crazy it would become for our cherished family farmers in America. Nelson, President of Farm Aid, has recently called for the national Occupy movement to declare an “Occupy the Food System” action.

Nelson states, “Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers, destruction of our soil…”

Hundreds of citizens, (even including NYC chefs in their white chef hats) joined Occupy the Food System groups, ie Food Democracy Now, gathered outside the Federal Courts in Manhattan on January 31st, to support organic family farmers in their landmark lawsuit against Big Agribusiness giant Monsanto. (Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto) Oral arguments were heard that day concerning the lawsuit by 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 organic farmers, organic seed growers, and organic seed businesses.

The lawsuit addresses the bizarre and shocking issue of Monsanto harassing and threatening organic farmers with lawsuits of “patent infringement” if any organic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their organic farmland.

Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto, maker of GM seeds, [and additionally, Agent Orange, dioxin, etc.]

After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.

Not only does this lawsuit debate the issue of Monsanto potentially ruining the organic farmers’ pure seeds and crops with the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) seeds anywhere near the organic farms, but additionally any nearby GM fields can withstand Monsanto’s Roundup herbicides, thus possibly further contaminating the organic farms nearby if Roundup is used.

Of course, the organic farmers don’t want anything to do with that ole contaminated GM seed in the first place. In fact, that is why they are certified organic farmers. Hello? But now they have to worry about getting sued by the very monster they abhor, and even have to spend extra money and land (for buffers which only sometimes deter the contaminated seed from being swept by the wind into their crop land). At this point, they are even having to resort to not growing at all the following organic plants: soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar beets, and canola, …just to protect themselves from having any (unwanted) plant that Monsanto could possibly sue them over.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…..”

The farmers are suffering the threat of possible loss of Right Livelihood. They are creating good jobs for Americans, and supplying our purest foods. These organic farmers are bringing Americans healthy food so we can be a healthy Nation, instead of the undernourished and obese kids and adults that President Obama worries so much about us becoming.

So what was President Obama doing when he appointed Michael Taylor, a former VP of Monsanto, as Sr. Advisor to the Commissioner at the FDA? The FDA is responsible for “label requirements” and recently ruled under Michael Taylor’s time as FDA Food Czar that GMO products did not need to be labeled as such, even though national consumer groups loudly professed the public’s right to know what is genetically modified in the food system. Sadly to remember: President Obama promised in campaign speeches that he would “let folks know what foods are genetically modified.” These are the conflict of interests that lead to the 99% movement standing up for the family farmers.

Just look at the confusing headlines lately that revealed that mid-western farms of GM corn will be sprayed with 2,4-D toxins found in the deadly Agent Orange. Just refer to the previous lawsuits taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court by U.S. Veterans who tried to argue the dangers of Monsanto’s Agent Orange, and high rates of cancers in our soldiers who had to suffer the side effects from their wartime exposures in Vietnam.


In 1980 alone, when all this mess started with corporations wiping out the livelihoods of family farmers, the National Farm Medicine Center reported that 900 male farmers in the Upper Midwest committed suicide. That was nearly double the national average for white men. Even sadder is the fact that some of the farmers’ children also committed suicide. Studies show that when one generation of family farmers lose their farms, then the next generation usually can’t revive the family business and traditions later.

Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th generation family farmers being pushed off their farms today, and because of a “climate of fear” (from possible lawsuits from Monsanto), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.

These farmers are the ones who have been able to survive the changes over the past twenty years by choosing to go into the budding niche of organic farming. Now look at what they have to deal with while trying to grow successful businesses: Monsanto’s threats.

Even organic dairy farmers have had to suffer lawsuits ( from Monsanto) when they labeled their organic milk “non-BGH” referring to Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone used by conventional dairies.

Consumers want organic food, and they want America’s pure food source to stay protected in America. Made in America, organically, is the way of the future, and family farmers and seed businesses should be free to maintain their high standards for organic foods. They deserve protection from Big Agribusiness’ dangerous seeds trespassing on their croplands, not to mention the use of pesticides and herbicides on GM crops. The organic industry has an “organic seal” which is also important to the success of family businesses, and even that stamp of quality is threatened by the spread of Monsanto’s GM seed contaminating their pure seed banks.

The Banking industry is also partly to blame. Years before the mortgages and home fiasco we have now, the farmers were the first to feel the squeeze. I interviewed Willie Nelson in the 1980’s, and he mentioned even then the high rates of farmer suicides, and that Farm Aid was receiving letters from family farmers saying the banks had “called in their loans”, even though “we had never missed a payment”. Was this just a veiled land grab for fertile lands, or to intentionally bankrupt independent family farmers?

It was so inspiring years ago when Michelle Obama planted an organic garden at the White House. It was a great precedent for the future, but what happened? It was ruined when they discovered sewer sludge from previous Administrations had contaminated their beautiful soil where the organic vegetables were planted. Just one small upset but it was remedied for future plantings. What about our whole country’s organic food supply being contaminated by previous Adminstrations’ bad choices? Why did they ever allow Monsanto to introduce genetically engineered seeds into our pure, organic, and heirloom stockpiles across America in the first place?

