Thursday, February 28, 2013

GMO Seed Freedom or Freedom from GMO Seeds – Which Will It Be?

GMO Seed Freedom or Freedom from GMO Seeds – Which Will It Be?
Feb 28, 2013 | Farms Wars | Barbara H. Peterson

When is a fight for food freedom just the opposite? How about when that fight is about the right to plant second generation GMO seeds

We are not talking about conventional or organic seeds. We are talking about GMOs. Has everyone simply lost their collective mind? How self-destructive is it to rally around GMO farmers to support their right to spread transgenic seed far and wide with no restrictions?

Take the case of Bowman vs Monsanto. Bowman is a grain farmer who lives in Indiana. He is going against Monsanto in a Supreme Court case that challenges Monsanto’s right to enforce patent regulations on second generation GMO seed purchased from a grain elevator:
The highest court in the United States will hear arguments on Tuesday in the dispute, which started when soybean farmer Vernon Bowman bought and planted a mix of unmarked grain typically used for animal feed. The plants that grew turned out to contain the popular herbicide-resistant genetic trait known as Roundup Ready that Monsanto guards closely with patents.

The St. Louis, Mo.-based biotech giant accused Bowman of infringing its patents by growing plants that contained its genetics. But Bowman, who grows wheat and corn along with soybeans on about 300 acres inherited from his father, argued that he used second-generation grain and not the original seeds covered by Monsanto’s patents.

A central issue for the court is the extent that a patent holder, or the developer of a genetically modified seed, can control its use through multiple generations of seed….

Bowman is not an innocent farmer who accidentally got hold of Monsanto’s seeds. He is a GMO supporter.
All the while he continued to buy first-generation seed each year for his main crop of beans. For those purchases, he signed required “technology agreements” pledging not to save the offspring of those seeds.
I’m sorry, but I simply cannot get behind this movement to free GMO seed. End the patenting laws for seeds – YES. Fight for the right to spread next generation GMO seeds far and wide? NO!!! Double NO!!!

Isn’t the fight to free GMO seeds from second generation patent law restrictions so that farmers are free to plant them at will just shooting the food freedom movement in the foot? Seriously – think about it. Farmers who have already bought into the GMO movement are now joining the food freedom movement. Not because they want good, clean seed, but because they want to plant GMO seeds without paying Monsanto. And don’t tell me that Bowman didn’t know the seeds he got from the grain elevator were GMO. 93% of all soybeans grown in the USA are GMO. How could he NOT know? He most likely didn’t care since he already signs a yearly contract with Monsanto and grows them himself anyway.

This is a catch 22 situation. If GMO farmers are free to plant next generation GMO seeds with no restrictions, then the contamination of our world’s food supply by toxic transgenic crops will receive a major boost by the very same people who are at the forefront of the anti-GMO movement. Talk about an unintended consequence…. or is it?

Here is a quote by Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety:
“Through a patenting system that favors the rights of corporations over the rights of farmers and citizens, our food and farming system is being held hostage by a handful of companies,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups supporting Bowman. “Nothing less than the future of food is at stake.”
Correct, Andrew. The future of food is at stake. However, fighting for the right for GMO farmers to plant GMOs far and wide with no restrictions is NOT, I repeat, NOT the answer.

What is needed is an end to all patents on all seeds and a complete ban of GMOs, and that is unacceptable to the biotech industry and Corp USA. So, controlled ops, their compadres, and well-intentioned followers work for the dissemination of GMOs by “empowering” farmers to be able to save GMO seed and plant them intentionally with no repercussions.

The Hegelian Dialectic in Action

This is how it works:
Problem: Food freedom is compromised because farmers cannot plant second generation GMO seeds without paying Monsanto.

Reaction: Free the seed!

Solution: Free up GMO farmers to plant second generation GMOs and spread transgenic crops worldwide with no restrictions.
Fighting for farmers’ rights to save and plant seed is a good thing. Fighting for the right to spread GMO contamination worldwide is not. A two-edged sword.

