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A Progressive Alternative to Austerity


Passing steeper taxes on the rich isn’t as hard as you’d think.

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BY FRED GLASS

Demographic changes favoring a clear progressive message, coupled with the Occupy movement’s lasting insight that the 1 percent are robbing the rest of us blind, provide the opening to beat back the core conservative idea: that the problem is government and society should seek help from the wisdom of the rich.

“There is no alternative to austerity,” insist the rich, along with their politicians, foundations, think tanks and media.

They’ve been saying it for decades, along with, “taxes are bad,” “government doesn’t work” and “public employees are greedy.”

Consequently, common wisdom had it that “you can’t raise taxes.” Even people who should have known better believed this, while the public sector slid down the tubes.

So how did Proposition 30 succeed? This measure, passed by California voters last November, raises $6 billion a year for schools and services—and in a supposedly “anti-tax” state. The money comes mostly through an income tax hike on rich people, along with a tiny sales tax increase of 0.25 percent.

The story should be better known, because with the right preparation, you could make it happen in your state, too.

Testing the waters

Shortly after Democrat Jerry Brown was elected governor in November 2010, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) pulled together labor and community groups to craft a ballot measure to raise the revenue needed to keep schools and services afloat. (Full disclosure: I am the CFT’s communications director.)

For two years we had been laying the groundwork for a progressive tax: creating educational materials, publishing opinion pieces, holding training sessions with our members and other unionists, and talking with potential coalition partners.

We funded polls and focus groups, testing how likely various types of taxes would be to gain a majority.

Regressive taxes—like sales taxes and across-the-board income tax hikes—were viewed unfavorably. By spring 2011, people felt ordinary folks had already sacrificed enough, in the worst recession since the 1930s.

The public believed, however, that the rich and large corporations needed to pay their fair share for the common good. They were quite willing to vote for higher taxes on the rich.

As we refined our research, we decided on three principles: bring in the most revenue possible; draw it from those who could most afford to pay; and have the best chance of winning. We arrived at a Millionaires Tax: people who made a million dollars a year would pay an extra 3 percent, and people making $2 million an extra 5 percent, raising $5 billion a year.

Unfortunately, Governor Brown had his own proposal that didn’t follow those principles—it included both a half-cent sales tax hike and an across-the-board income tax increase. People were out gathering signatures for Brown’s initiative, our Millionaires Tax, and a third tax measure sponsored by a wealthy liberal attorney.

The Millionaires Tax ran ahead of the other measures in five straight polls.

In early March 2012, the CFT helped organize a march in the capital against budget cuts and college tuition increases. Thousands of students, faculty, and others paraded Millionaires Tax signs outside the governor’s window.

Two days later, responding to the governor’s charge that three competing measures would all lose, we released the results of a poll testing that idea. It found the others would get less than 50 percent, and the Millionaires Tax would win handily.

At that point the governor called in CFT President Joshua Pechthalt to talk. We compromised and combined the two proposals into Prop 30. The new measure raised the top tax rates on income of $250,000 by 1 percent, on $300,000 by 2 percent, and on $500,000 by 3 percent. We had wanted a permanent tax; Brown’s was for five years. The compromise extended that to seven.

We knew the sales tax was a poison pill and we requested that Brown drop it entirely, but he explained that, to keep the Chamber of Commerce neutral, he had promised not to “demonize the rich,” meaning there had to be a “shared sacrifice” component. He did agree to reduce it to a quarter cent.

Sales tax confusion

Our research was validated during the campaign—people don’t like regressive taxes like the sales tax. Millions of dollars in opposition ads did their best to confuse the voters, calling Prop 30 “a massive tax increase on everyone.”

CFT’s coalition, Reclaiming California’s Future, included the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (which emerged after ACORN’s demise), the Courage Campaign and California Calls, a coalition of community groups dedicated to reforming the tax system through voter education and expanding the electorate.

Our coalition emphasized the “tax the rich” message in our literature, public events and door-to-door canvassing, but we were only part of a much broader Prop 30 coalition. The official campaign’s TV ads included asking the wealthy to pay their fair share, but as one message buried among others.

The polling numbers gradually sank to a bare 50 percent. One poll, three weeks before the election, had Yes on Prop 30 at just 48 percent, while the Nos had crept up to 44 percent.

The governor campaigned mostly on the idea that Prop 30 would save education from further cuts, but threw in “shared sacrifice” and “paying down the state’s wall of debt” in his public pronouncements.

We agreed with the education message, disagreed with the others, and insisted on a strong emphasis on taxing the rich. We stressed to the governor that, in order to neutralize the opposition’s ads, the public had to understand what services the tax paid for, who it taxed, and by how much.

In the final weeks, as the governor worked with CFT and other allies in rallies and media appearances, his message became clearer and more consistent: Prop 30 would stop cuts to schools and was fair, because, he said (drawing on his Jesuit background and citing St. Luke), it asked “those who are blessed with the most wealth to give back a little bit so everyone could benefit.”

Ninety percent of Prop 30’s revenues would come from taxing the wealthy; and the quarter-cent sales tax, he said, amounted to a “mere penny on a $4 sandwich.”

Reshaping debate

On Election Day, Prop 30 won 55 percent to 45 percent, reshaping the decades-old understanding of California as an “anti-tax” state. It is the single largest progressive tax passed in the state since World War II, both in the amount of revenue raised and as a percent bump on the income taxes of the wealthy.

What are some lessons from this tremendous victory?

If the word can be gotten out effectively, the electorate is ready to pass progressive taxes to pay for common needs like schools and services.

Demographic changes favoring a clear progressive message, coupled with the Occupy movement’s lasting insight that the 1 percent are robbing the rest of us blind, provide the opening to beat back the core conservative idea: that the problem is government and society should seek help from the wisdom of the rich.

Prop 30’s message was that public education is the foundation of a decent society and we can restore that promise if the rich pay their fair share of taxes.

The anti-Prop 30 messages were the same as always—government can’t do anything right; the rich will leave California if we tax them; taxes are too high; if we remove the waste, fraud, and abuse in government there will be plenty of money for schools.

But these ideas, so effective in the past, had lost their potency, because, especially post-Occupy, the public understands that economic inequality is growing.

Spending tens of millions of dollars didn’t work for the rich this time. In fact, it backfired—they proved our point. We didn’t have to “demonize” the rich; they did it themselves.

Another key, of course, was the old-fashioned work of reaching out to core constituencies. The Reclaiming coalition was crucial, along with a ground campaign by the broader labor movement, which was heavily mobilized to fight an anti-union measure on the ballot (which lost).

Volunteers and staff spent countless hours knocking on doors, phonebanking, rallying, educating. We reached out systematically to less-likely voters—young people, college students, immigrants, lower-income communities of color—and convinced them to come out to vote for their own futures.

Credit for this orientation is due especially to California Calls, which has targeted less-likely voters and stayed in touch over several election cycles.

This year California has begun to restore funds for public education for the first time in years. There is an alternative to austerity; its name is “progressive taxes.”

Reprinted with permission from Labor Notes.

ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

Fred Glass is communications director for the California Federation of Teachers

via A Progressive Alternative to Austerity – In These Times.

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U.S. senator reveals “truly shocking” information about California nuclear plant — “Restart of San Onofre reactors is now off the table”


San Onofre: Internal letter reveals Edison knew of defects at crippled

reactors but misled federal regulators to get expedited license

Source: Friends of the Earth News Release

Date: May 28, 2013

“Restart is dead”

Sen. Barbara Boxer has released a private 2004 letter from Southern California Edison that reveals the utility knew of major problems in its radically redesigned replacement steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station that could lead to a “disastrous outcome,” but the company knowingly misrepresented its failed design as a “like-for-like” replacement to sidestep a more thorough license review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The leaked letter confirms accusations of the nuclear watchdog group Friends of the Earth. Its release, said the group, means Edison’s restart plan is dead.

“This letter from Edison management is truly shocking,” said Damon Moglen, climate and energy director for Friends of the Earth. “It shows definitively that Edison was more concerned with keeping to a construction schedule and making money than with assuring safe operation of their reactors. It raises serious questions about their honesty and about the NRC’s handling of the San Onofre license.

“The restart of San Onofre reactors is now off the table. No one can possibly argue for the further operation of these crippled reactors when such an experiment places the lives and livelihoods of millions of Southern Californians at risk.” […]

“Friends of the Earth accused them, the ASLB judged them and now Edison has confessed,” said Dave Freeman, former head of the federal Tennessee Valley Authority and senior advisor to Friends of the Earth. “The San Onofre restart plan is now deader than a doornail. It’s over.”

via U.S. senator reveals “truly shocking” information about California nuclear plant — “Restart of San Onofre reactors is now off the table”.

Genetically modified democracy: Monsanto moves to obliterate states’ rights to label GMOs


GMO-Tomatoes-Needle-Inject

Reliable sources in Washington D.C. have informed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that Monsanto has begun secretly lobbying its Congressional allies to attach one or more “Monsanto Riders” or amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill that would preempt or prohibit states from requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods.

In response to this blatant violation of states’ rights to legislate, and consumers’ right to know, the OCA and a nationwide alliance have launched a petition http://salsa3.salsalabs.com to put every member of Congress on notice: If you support any Farm Bill amendment that would nullify states’ rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we’ll vote – or throw – you out of office.

