A non-profit news blog, focused on providing independent journalism.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Peel Region Public Health threatens to suspend boy who got vaccinations two days too soon

© Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star

Caledon student was immunized two days before his first birthday and now Peel Public Health could suspend him because his shots aren't valid.

Cheryl Fulcher dutifully got her son Mason,6, his necessary shots and thought he was fine until she received a letter from Peel Public Health. Now, because her son got his meningitis shot two days before his first birthday, it doesn't count.

Cheryl Fulcher is no anti-vaxxer. In fact, she has been so zealous getting shots for her son, Mason, that she had him vaccinated ahead of schedule: two days before his first birthday.

Five years on, as Mason wraps up Grade 1 at Caledon Central Public School, Peel Region Public Health is threatening to suspend him — not because he didn't get his shots, but because they were 48 hours premature.

"My doctor's office never flagged that it was a day or two early. I'm pretty anal about getting those things done when they're supposed to happen," Fulcher told the . "It's a complete surprise. It makes you feel like you aren't doing your job properly — but I thought I was."

Provincial guidelines, updated for the 2014/2015 school year, require children to receive their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot as well as a meningitis vaccination "on or after the first birthday." The Immunization of School Pupils Act stipulates that students can be suspended if they aren't properly immunized.

"We're required to adhere to the legislation," said Peel Region Public Health spokesperson Janet Eagleson. "We send out at least four different correspondences to parents well in advance, working (with them) because we don't want to suspend kids."

But Mason is courting suspension next fall because he got his shots too early and Public Health says they don't count.

"If you want to get technical, he was born five days overdue," Fulcher said.

Fulcher received a letter from Peel Public Health in March, claiming that Mason did not have his MMR and meningitis shots. Thinking there had been a mix-up, she says she called them up and explained that the record shows he received both shots at 11 months and 28 days old. She says the public health nurse told her that was too early and Mason would have to get another shot, be tested for immunity, or she could sign an affidavit saying that he wasn't being vaccinated for religious or moral reasons.

"I'm definitely not going to sign it because you have to say 'I refuse to vaccinate my kid,' which is not the truth," said Fulcher. "But if I don't do anything, they're going to suspend my kid until I do."

She appealed her son's case but found out this week that he wouldn't get an exemption.

"Peel Public Health will uphold the provincially legislated requirements for the 12 month minimum age cut-off for students," wrote Dr. Monica Hau, associate medical officer of health at Peel Public Health, explaining that the vaccinations aren't as effective if delivered before the first birthday. "There will be no exceptions made."

The Peel District School Board has no discretion to allow students any leeway with their vaccinations, said spokesperson Brian Woodland.

The board must suspend students who are deemed by Public Health to be not up to date on their vaccinations, he said. "They provide the direction, we follow."

Peel Public Health's acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, pointed to the recent outbreaks of measles as justification for why the immunization rules are so strict.

"It's not about the rules. It's actually about protecting children against diseases that we can prevent," she said.

Because the guidelines have recently changed, she expects other situations like this to arise because there's a learning curve for both doctors and parents.

Fulcher is now looking at getting Mason tested for immunity so that he won't have to get another needle.

Because the shots are covered by OHIP, they won't cost Mason's family anything, but Fulcher questions the time and resources that have gone into enforcing the rule. "It's a waste," she said.

"It needs to be more well known," said Fulcher. "If we knew this ahead of time, it would have saved everybody a huge amount of headache, hassle and worry."

"They kept saying, 'it's less effective if it's before the first birthday,' and I'm thinking, 'it's two days!' Do we really think that's going to make the difference between it working or not?"

Bye bye! Over one hundred newspapers dumped in 2014, ads down 50%, circulation hits bottom


© NY Daily News

The demise of big city print media, displayed in full by the painfully slow sale of the mammoth , is going nationwide as ad sales decline 50 percent and circulation plummets, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis

According to their report, "The Declining Value Of U.S. Newspapers," just three different media companies in 2014 alone decided to dump more than 100 newspaper properties. Pew said the companies spun off the money-losing properties "in large part to protect their still-robust broadcast or digital divisions."

The , on the block since February, has yet to be sold and is now being eyed by Captiol Hill's newspaper The , which may turn it into a digital operation like the Washington Examiner, Huffington Post, Brietbart and the Daily Caller.

The Pew report is short and very unsweet:

Over the past two decades, major newspapers across the country have seen a recurring cycle of ownership changes and steep declines in value.

The was the latest example of this, as it officially changed ownership hands Thursday for the third time in six years. This most recent purchase came from Tribune Publishing Co. for the amount of $85 million (including nine community papers). Still waiting for a buyer is the 96-year-old New York tabloid the , which owner Mort Zuckerman put on the sale block this spring. But there seems to be far from a stampede of interested buyers.

Steep revenue and circulation declines across the newspaper industry have left many newspapers struggling. Over the past decade, weekday circulation has fallen 17% and ad revenue more than 50%. In 2014 alone, three different media companies decided to spin off more than 100 newspaper properties, in large part to protect their still-robust broadcast or digital divisions.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos may have stunned many with his $250 million purchase of The , which was last sold at auction in 1933, but other recent sales of major papers show dramatic devaluation and suggest a tough road ahead for the newspaper industry.

Crews in Wagoner County, Oklahoma rescue families stranded by sinkhole


© Fox23

Wagoner County Emergency Management told FOX23 that they are working to rescue families stuck because of a giant sinkhole on Front Street near 11th and the Creek Turnpike.

They are bringing a crane to help make the road passable for families stuck on the other side.

There are about 12 homes on the other side of the hole. There are no other roads out.

They are bringing in emergency vehicles to further assess the situation.

There are no reports of injuries right now.

Washington blows itself up with its own bomb


"Ok George - I mean Mr. Soros, so what's plan C??"

These are sad days in Washington and Wall Street. The once unchallenged sole Superpower at the collapse of the Soviet Union some quarter century ago is losing its global influence so rapidly that most would not have predicted anything comparable six months ago. The key actor who has catalyzed a global defiance of Washington as Sole Superpower is Vladimir Putin, Russia's President. This is the real background to the surprise visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Sochi to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then a four hour talk with "Satan" himself, Putin.

Far from a "reset" try, Washington's hapless geopolitical strategists are desperately trying to find a better way to bring the Russian Bear to her knees.

A flash back to December 2014 is instructive to understand why the US Secretary of State holds out an apparent olive branch to Russia's Putin at this juncture. At that point, Washington appeared about to pin Russia to the ground, with its precision targeted financial sanctions and its deal with Saudi Arabia to collapse oil prices. In mid-December the Ruble was in free fall against the dollar. Oil prices were similarly plummeting down to $45 a barrel from $107 only six months earlier. As Russia is strongly dependent on oil and gas export revenues for its state finances, and Russian companies held huge dollar debt obligations abroad, the situation was bleak as seen from inside the Kremlin.