The following is a hypothetical scenario if the Bowman vs Monsanto case frees GMO seed from a portion of its patent restrictions, but fails to address the root cause – the entire seed patenting system.

Take away the money-making tool (patenting) and you take away the profits on that patented technology and any incentive to continue it:
Problem: Farmers can now collect and plant GMO seed at will with no patent restrictions on second generation seed.

Reaction: Monsanto loses profits to second, third, fourth, etc. generation seeds, but retains first generation seed patents.

Solution:  Monsanto simply rolls out the Terminators when the contamination level is at its tipping point, and complete control of the food supply is assured.
“Terminator” or “GURT” technology has been kept on the shelf due to public outcry. This technology renders the seeds from transgenic crops sterile. No viable seed, no problem of GMO farmers planting them. I believe that Monsanto is simply biding its time, waiting for the right time to implement this technology. Could a victory for GMO farmers in the Bowman vs Monsanto case be just such a time?

First you spread the contamination until nothing is left out, then you put a clamp on anyone being able to use saved seeds via Terminator technology. Game, set, match. If everything is GMO terminator, then who ya gonna call? Why Monsanto, of course, since they will have the only seeds that will grow anything.

Let me make this perfectly clear…

GMOs have no place on the planet. They are here, yes. But the solution is NOT to roll over, play dead, accept the coexistence lie, then rise up fighting for the right to use them. The solution is to institute a complete ban on the technology, get rid of all seed patenting laws, and get back to nature. Until we realize that, then we will still be on the road to “coexistence,” which only leads to the complete takeover of anything not GMO.

And the irony of it all? Those of us who know the hazards of GMOs get to watch while farmers actually participate in their own destruction and the destruction of our food supply by fighting for the right to plant GMO seed right alongside the same organizations who are supposedly fighting hard against the spread of GMOS. This is the very essence of controlled opposition. Brilliant. But evil.

©2013 Barbara H. Peterson

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

5 Fracking Consequences You’ve Never Heard About

© Natural Society
5 Fracking Consequences You’ve Never Heard About
Feb 27, 2013 | Natural Society | Lisa Garber

We know fracking isn’t exactly the safest of practices. We’ve heard of its propensity to pollute our air and drinking water and thereby raise human health concerns. The media, however, isn’t talking about the massive sinkholes pockmarking the nation, the radiation leaks, and other lesser known but no less earth-shattering effects of fracking.

Here are 5 other consequences of fracking you may not have heard of until now.

1. Methane-Spewing Geysers 

Fracking is the act of pumping water and chemicals underground in order to facilitate the flow of oil or gas.

It’s not terribly hard for a giant corporation like Shell or Chesapeake Energy Corporation to start fracking wherever the company pleases (check out the next factoid for more on that). Regulators don’t even require drilling companies to search the area for abandoned wells. This is why unplugged, forgotten wells—like Butters well in Pennsylvania’s Tioga County, drilled in 1932 —literally burst with gas when drilling displaces underground pockets of methane. As it turns out, Shell knew about Butters well—just not if it was plugged.

Abandoned wells aren’t the only ways disrupted gas escapes. Cracks in the ground can also emit this highly flammable gas.

2. Your Land is my Land 

One Chesapeake employee was recorded saying, “If properties don’t want to sign, if we have 90 percent secured of the well that we need, we have the power to put these people in the lease without their permission.  …  We can do whatever we want.”

Chesapeake and other drilling corporations are eager to spend billions to snag drilling rights. They do the math and it’s no wonder states follow suit.
Reuters reports:
“In its petition, Chesapeake told regulators its proposed drilling unit could produce 4.5 million barrels of oil and 3.5 billion cubic feet and natural gas—if the plots of the 49 land owners who didn’t lease their property to Chesapeake were included. If not, Chesapeake said, the unit would be 75 percent less productive and would miss out on an additional $71 million in revenue, according to its application. That math carried the day.”
3. Milk Production Dips 

If water is contaminated, so too will be crops…and livestock. Despite the compensation given to farmers for leasing their land to fracking companies, dairy farmers may be doing themselves a considerable disfavor. According to university researchers, milk production decreased by 19 percent in Pennsylvania’s counties with 150 or more Marcellus Shale wells compared to a 1.2 percent decrease in counties with no wells.

