I am off for Christmas Vacation

December 23, 2011

I am going off for Christmas holidays and will have very limited internet access, therefore I will probably not be able to blog until I return 8 January.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

 


European Politics in Crisis

December 23, 2011

In the latest sago of the European Union crisis, it seems to me that Britain was quite right in resisting calls from the European Union to pony up yet more billions to help their European rescue funds. The fact is that Britain never joined the euro.  In the latest agreement France and Germany got together and came up with a plan, without ever consulting with Britain.  Despite the fact that they did not include anyone else in the decision-making process, they expect everyone else to go along with the plan without any complaints. Britain made reasonable requests for changes to the plan, France and Germany refused, and Britain was left out of the cold.  There was spiteful talk of leaving Britain out of EU decisions.  Now France and Germany expect yet more money from Britain despite the fact that they have gone out of their way to be vindictive, and Britain is not even a euro member.  Rightfully Britain told them to go stick it.  Maybe the EU should not have been to petty after all.


If your value your internet freedoms please read this and take action

December 21, 2011

As I said before the status quo wants to take over the internet and censor it for their own convenience.  Free speech and democracy can then go out the window.

December 16, 2011 | By Parker Higgins

Wrapping Up a Week Of Action Against SOPA

Yesterday and today, the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee has hunkered down in the Capitol for markup sessions of SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. The basic facts looked bleak: this Internet blacklist bill is a disaster that stands at odds with the Constitution, but the deep pockets of its legacy media backers managed to make it enough friends in committee that its quick passage seemed possible. Judiciary Committee Chairman, author of the bill, and “Hollywood’s Favorite Republican” Lamar Smith scheduled just a single hearing, stacked the deck in his bill’s favor, and rushed it through to markup now, at the end of the legislative session.

But then a funny thing happened: the Internet fought back. It started in bits and pieces, from our coverage of the bill’s introduction to the citizens who took our action alert and told their Congressmembers that Internet censorship is unacceptable. Then more and more people began realizing the dangers of SOPA and finding their voice against it. One month ago today, American Censorship Day counted almost 6000 participating sites, tens of thousands of people called their Representatives, and more legislators started coming out against the bill.

It was clear then that Congress wouldn’t be able to slip SOPA through under the public radar. But this week was the most important one yet, with the bill heading to markup and possibly even to the floor. That’s why EFF, with a broad coalition of organizations (of all political stripes), tech companies, innovators, and users, declared this week a Week of Action Against Censorship.

It’s been quite a week.  At the last minute, SOPA’s sponsors tried to pull a fast one by introducing a “new-and-improved” version just before the markup.  But we – and you – weren’t fooled.  As we’ve noted, SOPA still conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, despite the protestations of one misguided legal scholar SOPA would, undermine your freedom of speech, hurt students and educators, and harm the U.S. position in international negotiations for a free Internet. And you don’t have to take our word for it — ask Vint Cerf, Paul Vixie, and over 80 more Internet inventors and engineers who signed and open letter against online censorship, which was entered into the Congressional record by opponents of SOPA during the markup.

But the most important thing to happen this week was that thousands of people took action to oppose the bill, calling their representatives and spreading the word via blogs, tweets, social media videos and word of mouth.

And it looks like it made a difference. In a marathon markup session yesterday, which we covered on our live-Tweeting stream @EFFLive, a persistent group of Representatives attacked SOPA from all fronts. Although there wasn’t enough opposition to kill the bill outright, the messages we’ve been sending for weeks — that the bill would create blacklists for online censorship, harm cybersecurity efforts, set a bad international precedent and lead to a fractured Internet — couldn’t be ignored.

During a markup session earlier today, Chairman Lamar Smith acknowledged that the Judiciary Committee didn’t yet have all the facts, especially on the cybersecurity questions. After an amendment vote he abruptly announced that markup would be suspended, and consideration of the bill would be resumed at the next practicable opportunity — which is tentatively scheduled for next week, but could be pushed to late January.