Here fate, as it were, intervened in an unexpected way (at least by the USA architects of the financial warfare and oil collapse strategy). Not only was John Kerry's September 2014 deal with ailing Saudi King Abdullah delivering heavy pain in the Russian finances. It was also threatening an explosion of an estimated $500 billion in high-risk-high-yield "junk" bonds, debt that the US shale oil industry had taken on from Wall Street banks in the past five years to finance the much-touted US shale oil revolution that briefly propelled the USA ahead of Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer.

US strategy backfires

What Kerry missed in his clever Saudi horse trading was the sly double agenda of the Saudi royals. They had earlier made clear they did not at all want their role as world premier oil producer and market king to be undercut by an upstart US shale oil industry. They were happy to give Russia and also Iran pain. But their central aim was to kill the US shale oil rivals. Their shale projects were calculated when oil was $100 a barrel, less than a year ago. Their minimum price of oil to avoid bankruptcy in most cases was $65 a barrel to $80 a barrel. Shale oil extraction is unconventional and more costly than conventional oil. Douglas-Westwood, an energy advisory firm, estimates that nearly half of the US oil projects under development need oil prices greater than $120 per barrel in order to achieve positive cash flow.

By end of December a chain-reaction series of shale oil bankruptcies threatened to detonate a new financial tsunami at a time the carnage from the 2007-2008 securitization financial crisis was anything but resolved. Even a few high-profile shale oil junk bond defaults would have triggered a domino-style panic in the US $1.9 trillion junk bond debt market, no doubt setting off a new financial meltdown that the over-stressed US Government and Federal Reserve could scarcely handle. It could have threatened the end of the US dollar as global reserve currency.

Suddenly in the first days of January, IMF head Lagarde was praising Russia's central bank for its "successful" handling of the ruble crisis. The US Treasury Office of Financial Terrorism quietly eased off on further attacks on Russia while the Obama Administration pretended it was "World War III as usual" against Putin. The US oil strategy had inflicted far more damage on the US than on Russia.

USA Russia policy failure

Not only that. Washington's brilliant total war strategy against Russia initiated with the November 2013 Kiev EuroMaidan coup d'etat has become a manifest, utter failure that is creating the worst imaginable geopolitical nightmare for Washington.

Far from reacting as a helpless victim and cowering in fear before the US efforts to isolate Russia, Putin initiated a brilliant series of foreign economic, military and political initiatives that by April added up to the seed crystal of a new global monetary order and a new Eurasian economic colossus to rival US sole superpower hegemony. He challenged the very foundations of the US-dominated dollar system and her global world order everywhere from India to Brazil to Cuba to Greece to Turkey. Russia and China signed mammoth new energy deals that allowed Russia to redirect its energy strategy from the west where the EU and Ukraine, both under strong Washington pressure, had sabotaged Russian EU gas deliveries via Ukraine. The EU, again under intense Washington pressure threw one monkey wrench after another into Gazprom's South Stream natural gas pipeline project to southern Europe.

Rather than be defensive, Putin shocked the EU during his visit to Turkey and meeting with President Erdogan when he announced on December 1 that he had cancelled Gazprom's South Stream project. He announced he would seek an agreement with Turkey to deliver Russian gas to the Greek border. From there, if the EU wants the gas they have to finance their own pipelines. The EU bluff was called. Their future gas needs were more remote than ever.

The EU sanctions on Russia also backfired as Russia retaliated with a ban on EU food imports and a turn to Russian self-sufficiency. And billions of dollars of contracts or exports from German firms like Siemens or France's Total were suddenly in limbo. Boeing saw large aircraft orders to Russian carriers cancelled. Russia announced it was turning to national suppliers in production of critical defense components.

Then Russia became an "Asian" charter member of China's remarkably successful new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) designed to finance its ambitious New Silk Road Economic Belt high-speed rail network across Eurasia into the EU. Rather than isolate Russia, US policy backfired badly as, despite strong pressures, US staunch allies including Britain, Germany, France and South Korea all rushed to join the new AIIB.

Further, at their May meeting in Moscow, China's President Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin announced that the China silk road rail infrastructure would be fully integrated with Russia's Eurasian Economic Union, a staggering boost not only to Russia bit to Eurasia into China, a region containing the majority of the world's population.

In short, by the point John Kerry was told to swallow hard and fly to Sochi, hat in hand, to offer some kind of peace pipe to Putin, US leading circles, the American Oligarchs had realized their aggressive neo-conservative warhawks like Victoria "F**k the EU" Nuland of the State Department and Defense Secretary Ash Carter were propelling the creation of a new alternative world structure that could spell the ruin of the entire post-Bretton Woods Washington-dominated Dollar System. Oops.

In addition, by forcing her European "allies" to toe the US anti-Putin line, to the severe detriment of EU economic and political interests, alone her vigorous participation in the New Silk Road Economic Belt project and the economic boom in investment that will bring with it, Washington's neo-conservatives have managed also to accelerate a probable parting of the ways between Germany, France and other Continental European powers to Washington.

Finally, as the whole world (including even Western anti-Atlantists) came to view Putin as the symbol of resistance to the American dominance. This perception first emerged at the time of the Snowden story but has solidified after the sanctions and blockade. Such perception, by the way, plays a significant psychological role in the geopolitical struggle - the presence of such a symbol opens up novel venues in the fight against the hegemony.

For all these reasons, Kerry was clearly sent to Sochi to sniff out possible soft points for a renewed assault in the future. He told the rogue US-backed lunatics in Kiev to cool it and respect the Minsk cease-fire accords. The demand came as a shock in Kiev. US-installed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told French TV, "Sochi is definitely not the best resort and not the best place to have a chat with Russian president and Russian foreign minister."

At this juncture the only thing clear is that Washington has finally realized the stupidity of its provocations against Russia in Ukraine and globally. What their next scheme will entail is not yet clear. Clear is that a dramatic policy shift has been ordered on the Obama administration from the highest levels of US institutions. Nothing else could explain the dramatic shift. If sanity replaces the neo-con insanity remains to be seen. Clear is that Russia and China are resolute about never again leaving themselves at the mercy of an incalculable sole superpower. Kerry's pathetic attempt at a second Russia "reset" in Sochi will bring Washington little at this point. The US Oligarchy, as Shakespeare's Hamlet put it, is being "hoist with their own petard," as the bomb maker blows himself up with his own bomb.

Under shadow of trade deal, US pesticide lobby pressured EU to dump toxic pesticide rules


© Garry Knight
Opposition to the TTIP spans Europe.

Under pressure from the U.S. and agrochemical industry lobbyists and amid ongoing negotiations for a controversial trade deal, the European Union dropped planned rules that could have led to the banning of 31 pesticides containing hazardous chemicals, a new investigative report has revealed.

The probe, led by the Brussels-based research and watchdog group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and French journalist Stephane Horel, exposes how corporate lobby groups like the American Chemistry Council, CropLife America, and the American Chambers of Commerce, mobilized to stop the EU from taking action on hormone (endocrine) disrupting chemicals (EDCs)—known to have significant health and environmental impacts.

According to the report—titled (pdf)—the examination of evidence "sheds light on how corporations and their lobby groups have used numerous tactics from the corporate lobbying playbook: scaremongering, evidence-discrediting, and delaying tactics as well as the ongoing [TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP] negotiations as a leverage."