On Wednesday, May 15, an amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, inserted under the guise of protecting interstate commerce, passed out of the House Agricultural Committee. If the King Amendment makes it into the final Farm Bill, it would take away states’ rights to pass laws governing the production or manufacture of any agricultural product, including food and animals raised for food, that is involved in interstate commerce. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), largely in response to a California law stating that by 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California. But policy analysts emphasize that the amendment, broadly and ambiguously written, could be used to prohibit or preempt any state GMO labeling or food safety law.

Will the King Amendment survive the Senate? No one can be sure, say analysts. However few doubt that Monsanto will give up. We can expect that more amendments and riders will be introduced into the Farm Bill–even if the King Amendment fails – over the next month in an attempt to stop the wave of state GMO labeling laws and initiatives moving forward in states like Washington, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and others.

Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they’ve “lost the battle” to stop GE food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws. On May 14, Maine’s House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5.

If Monsanto can’t stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure. And all signs point to just such a power grab. Earlier this year, Monsanto slipped its extremely unpopular “Monsanto Protection Act,” an act that gives biotech immunity from federal prosecution for planting illegally approved GE crops, into the 2013 Federal Appropriations Bill. During the June 2012 Farm Bill debate, 73 U.S. Senators voted against the right of states to pass mandatory GE food labeling laws. Emboldened by these votes, and now the House Ag Committee’s vote on the King Amendment, Monsanto has every reason to believe Congress would support a potential nullification of states’ rights to label.

The million-strong OCA and its allies in the organic and natural health movement are warning incumbent Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans alike, that thousands of health and environmental-minded constituents in their Congressional districts or states will work to recall them or drive them out of office if they fail to heed the will of the people and to respect the time-honored traditions of shared state sovereignty over food labels, food safety laws, and consumers’ right to know.

Trouble in Monsanto Nation

Over the past 20 years Monsanto and the biotech industry, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and corporate agribusiness, have begun seizing control over the global food and farming system, including the legislative, patent, trade, judicial and regulatory bodies that are supposed to safeguard the public interest.

In the U.S., despite mounting evidence http://www.earthopensource.org of the damage GE crops inflict on human health and the environment, approximately 170 million acres of GE crops, including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, and squash, are currently under cultivation. These crops, untested and unlabeled, comprise 41 percent of all cultivated cropland, or 17 percent of all cropland and pastureland combined. According to the GMA, at least 70 percent of non-organic grocery store processed foods contain GMOs. And GE grains and mill byproducts now supply the overwhelming majority of animal feed on the factory farms that supply 90 percent to 95 percent of the meat, eggs and dairy products that Americans consume.

Yet despite their marketplace dominance, record profits and enormous political clout in Washington D.C., Monsanto and the biotech industry are in deep trouble. Evidence is mounting that Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, is a deadly poison, destroying important human gut bacteria and likely contributing to the rapid increase of food allergies and serious human diseases including cancer, autism, neurological disorders , Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Those most susceptible http://articles.mercola.com to poisoning by Monsanto’s Roundup are children and the elderly.

Scientists aren’t the only ones raising new questions about Roundup. Farmers are complaining that they’re being forced to spray more and more chemicals on crops increasingly under siege from a growing army of herbicide-resistant weeds. The situation is so bad that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just raised http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_27491.cfm the limits of Roundup residue allowed on grains and vegetables to even more dangerous levels. But just in case the EPA someday stops raising the limits, Monsanto, Dow and the biotech industry are working on a new “solution” to the onslaught of herbicide-resistant Superweeds: They’ve applied for approval of a new and highly controversial generation of super toxic herbicide-resistant GE crops, including “Agent Orange” (2,4-D and dicamba-resistant) corn, soybeans and cotton.

As a recent widely-circulated article points out, http://articles.mercola.com

“The use of 2,4-D is not new; it’s actually one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. What is new is that farmers will now ‘carpet bomb’ staple food crops like soy and corn with this chemical at a previously unprecedented scale – just the way glyphosate has been indiscriminately applied as a result of Roundup Ready crops. In fact, if 2,4-D resistant crops receive approval and eventually come to replace Monsanto’s failing Roundup-resistant crops as Dow intends, it is likely that billions of pounds will be needed, on top of the already insane levels of Roundup being used (1.6 billion lbs were used in 2007 in the US alone).”

In addition to these Agent Orange crops, an expanded menu of genetically engineered organisms are awaiting approval. Next on the menu? GE apples, trees, and salmon.

State Labeling Laws: The ‘skull and crossbones’ that terrify Monsanto

Monsanto’s greatest fear isn’t a federal government charged with protecting the health and safety of its citizens. Congress and the White House seem only too happy to oblige the biotech industry’s unquenchable thirst for growth, power and dominance. No, it’s the massive, unstoppable (so far) grassroots movement of Millions Against Monsanto that strikes fear in the heart of the Biotech Bully. U.S. citizens are waking up. They’re demanding labels on genetically engineered foods, similar to those already required in the European Union. They’re calling for serious independent safety-testing of GE crops and animals, both those already approved (especially Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops) and those awaiting approval.

The anti-GMO movement has finally figured out, after 20 years of fruitlessly lobbying Congress, the FDA and the White House, that the federal government is not going to require labels on GE foods. Instead the movement has shifted the battleground on GMO labeling from Monsanto and Big Food’s turf in Washington D.C. to the more favorable terrain of state ballot initiatives and state legislative action – publicizing the fact that a state GMO labeling law will have the same marketplace impact as a national labeling law.

State laws spell doom for Monsanto. Companies like Kellogg’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Pepsi/Frito-Lay, Dean Foods, Unilever, Con-Agra, Safeway, Wal-Mart and Smuckers are not going to label in just one or two states. Monsanto knows that U.S. food companies will go GMO-free in the entire U.S., rather than admit to consumers that their products contain GMOs.

As Monsanto itself has pointed out, labels on genetically engineered foods are like putting a “skull and crossbones” on food packages. This is why Monsanto and their allies poured $46 million into defeating a California ballot initiative last year that would have required labels on GMO foods. This is why Monsanto has lobbied strenuously in 30 states this year to prevent, or at least delay, state mandatory labeling laws from being passed. This is why Monsanto has threatened to file federal lawsuits against Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Washington if they dare grant citizens the right to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered or not.

And this is why Monsanto’s minions are trying to insert amendments or riders into the Farm Bill that will make it nearly impossible, even illegal, for states to pass GMO labeling laws. And there’s nothing to stop them when Congress is filled with pro-biotech cheerleaders who could care less that 90 percent of U.S. consumers want mandatory labels and proper safety testing of genetically engineered crops and foods.

Countering Monsanto’s Final Offensive: Throw the Bums Out!

Only a massive grassroots resistance will deter the U.S. Senate and House from stomping on our rights. Only an unprecedented campaign of public education, petition-gathering and grassroots pressure will be able to convince the ever-more corrupt and indentured politicians in Washington D.C. to back off.

Eighteen state constitutions have century-old provisions for state registered voters to collect petitions and recall state and local officials, forcing them to either resign or stand for reelection. But what very few Americans, and even members of Congress, realize is that 11 states have constitutional provisions to recall U.S. Senators and House of Representative members, as well as state elected officials.

It’s time we exercise the full power of direct democracy, not just state and municipal ballot initiatives. We must continue to support efforts like the current state ballot initiative to label GMOs in Washington state, and county ballot initiatives to ban GMOs, factory farms and other corporate crimes, in the 24 states and hundreds of counties and municipalities where these are allowed. But we also need to use the power we have to recall and throw out of office our out-of-control Congressional Senators and Representatives as well.

If our elected officials in Congress continue to represent Monsanto and big corporations, rather than their constituents, then let’s throw the bums out! If the Washington political Establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, continue to trample on our inalienable constitutional rights and contemptuously disregard the 225-year principle of a shared balance of power between the federal government, the states and local government, then we have no choice but to recall them or throw them out of office.

Please join the nation’s organic consumers and natural health advocates in this strategic battle, the Food Fight of Our Lives. Please join this campaign to save, not only our right to choose what’s in our food, but our basic right to democratic representation and self-determination as well. Sign the petition. http://salsa3.salsalabs.com Tell your Congressmen and women, especially the 73 incumbents who voted last year to eliminate states rights’ to legislate on GMO labels, and those in the House this week who voted to support the King Amendment that “enough is enough,” “basta ya.” Power to the People!

via Genetically modified democracy: Monsanto moves to obliterate states’ rights to label GMOs.

Global march challenges Monsanto’s dominance: LIVE UPDATES- Final Update


People carry signs during a protest against agribusiness giant Monsanto in Los Angeles on May 25, 2013. (AFP Photo / Robin Beck)

People carry signs during a protest against agribusiness giant Monsanto in Los Angeles on May 25, 2013. (AFP Photo / Robin Beck

 

Demonstrators hold banners during a rally against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in Valparaiso city May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

Demonstrators hold banners during a rally against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in Valparaiso city May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

 

20:39 GMT: Thousands protested near the Sacramento State Capitol in California. The event featured magnificent traditional Aztec dances.