Legislators’ considering facts when crafting new laws is a good thing, and we commend Chairman Smith for recognizing it. We also want to acknowledge Representatives Zoe Lofgren, Darrell Issa, Jared Polis, and Jason Chaffetz, who brought refreshing perspective and expertise to the markup session. Their input — and actual amendments — stand in clear contrast to SOPA proponents’ common refrain that the opposition doesn’t contribute any real suggestions.  (Another fact belying that refrain: there is an alternative bill already on the table: the OPEN Act proposed by Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Darrel Issa.  It’s not perfect, but it takes the conversation in a better direction, and we urge Internet users to go the http://www.keepthewebopen.com to contribute their views on it.)

The markup suspension is an important victory, but the blacklist bills are not yet beat; it’s still important that we all continue to take action against them. If you haven’t yet taken our action alert to send a message to your legislators, now is the time!


Why decent school lunches remain elusive

December 21, 2011

This wonderful article by Alliance for Natural Health exposes how the USDA and other agencies related to school lunches are for sale, and how pushing well connected corporate profits is more important than the welfare out our children.

Score One for the Crony Capitalists in the School Lunch Program

December 20, 2011

congress pizza vegetable

Pizza remains a vegetable and you can have as many greasy fries as you like, all thanks to Congress.

What kind of country allows what appears to be open financial corruption to poison its children’s school lunches? The answer seems to be our country.

Last January, the USDA made a feeble attempt to improve the situation by making school lunches healthier through better Dietary Guidelines. As we reported then, the agency’s goals of including more vegetables and whole grains in the lunch program were laudable. But USDA officials didn’t pay attention to real nutrition research, and ended up advocating a diet that can actually make people obese.

Unfortunately, other government food programs also rely on USDA guidelines and have notably poor nutrition plans. For example, the government WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program includes soy-based infant formula as an alternative to milk—despite the documented dangers to infants from soy chemicals mimicking estrogen or other hormones.

In general, the USDA, which seems more concerned with getting food sold than making our children healthy, gets a very poor grade as a nutrition advisor. But it gets worse. Far worse.

Congress just passed an appropriations bill including a particular rider (an additional provision added to a bill which has little connection to the subject matter of the bill) forcing USDA to change its feeble new guidelines in ways that further benefit special interests—and harm kids’ health. Serving the interests of giant food companies, the rider seeks to preserve pizza as a “vegetable” under the school lunch program and also to be sure that unlimited French fries can be served.

How exactly, you might wonder, can pizza be defined as a vegetable? In the school lunch program, most pastes and purees get credit for the “actual volume as served,” meaning that there must be half-cup servings to qualify, no matter how nutrient-dense they may be. USDA wanted the tomato paste on pizza to be treated the same way. But Congress carved out an exception for tomato paste and mandated that two tablespoons qualifies as a serving. Why exactly two tablespoons? Because that’s the amount that is used on a slice of pizza. In this way, a slice of cheese pizza gets to be counted as a serving of vegetables, courtesy of our esteemed Congress.

The new USDA guidelines also restricted the amount of starchy vegetables in lunches, which includes the potatoes used for French fries, and cut back on the amount of sodium allowed. The new rider overrides those new restrictions too, so kids can be served unlimited fries.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the American Frozen Food Institute, which supplies frozen French fries, was one of the heavy-hitters in getting the rider passed. Senators Susan Collins and Mark Udall, both from big potato-producing states, joined with the National Potato Council to fight the limits on starchy vegetables.

Schwan’s Food Service, which supplies frozen pizzas to 75% of US schools, is the corporate behemoth of the school lunch program. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, from Schwan’s home state, wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack extolling the nutritional value of tomato paste. Schwan donated $4,000 to Rep. John Kline and $6,000 to Rep. Peterson—both of whom also fought to create the tomato paste exception.

In August, Schwan’s issued a press release claiming it “has been feeding America’s children at school for 36 years and is a leader in the $9.5 billion school foodservice industry.” They went on to talk about new options with more whole grains and fewer calories from fat, but then sang the virtues of pizza: “Pizza continues to be the choice of students for school lunch, and we’ve created great tasting products that provide the nutrition that kids need.” Well, some of us at ANH-USA have kids in public high school, and they report the pizza served there is the greasiest, sorriest, least-appetizing pizza they have ever seen. But let’s ignore that for the moment and go back to measuring tomato paste.