Related Read: 8 Dangerous Chemicals Used in Fracking

4. Contaminated Wine 

Fracking-derived groundwater pollution doesn’t just mean contaminated drinking water (although that’s a concern enough that the EPA has finally admitted it). Dirty water means dirty crops, and even dirty wine.
Simon Salinas, a member of Monterey County’s Board of Supervisors, says in response to Venoco’s prospective drilling in the vineyard-rich county, “Anything that can taint our water and food supply could be devastating to our economy.” It doesn’t help that Monterey already competes with Napa and Sonoma wine, and proximity to fracking activity would do nothing for the region’s marketability.

One winery in Brooklyn, NY, even hosted an anti-fracking benefit. “Many of our wine bar’s seasonal menu items include ingredients grown on upstate farms,” the winery’s web site read.

5. Contaminated Food, Stillborn Calves and Poisoned Animals 

Not even the all-American burger (grassfed or not) is sacred from the dangers of fracking. Fracking fluid consumption killed 16 cows in Louisiana, and hundreds of others raised near fracking sites are being reported affected. When 28 beef cattle in Pennsylvania were exposed to fracking fluid recently, 8 of 11 calves birthed thereafter were stillborn.

Many doctors are protesting fracking, and direct contamination via the air and water mustn’t be the only considered contributors to fracking-related cancers. We are what we eat, after all, and fracking as of yet seems to be little more than just another inventive way to slowly poison the earth and ourselves. The greater problem lying in energy consumption, however, will make resolution difficult.
Where do you stand?

Additional Sources:

Food and Water Watch

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nuclear Waste & Sacrifice Zones

Nuclear Waste & Sacrifice Zones
Feb 26, 2013 | breakingtheset

Abby Martin takes a look at the ongoing nuclear crisis at the Hanford Nuclear site in Washington State, as yet another example of a 'Sacrifice Zone' where the most vulnerable among us are most at risk.

Caught! Waterspout Comes Onshore in Tampa

A waterspout hit Tampa this morning at 11:12
a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

CREDIT: Robert Siegel/National Weather Service
Caught! Waterspout Comes Onshore in Tampa
Feb 26, 2013 | Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet

As a waterspout sped toward Tampa, Fla., this morning (Feb. 26), a quick-thinking weather watcher snapped the vacation photo of a lifetime.

Robert Siegel, a spotter for the National Weather Service's volunteer program, was on vacation in Florida when the waterspout appeared in northern Hillsborough Bay at 11:12 a.m. Siegel, who lives in Colorado, shot photos and emailed them to the National Weather Service, which shared the waterspout image via Twitter.

The photos show dark, stormy skies and water swirling above the bay. The waterspout came ashore as a tornado with 60 mph (96 kph) winds, according to a statement from the National Weather Service's Tampa Bay office.

The Tampa waterspout transformed into a tornado
when it hit land, damaging roofs and five vehicles.

CREDIT: Robert Siegel/National Weather Service
The tornado then hit the Westin Hotel and proceeded down a channel between the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Harbour Island, the NWS said. The twister lifted just east of the Florida Aquarium, traveling about 4,500 feet (1,360 meters) in all. Wind gusts associated with the tornado reached 75 to 85 mph (120 to 136 kph).

No injuries were reported, but damage included roofing, condo furniture, downed light poles and five vehicles, the NWS said.

The entire Tampa Bay region was under a tornado watch for the morning as a cold front moved in from the north. The watch was canceled around 1 p.m. EST.

Reach Becky Oskin at Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Polluted America

© Mother Jones Magazine
Polluted America
Feb 25, 2013 | Signs of the Times | Paul Craig Roberts

In the United States everything is polluted.

Democracy is polluted with special interests and corrupt politicians.

Accountability is polluted with executive branch exemptions from law and the Constitution and with special legal privileges for corporations, such as the Supreme Court given right to corporations to purchase American elections.