Specifically, the reports: "Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push."

The newspaper adds:

On the morning of 2 July 2013, a high-level delegation from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

The TTIP is a corporate-friendly trade deal, currently being negotiated between the U.S. and the European Union, that is already opposed by environmental, food safety, and labor groups for its lack of transparency, corporate concessions, and negative implications for people and the planet.

Common Dreams has previously reported on efforts by pesticide lobby groups to use ongoing trade negotiations to align regulatory standards by lowering them to U.S. levels rather than increasing them to the stronger safeguards in the E.U.

In a report (pdf) released earlier this year, the Center for International Environmental Law declared that "stronger, more progressive regulations for the protection of health and the environment are being targeted by industry for elimination under the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)."

The new revelations only add fuel to the fire.

"This is yet further evidence that the European Commission is more than willing to trade off, weaken, or delay much needed regulation and protections for the sake of completing this TTIP trade deal," Samuel Lowe, of Friends of the Earth, told .

"This investigation tells the story of a major ongoing lobbying battle," added Nina Holland, CEO campaigner and co-author of the report. "Hundreds of documents released by the European Commission following freedom of information requests show unambiguously how science is being manipulated to defend vested interests, manufacture doubt and delay a pioneering regulation."

Worst torrential rain in 40 years hits six provinces in China causing floods, mudslides

Heavy rain that caused mudslides and flooding in southern and central China has left at least 35 people dead and another 13 missing, reports say.

Torrential rain - the worst for 40 years in some parts of the country - has hit at least six provinces, Xinhua news agency and the government say.

But relief could be on the way for some areas as China's National Meteorological Centre said the weather would start to weaken on Sunday.

The southwest province of Guizhou is among the worst affected with 11 people dead and eight missing as of Friday, the government's ministry of civil affairs said in a separate statement.

© Getty Images
Torrential rain - the worst for 40 years in some parts - has hit at least six provinces.

Fujian province lost five people to mudslides and four to drowning because of the downpours with another two missing, the ministry said.

And in Jiangxi province, five died from buildings collapsing, two in mudslides and one by a lightning strike, it said.

In July last year a single mudslide triggered by days of heavy rain killed at least 14 people in two villages in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Intense heatwave bakes Telangana, India; 67-year-old heat record broken


© Times of India

As Telangana and Andhra Pradesh continue to reel from intensifying heatwave, Khammam recorded an unprecedented 48 degrees Celsius on Saturday breaking almost 67 year old record. The highest ever temperature 47.2 was recorded there in 1947. Nalgonda, Karimnagar and Nizamabad districts followed at second place with 47 degrees Celsius temperature today breaking past records.

Situation was equally alarming in Andhra Pradesh where commercial capital Vijayawada recorded 47 degrees Celsius on Saturday.

With the situation worsening with each passing day, the Indian Meteorological Centre at Hyderabad upgraded the situation to severe heatwave and warned of higher temperatures for another 48 hours as hot winds were sweeping in from the North-West and northern India. The temperature in Khammam was a whopping ten degrees above normal.

Khammam which has the reputation of being the hottest place in Telangana, had recorded 47 degrees on Friday along with Nizamabad, Nalgonda and Ramagundam in Karimnagar district. The updated figure for Hyderabad on Friday evening was 44 degrees Celsius, but the situation was slightly better on Saturday.

Guntur recorded 46 degrees Celsius, Nellore, Rajahmundry and Kakinada 44 degrees Celsius and Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh had 43 degrees on Saturday.

Weather condition was so bad that people were feeling the blistering heat from the morning itself. Roads and markets were looking deserted in all the major towns and cities of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh including Hyderabad and Vijayawada.

Even if somebody was forced to go out, they had to cover themselves up from head to toe to avoid sun strokes and protect themselves from the blistering hot winds.

Senator explodes when questioned about his Vaccine Bill

By now, vaccine skeptics are generally familiar with the faces of Congressmen who are attempting to take away their natural rights to determine whether or not they and their children are vaccinated. Congressional parasites like Dianne Feinstein, as well as Presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson, are now regular appearances in the "remove parents' rights" theatre.

But how many people are familiar with the faces of the state level sycophants that are attempting to eliminate basic human rights? After all, there have been a number of state level attacks against parents and children in recent months. What about the State Senators and Representatives who have accepted money from Big Pharma at the expense of their constituents or are simply trendy fanatics by nature?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you NC State Senator Jeff Tarte:


As if his last name did not accurately describe his disposition, Senator Tarte was one of the main sponsors of the NC bill SB 346, a bill that would have eliminated the "religious exemption" clause in the recommended vaccine schedule for children entering NC public schools. He was also a main contender for the title of worst public relations interaction with a constituent in the state of North Carolina in the last several years.

This interaction took place after activists Nicole Revels and Pattie Curran arrived in Raleigh to hand petitions containing nearly 3000 signatures of NC residents who did not want their rights removed to NC congressmen and congresswomen who were attempting to do just that.

After handing in a copy of the petition to Senator Tamara Barringer and receiving a very pleasant, albeit patronizing and completely phony response that she was "listening" to them, all parties shook hands and the activists moved on to Tarte's office.

Upon arriving at Tarte's office, the Senator became irate at the sight of the two activists and Revels in particular. Already engaged in a discussion of the bill, Tarte immediately began whining about the presence of cameras and, in particular, the presence of Nicole Revels, stating that he was going to "get the Sgt. In Arms" to remove them.

Visibly irritated at being confronted by anyone other than a fawning worshiper or someone taking his order, Tarte could scarcely cover up the look of disgust at being asked a legitimate question about a bill he was sponsoring. When asked if he was going to remove the religious exemption from accessibility to NC parents, Tarte simply responded "Yes."

Shortly thereafter, Tarte indeed found the Sgt. In Arms and had Revels and Curran removed.

The confrontation can be seen in the video below. Tarte's appearance is around the 6:53 mark:

[embedded content]

While the bill was ultimately defeated due to the work of activists like Curran and Revels and large numbers of NC parents who valued the natural human rights, the issue very much remains alive. Vaccine pushers, fanatics, along with those Congressional money vessels who have been purchased by Big Pharma dollars will no doubt return with another version of the bill or insert it as a rider or last minute amendment to a larger bill that will be politically difficult to vote against.

About the author

, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria.

Comment: President of network news division confirms that 70 percent of revenue comes from pharma advertisements

Indeed it appears that we are seeing a major push by highly unethical, fraudulent pharmaceutical companies attempting to legally corral the entire American public into unwilling consumers of their vaccine products. This current move has revealed major conflicts-of-interest among many senators, news organizations and regulatory agencies. In addition, there appears to be a near mutiny among good senators and congressmen who are rapidly introducing bills to counter the drug company-sponsored vaccine exemption removal push being witnessed in state houses across the U.S.

Additional information about the on-going ':

Robert Kennedy, Jr. fights to stop vaccine 'holocaust'

The nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, RFK Jr. attended the screening in solidarity with California parents who are fighting to stop Senate Bill 277 from eliminating their freedom as Californians to exempt their children from "mandatory" vaccinations. Speaking to the crowd, Kennedy emphasized the proven dangers of vaccines.