Clearly, for pizza to continue being counted as a vegetable, something had to be done about that new pesky half-cup serving guideline. So the lobbyists went to work, and the legislators did their bidding, apparently without worrying about the kids. Federal lobbying records show that Schwan and the American Frozen Food Institute spent $450,000 on congressional lobbying this year (though there are no specifics on what precisely they were lobbying for).

We wish this were all that is wrong with the school lunch program, but it isn’t.

The US Department of Agriculture pays $1 billion per year to buy produce and meat for school lunches. Instead of preparing that food on-site in a healthy manner, schools hire management companies, which in turn hire processors to prepare the food. The processors turn chicken meat, scraps, flavorings, and fillers of uncertain origin into things like chicken nuggets, etc. The processors in turn pay what look to us to be kickbacks to the management companies for choosing them over another processor. None of this money goes back to the schools. Those seeming kickbacks—the management companies would call them rebates—are arguably illegal. The New York Attorney General sued one management company and received a $20 million settlement.

Even if the school lunch system weren’t corrupt, it would still be unhealthy. In 2003, the USDA approved irradiated meat for the school lunch program. Since then, Congress has placed limitations on irradiated meat in school lunches, but it is still served.

Schools can’t even get something as traditional as chocolate milk right these days. Of course recent research does suggest that adding chocolate can make the calcium less bio-available, but let’s not fuss about that. Nor, for a moment, the growth hormones or the antibiotics in the milk itself that we have descried in other articles. But how about the BHT added to the chocolate milk? BHT is a preservative that is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs, rubber and petroleum products, jet fuels, and embalming fluids. It causes cancer in animals, and can cause liver and kidney damage, but most notably causes behavioral problems and hyperactivity in children. Perhaps the supposition is that if Johnny acts up, we can just give him some drugs to calm him down (please see our article on that subject in this issue)!


Prozac can be very dangerous

December 21, 2011

Prozac (and similar drugs) can cause people to become violent and crazy.  This is a far cry from the happy drugs that we have been lead to believe they supposedly are.  Very interesting article from Alliance for Natural Health (below).

Why Would a Young Person Start Shooting in School?

December 20, 2011

drugs-treat-depression-medicineProzac and other SSRIs kill kids—and not just from suicide. A judge now agrees. New Action Alert!

 

Scientists and integrative doctors have been aware of these drugs leading to violence for years, but now it is also the ruling of a Canadian judge, who found that a teenager killed his friend because of a reaction to SSRI antidepressants. Meanwhile more and more kids are being “screened” and pushed to take these prescriptions.

In Winnipeg, Manitoba, Justice Robert Heinrichs concluded that a 15-year-old boy was under the influence of Prozac when he fatally stabbed a close friend. Although the boy pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, the judge cited the drug’s side effects as a reason to keep the case in juvenile court and give him a more lenient sentence.

Prozac is prescribed to curb depression, but as we reported in March, SSRIs are linked to a shockingly heightened risk of violence toward others. Not just suicide, which a black box warning on the package already warns against. But sudden, unexplained, and often murderous violence against others.

In the Canadian case, Justice Heinrich concluded the medication set off a steady deterioration in the young killer’s behavior. “He had become irritable, restless, agitated, aggressive and unclear in his thinking,” the judge said. “It was while in that state he overreacted in an impulsive, explosive and violent way. Now that his body and mind are free and clear of any effects of Prozac, he is simply not the same youth in behavior or character.”

In this case, the teenage murderer had a history of smoking marijuana, had abused prescription drugs, and “experimented” with cocaine. Ironically, it was to help him break free of these behaviors that a family doctor prescribed Prozac for depression.

Remember, the Columbine High School shootings and the spree shootings at a community center in Los Angeles, two brokerage firms in Atlanta, and a printing plant in Kentucky were all perpetrated by people taking Prozac, Zoloft, Luvox, Paxil, or a related SSRI antidepressant drug.

The US Food and Drug Administration and the Health Protection Branch (HPB) of Health Canada know all this. So why does the FDA require the warning against suicide on the drug package but no warning against acts of violence? It would seem that the FDA simply does not want to take any responsibility for the acts of mass violence in our schools and workplaces that have become increasingly common since the agency’s approval of these drugs.

