Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Home owner discovers ancient underground city beneath his house in Anatolia

Ancient Origins | Aug 25, 2014 | April Holloway

A home owner living in the Melikgazi district of Kayseri province in Anatolia made a surprising discovery while clearing out an area under his house – a subterranean city, of which 4,000 square metres have been excavated so far, according to a report in Hurriyet Daily News. The region of Anatolia in Turkey is famous for its underground cities, particularly in the region of Cappadocia where more than 40 complete underground cities and 200 underground villages and tunnel towns complete with hidden passages, secret rooms, and ancient temples have been found.

Mustafa Bozdemir, 50, was bequeathed a house in Melikgazi five years ago and decided to carry out restoration work. He explained that what he thought was a single-storey house, turned out to have multiple levels of ancient rooms beneath it. “We also found some remains during the cleaning works such as human bones. They were examined by a team from Erciyes University,” said Bozdemir.

Nuvit Bayar, the Project Director of Guntas, the company responsible for the restoration, described the discovery to Zaman Online:

"We thought that there might be storage space for food or a stable beneath the house. But had no idea that it was part of an underground city. The underground city that we found by accident during restoration begins a few meters under the ground and has two levels. There are parts resembling underground remains of settlements in Cappadocia. Wonderful structures emerged everywhere, like an iron workshop and a loft.

The newly-discovered underground structure in Melikgazi has been compared to Cappadocia (pictured) where hundreds of subterranean structures have been found. Photo credit: Wikimedia.

Bozdemir immediately notified the Kayseri Governor’s Office and the Culture and Tourism Directorate, who examined the site and gave permission to continue excavations to completely unearth the underground city. They have also contributed the equivalent of $420,000 towards the restoration.

“We think that the underground city was active in the Roman, Byzantine and Seljuk eras and other stone buildings there were built in the Ottoman and Republican periods," the local mayor Mehmet Osmanbasoglu told Zaman Online.

So far more than a hundred truck-loads of soil have been removed from the underground structure, revealing multiple rooms across several levels. It is believed that around eighty percent of the subterranean city has been uncovered so far. Osmanbasoglu said he hopes excavations will find the underground city is linked with the neighbouring towns of Turan, Gesi and Zincidere.

The region of Anatolia in Turkey is known to have the most spectacular underground networks in the world. One of the most magnificent subterranean cities is Derinkuyu, which is eleven levels deep, has 600 entrances, consists of many miles of tunnels connecting it to other underground cities, and can accommodate thousands of people. It is truly an underground city, with areas for sleeping, stables for livestock, wells, water tanks, pits for cooking, ventilation shafts, communal rooms, bathrooms, and tombs.

A visual depiction of Derinkuyu in Anatolia, Turkey. Photo credit: Wikimedia
While the latest discovery in Melikgazi is unlikely to be as spectacular as Derinkuyu, it is nevertheless an extremely significant finding, demonstrating that the underground world of Anatolia has not yet given up all its secrets.

Featured image: A section of the underground city found under a home in Melikgazi district, Anatolia. Credit: DHA photo

Mexican Judge Departs From Script, Turns Monsanto’s Mexican Dream Into Legal Nightmare

Blacklisted News | Sep 1, 2014 | Don Quijones

By Don Quijones, freelance writer, translator in Barcelona, Spain, but currently in Mexico. Raging Bull-Shit is his modest attempt to challenge the wishful thinking and scrub away the lathers of soft soap peddled by political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media. This article is a Wolf Street exclusive.

The U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto is long accustomed to getting its own way. Through a combination of back-channel lobbying, opaque political funding and revolving-door politics, the multinational agrochemical and biotechnology corporation has subverted, corrupted and infiltrated the elected governments of countries around the world, from the smallest and poorest to the biggest and richest.

However, if recent events in Europe and Latin America are any indication, the tide may well be subtly turning against the interests of Monsanto and its fellow GMO oligopolies and in the favor of independent food growers and consumers. Despite their tireless lobbying efforts in Brussels, the “Big Six” (Monsanto, Du Pont Pioneer, Syngenta, Vilmorin, Winfield and KWS) continue to hit a brick wall of resistance in many of Europe’s biggest markets, including Germany and France. As I reported in April this year, popular resistance is on the rise across Latin America, as indigenous and peasant communities rise up against government legislation that would apply brutally rigid intellectual copyright laws to the crop seeds they are able to grow.

The latest country to put a spanner in the works is Mexico. This past week the country’s Federal Court voted to uphold Judge Marroquín Zaleta’s 2013 ruling to suspend the granting of licenses for GMO field trials sought by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Pionner-Dupont and Mexico’s SEMARNAT (Environment and Natural Resources Ministry). Zaleta’s ruling was in response to a suit brought by a collective of 53 scientists and 22 civil rights organizations and NGOs.