"They can put anything they want in that vaccine and they have no accountability for it," stated Kennedy about the vaccine industry, which ironically maintains its own exclusive and unconstitutional exemption from legal liability for vaccines that injure and kill children.

helped kill anti-freedom vaccine exemption elimination bill in Oregon. Both entering and leaving the stage to exuberant standing ovations, Kennedy lauded for helping persuade lawmakers in Oregon to scrap a bill similar to California's SB 277 that would have eliminated personal vaccine exemptions in the Beaver State.

Thimerosal: Let the science speak

High stakes and the seamless marriage between Big Pharma and government agencies have spawned an opaque and crooked regulatory system.

Big money has fueled the exponential expansion of CDC's vaccine schedule since 1988, when Congress' grant of immunity from lawsuits (5) suddenly transformed vaccines into pay dirt. CDC recommended five pediatric vaccines when I was a boy in 1954. Today's children cannot attend school without at least 56 doses of 14 vaccines by the time they're 18. (6)

An insatiable pharmaceutical industry has 271 new vaccines under development in CDC's bureaucratic pipeline (7)in hopes of boosting vaccine revenues to $100 billion by 2025.(8)The industry's principle spokesperson, Dr. Paul Offit, says that he believes children can take as many as 10,000 vaccines. (9)

Genies blamed for school sickness, possessions in Saudi Arabia

© Shin Megami Tensei II design

Last week in Saudi Arabia nearly 200 elementary and middle school students "refused to attend classes after nine students claimed that genies — or jinn, as they are better known in the Arabic world — had made them sick" according to ArabNews.com, which added that "the students had fainted and experienced spasms at the start of the second semester, prompting many parents to believe jinns were present at the school."

Jinn are described in the , the Muslim holy book, as creatures made by Allah of smokeless fire. Belief in jinn is widespread throughout the Arabic and Muslim world. Just as many Christians readily accept the literal reality of angels, many Muslims accept the existence of genies as self-evident. Both religions share the belief that spirits such as demons and jinn can take possession of humans. Jinn are believed, like ghosts, to haunt buildings, homes and other locations.

It will often begin with one or two people exhibiting symptoms and as others in the same location see the behavior they unconsciously begin experiencing the same or similar symptoms. Episodes are most common in closed social units such as schools and factories, and among females — likely because they tend to have stronger social bonds than males. The symptoms are not serious and go away on their own, often within hours or days.

This is not the first time that jinn have been blamed for unexplained fits in Saudi schools. In his book Robert Lebling notes that in 2000:

"Newspapers in Saudi Arabia reported the haunting of the al-Fikriyah Institute of Education, a functioning girls' school in the Red Sea port of Jeddah, in an incident with unusual psycho-social overtones. A number of teachers at the school were reportedly subjected to fits and epileptic-like seizures, supposedly as a result of a (jinn) haunting."

Though many doctors attributed that incident — like the one last week — to mass hysteria, some, including a cleric tasked with investigating the matter, insisted that jinn did in fact inhabit the school and were responsible for the symptoms.

As with many folk beliefs, the reality of jinn is less important than whether people believe in them; if a group of students or teachers believe that jinn can make them faint and there is no other ready explanation, then jinn will be blamed.

Though the school fits were harmless and soon passed, sometimes these beliefs can be dangerous; earlier this month a Moroccan woman who was believed to be possessed by a jinn died during an exorcism. According to a news story:

"To cast out the evil spirit from her body, the (exorcist) loudly recited incantations and passages from the , the holy book of Islam. With the help of four of his assistants, the hit her with a stick all over her body in order to 'force the evil spirit' to leave her."

In 2012 a Pakistani man and his family was convicted of killing his young wife during an exorcism who he believed was possessed by a jinn.

Jinn belief is also common among elected officials and rulers. In 2011 associates of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were accused of summoning genies to attack political adversaries supposedly giving one man a heart attack. And according to a news story last month the Turkish presidential palace has been doused with a vinegar water solution to protect it from genies — and, oddly, cyber-attacks.

USGS: Earthquake Magnitude 6.3 - Southern Mid-Atlantic Ridge

E-mails sent to Sott.net become the property of Quantum Future Group, Inc and may be published without notice.

At least 135 children killed in Yemen since Saudi-led attack started in March


© Reuters / Khaled Abdullah

Since the Yemeni conflict in March,as many as 135 children were killed and 260 injured, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

At least 135 children have been killed and 260 more injured in the Yemeni conflict since March, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement Sunday.

"Since the conflict escalated in March, as many as 135 children have been killed and 260 injured. Almost one-third of the deaths have been in the coastal city of Aden, where violence has again accelerated over the past few days," UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said.

The UNICEF chief urged all parties to the Yemeni conflict to protect children from harm as required by international humanitarian law.

Lake also called for an end to hostilities in Yemen, adding that at least a humanitarian pause is needed to deliver lifesaving supplies to those affected by the violence.

A Saudi-led coalition has resumed airstrikes on the Houthi rebels' positions in Yemen after a five-day humanitarian ceasefire expired late last Sunday.

The coalition launched an air campaign in Yemen in late March at the request of displaced Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Yemen has been in a state of turmoil since early 2015 after the Houthis seized large parts of the country, including capital Sanaa, forcing President Hadi to flee.

According to UN estimates, at least 1,850 people have been killed and some 7,400 injured in airstrikes and fighting on the ground since mid-March in Yemen.

Solar halo over Mexico City


A solar halo in Mexico City

A solar halo appeared in Mexico City on Thursday - prompting dozens of calls from worried locals to meteorologists.

The phenomenon, which is actually an optical illusion, is caused when sunlight passes through ice crystals, causing the light to bend into a colourful ring.

Not satisfied with this scientific explanation, locals on social media claimed that an alien invasion was nigh, while other conspirators suggested the government was attempting to blind voters ahead of an election.

The halo was spotted in three cities, most notably above the capital's most famous landmark, the Angel of Independence.

[embedded content]

Gray whale found dead on Portuguese Beach, California


© Damien Jones / California State Parks
A young gray whale washed up on Portuguese Beach in Sonoma County early May 23, 2015.

A dead, juvenile gray whale washed up on the Sonoma Coast this weekend at Portuguese Beach.

The 28-foot whale appeared to have been dead for some time and was in a state of obvious decomposition, according to California State Parks Ranger Damien Jones.

He said the carcass came ashore Friday night or Saturday morning. The Marine Mammal Center took a tissue sample in an attempt to determine cause of death, but it did not to appear to be from trauma, he said, such as being struck by a ship.

Jones said State Parks did not plan to remove the whale from the beach, which is about halfway between Jenner and Bodega Bay. He said the tide could carry it out to sea again.

"Generally we leave dead and sick animals where they are and let nature take its course," he said.

May is the tail end of the gray whale northern migration from their breeding and birthing lagoons in Mexico back to their feeding grounds in Alaska. Although thousands of whales make the approximate 5,000-mile journey, including the newborn calves and their mothers, some of the cetaceans, especially juveniles, are believed to stay closer year-round to a more confined area.