 

20:27 GMT: Dozens have gathered in front of Monsanto office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, dancing and protesting GMO crops. Monsanto’s largest factory in Latin America is located in Argentina, and the company invests millions into new “experimental facilities.”

 

The March Against Monsanto, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Image from twitter user@Ignacio_RT)

The March Against Monsanto, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Image from twitter user@Ignacio_RT)

 

20:11 GMT: Over a hundred of activists gathered in Dallas chanting “No more lies! No more greed! We don’t want your toxic seed!”

 

The March Against Monsanto, Dallas. (Image from twitter user@reneefranks)

The March Against Monsanto, Dallas. (Image from twitter user@reneefranks)

 

20:05 GMT: The Vancouver March Against Monsanto is part of an international movement that aims to raise awareness about the impacts of genetically modified organisms in food.

Marchers gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery beginning at 11 a.m. local time before making their way through the city.

Fearing the massive effect genetic engineering has both on the environment and health, marchers have demanded that companies be forced to label foods containing GMOs.

“There’s a growing body of evidence indicating that genetically modified crops are not benign; they affect both our health and the environment,” Global BC cites Greenpeace Vancouver Local Group member, Zac Hambrook, as saying in a statement. 

 

19:58 GMT: “What do we want? Labels! When do we want em’? Now!” The March Against Monsanto making its way through downtown Cincinnati Ohio.

 

19:50 GMT: From the East Bay to California’s largest city San Diego, anti-Monsanto protests have swept through the Golden State.

 

The March Against Monsanto, San Diego. (Image from facebook.com)

The March Against Monsanto, San Diego. (Image from facebook.com)

 

19:40 GMT: Hundreds gather in San Francisco’s Union Square to take part in the nationwide as well as global march against Monsanto.
19:30 GMT: Activists in Olympia, Washington organized a march to the state capitol and onward to help take back control of their food supply. Alliance for Global Justice, an organizer behind the march, said 888 people had initially signed up to attend the poor weather conditions might have dissuaded many from turning out.

 

19:00 GMT: RT’s Anastasia Churkina is following the protests from New York.

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18:55 GMT: Environmental groups across America have blamed companies like Monsanto for the drastic decline in the honey bee population over recent years, saying the pesticides they produce have killed off millions of the vital insect in recent years.  Monsanto plans to host a “Bee Summit” in June to discuss solutions to the bee’s North American demise. “Everybody is concerned by it,” Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley told Reuters.


18:45 GMT: Several thousand protesters marched through the streets of Vienna, Austria to rally against the US seed giant and GMO products.

 

Demonstrators hold banners during a rally against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in Valparaiso city May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

Demonstrators hold banners during a rally against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in Valparaiso city May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eliseo Fernandez)

 

20:39 GMT: Thousands protested near the Sacramento State Capitol in California. The event featured magnificent traditional Aztec dances.

 

20:27 GMT: Dozens have gathered in front of Monsanto office in Buenos Aires, Argentina, dancing and protesting GMO crops. Monsanto’s largest factory in Latin America is located in Argentina, and the company invests millions into new “experimental facilities.”

 

The March Against Monsanto, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Image from twitter user@Ignacio_RT)

The March Against Monsanto, Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Image from twitter user@Ignacio_RT)

 

20:11 GMT: Over a hundred of activists gathered in Dallas chanting “No more lies! No more greed! We don’t want your toxic seed!”

 

The March Against Monsanto, Dallas. (Image from twitter user@reneefranks)

The March Against Monsanto, Dallas. (Image from twitter user@reneefranks)

 

20:05 GMT: The Vancouver March Against Monsanto is part of an international movement that aims to raise awareness about the impacts of genetically modified organisms in food.

Marchers gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery beginning at 11 a.m. local time before making their way through the city.

Fearing the massive effect genetic engineering has both on the environment and health, marchers have demanded that companies be forced to label foods containing GMOs.

“There’s a growing body of evidence indicating that genetically modified crops are not benign; they affect both our health and the environment,” Global BC cites Greenpeace Vancouver Local Group member, Zac Hambrook, as saying in a statement. 

 

19:58 GMT: “What do we want? Labels! When do we want em’? Now!” The March Against Monsanto making its way through downtown Cincinnati Ohio.

 

19:50 GMT: From the East Bay to California’s largest city San Diego, anti-Monsanto protests have swept through the Golden State.

 

The March Against Monsanto, San Diego. (Image from facebook.com)

The March Against Monsanto, San Diego. (Image from facebook.com)

 

19:40 GMT: Hundreds gather in San Francisco’s Union Square to take part in the nationwide as well as global march against Monsanto.
19:30 GMT: Activists in Olympia, Washington organized a march to the state capitol and onward to help take back control of their food supply. Alliance for Global Justice, an organizer behind the march, said 888 people had initially signed up to attend the poor weather conditions might have dissuaded many from turning out.

 

19:00 GMT: RT’s Anastasia Churkina is following the protests from New York.
18:55 GMT: Environmental groups across America have blamed companies like Monsanto for the drastic decline in the honey bee population over recent years, saying the pesticides they produce have killed off millions of the vital insect in recent years.  Monsanto plans to host a “Bee Summit” in June to discuss solutions to the bee’s North American demise. “Everybody is concerned by it,” Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley told Reuters.


18:45 GMT: Several thousand protesters marched through the streets of Vienna, Austria to rally against the US seed giant and GMO products.

 

18:18 GMT: Several hundred protesters have amassed outside the White House  to demand the Obama administration change its policy towards Monsanto. In March, President Obama signed the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, which “effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GMO or GE crops and seeds, no matter what health consequences from the consumption of these products may come to light in the future.”
17:58 GMT: Protesters in Los Angeles have evoked the sweeping horrors of the French Revolution to show their disapproval for Monsanto’s practices.


17:50 GMT:  Farmers form the Consortium for the Defense of Sicilian Agriculture have pulled out all of the stops…and a tractor to protest the destructive impact of Monsanto on their livelihood and the world’s food supply. 

 

17:40 GMT: #MarchAgainstMonsanto is surging on Twitter despite the virtual mainstream media blackout on the global day of action.
17:37 GMT: Several dozens protesters have come out in Wichita, Kansas to take part in the worldwide call to “take back our food.”


17:28GMT: Protesters are starting to fill up Chicago’s Federal Plaza, which is home to a regular farmers market, to take part in one of many anti-Monsanto protests being held throughout the United States.


17:10 GMT: Dozens of demonstrators have gathered in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, to take part in the global action against Monsanto.
17:00 GMT: A small group of protesters have gathered outside of the Central Academic Theatre of the Russian Army on Suvorov Square to demand a “Russia without GMO!”


16:00 GMT: Several hundred people gathered in Paris for a peaceful protest against the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. A sit in demonstration was held on the Place du Trocadéro square, across the Seine from the Eifel Tower. Protesters could be seen waving signs claiming “”Monsanto plunders and kills the farmers and the planet.”

 

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

 

 

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

 

15:40 GMT: Japanese protesters earlier gathered outside Monsanto’s headquarters in Tokyo to chant down the company’s influence on the world’s food supply.

 

14:40 GMT: Demonstrators gathered at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan to “Demand GMO Labeling” and join the worldwide protest against Monsanto. The “March Against Monstanto” is being held in a dozen  cities  across Michigan, including Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Sault St. Marie. Tia Lebherz, a local organizer for Food and Water Watch, said companies like Monsanto are “squeezing out our small farmers.”
14:10 GMT: “’At Monsanto, we are committed to sustainable agriculture and to continuously improve ways in which we contribute. We are pleased that this honor recognizes that commitment,’ said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president, sustainability and corporate affairs at Monsanto. ‘This recognition reflects the thousands of Monsanto employees who are working together with farmers and partners around the world to improve agriculture and improve lives.'”

“First published in 1999, the ‘100 Best Corporate Citizens’ list ranks large-cap Russell 1000 companies based on publicly available information in seven key categories: climate change, employee relations, environmental, financial, governance, human rights and philanthropy.”


13:50 GMT: Around 300 people have come out for the London March Against Monsanto, calling for better food labeling of products that use ingredients grown with Monsanto seeds. London Organizer Courtney Smith says the issue at heart is that Monsanto is spending millions of dollars to lobby against GMO labeling on foods.The protesters met in Victoria Park at 2:00 p.m. local time and can be seen taking up positions around Parliament.
 

13:45 GMT: The March Against Monsanto attracted a sizeable crowd on Amsterdam’s central Dam Square.

 

13:40 GMT: People take to the streets of Amsterdam by bike and by foot to protest against Monsanto.
13:30 GMT: Demonstrators marching through the streets of Munich, Germany to call for the ban of genetically Engineered and Genetically Modified Organisms. Similar protests are being held in a half a dozen cities throughout the country.

 

image by Christian Chapman

image by Christian Chapman

 


13:10 GMT: Protesters marching through the streets of Cape Town, South Africa demanding that Monsanto get out of Africa.

13:00 GMT: Members of Occupy Food Australia are currently blocking roads in Melbourne, Australia to make their presence against Monsanto felt. 

12:50 GMT: Activists in Hawaii have “made a #MAM light brigade”, adorning a wall with a popular March Against Monsanto hashtag fashioned from a string of lights. 

11:17 GMT: The Japanese are participating in the anti-Monsanto rallies across the country, locals report on Twitter.