In defending his ruling, Zaleta cited the potential risks to the environment posed by GMO corn. If the biotech industry got its way, he argued, more than 7000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico would be endangered, with the country’s 60 varieties of corn directly threatened by cross-pollination from transgenic strands. Monsanto’s response was as swift as it was brutal: not only did it – and its lackeys in the Mexican government – appeal Zaleta’s ruling, it also demanded his removal from the bench on the grounds that he had already stated his opinion on the case before sentencing.

However, Monsanto’s bullying tactics failed to impress the Mexican judges. On August 15, the court convened to review Zaleta’s alleged bias ruled against the U.S. corporation’s legal suit. Also spurned by the Mexican courts was the world’s third largest GMO seed manufacturer, Syngenta, whose reapplication for a license to run test trials of its maize crops was rejected this week by the Federal Court.

Growing Resistance

Resistance to GMOs has been brewing in Mexico for a number of years. The country’s corn crop is far more than a mere staple; for millenia it has played a vital part in the country’s culture and economy, and a broad coalition of scientists and civil organizations is determined to safeguard its diversity and common ownership.

The painful lessons of the past serve as a stark warning of what could happen if the giants of agribusiness get their way. In 1994, the signing of NAFTA with the U.S. and Canada exposed the country’s smallhold farmers to competition from U.S. giants like Cargill and Corn Products International – all under the auspices, of course, of “free trade”. In short order millions of campesinos were turfed off their land and pushed into a precarious existence on the margins of cities in both Mexico and the U.S.

Should Biotech giants such as Monsanto and Syngenta win the current battle against Mexico’s judicial branch, the consequences would be even more devastating, as award-winning professor of Cellular Neurobiology David R. Schubert warned in a 2013 letter to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto:
  • Introducing GM corn into Mexico would pose a huge environmental risk given that the plant is native to the country. The GM varieties would drastically diminish the crop diversity of both Mexico and the world at large.
  • GM corn would make the crop production process a lot more expensive. Buying the same crop seeds year after year – as already happens in the U.S. and across many agricultural sectors in the global south (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and India) – would increase the costs throughout the Mexican food chain, putting millions of smallholders out of business.
  • GMO corn will also increase Mexico’s social and political dependence on oligopolies. Once transnational corporations dominate the seed market of a particular crop (as has happened with Soy and is fast happening with Corn), they will continue introducing GM seeds for other crops and increasing their power over Mexico’s agricultural sector. As Schubert warned, this has already happened in the United States, “where seed companies are one of the main sources of financial funding for the two main political parties and have put their own people in senior positions of power to dictate national and international agricultural policy”.
  • GM maize expressing Bt protein and herbicide resistance and the chemicals required for their cultivation pose a serious health hazard to those who consume it – especially on the scale at which it is consumed in Mexico.
  • Most importantly, once the GM seeds are planted, they’ll be no going back. The country’s native varieties, which are the result of thousands of years of careful selection and breeding, will be irreversibly contaminated – even if the GM seeds are introduced on a modest scale.
A War for Survival

Thanks to the rare intervention of a brave judge, the civil movement to protect Mexico’s crop diversity and the common ownership of seeds has delivered a significant blow to the interests of some of the world’s largest and most powerful transnational corporations. But if history has taught us anything, it is that the likes of Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta are unlikely to sit on their hands and let a few pesky Mexican judges thwart their plans for full-spectral dominance of the global food supply.

As Silvia Ribeiro, a researcher for the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (Grupo ETC), warns, never before in the long history of human agriculture and food have we faced such serious concentration of power and ownership of the global seed industry, the primary link of the global food chain. In the year 2014, just six American and European companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer and Basf – control 100 percent of the GM seeds planted in the world. All of them were originally chemical manufacturers.

It wasn’t always that way. Indeed, such concentration of the seed industry is a wholly new phenomenon. Thirty-five years ago, there were thousands of seed manufacturers and not a single one of them had more than one-percent control of the global market. Fifteen years later, the top ten companies had captured 30 percent of the market, yet Monsanto was not among them.

Now Monsanto alone, after having acquired a huge portfolio of seed companies such as Agroceres, Asgrow, Cristiani Burkard, Dekalb, Delta & Pine and the seeds division of Cargill North America, controls 26 percent of the entire global market of all seeds, not just GMOs. Monsanto, second-placed Dupont, and third-placed Syngenta combined control 53 percent of the market.

Such concentration of ownership has granted a handful of Western corporations and the governments with which they are inseparably intertwined vast control over one of the world’s primary resources, food. And although these companies control almost all commercial seeds, whether genetically modified or not, they prefer to sell GMOs despite the fact that 16 years of official US statistics have proven that they are less productive, significantly more expensive and not (as the GMO giants claim) resistant to all pests or disease. The two main reasons for their preference for GMOs are: a) they use a lot more agrichemicals, an industry in which the same companies have a controlling stake; and b) by patenting GMO seeds, the companies can guarantee that farmers will have to come back for more, year after year, decade after decade.