The Constitution is polluted with corrupt legal interpretations from the Bush and Obama regimes that have turned constitutional prohibitions into executive branch rights, transforming law from a shield of the people into a weapon in the hands of government.

Waters are polluted with toxic waste spills, oil spills, chemical fertilizer run-off with resulting red tides and dead zones, acid discharges from mining with resulting destructive algae such as prymnesium parvum, from toxic chemicals used in fracking and with methane that fracking releases into wells and aquifers, resulting in warnings to homeowners near to fracking operations to open their windows when showering.

The soil's fertility is damaged, and crops require large quantities of chemical fertilizers. The soil is polluted with an endless array of toxic substances and now with glyphosate, the main element in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide with which GMO crops are sprayed. Glyphosate now shows up in wells, streams and in rain.

Air is polluted with a variety of substances, and there are many large cities in which there are days when the young, the elderly, and those suffering with asthma are warned to remain indoors.

All of these costs are costs imposed on society and ordinary people by corporations that banked profits by not having to take the costs into account. This is the way in which unregulated capitalism works.

Our food itself is polluted with antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, and glyphosate.

Glyphosate might be the most dangerous development to date. Some scientists believe that glyphosate has the potential to wipe out our main grain crops and now that Obama's Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, has approved genetically modified Roundup Ready alfalfa, maintaining sustainable animal herds for milk and meat could become impossible.

Alfalfa is the main forage crop for dairy and beef herds. Genetically modified alfalfa could be unsafe for animal feed, and animal products such as milk and meat could become unsafe for human consumption.

On January 17, 2011, Dr. Don Huber outlined the dangers of approving Roundup Ready alfalfa in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. Huber requested that approval be delayed until independent research could evaluate the risks. Vilsack ignored Huber's letter and ten days later deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa on January 27, thus accommodating Monsanto's desire for monopoly profits that come from the company's drive to control the seed supply of US and world agriculture by approving Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Who is Don Huber, and why is his letter important?

Huber is professor emeritus at Purdue University. He has been a plant pathologist and soil microbiologist for a half century. He has an international reputation as a leading authority. In the US military, he evaluated natural and manmade biological threats, such as germ warfare and disease outbreaks and retired with the rank of Colonel. For the USDA he coordinates the Emergent Diseases and Pathogens Committee. In other words, he is high up in his scientific profession.

You can read online what Huber told the Secretary of Agriculture. Briefly, the outcome of many years of Roundup Ready GMO corn and soybeans has been a decline in nutritional value, the outbreak of new plant diseases resulting in widespread crop failures, and severe reproductive problems in livestock, with some herds having a spontaneous abortion rate that is too high to maintain a profitable business.

Glyphosate is a powerful biocide. It harms beneficial soil organisms, altering the natural balance in the soil and reducing the disease resistance of crops, thus unleashing diseases that devastate corn, soybean, and wheat crops, and giving rise to a new pathogen associated with premature animal aging and infertility. These developments, Huber told the Agriculture Secretary, "are threatening the economic viability of both crop and animal producers." The evidence seems to be real that genetically modified crops have lost their genetic resistance to diseases that never previously were threats.

There is evidence that the new pathogen is related to a rise in human infertility and is likely having adverse effects on human health of which we are still uninformed. Like fluoride, glyphosate might enter our diet in a variety of ways. For example, the label on a bottle of Vitamin D says, "Other ingredients: soybean oil, corn oil."

Monsanto disputes Huber's claims and got support for its position from the agricultural extension services of Iowa State and Ohio State universities. However, the question is whether these are independently funded services or corporate supported, and there is always the element of professional rivalry, especially for funding, which comes mainly from agribusiness.