 

image by @mkimpo_kid

image by @mkimpo_kid

 

 

image by @mkimpo_kid

image by @mkimpo_kid

 

11:10 GMT: Across South Africa, hundreds have taken to the streets to protest against Monsanto’s policies.

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 

10:36 GMT: Hundreds of New Zealanders gathered around the country today to protest against genetically modified food.

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 


10:03 GMT:


9:00 GMT: Anti-Monsanto activists are claiming a mainstream media blackout on coverage of the protest marches.

8:20 GMT: Anti-Monsanto campaigners across the UK will march as part of a global day of protest against the GMO giant. Rallies are set to take place in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Douglas, Torquay and Nottingham.

6:50 GMT: Sarah Saunders, an organizer of the event, said she was leading the march to “help protect the future health and food supply for my children. The long term health effects of GMOs are up for debate and I would rather my children not be science experiments.”

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 


6:20 GMT: Hundreds gathered in Brisbane, Australia, to join the global protest against Monsanto. 

5:40 GMT: Pictures from Melbourne, Australia, show crowds continuing their protest against Monsanto’s practices.

 

Over a thousand people take to streets in Melbourne for the March Against Monsanto (image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page)

Over a thousand people take to streets in Melbourne for the March Against Monsanto (image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page)

 

 

image by @nrcars

image by @nrcars

 

4:21 GMT: Over 1,000 protesters gathered in Melbourne.
3:37 GMT: Activists gearing up for a protest in Albany, Australia.


3:00 GMT: Watch RT’s Anastasia Churkina report on the upcoming global protest.

 

 

2:44 GMT: Activists begin gathering for Sydney protest hours before the scheduled time.
2:14 GMT: Nick Bernabe, a social media director for March Against Monsanto, told RT that in some parts of the world, Monsanto’s tactics are leading farmers to suicide.

“If you look at what happened in India… I mean there was an epidemic of suicides of the farmers,” Bernabe said. “Monsanto sold them a kind of seed that they promised would do a certain thing and then those seeds didn’t perform how they were supposed to. And it drove a lot of those Indian farmers into sheer poverty – and they ended up committing suicide by the hundreds and thousands even.”

Meanwhile in the United States, Monsanto is known for litigating small farmers out of business, Bernabe added.

“There are a lot of small farmers they are putting out business because they have a genetic migration into crops that were not supposed to be GMO, but they are getting cross-pollinated,”
 he explained. “And then Monsanto comes in, they use their government cronies to go in and shut down small farmers because the genetics from the seeds they’ve patented have slowly crept into the genetics of non-GMO seeds.”

Bernabe says that activists “want to spread awareness and we want to start from the ground up.”

“The easiest thing you can do to know what’s in your food is to grow your own food,” he said. “We start there. At the very top we want labeling and a ban, but I think we should work from the ground up to have the best results.”

2:20 GMT: Hundreds of people gathered for an event in Bellingen, New South Wales, Australia.


1:51 GMT: 
1:48 GMT:
1:36 GMT: On the eve of the global protest against GMO, the US Senate overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to decide if genetically modified food products should be labeled.

Since the FDA has not made scientific conclusions, the opponents of the measure argued, GMOs should not be labeled.

“I believe we must rely on the FDA’s science-based examination before we make conclusions about food ingredients derived from genetically modified foods,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee.

1:00 GMT: We are beginning our extensive coverage of the global protest organized by the ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement. An estimated 200,000 activists are expected participate in the massive campaign spanning six continents, 40 nations, and at least 48 US states.

 

18:18 GMT: Several hundred protesters have amassed outside the White House  to demand the Obama administration change its policy towards Monsanto. In March, President Obama signed the so-called Monsanto Protection Act, which “effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GMO or GE crops and seeds, no matter what health consequences from the consumption of these products may come to light in the future.”
17:58 GMT: Protesters in Los Angeles have evoked the sweeping horrors of the French Revolution to show their disapproval for Monsanto’s practices.

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17:50 GMT:  Farmers form the Consortium for the Defense of Sicilian Agriculture have pulled out all of the stops…and a tractor to protest the destructive impact of Monsanto on their livelihood and the world’s food supply. 

 

17:40 GMT: #MarchAgainstMonsanto is surging on Twitter despite the virtual mainstream media blackout on the global day of action.
17:37 GMT: Several dozens protesters have come out in Wichita, Kansas to take part in the worldwide call to “take back our food.”


17:28GMT: Protesters are starting to fill up Chicago’s Federal Plaza, which is home to a regular farmers market, to take part in one of many anti-Monsanto protests being held throughout the United States.


17:10 GMT: Dozens of demonstrators have gathered in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, to take part in the global action against Monsanto.
17:00 GMT: A small group of protesters have gathered outside of the Central Academic Theatre of the Russian Army on Suvorov Square to demand a “Russia without GMO!”


16:00 GMT: Several hundred people gathered in Paris for a peaceful protest against the US agrochemical giant Monsanto. A sit in demonstration was held on the Place du Trocadéro square, across the Seine from the Eifel Tower. Protesters could be seen waving signs claiming “”Monsanto plunders and kills the farmers and the planet.”

 

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

 

 

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

Anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activists gather on the Trocadero square near the Eiffel tower during a demonstration against GMOs and US chemical giant Monsanto on May 25, 2013 in Paris (AFP Photo / Fred Dufour)

 

15:40 GMT: Japanese protesters earlier gathered outside Monsanto’s headquarters in Tokyo to chant down the company’s influence on the world’s food supply.

 

14:40 GMT: Demonstrators gathered at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan to “Demand GMO Labeling” and join the worldwide protest against Monsanto. The “March Against Monstanto” is being held in a dozen  cities  across Michigan, including Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Traverse City and Sault St. Marie. Tia Lebherz, a local organizer for Food and Water Watch, said companies like Monsanto are “squeezing out our small farmers.”
14:10 GMT: “’At Monsanto, we are committed to sustainable agriculture and to continuously improve ways in which we contribute. We are pleased that this honor recognizes that commitment,’ said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president, sustainability and corporate affairs at Monsanto. ‘This recognition reflects the thousands of Monsanto employees who are working together with farmers and partners around the world to improve agriculture and improve lives.'”

“First published in 1999, the ‘100 Best Corporate Citizens’ list ranks large-cap Russell 1000 companies based on publicly available information in seven key categories: climate change, employee relations, environmental, financial, governance, human rights and philanthropy.”


13:50 GMT: Around 300 people have come out for the London March Against Monsanto, calling for better food labeling of products that use ingredients grown with Monsanto seeds. London Organizer Courtney Smith says the issue at heart is that Monsanto is spending millions of dollars to lobby against GMO labeling on foods.The protesters met in Victoria Park at 2:00 p.m. local time and can be seen taking up positions around Parliament.
 

13:45 GMT: The March Against Monsanto attracted a sizeable crowd on Amsterdam’s central Dam Square.

 

13:40 GMT: People take to the streets of Amsterdam by bike and by foot to protest against Monsanto.
13:30 GMT: Demonstrators marching through the streets of Munich, Germany to call for the ban of genetically Engineered and Genetically Modified Organisms. Similar protests are being held in a half a dozen cities throughout the country.

 

image by Christian Chapman

image by Christian Chapman

 


13:10 GMT: Protesters marching through the streets of Cape Town, South Africa demanding that Monsanto get out of Africa.

13:00 GMT: Members of Occupy Food Australia are currently blocking roads in Melbourne, Australia to make their presence against Monsanto felt. 

12:50 GMT: Activists in Hawaii have “made a #MAM light brigade”, adorning a wall with a popular March Against Monsanto hashtag fashioned from a string of lights. 

11:17 GMT: The Japanese are participating in the anti-Monsanto rallies across the country, locals report on Twitter.

 

image by @mkimpo_kid

image by @mkimpo_kid

 

 

image by @mkimpo_kid

image by @mkimpo_kid

 

11:10 GMT: Across South Africa, hundreds have taken to the streets to protest against Monsanto’s policies.

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 

10:36 GMT: Hundreds of New Zealanders gathered around the country today to protest against genetically modified food.

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 


10:03 GMT:


9:00 GMT: Anti-Monsanto activists are claiming a mainstream media blackout on coverage of the protest marches.

8:20 GMT: Anti-Monsanto campaigners across the UK will march as part of a global day of protest against the GMO giant. Rallies are set to take place in London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Douglas, Torquay and Nottingham.

6:50 GMT: Sarah Saunders, an organizer of the event, said she was leading the march to “help protect the future health and food supply for my children. The long term health effects of GMOs are up for debate and I would rather my children not be science experiments.”

 

image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page

image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page

 


6:20 GMT: Hundreds gathered in Brisbane, Australia, to join the global protest against Monsanto. 

5:40 GMT: Pictures from Melbourne, Australia, show crowds continuing their protest against Monsanto’s practices.

 

Over a thousand people take to streets in Melbourne for the March Against Monsanto (image from Revolution News's Photos facebook page)

Over a thousand people take to streets in Melbourne for the March Against Monsanto (image from Revolution News’s Photos facebook page)

 

 

image by @nrcars

image by @nrcars

 

4:21 GMT: Over 1,000 protesters gathered in Melbourne.
3:37 GMT: Activists gearing up for a protest in Albany, Australia.