Put simply, it is enforced dependence on a scale never before imagined. As the dark lord of U.S. geopolitics Henry Kissinger is alleged to have once said, “control oil, you control the nations; control food and you control the people”. Thankfully, in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Chile, France, Germany, the UK and India, the resistance is rising and spreading. Whether it will be enough to head off one of the greatest threats to human freedom, health and the environment, only time will tell. Don Quijones. An exclusive for Wolf Street.

And there’s a tightly coordinated campaign by the Spanish government and its corporate masters. Spain’s Silent Reconquest of Mexico

Source: Wolf Street

Monday, September 1, 2014

Kurdish ‘ghost’ oil tanker reemerges near Texas – with $100mn cargo

A still image from video taken by a U.S. Coast Guard HC-144
Ocean Sentry aircraft shows the oil tanker United Kalavyrta
(also known as the United Kalavrvta), which is carrying a
cargo of Kurdish crude oil, approaching Galveston,
Texas July 25, 2014 (Reuters / US Coast Guard)
RT | Sep 1, 2014

A “ghost ship” oil tanker carrying approximately $100 million of disputed Iraqi Kurdish crude oil has reappeared on satellite imagery near the US coast Monday, after disappearing for several days. The tanker seems not to have offloaded its oil.

According to the US Coast Guard and Reuters, the tanker, United Kalavrvta, is still 95 percent full and has not yet unloaded its cargo. The vessel was anchored Monday in the Galveston Offshore Lightering Area, close to its previously known position.

The Iraqi government has deemed this shipment of Kurdish crude oil illegal. Baghdad filed a lawsuit in the US in June, preventing any purchaser from unloading the Kurdish shipment.

When Iraq’s government initially filed the law suit, US District Judge Nancy K. Johnson ordered the seizure of the tanker’s $100 million payload, but only if the tanker entered the territorial waters of the US.

This isn’t the first time Kurdish oil tankers have switched off their electronic transponders to avoid detection – essentially making their movements impossible to track.

Approximately a week ago, a Kurdish tanker carrying crude disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt’s Sinai, only to reappear empty two days later near Israel.

As recently as June, Iraq’s central government made an attempt at illegalizing Kurdish oil sales but it was ultimately rejected by Iraq’s Supreme Court.

Kurds have argued that the sale of their crude is essential to their dreams of an independent Kurdistan – while the US State Department has publicly backed Baghdad’s stance.

Given the recent violence and uncertainty in Iraq, this makes for a hard decision for both the stranded tanker and its would-be US buyer.

Something is going on! - STRANGE EVENTS Around The World (2014)

Jason A | Aug 31, 2014

Vandana Shiva: GMOs, Monsanto, and the Galileo Syndrome

Toward Freedom | Aug 25, 2014 | Vandana Shiva

Speaking at the launch of the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at the Energy and Resources Institute, Union minister of state for environment Prakash Javadekar said: “We have not said no to science. Nobody can say no to science. Yes we have to take proper caution, we have to take proper action. But you cannot deny it. We are not living in Galileo’s times. Galileo was telling the truth and he was punished.”

With genetically modified organisms, we could be having another Galileo moment. American biotechnology corporation Monsanto and its lobbyists are today’s Church. And independent scientists speaking the truth about GMOs and their impact on society, health and environment are today’s Galileos.

GMOs are mired in controversy because their introduction is based on violation of law, democracy and science.

In India, the debate on GMOs started with the illegal introduction of Bt cotton by American biotechnology corporation Monsanto in 1998.

It intensified when Monsanto/Mahyco tried to introduce Bt brinjal in 2010. And when the then environment minister Jairam Ramesh tried to introduced a moratorium, he was removed.

The debate returned when Jayanthi Natarajan was removed as environment minister in December 2013 because she refused to sign on the dotted line with the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to allow GMO field trials in a joint affidavit to the Supreme Court in the GMO case.

M. Veerappa Moily succeeded her. Mr Moily rushed through approvals just before the term of United Progressive Alliance-2 was nearing its end.

Under the new National Democratic Alliance government, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) approved further trials on July 18. This was contrary to what the Bharatiya Janata Party had stated in its manifesto released on April 7, 2014: “GM foods will not be allowed without full scientific evaluation on the long-term effects on soil, production and biological impact on consumers.”