There has been a series of dead whales washing up on Northern California beaches over the past five weeks.

A 40-foot dead gray whale was found Monday near Half Moon Bay.

On May 4, a 42-foot female humpback whale was found near Pacifica. A 48-foot sperm whale was found April 14 in the same general vicinity.

On April 24, two gray whale carcasses washed up on a Santa Cruz County beach, including a 40-foot adult gray whale. The other, a 23-foot yearling, had killer whale teeth marks on its body and other evidence of an Orca attack.

A killer whale carcass was found near Fort Bragg on April 18, and the Noyo Center for Marine Science in Fort Bragg said Saturday another gray whale had washed up in Mendocino this week.

Schools across the country are literally building solitary confinement cells for children

© http://ift.tt/HhKiev
A free-standing isolation booth now banned in Oregon schools.

What is "nor­mal"? Is nor­malcy a con­di­tion of pub­lic accep­tance to com­mon trends and cul­ture? Per it's def­i­n­i­tion, nor­mal is defined as con­form­ing to a stan­dard: usual, typ­i­cal or expected.

If you accept nor­malcy by that def­i­n­i­tion then...

- it is nor­mal for kids in our pub­lic school sys­tem to be locked in soli­tary con­fine­ment (4×4 padded cell) for misbehavior.

- it is nor­mal for each state across the nation to have tens of thou­sands of cases of stu­dents being phys­i­cally restrained. In some cases, even shack­led using hand and ankle cuffs.

- it is nor­mal for our police state to inter­vene with trou­ble­some kids with use of phys­i­cal beat­ings and pep­per spray.

Per­haps you didn't know...

Schools across the coun­try are lit­er­ally build­ing soli­tary con­fine­ment cells for chil­dren. They are very small, some­times padded and have win­dow­less walls with no con­tact to other children.

The use of these "seclu­sion rooms" and other restraints are being deployed almost 270,000 times in a nor­mal school year across the nation!!!! In 163,000 of those cases, chil­dren were phys­i­cally restrained. In about 7,300 cases, mechan­i­cal restraints such as hand­cuffs, ankle shack­les or other devices are used. God knows how long kids are actu­ally kept in these cells?!

Take this one instance of a first grader who suf­fered wrist bruis­ing after he was hand­cuffed for run­ning away from school.

© uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.com
Austistic child suffered a broken hand.

Or how about this instance where an autis­tic boy was afraid and refused to go into his "seclu­sion room" cell. The school offi­cials were so vio­lent with try­ing to get him into the cell that they smashed his hand in the door. His hand was sub­se­quently broken.

Or what about this school offi­cer that beats 13 year old stu­dents for ques­tion­ing where they were headed dur­ing class change? This offi­cer beat the chil­dren with her night stick and pep­per sprayed oth­ers. After the inci­dent, the school said the inci­dent was han­dled appro­pri­ately... Fur­ther­more, while the one child who was beaten was bleed­ing pro­fusely from the head, the par­ents were not noti­fied by the school.

This is the new normal...

You do not need the police to be in the police state. Other author­ity fig­ures such as school admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, secu­rity guards, or even your own doc­tor (e.g. - vac­ci­na­tions or med­ical advice) are serv­ing to enforce the total­i­tar­ian state. Not only do we need to worry about phys­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse of our chil­dren at school, we also have to won­der what com­mon core is teach­ing them. With all these mon­stroc­i­ties com­ing down on our chil­dren, it is no won­der that the num­ber of chil­dren home schooled between the year 2000 to 2012 has dou­bled! As par­ents, we must take a hard look at our schools, how they are being run, and the tac­tics they use. If it is as bad as these trends indi­cate, you might want to con­sider home school­ing for the well being of your child.

Homelessness is not an insoluble problem

© Unknown

The costs of homelessness is rarely discussed. We mostly hear statistics about the number of children living on the streets, the vast number of hungry individuals fed in soup kitchens, and the dangers that homeless families face during severe weather.

As communities, we pull together by donating to food banks and participating in homeless outreach programs, even though government regulations are putting limits on where and how we can help the homeless. (see: 90 Year Old Man Arrested for Feeding the Homeless).

We are naturally inclined to want to help people in need, but most of us don't understand the economics of caring for the homeless.

The Costs of Homelessness

Often funded by government subsidies, charity organizations and sometimes private patrons, taking care of the homeless carries a significant price tag, once you add up the cost of running emergency shelters and transitional housing, collecting and distributing food and clothing, offering mental health, rehabilitation and employment assistance, etc. What do these costs amount to?

Ted Clugston, Mayor of Medicine Hat - a small town in Canada that has recently reached its goal of eliminating homelessness - estimates that it costs up to $100,000 a year to "support" a person that lives on the street, versus about $20,000 a year that it would cost to house someone. Why is the cost of homelessness so high? In addition to the services listed above, Clugston found that homelessness also carries with it indirect costs such as increased emergency room visits and more interactions with the police.

Click Here to listen to Mayor Ted Clugston explain the costs of homelessness in Medicine Hat.

Simple and Economical Solutions Exist

Although initially skeptical about ending homelessness in Medicine Hat, Clugston decided to keep true to the town's pledge to put an end to homelessness, which it achieved in 2009. With the help of funding from the providence of Alberta, the town put resources into building new homes. Today, no one spends more than 10 days in an emergency shelter or on the street. Clugston states, "I've come around to realize that this makes financial sense. This is the cheapest and the most humane way to treat people."

Another example of a town where homelessness is no longer an issue is Marinaleda, Spain. Thanks to its olive farming cooperative and eccentric mayor, Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, Marinaleda made global news because it has virtually no police, no crime or unemployment. This is quite a feat considering that the rate of unemployment in the providence of Andalusia stands at 37% (and a staggering 55% for younger people). What is Gordillo's solution to homelessness?

Anyone who wants to build their own house can do so for free. Materials and qualified workmen are provided by the town hall, and the generous allowance of 192 square meters means the homes are spacious. Families they pay just 15 Euros ($19) per month for the rest of their lives, with the agreement that the house cannot be sold for private gain. (Source)

Homelessness in the US

Although the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) shows a slow decline in homelessness, the estimate of the homeless people in the US in 2013 is around 610,000. Other sources estimate this number to be up to 3 million. Similar to Medicine Hat, HUD has set some lofty goals: end chronic homelessness and homelessness among veterans by 2015; and end homelessness for families, youth and children by 2020. How do they plan to accomplish this? Will they follow a similar model as Medicine Hat and build more affordable public housing? HUD states little about their approach in their assessment report....

Impact of Individualism and Income Inequality on Homelessness

The solution to homelessness in a city filled with millions may not be as simple as in Medicine Hat with its 60,000+ residents or Marinaleda with its 2,700 residents. This brings up the question, if larger urban areas face societal problems that need to be addressed first, if homelessness is to diminish. Perhaps to answer this question, we can look at the most populated city in the world, Tokyo, with over 13 million people. Tokyo hasn't rid itself of homelessness, but it is relatively low when compared to other cities.