3:00 GMT: Watch RT’s Anastasia Churkina report on the upcoming global protest.

 

 

2:44 GMT: Activists begin gathering for Sydney protest hours before the scheduled time.
2:14 GMT: Nick Bernabe, a social media director for March Against Monsanto, told RT that in some parts of the world, Monsanto’s tactics are leading farmers to suicide.

“If you look at what happened in India… I mean there was an epidemic of suicides of the farmers,” Bernabe said. “Monsanto sold them a kind of seed that they promised would do a certain thing and then those seeds didn’t perform how they were supposed to. And it drove a lot of those Indian farmers into sheer poverty – and they ended up committing suicide by the hundreds and thousands even.”

Meanwhile in the United States, Monsanto is known for litigating small farmers out of business, Bernabe added.

“There are a lot of small farmers they are putting out business because they have a genetic migration into crops that were not supposed to be GMO, but they are getting cross-pollinated,”
 he explained. “And then Monsanto comes in, they use their government cronies to go in and shut down small farmers because the genetics from the seeds they’ve patented have slowly crept into the genetics of non-GMO seeds.”

Bernabe says that activists “want to spread awareness and we want to start from the ground up.”

“The easiest thing you can do to know what’s in your food is to grow your own food,” he said. “We start there. At the very top we want labeling and a ban, but I think we should work from the ground up to have the best results.”

2:20 GMT: Hundreds of people gathered for an event in Bellingen, New South Wales, Australia.


1:51 GMT: 
1:48 GMT:
1:36 GMT: On the eve of the global protest against GMO, the US Senate overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to decide if genetically modified food products should be labeled.

Since the FDA has not made scientific conclusions, the opponents of the measure argued, GMOs should not be labeled.

“I believe we must rely on the FDA’s science-based examination before we make conclusions about food ingredients derived from genetically modified foods,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee.

1:00 GMT: We are beginning our extensive coverage of the global protest organized by the ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement. An estimated 200,000 activists are expected participate in the massive campaign spanning six continents, 40 nations, and at least 48 US states.

 

AnonymousHealthHuman rights,ProtestScandalScience

The March Against Monsanto has seen millions in 436 cities in 52 countries challenging biotech corporations and protesting against genetically modified foods, which despite bans in some states due to potential health hazards remain legal in many others.

Read RT’s breakdown of the March Against Monsanto here:

23:01 GMT: Marches against the biotechnology giant Monsanto have taken place in 436 cities across 52 countries with an estimated total number of participants standing at over two million, the organizers of the global event said.

“If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” founder and organizer Tami Canal said. Instead, she said two million responded to her message.

22:37 GMT: In order to take full control of the global food chain the world’s largest owner of patents on seeds Monsanto is lobbying, bribing, suing small farmers out of business and altering scientific research, geopolitical analyst F. William Engdahl told RT.

22:02 GMT: Hundreds flooded the streets of Florida calling on the US government to stop lobbying for biotechnology giants.

Public Bank »Why did everyone suddenly pay the debts of the banks?


Why did everyone suddenly pay the debts of the banks?

via Public Bank »Why did everyone suddenly pay the debts of the banks?.

via Public Bank »Why did everyone suddenly pay the debts of the banks?.

Protests Against Monsanto in 55 Countries


Activists from 55 countries will participate in a global protest this month against biotechnology giant Monsanto. According to mother-turned-protest organizer, Tami Monroe Canal, the idea was born of frustration.

“The first few months after moving to Utah I didn’t have access to farmer’s markets and the fresh produce that I had out in California,” said Canal. “I became increasingly angry every time I would go to the grocery store and spend a small fortune to ensure I wasn’t feeding my family poison.”

Canal began the project as a Facebook page on Feb. 28, and says her anger was sparked by California’s Proposition 37 campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The measure failed, but the fight gave her a clearer picture of GMOs, Monsanto, and the food manufacturers who spent $45 million to defeat the initiative.

Prop 37 really opened my eyes to what GMOs truly are and how damaging they can be to human health,” Canal said. “I just couldn’t in good conscience feed my family that anymore.”

Consumers don’t buy products directly from Monsanto, but the company’s biotech corn and soy dominate the American market. The protest encourages people to join a growing boycott of companies likely to use GMOs—including Kellogg’s and General Mills—as a way to change the system.

Anonymous endorsed the upcoming event, but organizers say most of the people involved in the march have never been to a protest before. According to Canal, people from all walks of life share her frustration.

“Food affects everyone,” she said.

Blurry Line

Monsanto has a legacy of controversial and poisonous products—such as PCBs, Agent Orange, DDT, bovine growth hormone (rBGH), Roundup, and aspartame to name a few. For the past two decades, however, Monsanto’s main focus has been GMOs, and many are concerned that the new food technology threatens human health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that GMOs are safe, but many farmers, doctors, and researchers disagree. Estimates suggest that roughly 80 percent of U.S. food products contain GMO ingredients. With no labels to identify GMOs, Canal says that Americans still need to know that there is cause for concern.

“We’re trying to raise consumer awareness,” she said, “because who in their right mind is going to give their kids something that’s going to give them all these adverse health issues.”

Soon after Canal developed the march and boycott idea, she enlisted the help of seasoned Seattle activist and journalist, Emilie Rensink.

While critics have been speaking out against Monsanto for years, Rensink says that a combination of unpopular policy decisions and social media created just the right conditions for a big demonstration.

“This was kind of the perfect storm,” she said.

Attention for the march picked up speed soon after President Obama signed a budget bill including a measure dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act. However, critics say the recent legislation is only one example of the blurry line between industry and government.

“I think the whole recipe for [Monsanto’s] success is due in large part to the political favoritism that they receive in the United States,” said Rensink. “The FDA is headed by ex-Monsanto executives, and they give them special subsidies over smaller farmers and other farming operations. They are given an unfair advantage in my view.”

Canal points to Michael Taylor, who for the past two decades has bounced back and forth between his job as Monsanto attorney and head of U.S. food regulation.

“It’s a huge conflict of interest for him to be holding the position of power that he holds,” Canal said. “I honestly think going through the government is futile at this point, because the FDA is so embedded with Monsanto.”

While U.S. regulators have shown little concern for GMOs, outside the United States the push back has been much more significant. According to the Non-GMO Project, most developed nations label, restrict, or ban GMOs.

In an email, Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher said the company had no statement regarding the upcoming protest. However, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant recently characterized GMO critics as social media elitists who overlook the pressing food problems of the less fortunate.

“There is this strange kind of reverse elitism: If I’m going to do this, then everything else shouldn’t exist,” Grant told Bloomberg in a May 14 interview. “There is space in the supermarket shelf for all of us.”

Monsanto supporters point to the company’s promise to address world hunger with increased crop yields and lower food prices, but critics dispute this claim as well.

In Seattle, protesters will march in front of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to highlight what they consider to be an institution helping to further the GMO agenda.

“Bill Gates has been a large proponent of GMOs as a solution for world hunger,” Rensink said, but studies have shown that GMOs don’t produce higher yields. So the notion that GMOs are somehow able to feed the world is really just an empty assertion.”

The march and rally in Salt Lake City will feature a local Vietnam vet discussing how he lost friends to Agent Orange, a beekeeper speaking about the danger Monsanto pesticides pose to the bee population, and a presentation by Grow Food Not Lawns about self-sustainability, and supporting organic co-ops.

Like other venues around the world, Salt Lake will also feature bands playing protest songs against Monsanto and GMOs.

“We’re trying to keep it a little lighthearted,” Canal said. “But I want people to understand the severity of the issue and realize that it is our time in this nation to stand up to something that is so wrong.”

via Protests Against Monsanto in 55 Countries » The Epoch Times.

Trouble in Monsanto Nation


images (2)

Reliable sources in Washington D.C. have informed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that Monsanto has begun secretly lobbying its Congressional allies to attach one or more “Monsanto Riders” or amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill that would preempt or prohibit states from requiring labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods.

In response to this blatant violation of states’ rights to legislate, and consumers’ right to know, the OCA and a nationwide alliance have launched a petition to put every member of Congress on notice: If you support any Farm Bill amendment that would nullify states’ rights to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we’ll vote – or throw – you out of office.

On Wednesday, May 15, an amendment to the House version of the Farm Bill, inserted under the guise of protecting interstate commerce, passed out of the House Agricultural Committee. If the King Amendment makes it into the final Farm Bill, it would take away states’ rights to pass laws governing the production or manufacture of any agricultural product, including food and animals raised for food, that is involved in interstate commerce. The amendment was proposed by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), largely in response to a California law stating that by 2015, California will allow only eggs to be sold from hens housed in cages specified by California.  But policy analysts emphasize that the amendment, broadly and ambiguously written, could be used to prohibit or preempt any state GMO labeling or food safety law.

Will the King Amendment survive the Senate? No one can be sure, say analysts. However few doubt that Monsanto will give up. We can expect that more amendments and riders will be introduced into the Farm Bill–even if the King Amendment fails—over the next month in an attempt to stop the wave of state GMO labeling laws and initiatives moving forward in states like Washington, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and others.

Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they’ve “lost the battle” to stop GE food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws. On May 14, Maine’s House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5.