In 1998, the MNC Monsanto — in collaboration with Mahyco — started illegal field trials of Bt cotton with the intention of commercialising it in India. As long as the genetic engineering is taking place in labs, the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) governs the approval. The moment trials are conducted in an open environment, as the case is with these trials, approvals should be sought from the GEAC governed by the ministry of environment and forests active under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

When Monsanto started field trials in 1998, it did not seek approval of the GEAC. So I filed a PIL on January 6, 1999. My NGO Navdanya also started a movement in August 9, 1998 with the call “Monsanto Quit India”. This is still our call because Monsanto and its GMOs can only exist in India by violating India’s democracy, laws and the independence and sovereignty of Indian science.

After a study of GMOs for over four years, the multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture had recommended for a ban on GM food crops in India stating they had no role in a country of small farmers. A PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues to stop GMO field trials until independent assessment and a robust regulatory process evolved.

The Supreme Court appointed a technical expert committee (TEC) which recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops till the government came out with a proper regulatory and safety mechanism, the same has not been done till date. So far, all assessments are done by the company itself and the results are cooked up. It was evident in the case Navdanya filed to challenge the illegal Bt cotton trials that pests like Aphids and Jassids were increasing, but the company reported no increase. It was clear in the case of Bt brinjal that there is impact of organ damage, but the company wrote “no impact”. That is why independent assessment is vital for biosafety.

Members of the SC/TEC include top scientists of India, who head high-level scientific institutes specialising in the diverse disciplines. Dr Imran Siddiqui of the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology, Prof. P.S. Ramakrishnan, professor emeritus at JNU, Prof. P.C. Kesavan Genetics Toxicology are a few names.

The scientific imperative demands that the recommendations of the highest scientific committee of the highest court of the land, the TEC, be implemented. The core recommendations are:

-Moratorium on GMO field trials “the examination/study of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. Till such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials.

-There should be a moratorium on field trials for Bt in food crops.

-Herbicide Tolerant Crops: The TEC finds them completely unsuitable in the Indian context and recommends that field trials and release of HT crops not be allowed in India.

-Crops in their centre of origin or diversity: The TEC recommends that the release of GM crops for which India is a centre of origin or diversity should not be allowed.

Among the GMO crops approved for field trials are rice, maize, chickpea, sugarcane and brinjal. India is a centre of diversity of all these crops except maize. The experience of GMO cotton has already shown us the high costs to farmers of GMO propriety seeds for which Monsanto collects royalties. GMOs have failed the socio-economic test.

We carried out a study on the soil impact of Bt cotton and found beneficial organisms had been destroyed. In the US, the destruction of beneficial soil organisms has led to emergence of pathogens which are leading to still births and abortions in animals that are fed GMOs as feed.

There is no consensus on safety of GMOs. Tumours, organ failure and damage to the digestive tract have been shown to be associated with GMOs by independent researchers across the world. Monsanto goes after every scientist doing independent research on safety.

Monsanto and the biotechnology industry keeps promoting illegal introduction of untested GMOs as “science”. Suppressing facts is not science. Manipulating truth is not science. Hounding scientists is not science.

Real science is based on full and independent investigations of GMOs on the socio-economic impact on small farmers, ecological impact on the environment, including biodiversity in soil, of pollinators, of plants and health impact on humans and animals. India needs to take up its own safety tests that do not need field trials and can be carried out in the lab.

I call for a moratorium on GMO trials, as recommended by the TEC appointed by the Supreme Court. All we are asking for is full scientific evaluation, in accordance with recommendations of TEC. The GMO lobby is trying to suppress the TEC recommendations. Is it an extension of the Galileo syndrome?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Govt OK’s Growing Rice for Public Sale Within Fukushima Contamination Zone

© Natural Society
Natural Society | Aug 31, 2014 | Christina Sarich

Just recently, farmers in the city of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, have begun planting rice in a district previously designated as a ‘no-plant zone’ due to of radioactive fallout. This will be the first time since March, 2011’s core meltdowns that rice intended for public sale will be planted in fields that are possibly still contaminated with radioactive cesium and other toxic materials.

While the Japanese public is vehemently opposed to GMO, do they really want to eat radioactive rice? The government of Japan seems not to care.

Despite the urging of the people of Japan, the government continues to allow farming in radioactive areas while also permitting large quantities of imported GM canola from Canada. There is also now GM canola growing wild around Japanese ports and roads to major food oil companies.

Genetically modified canola such as Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready canola has been found growing around these ports when being tested for GM contamination. Japan was also recently duped into accepting Monsanto’s GM soybeans. Does this country really need any more toxic food?

In other news, animals and people living near the Fukushima radiation are suffering. Wild monkeys that reside in a forest near Fukushima are now showing alarming changes in their blood composition. This doesn’t bode well for humans who were exposed to radiation from within several hundred kilometers of the Daiichi site.

Just weeks ago, two Japanese farmers whose livelihoods are in ruins due to the 2011 nuclear disaster staged a protest at Tokyo’s agriculture ministry, scuffling briefly with police as they unsuccessfully tried to unload a bull from a truck.