Tokyo, at 13.4 million people, is larger than New York City (8.4 million people) and Los Angeles (3.9 million people) combined. While the rate of homelessness in New York is currently 67 for every 10,000 people, in Tokyo there is just one homeless individual for every 10,000 city residents. (Source)

Why the massive discrepancy in rates of homelessness between two of the most populated cities in the world? Tokyo's government officials state that the city focuses on temporary housing provision, employment training, and ensuring that older homeless people are covered under welfare programs to ensure housing. The culture in Japan also plays a part. The Japanese tend to have a stronger family support system when compared to the US, where individualism and self-independence is prized. Less income inequality in Japan, but a growing problem in the United States, is also believed to be a contributing factor to keep homeless rates low.

Once you're at the poverty level, it is difficult to escape it. Modernized societies are distinguished by lavishness, convenience, and abundance...but only for individuals who can afford it. As the gap of income inequality continues to widen - the poor become poorer, while the rich get richer - if the prosperous aren't willing to put the resources into supporting the less fortunate (...such is not the way for a capitalistic society...), homelessness will continue to prevail.

"We need to rethink our values, the consumer society, the value we place on money, selfishness and individualism." ~ Juan Manuel Sanchez Gordillo, Mayor of Marinaleda, Spain.

Preserving the treasures of French underground cities created during WWI

© Jeffrey Gusky
This horse is about two-thirds life size. Hundreds of troops from New England's Yankee Division lived here underground for about six weeks in 1918. The carving was never completed and is now at risk of vandalism or theft.

Many people think of World War I as the trench war, but few realize it went hundreds of feet deeper. As both sides dug in, they found ancient quarries and caves below the bombed-out forests of northeastern France, and they took temporary refuge from the war's horrors there. The offices, kitchens, worship spaces, and artworks they made have rested unchanged for a century in underground cities visited by just a few historians and enthusiasts.

The locations of these quarries and caves remain relatively secret for now, but the entrances are unprotected.

Dr. Jeffrey Gusky, an emergency room physician and professional photographer, has shot these underground cities in eerie detail and published the images extensively in National Geographic, the New York Times, and other periodicals. The BBC, NPR, CBC and other news outlets have interviewed him about it. This exposure brings the caves' culture and beauty to a large audience, but with that fame comes danger for the sites themselves.

Located in a large underground city, now in total darkness, this US Mailbox was carved in 1918 by US National Guard soldiers from New England, part of the famed 26th "Yankee" Division.

Now Gusky is on a mission to preserve them. "I believe these are precious artifacts for both military history and human history because they are completely in the state that they were left a hundred years ago, and it's like time has stood still," he said in an interview on Memorial Day weekend, fresh from a trip to France exploring these natural time capsules. "How often is it that we can touch a hundred years ago as if it were yesterday?" He asked us not to reveal these sites' locations, and he's worried time is running out to secure them since some damage has already occurred. Thieves have cut out sections of cave walls, and vandals have harmed some of the century-old art.

© Jeffrey Gusky
French soldiers prayed and then ascended these stairs leading directly to the trenches to fight. Many never returned.

A Break from Hell Becomes a Cultural Treasure

In late 1914, the opening maneuvers of the Great War had stalled, and the armies of France, Germany, and their allies dug into trenches to avoid the unexpected power of modern machine guns and artillery. They also found their way into old quarries and natural caves, sometimes hundreds of feet below the surface. They learned to rotate troops from the front lines down to these huge spaces for rest and recuperation. Long stone stairways, known as "stairways to hell," led back up to the mud, gas and roar of artillery.

Between bouts of fighting, troops from all over the world marked the walls in elaborate carvings and drawings. The pencil marks look fresh; the boots and the bunk beds remain. They left behind not just their equipment, wine bottles and underground road signs, but traces of their religion, poetry, masonic affiliations, favorite sports teams and more. Gusky has found spaces for outgoing mail hewn into the rock, as well as a bakery and more than one underground theatre, decorated with thoughts of home and echoes of the war above. The Americans, who joined the war in 1917, turned out to be the most prolific artists during their stay underground for six weeks in early 1918.

© Jeffrey Gusky
French soldier's dining area at Butte de Vauquois. The items on the table were simply placed back on the table after being found by the dedicated volunteers who manage this site. Seven kilometers of tunnels still exist on the French side and 17 kilometers on the German side of this amazing site.

Retired Brigadier General Leonid Kondratiuk, former chief historian of the National Guard Bureau, praised Gusky's project. "Jeff has captured one minute or two minutes of their lives below the caves in World War I. All the soldiers are dead, of course, but they left something of themselves in those caves," he said. "In a way, it's an artifact that still lives." Kondratiuk said that while the photos are important, preserving the actual caves and the traces of the people who fought there is essential. "Life and artifacts are so ephemeral that when the soldiers came home most of the stuff they brought home was thrown away over the past hundred years." In the caves, he said, "it feels as if they might come back any moment."

Kondratiuk pointed out that the importance of the Great War and its veterans have often been overshadowed by accidents of circumstance. At each of its major anniversaries, it was pushed aside by more pressing matters. "The World War I veteran never got a thanks from anybody," he said. "They never thanked them because every anniversary period there was another war we were involved in. The 25th anniversary was World War II, the 50th anniversary was the middle of Vietnam, and then these guys started dying by the thousands in the 1960s and 70s."

Shedding Light on How We Learned to Be Modern

We overlook World War I at our peril, according to Kondratiuk, because if we want to understand the modern world, we have to study World War I, the hinge point between the era of Victorian chivalry and the industrial speed of the Twentieth Century. "It started off as a Napoleonic war and ended up as the first modern war," he said. "The French army went into combat wearing light blue, long, Napoleonic uniforms, or tunics, with red trousers and these ridiculously long bayonets. Cavalry was still important in the beginning of the war." Europe's leaders discovered the hard way that horses and bayonets wouldn't stand up to machine guns and heavy artillery. Through that crucible, he said, modern war emerged. "You have the airplane, the tank, gas warfare, heavy artillery, submarine warfare. Everything that becomes important in World War II is invented and used to some extent in World War I."

© Jeffrey Gusky
A smoke painting on the ceiling of an underground city. The space was occupied at various times during World War I by French, then German and then American soldiers. Evidence of underground combat can be found near the former telecommunications center here.

It's difficult to overstate the shock of this first modern war to the people who volunteered for it expecting cavalry charges on green fields. "These guys saw war in its most brutal form--and I say brutal. I mean standing in trenches, water and mud up to your waist every day for weeks at a time. Artillery trying to kill you, gas coming in, and then having to go on the attack. It's probably the worst war ever to have fought in at any time," Kondratiuk said.

Names like Verdun, the Somme, Ypres and the Marne are used to conjure atrocious images. The ferocity of those names has waned as the sites of the Great War's hell have been covered, wiped away and regrown. Some sites remain marked by signs that present the now antiseptic names and dates in attempts to remember the carnage that changed the world a century ago. In contrast, the underground cities are some of the precious few places where students of the war can find an all-enveloping sense of it.