If Monsanto can’t stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure.  And all signs point to just such a power grab.  Earlier this year, Monsanto slipped its extremely unpopular “Monsanto Protection Act,” an act that gives biotech immunity from federal prosecution for planting illegally approved GE crops, into the 2013 Federal Appropriations Bill.  During the June 2012 Farm Bill debate, 73 U.S. Senators voted against the right of states to pass mandatory GE food labeling laws. Emboldened by these votes, and now the House Ag Committee’s vote on the King Amendment, Monsanto has every reason to believe Congress would support a potential nullification of states’ rights to label.

The million-strong OCA and its allies in the organic and natural health movement are warning incumbent Senators and House members, Democrats and Republicans alike, that thousands of health and environmental-minded constituents in their Congressional districts or states will work to recall them or drive them out of office if they fail to heed the will of the people and to respect the time-honored traditions of shared state sovereignty over food labels, food safety laws, and consumers’ right to know.

Trouble in Monsanto Nation

Over the past 20 years Monsanto and the biotech industry, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and corporate agribusiness, have begun seizing control over the global food and farming system, including the legislative, patent, trade, judicial and regulatory bodies that are supposed to safeguard the public interest.

In the U.S., despite mounting evidence of the damage GE crops inflict on human health and the environment, approximately 170 million acres of GE crops, including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets, alfalfa, papaya, and squash, are currently under cultivation. These crops, untested and unlabeled, comprise 41 percent of all cultivated cropland, or 17 percent of all cropland and pastureland combined. According to the GMA, at least 70 percent of non-organic grocery store processed foods contain GMOs. And GE grains and mill byproducts now supply the overwhelming majority of animal feed on the factory farms that supply 90 percent to 95 percent of the meat, eggs and dairy products that Americans consume.

Yet despite their marketplace dominance, record profits and enormous political clout in Washington D.C., Monsanto and the biotech industry are in deep trouble. Evidence is mounting that Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, is a deadly poison, destroying important human gut bacteria and likely contributing to the rapid increase of food allergies and serious human diseases including cancer, autism, neurological disorders , Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), dementia, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Those most susceptible to poisoning by Monsanto’s Roundup are children and the elderly.

Scientists aren’t the only ones raising new questions about Roundup. Farmers are complaining that they’re being forced to spray more and more chemicals on crops increasingly under siege from a growing army of herbicide-resistant weeds.  The situation is so bad that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just raised the limits of Roundup residue allowed on grains and vegetables to even more dangerous levels. But just in case the EPA someday stops raising the limits, Monsanto, Dow and the biotech industry are working on a new “solution” to the onslaught of herbicide-resistant Superweeds: They’ve applied  for approval of a new and highly controversial generation of super toxic herbicide-resistant GE crops, including “Agent Orange”  (2,4-D and dicamba-resistant) corn, soybeans and cotton.

As a recent widely-circulated article points out,

“The use of 2,4-D is not new; it’s actually one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. What is new is that farmers will now ‘carpet bomb’ staple food crops like soy and corn with this chemical at a previously unprecedented scale—just the way glyphosate has been indiscriminately applied as a result of Roundup Ready crops. In fact, if 2,4-D resistant crops receive approval and eventually come to replace Monsanto’s failing Roundup-resistant crops as Dow intends, it is likely that billions of pounds will be needed, on top of the already insane levels of Roundup being used (1.6 billion lbs were used in 2007 in the US alone).”

In addition to these Agent Orange crops, an expanded menu of genetically engineered organisms are awaiting approval. Next on the menu?  GE apples, trees, and salmon.

State Labeling Laws: The ‘skull and crossbones’ that terrify Monsanto

Monsanto’s greatest fear isn’t a federal government charged with protecting the health and safety of its citizens.  Congress and the White House seem only too happy to oblige the biotech industry’s unquenchable thirst for growth, power and dominance. No, it’s the massive, unstoppable (so far) grassroots movement of Millions Against Monsanto that strikes fear in the heart of the Biotech Bully. U.S. citizens are waking up. They’re demanding labels on genetically engineered foods, similar to those already required in the European Union. They’re calling for serious independent safety-testing of GE crops and animals, both those already approved (especially Monsanto’s Roundup-resistant crops) and those awaiting approval.

The anti-GMO movement has finally figured out, after 20 years of fruitlessly lobbying Congress, the FDA and the White House, that the federal government is not going to require labels on GE foods. Instead the movement has shifted the battleground on GMO labeling from Monsanto and Big Food’s turf in Washington D.C. to the more favorable terrain of state ballot initiatives and state legislative action—publicizing the fact that a state GMO labeling law will have the same marketplace impact as a national labeling law.

State laws spell doom for Monsanto. Companies like Kellogg’s, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Pepsi/Frito-Lay, Dean Foods, Unilever, Con-Agra, Safeway, Wal-Mart and Smuckers are not going to label in just one or two states.  Monsanto knows that U.S. food companies will go GMO-free in the entire U.S., rather than admit to consumers that their products contain GMOs.

As Monsanto itself has pointed out, labels on genetically engineered foods are like putting a “skull and crossbones” on food packages. This is why Monsanto and their allies poured $46 million into defeating a California ballot initiative last year that would have required labels on GMO foods. This is why Monsanto has lobbied strenuously in 30 states this year to prevent, or at least delay, state mandatory labeling laws from being passed. This is why Monsanto has threatened to file federal lawsuits against Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Washington if they dare grant citizens the right to know whether or not their food has been genetically engineered or not.

And this is why Monsanto’s minions are trying to insert amendments or riders into the Farm Bill that will make it nearly impossible, even illegal, for states to pass GMO labeling laws. And there’s nothing to stop them when Congress is filled with pro-biotech cheerleaders who could care less that 90 percent of U.S. consumers want mandatory labels and proper safety testing of genetically engineered crops and foods.

Countering Monsanto’s Final Offensive: Throw the Bums Out!

Only a massive grassroots resistance will deter the U.S. Senate and House from stomping on our rights. Only an unprecedented campaign of public education, petition-gathering and grassroots pressure will be able to convince the ever-more corrupt and indentured politicians in Washington D.C. to back off.

Eighteen state constitutions have century-old provisions for state registered voters to collect petitions and recall state and local officials, forcing them to either resign or stand for reelection. But what very few Americans, and even members of Congress, realize is that 11 states have constitutional provisions to recall U.S. Senators and House of Representative members, as well as state elected officials.

It’s time we exercise the full power of direct democracy, not just state and municipal ballot initiatives. We must continue to support efforts like the current state ballot initiative to label GMOs in Washington state, and county ballot initiatives to ban GMOs, factory farms and other corporate crimes, in the 24 states and hundreds of counties and municipalities where these are allowed.  But we also need to use the power we have to recall and throw out of office our out-of-control Congressional Senators and Representatives as well.

If our elected officials in Congress continue to represent Monsanto and big corporations, rather than their constituents, then let’s throw the bums out! If the Washington political Establishment, both Democrats and Republicans, continue to trample on our inalienable constitutional rights and contemptuously disregard the 225-year principle of a shared balance of power between the federal government, the states and local government, then we have no choice but to recall them or throw them out of office.

Please join the nation’s organic consumers and natural health advocates in this strategic battle, the Food Fight of Our Lives. Please join this campaign to save, not only our right to choose what’s in our food, but our basic right to democratic representation and self-determination as well.  Sign the petition.  Tell your Congressmen and women, especially the 73 incumbents who voted last year to eliminate states rights’ to legislate on GMO labels, and those in the House this week who voted to support the King Amendment that “enough is enough,” “ basta ya.”

images (1)

Power to the People!Ronnie Cummins is National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.

via Trouble in Monsanto Nation » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

via Trouble in Monsanto Nation » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

Worst Week Since Fukushima: 4 Major Setbacks In 3 Days Are Latest


Reverse Renaissance? Experts Point to 6 Reactors on the Chopping Block and Passage of Anti-Industry Florida Law; Beleaguered Industry’s Woes Start With Bad Economics … and Go Downhill From There.

WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Call it the “renaissance in reverse.” Not only is the U.S. nuclear power industry mothballing plans for planned reactors in North Carolina and Texas, it also is now pulling the plug (or threatening to do so) on existing reactors in California. All of that and the passage of anti-industry legislation in Florida happened last week (April 28th-May 3rd), easily the worst single week for the U.S. nuclear power industry since the March 2011 meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan.

One day after the closure by Dominion Resources of the Kewaunee Power Station reactor in Wisconsin, three experts held a phone-based news conference today to comment on the recent string of adverse developments for the troubled nuclear power industry.

Peter A. Bradford , adjunct professor at the Vermont Law School, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and a former utility commission chair in New York and Maine, said: “2013 is another year in which the pumps can’t keep up with the rush of water aboard the ‘nuclear renaissance.’ It’s no surprise that any utility executive with a modicum of concern for his customers’ electric bills doesn’t consider this to be the right time to build a new reactor. However, the closing of existing reactors in the face of market realities is something new, suggesting that US nuclear generation may actually have reached a peak a few years ago that it will not attain again in our lifetimes.”