Masami Yoshizawa and fellow farmer Naoto Matsumura have remained at their farms to care for their own and others’ abandoned livestock in areas where access has been restricted due to radiation fears since the March, 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The livestock they brought with them for the protest had developed unexplainable white spots on their coats. The farmers believe it is due to radioactive fallout.

Thousands of farmers lost their livelihoods when their farms, produce, and livestock were declared off-limits and unsafe, but allowing radioactive farms to plant now doesn’t solve the problem, and neither do genetically modified foods. It seems the corporate biotech bullies won’t stop their own agricultural terrorism, even when a country is down on their luck.

Feds Set to Open Fracking Floodgates in California Based on One Flawed Study

Common Dreams | Aug 29, 2014 | Jon Queally

(Image: Global Exchange)
Report raises grave concerns about fracking pollution’s threat to state's air and water, say opponents, and also highlights fact that government officials have never collected the data needed to determine extent of danger and future destruction

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has put the ecosystems, water resources, and residents of California at urgent risk, expert critics are warning, by accepting a failed scientific review of the dangers of fracking in the state as a basis to begin issuing permits for the controversial gas drilling technique as soon as next year.

The BLM-commissioned study was conducted by the California Council on Science and Technology and came in response to a lawsuit brought by two environmental groups—the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club—who objected to the leasing of public land in California to oil and gas companies for the drilling process also known as hydraulic fracturing—which injects water, sand, and chemicals deep into the earth to release fossil fuel deposits trapped in shale formations. A federal judge ordered the study in 2013 after ruling that the BLM had violated state law by issuing oil leases in Monterey County, Calif., without considering fracking’s environmental risks.

The findings of the report, according to the BLM, conclude that no serious dangers were found and signaled that fracking licenses could be issued on federal lands for drilling in 2015. Jim Kenna, the BLM's California state director, told reporters on a media call that the report would allow state regulators to authorized fracking while also monitoring for safety, environmental impacts, and health concerns.

But as the Los Angeles Times points out, even the independent research organization that conducted the survey on which the decision was based says the study had severe shortcomings and lacked key metrics.
[The report] authors noted that they had little time and scant information on which to base conclusions, citing widespread "data gaps" and inadequate scientific resources for a more thorough study.

For example, the report found no evidence of water contamination from fracking in California, but the scientist directing the research, Jane Long, said researchers also had no data on the quality of water near fracking sites.

"We can only tell you what the data we could get says," said Long, a former director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "We can't tell you what we don't know."
Environmental groups say the flaws of report are glaring—demonstrating a rushed process and an inadequate survey of data—and slammed the BLM for indicating that fracking leases would be approved based on such flimsy and inconclusive evidence.

“This report raises grave concerns about fracking pollution’s threat to California’s air and water, but it also highlights the fact that government officials have never collected the data needed to determine the extent of the damage in our state,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “A few months of incomplete data simply can’t support a federal decision to resume selling off our public lands in California to oil companies. Using this report as a basis for continued fracking in California is illogical and illegal.”

The poverty of the report would not be so bad, according to Siegel, if the coming decisions based on its findings were not so profound.

“How can we count on a fair and unbiased process for evaluating the decision to resume leasing when the head of California BLM has predetermined the outcome?” she asked. “First we get the verdict, and then we get the trial.”

According to a review of the study by the San Francisco Chronicle, fracking in California may well, in fact, "endanger groundwater" in the state. The newspaper reports:
The report found that half of the oil wells fracked in the state lie within 2,000 feet of the surface, close to aquifers. Hydraulic fracturing uses a high-pressure blend of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks containing oil or natural gas. Those cracks can sometimes extend as far up as 1,969 feet - not far from the surface.

Fracking chemicals, some of them toxic, could migrate along the cracks and leach into drinking water, according to the report. There are no recorded cases of that happening in California, the authors note, but it remains a possibility needing further study.

"In California, hydraulic fracturing is occurring at relatively shallow depths and presents an inherent risk for fractures to intersect nearby aquifers," reads the report, from the California Council on Science and Technology.

Water wells in Kern County, where most of California's fracking takes place, lie 600 feet to 800 feet below the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
In its analysis, the Center for Biological Diversity listed the federal review's most disturbing conclusions:
  • Fracking in California happens at much shallower levels than elsewhere, and the report notes that, “Hydraulic fracturing at shallow depths poses a greater potential risk to water resources because of its proximity to groundwater and the potential for fractures to intersect nearby aquifers.”
  • The study notes that investigators “could not determine the groundwater quality near many hydraulic fracturing operations and found that existing data was insufficient to evaluate the extent to which contamination may have occurred.”
  • Some fracking chemicals used in California are “acutely toxic to mammals,” the report says, while also noting that “No information could be found about the toxicity of about a third of the chemicals and few of the chemicals have been evaluated to see if animals or plants would be harmed by chronic exposure.”
  • The report says that “Current practice and testing requirements do not necessarily protect against adding produced water contaminated with hydraulic fracturing fluid to water used in agriculture.”