"These treasures make World War I real," Gusky said, adding that to many people the war "seems like an ancient abstraction. It seems distant and irrelevant in our lives." That's due in part to those antiseptic signs, photographs, monuments and cemeteries. Although these markers are important and sacred, he said, "on a subliminal level, they communicate distance, especially for young people. It makes World War I seem like something that is far in the past, fought by people that they can't relate to. And in fact it was a modern war. The importance of these treasures is that it enables us to make World War I real to ordinary people around the world."

Preserving these sites is important for another reason, according to Gusky. "World War I has a tremendous impact on who we are inside, our inner lives, and we don't know it." The soldiers who wrote and drew on the walls show us something of how they learned to live with both the Twentieth Century's conveniences and its horrific weapons. The writings, drawings and carvings by the first generation of the modern age can offer wisdom for how to handle our own era's threats and possibilities." He said, "It's not about remembering the past. It's about understanding today through a parallel experience of World War I."

© Jeffrey Gusky

Embracing a Rare Opportunity

The eerie silence of these caves, the cool air, and the thoughts, carved into the wall, from people long dead bring to mind the much older cave art at places like Lascaux, Chauvet and Altamira. Of the many things written in wonder and appreciation of those sites, one thing stands out as we consider the Great War's underground cities: Those Paleolithic paintings and etchings are a tiny fraction of the earliest European cultures. All the paintings they did aboveground and the vast majority of their carvings and weapons are long gone, to say nothing of their language, songs, hair styles, skin decorations and games.

Thanks to natural caves we have some idea of what Europe's earliest people cared about tens of thousands of years ago. Governments preserve them with extreme care, but that wasn't always so. Lascaux, discovered in 1940, was open to tourists for decades before the wear of visitors' feet and their warm, wet breath forced it to close. Dozens of other, less glorious caves have been vandalized after discovery, their walls tagged or cut apart as souvenirs.

It's a wonderful thing that Chauvet cave, home of some of the most awe inspiring prehistoric paintings in the world, was discovered in 1994 by a group of people who immediately recognized what they had found and took pains to leave it intact. They backed out of the cave carefully and turned it over to historians to secure it and explore those ancient people's traces as gently as possible.

We have the chance, right now, to do the same for the troops who lived in the underground cities. Gusky said, "They are speaking to us, saying, 'I was here. I once was a living, breathing human being.' We need to tell their stories."

For more information on Dr. Jeffrey Gusky's project, go to his site, "The Hidden World of World War I," at: http://jeffgusky.com.

Alisha Hamel is Executive Director of the nonprofit Historical Outreach Foundation and as a Reservist is a Command Historian for the Center of Military History. For more on the Historical Outreach foundation, go to: http://ift.tt/1drzESX.

Paul X. Rutz is a figurative painter in Portland, Oregon, and a researcher for the Oregon Military Museum. His Ph.D. dissertation focused on combat art from the Iraq war. Find more of his work here: http://paulrutz.com.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.

Monsanto's worst fear may be coming true

The tide is turning against the globalization of GMO-based agriculture and forced feeding with consumers leading the charge from the bottom up demanding informed consent (e.g. labeling, independent science) and organic alternatives.

The decision of the Chipotle restaurant chain to make its product lines GMO-free is not most people's idea of a world-historic event. Especially since Chipotle, by US standards, is not a huge operation. A clear sign that the move is significant, however, is that Chipotle's decision was met with a tidal-wave of establishment media abuse. Chipotle has been called irresponsible, anti-science, irrational, and much more by the Washington Post, Time Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and many others. A business deciding to give consumers what they want was surely never so contentious.

The media lynching of Chipotle has an explanation that is important to the future of GMOs. The cause of it is that there has long been an incipient crack in the solid public front that the food industry has presented on the GMO issue. The crack originates from the fact that while agribusiness sees GMOs as central to their business future, the brand-oriented and customer-sensitive ends of the food supply chain do not.

The brands who sell to the public, such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, Kraft, etc., are therefore much less committed to GMOs. They have gone along with their use, probably because they wish to maintain good relations with agribusiness, who are their allies and their suppliers. Possibly also they see a potential for novel products in a GMO future.

However, over the last five years, as the reputation of GMOs has come under increasing pressure in the US, the cost to food brands of ignoring the growing consumer demand for GMO-free products has increased. They might not say so in public, but the sellers of top brands have little incentive to take the flack for selling GMOs.

From this perspective, the significance of the Chipotle move becomes clear. If Chipotle can gain market share and prestige, or charge higher prices, from selling non-GMO products and give (especially young) consumers what they want, it puts traditional vendors of fast and processed food products in an invidious position. Kraft and McDonald's, and their traditional rivals can hardly be left on the sidelines selling outmoded products to a shrinking market. They will not last long.

MacDonald's already appears to be in trouble, and it too sees the solution as moving to more up-market and healthier products. For these much bigger players, a race to match Chipotle and get GMOs out of their product lines, is a strong possibility. That may not be so easy, in the short term, but for agribusiness titans who have backed GMOs, like Monsanto, Dupont, Bayer and Syngenta; a race to be GMO-free is the ultimate nightmare scenario.

Until Chipotle's announcement, such considerations were all behind the scenes. But all of a sudden this split has spilled out into the food media. On May 8th, Hain Celestial told The Food Navigator that:

"We sell organic products...gluten-free products and...natural products. [But] where the big, big demand is, is GMO-free."

According to the article, unlike Heinz, Kraft, and many others, Hain Celestial is actively seeking to meet this demand. Within the food industry, important decisions, for and against GMOs, are taking place.

Why the pressure to remove GMOs will grow

The other factor in all this turmoil is that the GMO technology wheel has not stopped turning. New GMO products are coming on stream that will likely make crop biotechnology even less popular than it is now. This will further ramp up the pressure on brands and stores to go GMO-free. There are several contributory factors.

The first issue follows from the recent US approvals of GMO crops resistant to the herbicides 2,4-D and Dicamba. These traits are billed as replacements for Roundup-resistant traits whose effectiveness has declined due to the spread of weeds resistant to Roundup (Glyphosate).

The causes of the problem, however, lie in the technology itself. The introduction of Roundup-resistant traits in corn and soybeans led to increasing Roundup use by farmers (Benbrook 2012). Increasing Roundup use led to weed resistance, which led to further Roundup use, as farmers increased applications and dosages. This translated into escalated ecological damage and increasing residue levels in food. Roundup is now found in GMO soybeans intended for food use at levels that even Monsanto used to call "extreme" (Bøhn et al. 2014).

The two new herbicide-resistance traits are set to recapitulate this same story of increasing agrochemical use. But they will also amplify it significantly.

The specifics are worth considering. First, the spraying of 2,4-D and Dicamba on the newer herbicide-resistant crops will not eliminate the need for Roundup, whose use will not decline (see Figure).



That is because, unlike Roundup, neither 2,4-D nor Dicamba are broad-spectrum herbicides. They will have to be sprayed together with Roundup, or with each other (or all of them together) to kill all weeds. This vital fact has not been widely appreciated.