Meanwhile doctors are not only prescribing more and more SSRIs to teenagers, but schools and educational agencies are also pushing teenagers to get mental health screenings. The “teen screen” program uses inducements like free movie tickets to coerce them into being screened, and then asks such questions as whether they ever feel insecure or depressed (what teen doesn’t?). Very often, the answer is more medication from these truly dangerous drugs.

Parents can object (if they hear about the screening in advance, which is not guaranteed), but if they do, they may be charged with child abuse, child neglect, or educational neglect!

Rep. Ron Paul has introduced the Parental Consent Act of 2011, which would prohibit the use of federal funds for any universal or mandatory mental health screening program for kids. HR 2769 also addresses the problem of educational institutions using a parent’s refusal to consent to mental health screenings for his or her child as the basis for a charge of abuse or neglect. Any school or agency that does such a thing would no longer be able to receive federal education funding.

Children shouldn’t be automatically screened for mental health issues without explicit parental consent, especially if there is no indication of mental health problems. It violates parental rights, the diagnostic criteria are vague, and federal funds shouldn’t support programs that could lead to the increased over-medication of children.

An identical bill has been introduced in the Senate, S 1800, by Sen. Rand Paul.

Please contact your senators and representative and ask them to support this extremely important legislation. Take action TODAY!

 

Take Action!


More on the TSA

December 21, 2011

It now appears that someone (probably Chertoff) made a sweetheart deal and the government bought the x-ray scanners because it made a lot of money for someone.  Now they have these dangerous devices but are too proud and subborn to admit that they are endangering the public.

TSA refuses new study on airport scanners

It’s outright insane if you stop to think about it: In order to “protect” air passengers, the U.S. government is blasting them all with dangerous levels of radiation from full-body X-ray scanners.

Not exactly how I like my “protection” — especially since the feds won’t provide any honest-to-goodness safety data on these machines.

It seemed like we were finally getting somewhere earlier this year when the TSA told Sen. Susan Collins it would authorize an independent safety study. You’d think they would have done that before they installed these machines at every airport — but better late than never, right?

Well, it might be “never” after all — because TSA administrator John Pistole recently told Congress that the study is off.

The question has to be asked: What are they so afraid of?

I think it’s pretty obvious: Radiation exposure — even the small amounts used in these machines — can cause DNA damage and cellular changes. Over time, that can lead to cancer.

These machines use backscatter radiation, which goes beneath the clothes and concentrates on the skin itself — so TSA agents can view a “naked” picture of you and see what you might be hiding without having to look at your bones, liver, guts, etc.

But since that radiation focuses on the skin, it can build up there and boost the risk of skin cancers, especially among those most often exposed, like regular air travelers.

And who knows what kind of risks these machines will pose to pregnant women, children, and infants.

One expert says he thinks X-ray scanners will cause 100 cancer cases each year — and while that may sound like a small number, why put even a single life on the line in the name of security?

Even if you agree that the government should get a look at everyone’s naked body before boarding an airplane — and I don’t — there are machines that can do it without using a drop of radiation.

The feds even have the machines, and are using them in some airports — but they insist on using the X-ray machines right along with them.

Even Europe has said they’ll only use the radiation-free machines — and they’ve actually banned the X-ray scanners from their airports until they see some actual scientific data proving they’re safe.

I hope they’re not holding their breath.


Vote for Ron Paul

December 20, 2011

I could not agree more.

Support for Ron Paul turns up in interesting places, such as the UK-based European Disunion Blog.

Don’t want endless foreign wars, but do want a strong military for defense? Vote Ron Paul. Do want bankers to be subjected to greater scrutiny and accountability? Vote Ron Paul. Don’t want the government to tow the line of corporate interests? Vote Ron Paul. Do want to be allowed to say and think what you will – even do what you will – provided that it does not harm or infringe upon the rights of others? Vote Ron Paul.

Ron Paul is the only candidate who does not accept donations from big business – his campaign is funded entirely by individuals. Yet it forms policy from a conservative outlook: pragmatic, rather than idealistic, with any reforms carefully considered before implementation, with a strict doctrine of fiscal prudence to boot. In short, it is the perfect blend for individualistic yet reasoned and cash-strapped America.

That is a rock-solid case in two short paragraphs.


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