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November 17, 2013

GM crops are killing butterflies

You know who apparently really hates butterflies? Monsanto, that's who. Researchers: GM Crops Are Killing Monarch Butterflies, After All | Mother Jones
Their argument is powerful. Monarchs lay their eggs on one particular kind of plant: the milkweed. And when the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed exclusively on the weed. Milkweed is common throughout the Midwest, and has long thrived at the edges of corn fields. But when Monsanto rolled out its "Roundup Ready" seeds in 1996, which grew into plants that could thrive amid lashings of its flagship Roundup herbicide, the Midwest's ecology changed. As farmers regularly doused ever-expanding swaths of land with Roundup without having to worry about the hurting their crops, milkweed no longer thrived—and as a result, the charismatic butterfly whose caterpillars require it can no longer thrive, either. The researchers estimate that the amount of milkweed in in the Midwest plunged by 58 percent from 1999 to 2010, pressured mainly by the expansion of Roundup Ready genetically engineered crops. Over the same period, monarch egg production in the regions sank by 81 percent. And it turns out that monarchs tend to lay more eggs milkweeds that sprout up in and around cultivated fields. So when farmers snuff out the milkweeds with Roundup, they're exerting a disproportionate effect on monarchs. Now, there are no doubt other pressures facing the monarch, including habitat loss in Mexico, but it's undeniable that when you drastically reduce egg-laying habitat and caterpillar food in one big go, you're going to harm a butterfly species. Of course, this is not the first time scientific research has implicated GMO crops as a threat to monarch butterflies. Besides Roundup Ready, Monsanto has succeeded in commercializing one other trait: what's known as Bt, which it uses in corn and cotton seeds. So-called Bt crops have been engineered to express the toxic-to-bugs gene of the Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria.

November 07, 2013

Swiss scientists reveal that Yasser Arafat was assassinated, probably by the Israelis

Arafat was poisoned with polonium, probably by the Israelis. The latest in a very long line of Palestinian leaders murdered by Israelis. It wasn't Arafat who was Assassinated but the Palestinian People | Informed Comment
Aljazeera America has the exclusive on the Swiss scientists’ findings that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned with polonium, after the fashion of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko. That the Likud government of Ariel Sharon in Israel was behind the assassination is not much in doubt. Polonium is only produced in Russia and wouldn’t be easy for a non-state actor to get hold of. Israel has a long tradition of murdering its political enemies (configuring all resistance to its Apartheid and colonial policies of aggressive expansion and ethnic cleansing as “terrorism” and then eliminating the “terrorists.”) This is not to deny that terrorism (in the sense of non-state actors killing innocent civilians for political purposes) has been committed against Israelis; it is to point out that the Israeli Right’s rhetoric sweeps up a lot of things besides that specific problem. Mossad, Israeli intelligence, poisoned Hamas leader Khalid Mashal, who would have died if President Bill Clinton hadn’t ordered PM Binyamin Netanyahu to give him the antidote. Ariel Sharon sent a helicopter gunship to murder Ahmad Yassin, a nearly blind quadriplegic who was being wheeled out of a mosque, with the rocket killing innocent bystanders as well. Sharon’s action produced fury among newly-occupied Iraqis, both the Sunnis of Falluja and the Muqtada al-Sadr Shiites, and the outrage fed into the spring, 2004, offensives in Falluja and the Shiite South against US troops. American troops in Iraq never understood that they were viewed as analogous to Israeli occupiers of Gaza and the West Bank by most Iraqis, who often called them “the Jews.”

November 03, 2013

One third of herbal supplements are just ground up rice

A third of herbal supplements are rice, wheat or soybeans, which aren't labeled as such, and could be really awful for people with allergies. Herbal Supplements Are Often Not What They Seem - NYTimes.com
For the study, the researchers selected popular medicinal herbs, and then randomly bought different brands of those products from stores and outlets in Canada and the United States. To avoid singling out any company, they did not disclose any product names. Among their findings were bottles of echinacea supplements, used by millions of Americans to prevent and treat colds, that contained ground up bitter weed, Parthenium hysterophorus, an invasive plant found in India and Australia that has been linked to rashes, nausea and flatulence. Two bottles labeled as St. John’s wort, which studies have shown may treat mild depression, contained none of the medicinal herb. Instead, the pills in one bottle were made of nothing but rice, and another bottle contained only Alexandrian senna, an Egyptian yellow shrub that is a powerful laxative. Gingko biloba supplements, promoted as memory enhancers, were mixed with fillers and black walnut, a potentially deadly hazard for people with nut allergies. Of 44 herbal supplements tested, one-third showed outright substitution, meaning there was no trace of the plant advertised on the bottle — only another plant in its place.