The Purdue University extension service was more circumspect. On the one hand it admits that there is evidence that supports Huber's claims:
"The claim that herbicides, such as glyphosate, can make plants more susceptible to disease is not entirely without merit. Research has indicated that plants sprayed with glyphosate or other herbicides are more susceptible to many biological and physiological disorders (Babiker et al., 2011; Descalzo et al., 1996; Johal and Rahe, 1984; Larson et al., 2006; Means and Kremer, 2007; Sanogo et al., 2000; Smiley et al., 1992). . . . Although some research indicates there is an increase in disease severity on plants in the presence of glyphosate, it does NOT necessarily mean that there is an impact on yield."
On the other hand, the Purdue extension service maintains its recommendation for "judicious glyphosate use for weed control." However, one of Huber's points is that weeds are developing Roundup resistance. Use has gone beyond the "judicious" level and as glyphosate builds up in soil, its adverse effects increase.

A submission to the Environmental Protection Agency by 26 university entomologists describes the constraints that agribusiness has put on the ability of independent scientists to conduct objective research. The submission, in which the scientists are afraid to reveal their names because of the threat of funding cutoffs, is included as an item in one of the bibliographical references below. Here is the statement:
"The names of the scientists have been withheld from the public docket because virtually all of us require cooperation from industry at some level to conduct our research. Statement: Technology/stewardship agreements required for the purchase of genetically modified seed explicitly prohibit research. These agreements inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good unless the research is approved by industry.

As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology. Consequently, data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from the public sector is unduly limited."
Monsanto is not only sufficiently powerful to prevent any research other than that which it purchases with its funding, but also Monsanto succeeded last year in blocking with money and propaganda the GMO labeling law in California. I would tell you to be careful what you eat as it can make you ill and infertile, but you can't even find out what you are eating.

You live in America, which has "freedom and democracy" and "accountable" government and "accountable" corporations. You don't need to worry. The government and responsible corporations are taking good care of you. Especially Obama, Vilsack, and Monsanto.

Short bibliography

Hot Topic: Letter to US Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack from Dr. Don Huber on the deregulation of Roundup Ready Alfalfa

Dr. Don Huber's cover letter to the EU and UK commissions

Dr. Huber Explains Science Behind New Organism and Threat from Monsanto's Roundup, GMOs to Disease and Infertility

Dr. Don Huber Letter Sounds Alarm to USDA on Herbicide Roundup

Dr. Huber's Letter to Secretary Vilsack

Glyphosate and GMOs impact on crops, soils, animals and man - Dr Don Huber

Scientist warns of dire consequences with widespread use of glyphosate

Statement About Alleged Plant Pathogen Potentially Associated with Roundup Ready Crops

Time for USDA to Wake up to Weed Resistance and Ban Agent Orange Corn Once and For All

Resistant pigweed plagues central Georgia cotton

About the author

This article first appeared at Paul Craig Roberts' new website Institute For Political Economy. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His Internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview | FULL MOVIE

Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview | FULL MOVIE
Dec 31, 2012 | CrossroadsTheFilm

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*Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview* is a documentary exploring the depths of the current human condition and the emergence of a worldview that is recreating our world from the inside out.

Weaving together insights and findings from biology, psychology, network science, systems science, business, culture and media, the film reveals the inner workings of the human experience in the 21st century, urging viewers to step out of the box and challenge their own assumptions about who we really are, and why we do what we do.

*Crossroads* places evolutionary context to today's escalating social unrest, natural disasters, and economic failures. It illuminates the footsteps of an integrated worldview, penetrating its way through the power of social networks to the forefront of our personal and collective awareness.

A refreshing reality check for all viewers and a clarion call for those who carry the seeds of the emerging worldview.

Scientists and thinkers featured in *Crossroads* include: Amit Goswami, Neale Donald Walsch, Elisabet Sahtouris, Bruce Lipton, Peter Joseph, Caroline A. Miller, Nicholas Christakis, James Fowler, Michael Laitman, Ervin Laszlo, Dean Radin, Dave Sherman, Annie Leonard, Jairon G. Cuesta, and John St. Augustine.

Joseph Ohayon, a filmmaker, writer and speaker based in Israel and New York, is best known for his relentless quest to put pieces together and look at the big picture. Joseph directs, writes, and hosts documentaries and talk shows on Israeli and US television, and also lectures on the need to adapt to an increasingly interdependent world.