Mark Cooper , senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, and author of “Policy Challenges of Nuclear Reactor Construction, Cost Escalation and Crowding Out Alternatives” (2009), said: “From Florida and the Carolinas to Texas and on to California, the underlying issue driving the demise of nuclear power is the same: bad and unsustainable economics. In Florida, a ratepayer rebellion in the face of rapidly rising reactor costs shared the same roots as Duke’s abandonment of two reactors in North Carolina that were projected to have doubled in cost. In Texas, only foreign government-backed entities could afford the soaring costs of the STP reactors near San Antonio. In California, Southern California Edison is seeking to sidestep hundreds of millions of dollars in costs for damaged reactors that may simply be too expensive to repair. The story of nuclear power from coast to coast is one of bad economics.”

Between Tuesday to Thursday of last week, the following things happened:

On Tuesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ruled that a partnership between NRG Energy Inc. and Toshiba Corp. to build the pair of proposed South Texas Project reactors violates a U.S. law prohibiting foreign control of nuclear power plants. (See http://nukefreetexas.org/downloads/staff_FOCD_determination_letter_43013.pdf and http://nukefreetexas.org/2013/05/foreign-ownership-could-halt-licensing-of-south-texas-project-nuclear-reactors-nrc-says-nina-doesnt-meet-their-requirements/.) In March, the NRC failed to strike down a similar finding that the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 reactor project in Maryland is dominated by foreign companies. (See http://www.nirs.org/nukerelapse/calvert/prcc3commorder31113.pdf.)

Southern California Edison CEO and President Theodore F. Craver told investors Tuesday that one or both reactors at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations (SONGS) face permanent shutdown if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) does not move immediately to permit the damaged reactors to go back online without a prior hearing to determine if it is safe to do so. Costs related to the shutdown are now pegged at $553 million, including $109 million spent on inspections and repairs and $444 million for replacement power. Other estimates indicate the San Onofre debacle could cost consumers up to $3 billion. (See http://www.powermag.com/nuclear/Decision-to-Close-SONGS-Nuclear-Reactors-Could-Come-by-Late-2013_5583.html and http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2013/may/04/san-onofre-nuclear-plant-near-death/.)

Duke Energy announced Thursday that it will abandon plans for two nuclear reactors at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in North Carolina. Duke will seek to make Progress Energy customers, instead of corporate stockholders, pay for this blunder – and will likely try to add a mark-up, with profit, on top of the $70 million spent. (See http://www.ncwarn.org/2013/05/demise-of-harris-nukes/.) This February, Duke announced that it would not repair the damaged Crystal River reactor in Florida.  (See http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Press-Update.html?form_id=8&item_id=352.)

Also Thursday, the Florida Senate sent a bill to the governor revising a 2006 law allowing utilities to charge for nuclear reactors that may never be built. To date, the “advance cost recovery” provision has permitted Florida Power & Light Co. and Duke Energy (formerly Progress Energy Florida) to collect more than $1.4 billion from customers. Even with the new legislation, the Sunshine State’s six million ratepayers will have to count on the state’s Public Service Commission to rein in industry abuses on advance cost recovery financing. (See http://www.cleanenergy.org/index.php?/Press-Update.html?form_id=8&item_id=371.)

Commenting on the setback for nuclear power in California, Daniel Hirsch , lecturer on Nuclear Policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz, president of the Committee to Bridge the Gap, a nuclear policy nonprofit organization, and co-author of a recent study about the severity of San Onofre’s steam generator problems, said: “San Onofre is crumbling.  New steam generators in both Unit 2 and 3 failed in just a year or two of operations. Each plant has hundreds of times more damaged tubes than the typical reactor with new steam generators. Southern California Edison informed investors last week that it is likely to close both reactors permanently if it can’t get the NRC to approve restart of Unit 2 with an exemption from the requirement for a prior hearing to determine its safety. That is like a judge in the Old West saying: ‘We’ll hang ’em now and give ’em a fair trial later.’ It appears that Edison is convinced that its proposal to restart the damaged reactor without repairing or replacing the crippled steam generators can’t withstand the scrutiny of a safety hearing. Whatever the industry’s hopes for a revival of nuclear power, San Onofre’s steam generators seem to be working in the opposite direction.”

CONTACT:  Leslie Maloy , (703) 276-3256 or lmaloy@hastingsgroup.com; and Alex Frank , (703) 276-3264 or afrank@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of a related news event will be available by 5 p.m. EDT on May 8, 2013 at http://216.30.191.148/worstweek.html.

via Worst Week Since Fukushima: 4 Major Setbacks In 3 Days Are Latest… — WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —.

via Worst Week Since Fukushima: 4 Major Setbacks In 3 Days Are Latest… — WASHINGTON, May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —.

Will Monsanto Ties Influence Nutritionists’ Stance on GMOs?


The GMO seed giant Monsanto recently flexed its muscles in Congress, working with a senator to sneak a friendly rider into an unrelated funding bill. Now it appears to be having its way with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As the New York Times reports, a dietician who’d been working on crafting the group’s GMO policy claims she was pushed aside for pointing out her colleagues’ links to Monsanto. The controversy started during last fall’s highly contested battle over a ballot initiative that would have required labeling genetically modified food in California. The prestigious dieticians’ group was incorrectly listed by the official state voters’ guide as one of the scientific organizations that had “concluded biotech foods are safe.” Actually, the AND had taken no position on the issue, but it promised to come out with a position paper on it. (The ballot initiative ultimately failed.) As part of the process of generating a position paper, the group appointed seven members to what it called the Advanced Technologies in Food Production working group. That’s when things got hairy. Two of the members, it turned out, had ties to Monsanto. One was a “dietitian who operates a farm in Maryland, [who] won a $5,000 prize from Monsanto and is a test farmer for the company,” the Times reports. The other serves as senior vice president of the International Food Information Council, a group whose funders read like a roster of Big Ag and junk-food corporations, ranging from Monsanto, Bayer Cropscience, and Cargill to Coca Cola, Red Bull, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. Several of the International Food Information Council’s donor companies also contributed heavily to the $45.6 million effort to defeat California’s GMO ballot initiative. One panel member, Carole Bartolotto, a dietician for Kaiser Permanante, had the temerity to point out her colleagues’ potential conflicts of interest to the academy’s leadership. The result? Bartolotto found herself purged from the committee, while the two Monsanto-connected panel members maintained their positions. Bartolotto had written a blog post in favor of California’s GMO labeling initiative, but that wasn’t the reason cited for her sacking. Rather, the academy pointed to her failure to reveal a consulting practice she’d listed on her blog. According to Bartolotto, that’s flimsy reasoning, because her “consulting practice” is purely theoretical. “I didn’t list it because I didn’t think it was an issue at all,” she told the Times. “I created the link because at some point, I think it would be nice to have a consulting business, but right now, I work full time and don’t have time to have one.” Meanwhile, the Times reports, the academy has hired a vocal opponent of California’s labeling initiative to write its GMO position paper: Christine M. Bruhn, a professor at UC Davis‘ Food, Science and Technology program. And the whole flap over the Advanced Technologies in Food Production work group is apparently purely academic: Bruhn will write the final report even before the working group finishes reviewing the literature. To summarize, at the nation’s most prestigious dieticians’ group, failure to disclose a non-existing consulting business is enough to get you bounced from making policy on GMOs, but ties to the GMO industry aren’t. It remains to be seen what position the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics GMO paper will take, but this is shaping up to be another victory for Monsanto. via Will Monsanto Ties Influence Nutritionists’ Stance on GMOs? | Mother Jones. via Will Monsanto Ties Influence Nutritionists’ Stance on GMOs? | Mother Jones.

No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data


No Warrant, No Problem: How The Government Can Still Get Your Digital Data

 

Uncle Sam-Watching You

04/12/2013

The U.S. government isn’t allowed to wiretap American citizens without a warrant from a judge. But there are plenty of legal ways for law enforcement, from the local sheriff to the FBI to the Internal Revenue Service, to snoop on the digital trails you create every day. Authorities can often obtain your emails and texts by going to Google or AT&T with a simple subpoena. Usually you won’t even be notified.

Two senators introduced legislation last month to update privacy protection for emails, but the bill remains in committee. Meantime, here’s how law enforcement can track you without a warrant now:

phone-records

PHONE RECORDS: Who You Called, When You Called

Listening to your phone calls without a judge’s warrant is illegal if you’re a U.S. citizen. But police don’t need a warrant — which requires showing “probable cause” of a crime — to get just the numbers you called and when you called them, as well as incoming calls, from phone carriers. Instead, police can get courts to sign off on a subpoena, which only requires that the data they’re after is relevant to an investigation — a lesser standard of evidence.

Police can get phone records without a warrant thanks toSmith v. Maryland, a Supreme Court ruling in 1979, which found that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure doesn’t apply to a list of phone numbers. The New York Times reported last week that the New York’s police department “has quietly amassed a trove” of call records by routinely issuing subpoenas for them from phones that had been reported stolen. According to The Times, the records “could conceivably be used for any investigative purpose.”

location-data

LOCATION DATA: Your Phone Is a Tracker

Many cell phone carriers provide authorities with a phone’s location and may charge a fee for doing so. Cell towers track where your phone is at any moment; so can the GPS features in some smartphones. The major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations, text messages and other data in 2011. Internet service providers can also provide location data that tracks users via their computer’s IP address — a unique number assigned to each computer.