Confirmation comes from the companies themselves. Monsanto is stacking (i.e. combining) Dicamba resistance with Roundup resistance in its Xtend crops and Dow is stacking 2,4-D resistance with Roundup resistance in its Enlist range. (Notably, resistance to other herbicides, such as glufosinate, are being stacked in all these GMO crops too.)

The second issue is that the combined spraying of 2,4-D and Dicamba and Roundup, will only temporarily ease the weed resistance issues faced by farmers. In the medium and longer terms, they will compound the problems. That is because new herbicide-resistant weeds will surely evolve. In fact, Dicamba-resistant and 2,4-D-resistant weeds already exist. Their spread, and the evolution of new ones, can be guaranteed (Mortensen et al 2012). This will bring greater profits for herbicide manufacturers, but it will also bring greater PR problems for GMOs and the food industry. GMO soybeans and corn will likely soon have "extreme levels" of at least three different herbicides, all of them with dubious safety records (Schinasi and Leon 2014).

The first time round, Monsanto and Syngenta's PR snow-jobs successfully obscured this, not just from the general public, but even within agronomy. But it is unlikely they will be able to do so a second time. 2,4-D and Dicamba-resistant GMOs are thus a PR disaster waiting to happen.

A pipeline full of problems: risk and perception

The longer term problem for GMOs is that, despite extravagant claims, their product pipeline is not bulging with promising ideas. Mostly, it is more of the same: herbicide resistance and insect resistance.

The most revolutionary and innovative part of that pipeline is a technology and not a trait. Many products in the GMO pipeline are made using RNA interference technologies that rely on double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). dsRNA is a technology with two problems. One is that products made with it (such as the "Arctic" Apple, the "Innate" Potato, and Monsanto's "Vistive Gold" Soybeans) are unproven in the field. Like its vanguard, a Brazilian virus-resistant bean, they may never work under actual farming conditions.

But if they do work, there is a clear problem with their safety which is explained in detail here (PDF).

In outline, the problem is this: the long dsRNA molecules needed for RNA interference were rejected long ago as being too hazardous for routine medical use (Anonymous, 1969). The scientific literature even calls them "toxins", as in this paper title from 1969:

Absher M., and Stinebring W. (1969) Toxic properties of a synthetic double-stranded RNA. Nature 223: 715-717. (not online)

As further evidence of this, long dsRNAs are now used in medicine to cause autoimmune disorders in mice, in order to study these disorders (Okada et al 2005).

The Absher and Stinebring paper comes from a body of research built up many years ago, but its essential findings have been confirmed and extended by more modern research. We now know why dsRNAs cause harm. They trigger destructive anti-viral defence pathways in mammals and other vertebrates and there is a field of specialist research devoted to showing precisely how this damages individual cells, whole tissues, and results in auto-immune disease in mice (Karpala et al. 2005).

The conclusion therefore, is that dsRNAs that are apparently indistinguishable from those produced in, for example, the Arctic apple and Monsanto's Vistive Gold Soybean, have strong negative effects on vertebrate animals (but not plants). These vertebrate effects are found even at low doses. Consumers are vertebrate animals. They may not appreciate the thought that their healthy fats and forever apples also contain proven toxins. And on a business front, consumer brands will not relish defending dsRNA technology once they understand the reality. They may not wish to find themselves defending the indefensible.

The bottom line is this. Either dsRNAs will sicken or kill people, or, they will give opponents of biotechnology plenty of ammunition. The scientific evidence, as it currently stands, suggests they will do both. dsRNAs, therefore, are a potentially huge liability.

The last pipeline problem stems from the first two. The agbiotech industry has long held out the prospect of "consumer benefits" from GMOs. Consumer benefits (in the case of food) are most likely to be health benefits (improved nutrition, altered fat composition, etc.). The problem is that the demographic of health-conscious consumers no doubt overlaps significantly with the demographic of those most wary of GMOs. Show a consumer a "healthy GMO" and they are likely to show you an oxymoron. The health market in the US for customers willing to pay more for a GMO has probably evaporated in the last few years as GMOs have become a hot public issue.

The end-game for GMOs?

The traditional chemical industry approach to such a problem is a familiar repertoire of intimidation and public relations. Fifty years ago, the chemical industry outwitted and out-maneuvered environmentalists after the death of Rachel Carson (see the books Toxic Sludge is Good for You and Trust Us We're Experts). But that was before email, open access scientific publication, and the internet. Monsanto and its allies have steadily lost ground in a world of peer-to-peer communication. GMOs have become a liability, despite their best efforts.

The historic situation is this: in any country, public acceptance of GMOs has always been based on lack of awareness of their existence. Once that ignorance evaporates and the scientific and social realities start to be discussed, ignorance cannot be reinstated. From then on the situation moves into a different, and much more difficult phase for the defenders of GMOs.

Nevertheless, in the US, those defenders have not yet given up. Anyone who keeps up with GMOs in the media knows that the public is being subjected to an unrelenting and concerted global blitzkrieg.

Pro-GMO advocates and paid-for journalists, presumably financed by the life-science industry, sometimes fronted by non-profits such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are being given acres of prominent space to make their case. Liberal media outlets such as the New York Times, the National Geographic, The New Yorker, Grist magazine, the Observer newspaper, and any others who will have them (which is most) have been deployed to spread its memes. Cornell University has meanwhile received a $5.6 million grant by the Gates Foundation to "depolarize" negative GMO publicity.

But so far there is little sign that the growth of anti-GMO sentiment in Monsanto's home (US) market can be halted. The decision by Chipotle is certainly not an indication of faith that it can.

For Monsanto and GMOs the situation suddenly looks ominous. Chipotle may well represent the beginnings of a market swing of historic proportions. GMOs may be relegated to cattle-feed status, or even oblivion, in the USA. And if GMOs fail in the US, they are likely to fail elsewhere.

GMO roll-outs in other countries have relied on three things: the deep pockets of agribusinesses based in the United States, their political connections, and the notion that GMOs represent "progress". If those three disappear in the United States, the power to force open foreign markets will disappear too. The GMO era might suddenly be over.


Anonymous (1969) Interferon inducers with side effects. Nature 223: 666-667.

Bøhn, T., Cuhra, M., Traavik, T., Sanden, M., Fagan, J. and Primicerio, R. 2014. Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.

Okada C., Akbar S.M.F., Horiike N., and Onji M. (2005) Early development of primary biliary cirrhosis in female C57BL/6 mice because of poly I:C administration. Liver International 25: 595-603.

Karpala A.J., Doran T.J., and Bean A.G.D. (2005) Immune responses to dsRNA: Implications for gene silencing technologies. Immunology and cell biology 83: 211 - 216.

Mortensen, David A., J. Franklin Egan, Bruce D. Maxwell, Matthew R. Ryan and Richard G. Smith (2012) Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management. BioScience 62: 75-84.

Schinasi L and Maria E. Leon ME (2014) Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Occupational Exposure to Agricultural Pesticide Chemical Groups and Active Ingredients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 11: 4449-4527.

About the author

Jonathan Latham is co-founder and Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and also Editor of the Independent Science News website. Dr. Lathamholds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology.

This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service - if this is your content and you're reading it on someone else's site, please read the FAQ at http://ift.tt/jcXqJW.