Saturday, August 30, 2014

D R Congo confirms 7 new cases of Ebola in 2nd outbreak – reported number of cases in W. Africa explode: 550 in one week

The Extinction Protocol | Aug 30, 2014

August 2014KINSHASA, DR – Health authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have confirmed seven new Ebola cases in the northwestern Equateur Province, bringing up to 13 the number of people who had contracted the deadly virus in the province, a U.N.-run radio station said Friday. “There are now 13 cases affected by the virus…in addition to 16 other suspected cases,” Health Minister Felix Kabange was quoted as saying by the Kinshasa-based Okapi radio. He asserted that the outbreak is still confined to Boende area in northern Equateur province, noting that Ebola cases reported recently in Kinshasa and Katanga proved negative. On Monday, Joseph Mboyo Limpoko, government medical inspector in Equateur, told Anadolu Agency that a total of four people countrywide had been confirmed dead from Ebola.

Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has claimed 1,552 lives in West Africa since the outbreak began in January. Most of the deaths were registered in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Six fatalities have also been confirmed in Nigeria. The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the DRC, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals. It also reportedly spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have died of the disease. –NTA

Outbreak spiraling out of control: The World Health Organization (WHO), reported today that 550 new cases of Ebola were reported last week in West Africa, the highest figure for the same period of time since the outbreak began. The most affected countries by the virus were Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Furthermore, more than three thousand sick people were registered in Nigeria, of which a thousand 552 died, according to the WHO.  The epidemic in this African region is one of the most complex health emergencies in recent years, and at least 490 million dollars are needed to try to contain the new infections, which are growing exponentially, reported the international health agency.  In addition, WHO estimates that the number of people infected is much higher than those registered, and considers that about 20 thousand people are at risk of developing the disease.

Senegal -a neighboring country with Guinea- reported this Friday its first patient. A young man from Guinea who was quarantined, said the Senegalese Health Minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck.  Guinea health services reported on Wednesday the disappearance of an infected person with the Ebola virus who had traveled to Senegal, she explained.  The individual was already located in the Fann Hospital (in Dakar). The results of the tests were positive, so the device to prevent the spread of the disease was reinforced, said the Minister.  Meanwhile, WHO is preparing a meeting of experts on 4 and 5 September in Geneva, about possible treatments for Ebola.  Scientists, researchers in pharmaceutical companies and specialists in clinical requirements, professionals in ethical, legal and regulation issues, will attend the event that is based on the decision taken by the United Nations agency to apply experimental therapies in affected people.  Although Zmapp is the most widely known for its recent use in several patients, several drugs and vaccines never tested before in humans are being studied. -RCA

Scientists Drastically Underestimated Amount of Fukushima Radiation Worldwide

Washington's Blog | Aug 29, 2014

Fukushima Radiation Has Spread Worldwide 

We noted 2 days after the Japanese earthquake that radiation from Fukushima could end up on the West Coast of North America. And see this.

We started tracking the radioactive cesium released by Fukushima within weeks of the accident.

In fact, U.S. nuclear authorities were extremely worried about the West Coast getting hit by Fukushima radiation … but publicly said it was safe.

We reported that Fukushima radiation spread worldwide.

And we’ve documented for years that the failure to test the potentially high levels of radiation hitting North America is a scandal.

Sadly, we were right to be worried …

The Journal Environmental Science & Technology – published by the American Chemical Society – reported last year that airborne levels of radioactive cesium were raised by 100 to 1,000 times (what scientists describe as two to three “orders of magnitude“):
Before the FDNPP accident, average 137Cs levels were typically of 1 μBq m−3 in Central Europe and lower average values (<0.3 μBq m−3) were characteristic of northern, western and southern Europe.


During the passage of contaminated air masses from Fukushima, airborne 137Cs levels were globally enhanced by 2 to 3 orders of magnitude.
Indeed, even hot particles and nuclear core fragments from Fukushima were found to have traveled all the way to Europe.

The French government radiation agency – IRSN – released a video of Fukushima cesium hitting the West Coast of North America.  EneNews displays a screenshot from the IRSN video, and quantifies the extreme cesium spikes:
  • Cesium-137 levels in 2010: 0.000001 mBq/m³ of Cs-137 (blue writing)
  • Cesium-137 levels in Mar. 2011: 1 to 10 mBq/m³ in Western U.S. (orange plume)
  • Cs-137 levels increased 1,000,000 – 10,000,000 times after Fukushima

Levels on the West Coast were up to 500 times higher than estimated.  Cesium levels from Fukushima were higher than expected worldwide, including in the arctic region of Europe:

 Radioactive cesium bioaccumulates in large fish and animals.