Crossroads Official Site:

(in order of appearance)

Who Are You?
Kony 2012
Albert Einstein Problems Quote
World Economic Forum Global Risks Report 2012
Greece Riots 2011
Chile Protests 2011
Spain Protests 2011
Israel Protests 2011
India Protests 2011
Occupy Wall St.
Egoistic Competition
Separation Cosmology
Separation Sociology
Black Wolf vs. White Wolf
The Asch Experiment
Bruce Lipton Stem Cell Experiment
Genetic Determinism Vs. Environmental Influence
Social Contagion
Framingham Heart Study
Philip Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment
Matter Vs. Meaning
Darwin Theory of Evolution
Isaac Newton
Newtonian Physics
Quantum Physics
Johannes Vermeer Christ and the Disciples at Emmaus
Van Meegeren Forgery
John Cage 4'33"
Value of Gold
Social Influence
Story of Stuff
Mr. Rogers TV/Viewer Space Is Sacred Quote
Work Watch Spend Treadmill
Obama vs. Romney
Bill Clinton
Barack Obama
It's the Economy Stupid
What Is the Meaning of Life?
Group vs. Individuals
Caterpillar, Butterfly
Crisis as Transition
Imaginal Cells
Conscious Evolution
Mutual Respect
Health Care Crisis
Politics Crisis
Education Crisis
Negative Emotions
Positive Emotions
Human Superorganism
Social Networks
Why Are We Here?
Critical Mass

The Electric Sun -Feb. 23, 2013 (Fibonacci's Fractals)

The Electric Sun -Feb. 23, 2013 (Fibonacci's Fractals)
Feb 23, 2013 | Star0bserver

solar power survival kits

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Video: Authority & Expectations - This close up of PTSD is something every American should see

Video: Authority & Expectations - This close up of PTSD is something every American should see
Feb 22, 2013 | Information Clearing House

Smart and provocative young veteran, Wray Harris, unlocks the sufferings served by the Iraq war

 ". . . deeply moving. This close up of PTSD is something every American should see. Mr. Harris impresses me as an intelligent and thoughtful person going through hell yet willing to help others understand the evils of war."
- Veterans for Peace Chapter 1011

Truth is, the military is full of Harrises, eager patriots irrevocably transformed by meaningless combat. In an overnight conversation between two who met at a demonstration (at which Harris was speaking) Authority and Expectations walks the wiretapped road to Wray's apostasy. Fourteen months he fought in Iraq, invading, interrogating, deteriorating. At twenty-four he doesn't reflect, he flashes. From step-dad beating his mom to death-metal concerts to a drunken call to the army recruiter at 3 a.m. Now beer in hand, pipe in pocket, cigarette in mouth he staggers through remnants and craters with the clairvoyance that only comes to a man of war. With hyper-intensity Harris pulls the distant into view, depicting our inflictions with verses of depth and curses of intellect. Make no mistake: one man's doing is another man's undoing: an overdose, a diagnosis, a discharge. . . . "Dead politicians," he utters, "not dead soldiers." Footage of the 20 year old in tears on base; of gunfights and body scoops; of a Humvee on assault; of a mosque under attack, the depth of his depictions bombing our senses till our inner pipes, like those of Baghdad, are ruptured, the sewage oozing from opened ears.

". . . superlative. . . No bullshit. Nothing else like it out there. Limitless respect to Wray Harris and the producer for a magnificent accomplishment."
- Traveling Soldier

". . . the most raw, intense, honest, brave, unsettling piece of creative work - and offering on Wray's part - that I have, honestly, ever seen."
- Ground Zero Center for Non-violent Action

"Veterans that see the light through the darkness have much to offer."
- Libya Truth Movement

"Wray is a powerful speaker. . . making some incredibly good points. . . damn nice work." - Rogue Valley Peace Veterans

America’s most contaminated: Radioactive waste leaks into northwestern river

Hanford Nuclear Reservation
(Jeff T. Green / Getty Images / AFP)
America’s most contaminated: Radioactive waste leaks into northwestern river
Feb 23, 2013 |

Radioactive waste is leaking from six underground tanks at America’s most-contaminated facility in Washington, the state’s government announced on Friday. Just how much toxic stew got into the Columbia River’s underground basin is unclear.

The leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation has so far not posed an immediate health risk to the public, Governor Jay Inslee said, because it will take a long time, years perhaps, for the waste to reach the groundwater. But the leakages have not been stopped yet.

The US Department of Energy spokeswoman Lindsey Geisler promised federal officials will to collaborate with Washington State to deal with the emergency.

US Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, who chairs the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said that “This should represent an unacceptable threat to the Pacific Northwest for everybody. There are problems that have to be solved, and the Department of Energy cannot say what changes are needed, when they will be completed, or what they will cost.”

The troubled Hanford nuclear facility is situated very close to the border of Wyden’s native Oregon State.

his March 21, 2011 file photo shows an aerial view
of the Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power
plant inside the Hanford nuclear site beside the
Columbia River in Hanford, Washington state.

(AFP Photo/Mark Ralston)
The US Department of Energy had earlier said that toxic radioactive liquid level was decreasing in one of the 177 tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The leakage was estimated in between 150 to 300 gallons (560-1,100 liters) a year, posing a real threat to groundwater and rivers in the region, state officials acknowledged.

Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels, AP reported.

After the news about the leakage made into the headlines Governor Inslee visited Washington, DC, for consultations with federal officials, where he learnt that actually six tanks were leaking.

He called the development of things as “disturbing” and promised to “vigorously pursue” a course of new actions “in the next several weeks.”
Vladimir Kremlev for RT

America’s most contaminated facility

Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation facility was constructed very quickly on the bank of Columbia River holds millions of liters of a highly-radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons. All of the radioactive waste storage tanks at Hanford Nuclear Reservation are long past their intended 20-year lifespan.

Those tanks have a long story of unreliability. The documentary ‘Waste: The Nuclear Nightmare’ by filmmaker Eric Guéret and producer Laure Noualhat, filmed in 2009, maintained that the first leakages were registered in 1960s and by now up to 67 out of 177 tanks with radioactive waste have failed. An estimated nearly-4,000 tons of liquid radioactive waste have contaminated the environment over the decades as a result.The water from the Columbia River has always been used in technological cycle at the Hanford nuclear facility. The systems’ pumps used river water to cool down reactors and then returned it to the river.In 2002 test of Columbia River fish exposed presence of radioactive Strontium 90 in samples.

55-gallon drums containing transuranic (TRU) waste
are prepared for shipment at the Waste Receiving
and Processing facility (WARP) on the Hanford
Nuclear Reservation, 30 June, 2005 near Richland,
(Jeff T. Green/Getty Images/AFP)
In spite of the leakage problem reported as being fixed in 2005, the latest developments exposed that “only a narrow band of measurements' was evaluated, acknowledged Inslee. This means that falls in the levels of radioactive waste in the tanks is an established fact, but nobody knows exactly how much the levels have been changing over time.

“It's like if you're trying to determine if climate change is happening, only looking at the data for today,” he said, calling it a “human error”. In any case, the most important thing at the moment is “to find and address the leakers,” the governor pointed out.

The overall quantity of radioactive waste in the tanks is estimated at 200,000 tons, enough to fill dozens of Olympic swimming pools. The quantity of solid radioactive waste piled there is close to 710,000 cubic meters.

AFP Photo/Mark Ralston
A work for future generations

Governor Jay Inslee insists the Hanford Nuclear Reservation must be cleaned of radioactive waste, which would take decades and cost billions of dollars.

Washington is already allocating for Hanford site $2 billion annually, actually a third of the national nuclear clean-up budget. But as the latest emergency expose this money is definitely not enough to ensure radioactive contamination security.A new report entitled ‘2013 Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost’ by the US Department of Energy estimates the remaining environmental cleanup at Hanford at $114.8 billion, a step up from 2012’s $112 billion forecast. The DOA promises to increase the annual clean-up budget at Hanford to over $3 billion.At such a pace the operation will possibly continue till 2070 with post-clean management needed till 2090. And costs usually tend to increase with lengthy projects.