Recently, the Obama Administration, in an effort to boost food exports, signed joint agreements with agricultural biotechnology industry giants, including Monsanto, to remove the last barriers for the spread of more genetically modified crops.

But in this recent lawsuit filed by the Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, it was argued that a previous contamination of a “genetically engineered variety of rice”, named Liberty Link 601, in 2006, before it was approved for human consumption, “extensively contaminated the commercial rice supply, resulting in multiple countries banning the import of U.S. rice.” The worldwide economic loss was “upward to $1.285 billion dollars” due to the presence of GMOs…

What are everyday Americans going to do to turn it around, to get rid of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds and its dangerous threat to America’s heirloom and organic seed caches?

There is high rate of cancer in America, and eating healthier, especially organic foods, has been shown to have great benefits in beating cancer and other diseases. When we have Agribusiness threatening independent family farmers, which leads to the farmers feeling so scared that they don’t even plant their organic crops that Americans need, then perhaps we can all see what the 99% Occupy Movement is trying to say about their conflict of interest and seemingly abuse of powers.

Willie Nelson just released a new poem on You Tube: “We stand with Humanity, against the Insanity, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for… We’re the Seeds and we’re the Core, We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for; We’re the ones with the 99%.”

Monsanto’s practices are a clear example of the wrong direction that the 99% want our country to go in. How about shining some light on Monsanto, and before it is too late, realize the dangers of genetically modified seeds which are contaminating the world’s food supply.

“Crazy, crazy for feeling so…… 99% .

Friday, February 10, 2012

Messages are Double Spaced for the Recipient | Slipstick Systems

Messages are Double Spaced for the Recipient | Slipstick Systems:

Edit the Template

In Outlook 2007:

Close Outlook. (If you get a message that the template is read only, Outlook is not closed.) Locate NormalEmail.dotm and open it for editing. You'll find it in the templates folder at C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates (Vista), To easily access this folder in Windows XP or Vista, paste

%appdata%\Microsoft\Templates\

in the Start search dialog (Vista) or the address bar of Windows Explorer.

  1. Right click on NormalEmail.dotm and choose Open. This will open the template in Word as a template.
  2. Right click on the Normal style button in the ribbon and chose Modify.
  3. Click Format in the lower left and choose Paragraph.
  4. In the Spacing section, change the After value to 12 points.
  5. Save and close the template.

Now when you write a new message you'll press enter once and have white space when recipients read the message in any client or web browser. Replies will use the style sheet of the original message.

The 10 Most Seductive Drugs -- And Their Fascinating History | | AlterNet

The 10 Most Seductive Drugs -- And Their Fascinating History | | AlterNet: The 10 Most Seductive Drugs -- And Their Fascinating History

The 10 Most Seductive Drugs -- And Their Fascinating History

A brief journey through time, from ancient Sumeria to modern New Jersey, uncovers the mysterious origins of the world's most beloved substances.
Want to get the latest on America's drug & rehab culture? Sign up for The Fix's newsletter here.

1) Alcohol: Ancient Sumeria

Fans of alcohol are in good company; this is a drug that's been in use since the dawn of human time—if carbon dating of jugs found in Jiahu, China to around 8,000 BC is to be believed. But it wasn’t until we settled into agricultural societies that the wine really got flowing. Written records from ancient Sumeria document the uses and quantity of the beer—called "kash"—that was brewed. They even indicate that Sumerians had regulated drinking places similar to modern-day bars. The booze, for its part, was considered worthy of offering to the gods, and even thought to have a civilizing effect: The Epic of Gilgameshmentions a wild man named Enkidu who was seduced to join civilization after he drank seven jugs of beer, “became expansive and sang with joy.” (A harlot was also, apparently, involved.)

2) Peyote: Mexico

Mescaline—the psychoactive ingredient in the peyote plant that's native to Mexico and the Southwest US—has probably been used in religious ceremonies since 3780–3660 BC, according to carbon dating of dried buttons found in a cave on the Rio Grande in Texas. Written records began once Catholic Spanish conquerors arrived in Mexico and were alarmed by the practice of eating or drinking peyote during religious festivals. In an effort to discourage use, priests were in the habit of asking their new congregationalists to confess to having experienced the drug’s hallucinogenic effects, right after they asked “Have you eaten the flesh of man?” and “Do you suck the blood of others?”

3) Marijuana: Siberia

Think medical marijuana is a new phenomenon? Not exactly. Chinese emperor Shen Nung first recommended brewing the leaves into a tea to relieve the symptoms of menstrual cramps, rheumatism, gout, malaria and even—hilariously—absentmindedness back in 2737 BC. Scythians, a people that lived in Siberia around the 7th century BC, were more into the drug for the fun; they were known to throw marijuana seeds onto stones that were heated during funeral ceremonies, inhaling the fumes to become intoxicated. Russian archeologists began to suspect that both male and female Scythians smoked marijuana regularly for pleasure when they found primitive pot pipes in tombs in 1929.