The radioactive half life of cesium 137 is usually 30 years. But scientists at the Savannah River National Laboratory say that the cesium at Chernobyl will persist in the environment between 5 and 10 times longer – between 180 and 320 years.

And the Fukushima accident has pumped out some entirely new forms of radioactive materials … in “glassy spheres“, buckyballs, ball-like spheres, and bound to organic matter.  Scientists don’t really know how long these new forms will last …

Rebuttal of The Country Hen

Cornucopia | Aug 29, 2014 

The Real Chicken Poop

 On May 19, 2014 The Country Hen, a vertically integrated egg producer based in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, wrote a letter to a customer explaining their animal husbandry and egg production practices while also attempting to discredit The Cornucopia Institute’s Egg research and Scorecard project. Here we share with you what The Country Hen said and what The Cornucopia Institute believes to be the facts. Points of clarification will be in italic.

“In their [Cornucopia Institute] pursuit to promote small family farming, they target the commercially sized operations that are able to provide the quantities of organic foods necessary to meet consumer demand and remain reasonably priced in the retail market.”

The facts:
  • The Cornucopia Institute looks at the enforcement of federal organic standards as “scale neutral.” We fight for economic justice for family farmers. Some family farmers operate large operations while others operate very small operations along with everything in between. If operated in compliance with the spirit and letter of the law, are all valid and important to the organic community.
  • Small- and mid-scale egg producers can certainly be considered “commercially sized” operations if they earn a profit. It is not true that only large and very large egg operations are commercially viable. The Cornucopia Institute does not “target” commercial operations; rather, we hope that all farms can be profitable and operated in accordance to the law. Large corporations try to portray family-scale farms as having 20-100 chickens scratching around in the barnyard. And although some are on that small scale (producing wonderful eggs for their local community), we would not consider those commercial operations in the wholesale marketplace.
  • Hundreds of smaller-scale farms can provide the same number of eggs as a handful of very large ”factory farms.” For illustration, 300 farms with 3,000 hens each (the maximum legal size in Europe for organic production) could produce over 18 million dozen eggs or the same could be said for one very large CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) that raises 900,000 hens in confinement. If the organic regulations were enforced, particularly the requirement for outdoor access for laying hens, then many of these very large operations would not be able to legally operate as certified organic.

“George Bass [company owner]…determined that the hens needed to have 1.5 square feet of floor space, per bird, in order to provide optimal comfort and room for stretching wings.”

The facts:
  • While 1.5 square feet of space per bird is slightly better than the industry standard of 1.2 square feet for floor birds, Animal Welfare Approved and European Union organic standards both require 1.8 square feet per hen.

  • Since The Country Hen does not provide outdoor access for their hens, birds don’t really get to exhibit their natural behaviors, such as foraging and stretching their wings outside, as they would like to do. So 1.5 square feet gets a little cramped when there is no outdoor access.
“The only significant differences between the ideal stated by the “Scrambled Eggs” report by Cornucopia and what The Country Hen offers are: # of hens in operation, and outdoor access. With regard to the size of the operation, we believe that it is not the size of the operation that matters—it is the way the hens are treated and the ability to produce quality, safe, organic product, in a manner that meets the new FDA Salmonella testing requirements.”

The facts:
  • The Scrambled Eggs report makes no distinction based on number of hens in an operation, but rather the number of hens kept in a single flock or barn. Animal welfare experts from around the world have determined that large flock sizes are detrimental to laying hen health and their egg laying productivity. Animal Welfare Approved recommends flocks no larger than 500 birds, and European Union organic rules stipulate flock sizes no larger than 3,000. The Country Hen could choose to put dividers in their barns or build more barns so that flock sizes could be reduced and hen health improved, but they choose not to, despite the best science. Currently their hen houses hold tens of thousands of birds each.
  • The FDA’s new Salmonella guidance was implemented many years after The Country Hen decided to deny outdoor access to their laying hens, so they are using this as an excuse. Furthermore, the new Salmonella guidance does not prohibit outdoor access. It merely states that wild birds and rodents must be managed so as to not come into contact with the laying hens. This is achievable with good outdoor management.
“Cornucopia’s report not only implies, but actually comes right out and states that the small farm with hens out on the pasture with other animals are the way to go.”

The facts:
  • The National Organic Program (NOP) regulations CFR 205.239  stipulate “Year-round access for ALL animals to the OUTDOORS, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and DIRECT sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment.” It goes on to say that “Continuous total confinement of any animal indoors is prohibited.” Therefore, yes, The Cornucopia Institute would like to see all organic egg producers provide genuine outdoor access and direct sunlight as required by the organic regulations.
  • The National Organic Program requires certain methods of agricultural production. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The practice of rotating laying hens on pasture with other livestock is an example of integrating cultural and biological practices while cycling nutrients, promoting ecological balance, and encouraging biodiversity. Keeping tens of thousands of hens locked up in a cramped barn is the exact opposite of the true organic philosophical approach and legal mandates.
“The other discrepancy between Cornucopia’s “ideal” and The Country Hen is our position on outdoor access. We firmly believe that the only safe outdoor access for our hens is via protected porches.”