Many courts have ruled that police don’t need a warrant from a judge to get cell phone location data. They only have to show that, under the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (EPCA), the data contains “specific and articulable facts” related to an investigation — again, a lesser standard than probable cause.Delaware, Maryland and Oklahoma have proposed laws that would require police to obtain a warrant for location data; Gov. Jerry Brown of California, a Democrat, vetoed a similar bill last September. Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill championed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, which would have updated the ECPA but wouldn’t have changed how location data was treated. Leahy and Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, introduced a similar bill last month, which remains in committee. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, introduced a separate bill in the House of Representatives last month that would require a warrant for location data as well as emails.

ip-addresses

IP ADDRESSES: What Computers You Used

Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other webmail providers accumulate massive amounts of data about our digital wanderings. A warrant is needed for access to some emails (see below), but not for the IP addresses of the computers used to log into your mail account or surf the Web. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, those records are kept for at least a year.

Police can thank U.S. v. Forrester, a case involving two men trying to set up a drug lab in California, for the ease of access. In the 2007 case, the government successfully argued that tracking IP addresses was no different than installing a device to track every telephone number dialed by a given phone (which is legal). Police only need a court to sign off on a subpoena certifying that the data they’re after is relevant to an investigation — the same standard as for cell phone records.

emails

EMAILS: Messages You Sent Months Ago

There’s a double standard when it comes to email, one of the most requested types of data. A warrant is needed to get recent emails, but law enforcement can obtain older ones with only a subpoena. Google says it received16,407 requests for data — including emails sent through its Gmail service — from U.S. law enforcement in 2012. And Microsoft, with its Outlook email service, disclosed last month that it had received 11,073 requests for data last year. Other email providers, such as Yahoo, have not made similar statistics available. In January, Googlesaid that it would lobby in favor of greater protections for email.

This is another area where the ECPA comes into play. The law gives greater protection to recent messages than older ones, using a 180-day cutoff. Only a subpoena is required for emails older than that; otherwise, a warrant is necessary. This extends to authorities beyond the FBI and the police. I.R.S. documents released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union suggest that the I.R.S.’ Criminal Tax Division reads emails without obtaining a warrant. The bills introduced by Leahy and Lee in the Senate and Lofgren in the House would require a warrant for the authorities to get all emails regardless of age. The Justice Department, which had objected to such a change, said last month that it doesn’t any longer.

email-drafts

EMAIL DRAFTS: Drafts Are Different

Communicating through draft emails, à la David Petreaus and Paula Broadwell, seems sneaky. But drafts are actually easier for investigators to get than recently sent emails because the law treats them differently.

The ECPA distinguishes between communications — emails, texts, etc. — and stored electronic data. Draft emails fall into the latter, which get less protection under the law. Authorities need only a subpoena for them. The bills introduced by Leahy and Lee in the Senate and Lofgren in the House would change that by requiring a warrant to obtain email drafts.

text-messages

TEXT MESSAGES: As With Emails, So With Texts

Investigators need only a subpoena, not a warrant, to get text messages more than 180 days old from a cell provider — the same standard as emails. Many carriers charge authorities a fee to provide texts and other information. For texts, Sprint charges $30, for example, while Verizon charges $50.

The ECPA also applies to text messages, according to Hanni Fakhoury, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is why the rules are similar to those governing emails. But the ECPA doesn’t apply when it comes to actually reading texts on someone’s phone rather than getting them from a carrier. State courts havesplit on the issue. Ohio’s Supreme Court has ruled thatpolice need a warrant to view the contents of cell phones of people who’ve been arrested, including texts. But the California Supreme Court has said no warrant is needed. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 declined to clear up the matter.

cloud-data

CLOUD DATA: Documents, Photos, and Other Stuff Stored Online

Authorities typically need only a subpoena to get data from Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive, and other services that allow users to store data on their servers, or “in the cloud,” as it’s known.

The law treats cloud data the same as draft emails — authorities don’t need a warrant to get it. But files that you’ve shared with others — say, a collaboration using Google Docs — might require a warrant under the ECPA if it’s considered “communication” rather than stored data. “That’s a very hard rule to apply,” says Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel with the Center for Democracy & Technology. “It actually makes no sense for the way we communicate today.”

social-media

SOCIAL MEDIA: The New Privacy Frontier

When it comes to sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, the social networks’ privacy policies dictate how cooperative they are in handing over users’ data. Facebook says it requires a warrant from a judge to disclose a user’s “messages, photos, videos, wall posts, and location information.” But it will supply basic information, such as a user’s email address or the IP addresses of the computers from which someone recently accessed an account, under a subpoena. Twitter reported in July that it had received 679 requests for user information from U.S. authorities during the first six months of 2012. Twitter says that “non-public information about Twitter users is not released except as lawfully required by appropriate legal process such as a subpoena, court order, or other valid legal process.”

Courts haven’t issued a definitive ruling on social media. In September, a Manhattan Criminal Court judge upheld a prosecutor’s subpoena for information from Twitter about an Occupy Wall Street protester arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge in 2011. It was the first time a judge had allowed prosecutors to use a subpoena to get information from Twitter rather than forcing them to get a warrant; the case is ongoing

http://leaksource.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/no-warrant-no-problem-how-the-government-can-still-get-your-digital-data/

“Safe fracking” is a fairy tale


Scientists: There is no such thing as “safe fracking”

by Amy Mall

National Resources Defense Council

 

There are a few new reports from Europe on fracking that provide a lot of valuable information:

A joint report from Germany’s Federal Environment Agency and Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety was released in September. Among the conclusions about the environmental impacts of fracking:

Fracking technology can lead to groundwater contamination.

There are current gaps in knowledge about environmental risks.

Germany should use a step-by-step approach on the use of fracking.

There should be tight restrictions and a ban in areas that provide drinking water and spa regions.

Experts advise against large-scale fracking.

An environmental impact assessment should be conducted for every fracking project.

Also in Germany, Exxon-Mobil funded a panel of independent experts to conduct a Hydrofracking Risk Assessment (the lengthy executive summary is available in English). Yes, you heard me correctly: while Exxon-Mobil financed the study, the company had no say in the content of the report or the selection of scientists and none of the scientists involved in the study had ever worked for the oil and gas industry prior to this project. Can anyone imagine ExxonMobil funding a similar project in the U.S.? The panel of experts was monitored by about 50 stakeholder groups. Among the conclusions about the environmental impacts of fracking:

Hydrofracking entails serious risks as well as minor risks.

Hydrofracking-induced incidents can do substantial harm to water resources.

The greenhouse-gas footprint of shale gas is between 30 to 183 percent greater than that of conventional natural gas.

Some of the chemicals currently used in fracking should be replaced due to environmental risks.

Fracking should be banned in certain areas such as areas with severe tectonic risk, areas with pressurized artesian/confined deep aquifers and continuous pathways, and Germany’s Zone I and Zone II drinking water protection areas and thermal spring conservation areas (which may be the same as the spa regions mentioned above). [In Germany, Zone I is 10 meters from a water well and Zone II is the distance from which it would take contaminated groundwater 50 days to reach a water well.]

Before fracking is allowed in broad areas, a new legal framework is needed as well as additional scientific knowledge.

For now, the only fracking that should be allowed is exploratory wells and single model demonstration projects—under extensive safety conditions—designed to define and optimize the state of the art, gain a greater understanding of the impacts of fracking, and test practices. Such efforts should only occur along with extensive in-depth dialogue with stakeholders and new statutory and planning structures.

The European Commission’s Environment Directorate-General also issued a comprehensive report (almost 300 pages) in September. It is a very thorough description of the fracking process, many of the best practices available to reduce risks, and European rules. Among its findings and recommendations regarding environmental impacts:

There is a high risk of surface and groundwater contamination at various stages of the well-pad construction, hydraulic fracturing and gas production processes, and well abandonment, and cumulative developments could further increase this risk.

Air emissions from numerous well developments in a local area or wider region could have a potentially significant effect on air quality including ozone levels.

There is a significant risk of impacts due to the amount of land used in shale gas extraction and it may not be possible fully to restore sites in sensitive areas following well completion or abandonment.

There are gaps or inadequacies in EU legislation that could lead to risks to the environment or human health not being sufficiently addressed.

Robust regulatory regimes are required to mitigate risks.

via “Safe fracking” is a fairy tale.

via “Safe fracking” is a fairy tale.

USA to lose licence to use English language


The current 250 year licence granted to the USA to use English as its official language is due to expire at the end of January 2014. The licence was originally granted by King George III and intended as a stop-gap till the colony (as it was then) decided on it’s own language between Arapahoe, French or Spanish.

The new House of Representatives is facing a difficult decision but will probably opt to move to Spanish in the near future. Already 26% of US citizens speak Spanish and California has already experimented with shop assistants pretending not to understand English speaking customers.

The probability is that illegal immigrants from Mexico will now be given teaching jobs to bring the remaining US citizens up to speed.

All official documents such as passports, drivers licenses and Costco membership cards will now need to be translated.

The President has assured the public than the language transition will run smoothly and that Goldman Sachs were organising a team  to insure a smooth passage. GS has advised its clients to buy bonds in outsourced charter schools

via The Spoof : USA to lose licence to use English language funny satire story.

via The Spoof : USA to lose licence to use English language funny satire story.

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