4) Opium: Greece

Those Sumerians were really into their substances. In addition to brewing beer, they also cultivated the opium poppy, which they called “the joy plant.” The Sumerians passed on their knowledge of opium-induced joy to the Assyrians, who in turn passed it on to Babylonians, Egyptians and Greeks. By the time of the Greek classical period, farmers on the island of Cyprus had invented harvesting knives of surgical quality to get the most out of the poppies, and extracts of the flower were a common additive to the poison hemlock cocktail used in executions. During this period, poppies were considered of such usefulness in inducing sleep and forgetfulness that they are often depicted as part of the clothing or possessions of three gods of the Greek pantheon: Hypnos (sleep), Nix (night), and Thanatos (death).

5) Coco: Peru

Early use of coca leaves resulted from a fortuitous correlation between optimal growing weather and the high altitudes in the South American Andes Mountains. From the reign of the Inca until the South American revolutionary wars, native laborers and soldiers chewed the leaves to increase alertness and oxygen intake, helping them fight, ferry goods or messages over long distances, or mine without requiring much food or rest. As one European visitor noted in later years, “Where Europeans would have halted and bivouacked, the ill-clad, barefooted Indians merely paused, for a short interval, to chew their Coca.”

6) Laudenum and Morphine: Great Britain/USA

The opium poppy may have been discovered in the Near East, but the processing of it into innocuous-seeming salts, injections and liquids was a product of the industrial revolution in the West. In the 1800s, white women in particular were fond of a liquid opium preparation called laudanum that was sold through mail order companies and at local apothecaries. This preparation was also a favorite of English writer Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who may have been inspired to pen his poem Kubla Khan while in a laudanum-induced dream. After the US civil war, injured soldiers with morphine habits expanded the need for opium products, and opium-smoking dens started popping up in major cities like New York and San Francisco.

7) Cocaine: Austria

Once Coca was synthesized into cocaine and introduced to the world at large in the late 1800s, it found an unlikely proponent in the world’s most famous psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud. Even after attempting to cure a friend’s morphine habit by introducing him to the drug (the man died, addicted to both drugs, within seven years), Freud touted cocaine as a cure for everything from headaches to depression to sexual impotence. Not unexpectedly, he used quite a bit of the white lady himself, writing licentious letters to his fiancée containing such passages as: “When I come, I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are forward, you should see who is the stronger—a gentle little girl who doesn't eat enough, or a big, wild man who has cocaine in his body... I am just now busy collecting the literature for a song of praise to this magical substance.”

8) Amphetamine: Germany

German scientist Lazăr Edeleanu first synthesized amphetamine in 1887, and it became a useful cold remedy and diet pill throughout the world over the next 50 years. Once World War II broke out, however, amphetamine—along with injectable methamphetamine produced in Japan—became a weapon on a par with submarines and fighter planes. Thousands of soldiers on all sides of the conflict were issued drugs to keep them awake during all-night bombings, and Japanese kamikaze pilots used methamphetamine before every flight. The German blitzkreig, in particular, is well known for having been influenced by the use of meth among pilots. By the end of 1940, however, the German army had cut back substantially, having determined that the substance was incredibly addictive.

9) MDMA: USA

Though it was discovered in 1912 by a chemist working for Merck, not much was known about the psychoactive effects of MDMA until an eccentric chemist named Alexander Shulgin synthesized it as part of a pet project at Dow Chemical in 1967. When Shulgin gave a small gift of the drug to a psychologist friend, it became the focus of therapeutic zeal in the psychology community, with one doctor even calling it “penicillin for the soul.” Soon after, MDMA popped up in the club dance scene in Dallas, and the DEA held hasty meetings to add the drug to the illegal schedule—fighting tooth and nail with psychologists all the way. Shulgin, meanwhile, wrote and published a book called PIHKAL, short for Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved, which is still known worldwide as a club drug cookbook.

10) Benzodiazepines: New Jersey

While researching potential tranquilizers for Hoffman-LaRoche in New Jersey in the 1930s, Polish American scientist Leo Sternbach discovered the benzodiazepine that came to be known as Librium. Next came Valium and Klonopin—both of which were also discovered by Sternbach. Before long, the high anxiety culture of the mid-20th century led to increased use of benzos and thousands became addicted. Sternbach, meanwhile, continued his successful career, likely because he never developed an addiction to the drugs himself. “My wife doesn't let me take [them],” he once told the New Yorker.

Former neuroscientist Jacqueline Detwiler edits a travel magazine by day, but moonlights as a science writer. Her work has appeared in Wired, Men's Health, Fitness and Forbes.