The facts:
  • Again, the USDA’s National Organic Program requires outdoor access and direct sunlight for all animals. Continuous confinement is prohibited. A roofed, floored, screen walled space is not the  “outdoors,” but rather an extension of the building. They are akin to sunporches that you may have attached to your house for summer sleeping. But they are not the outdoors. This practice is in violation of the National Organic Program regulations.
“We stand behind porches for several reasons. First, out on the range, the hens are at risk of developing Avian Influenza and other diseases that can be passed to them via wild birds and migrating waterfowl. Second, the hens would be exposed to predators, such as coyotes, foxes, and raccoons that could invade and devastate a flock of hens. Third, if not ranged properly, the ground they occupy will be stripped to bare soil, which increases the risk of them being exposed to worms and parasites.”

The facts:
  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in domesticated poultry has only been recorded once in the United States since 1997 (not an organic farm with outdoor access). Only a handful of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) outbreaks have been recorded in the U.S., most of them on turkey farms or broiler breeding operations, not laying hen operations. Therefore, the risks of U.S. laying hens contracting pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza are very rare. Using this as an excuse to confine hens is like telling people not to go hiking because of the risk of getting struck by lightning.If the USDA determined that an outbreak of HPAI was occurring, the organic standards do permit for the “temporary” confinement of livestock to accommodate such situations.
  • All organic egg farmers that we surveyed had low predation rates, even those that pasture their birds. They all use a variety of management practices to prevent predation, including electrified fencing, guard animals, noise cannons, red night lights, and other practices (and generally, temporarily, confining their birds in a henhouse at night). The risk of predation should not be used as an excuse to justify continual confinement.
  • Since the National Organic Program rules require soil conservation, recycling of nutrients, and properly managing manure, it would not make sense for organic poultry producers to allow their chickens to destroy their pastures since that would be in conflict with the organic regulations. Good management practices such as appropriate animal stocking densities, rotational grazing, reseeding, and irrigation can maintain the outdoor areas in good condition. They also reduce the incidence of parasite build-up. Confined birds with higher stocking densities, such as those at The Country Hen, suffer from higher rates of coccidiosis, a parasite that causes internal bleeding, and they also suffer from higher rates of Salmonella due to stress. Close quarters also promote aggressive behavior, seriously injuring birds, and sometimes even cannibalism.
“We were denied [organic] certification by NOFA/Mass because they did not consider our porches acceptable outdoor access. As we explained earlier, we do feel that they are, and filed an appeal with NOP. NOP sustained the appeal, and required NOFA/Mass to certify us as organic, but NOFA/Mass refused. It became obvious that we were not going to be able to have a working relationship with them when they refused to accept the decision of the National Organic Program. As such, we decided we needed to move on to a different certifying agency.”

The facts:
  • Massachusetts Independent Certifiers Inc. (MICI) rightly did not believe that porches constituted outdoor access—because they don’t! They were upholding the National Organic Program regulations CFR 205.239 Livestock Living Conditions.
  • The then director of the National Organic Program decided to favor The Country Hen by misinterpreting the organic regulations to allow screened-in porches as “outdoor access” and dictated that MICI certify the operation over their objections. It was not an “appeals process” since he instructed them to certify The Country Hen exactly one day after MICI rejected their application for certification.
  • The former NOP director, after his retirement from the USDA, then went on to work for The Country Hen, as a consultant. Some would consider this a perfect example of the “revolving door” between government and private industry.
“We believe that firm guidelines need to be established, and once established, they need to be adhered to by producers, and enforced by certifiers.”

The facts:
  • The guidelines are clear. CFR 205.239 Livestock Living Conditions stipulate “year-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment.” It goes onto say that “continuous total confinement of any animal indoors is prohibited.” The rules are clear and, in our opinion, it appears The Country Hen is breaking them by: 1) not providing year-round outdoor access (weather permitting): their website states that their porches are only open from May 15-October 15 due to weather. Other producers in the Midwest and Northeast restrict outdoor access more temporarily on the basis of the weather, not merely the calendar. 2) They also appear to be breaking the organic rules by not offering DIRECT SUNLIGHT, which can only happen when an animal is directly under the light of the sun (i.e., outdoors). Depending on the orientation of the building, and the location, size and number of windows, many of their birds will never have exposure to sunlight. 3) Having their birds confined to the indoors from October 16-May 14 is seven months long. That is not exactly “temporary confinement.”