Uncapped fuel stored underwater in K-East Basin.
This is spent nuclear fuel at the Hanford site.

(Image from
America’s nuclear ordnance workshop

The site, near the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, used to be home to the B Reactor, the world's first full-scale weapon-grade plutonium production reactor.

Plutonium produced at the facility was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, as well as in the Fat Man, the 21-kt bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.Several reactors commissioned at the Hanford facility produced most of plutonium (57 tons) for the American nuclear arsenal (60,000 warheads and bombs at the peak).

Production continued for over 40 years and was stopped in 1987.The site was constructed in what was considered a poorly-populated mountain area, but today there is a Tri-City metropolitan area (towns Richland, Kennewick and Pasco) just miles downriver from the facility. The population of the metropolitan area exceeded 250,000 as of the 2010 census. There are also at least six Native American reservations situated close to the site.The new project of the US Energy Department implies constructing a plant that will transfer all of the radioactive liquid at the Hanford facility into glasslike logs for secure storage. But the estimated $12.3 billion cost of the factory has surpassed the budget by billions of dollars already and lags behind schedule. The new program is expected to be operable no earlier than in 2019.Meanwhile the authorities have to utilize a limited budget to build additional tanks to prevent an environmental disaster until the new technology is in place.

A sign is seen as you enter the world's largest
environmental cleanup project at the Hanford
Nuclear Reservation 30 June, 2005 near Richland, Washington.

( Jeff T. Green/Getty Images/AFP)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Russian Meteor—Another Shock to the System | Space News

Russian Meteor—Another Shock to the System | Space News
Feb 21, 2013 | ThunderboltsProject

The recent explosion of a large meteor over Russia caused hundreds of injuries and considerable damage to local buildings—the most destructive such event in more than 100 years. The explosion has also raised new questions pointing directly to the behavior of large meteors in the Electric Universe.

Here is a simple experiment by a member of the Thunderbolts group, relating to the APPEARANCE of material ejected in the forward direction at 6:22 in this presentation:

The experiment demonstrates some interesting optical effects of scratches on a transparent surface such as a windshield. A good reason to avoid shouting more exotic speculations as fact, something that has already occurred in Internet comments on the video segment. All fact-based interpretations of the clip, however, will be welcome.

For a relevant Thunderbolts Picture of the Day, see The Peekskill Meteor:

US to bomb Guam with dead mice

Reuters / Phil Noble
US to bomb Guam with dead mice
Feb 22, 2013 |

In a desperate attempt to kill off two million brown tree snakes that are plaguing the territory of Guam, the US is bombing the island with poisoned dead mice, hoping that the snakes will eat them.

“We are taking this to a new phase. There really is no other place in the world with a snake problem like Guam,” Daniel Vice, assistant state director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in Guam, told the Associated Press.

The pile of dead mice, laced with painkillers that are deadly for snakes, will rain down onto Guam’s jungle canopy as scientists drop them from helicopters in a last-ditch attempt to eradicate the invasive species.
Even though the venom of brown tree snakes is nonlethal for humans, the snake infestation has damaged infrastructure and wiped out other species in Guam. Slithering into homes, the snakes often bite people and damage power lines and wires, resulting in large-scale blackouts. The tree snakes can grow to more than 10 feet in length, although most of them are usually just a few feet long.

Nearly all of Guam’s native birds have become wiped out in the years since the tree snake first came to the island aboard a US military ship more than 60 years ago. With much of Guam’s wildlife having become endangered or extinct, tourism has dwindled, thereby inflicting an economic toll on the US territory.

Located 3,000 miles away, officials in the state of Hawaii have long feared that the snakes could make their way over to the tropical island and destroy its local habitat, as well.

Vice predicts that if the US and Guam make no attempts to contain the snakes, "the possibility of the snakes getting to Hawaii is inevitable."

The National Wildlife Research Center estimates that a Hawaiian brown tree snake infestation would inflict $593 million to $2.14 billion in economic damages each year, including widespread power outages and a significant decrease in tourism. In an attempt to control the Guam-based infestation and prevent it from spreading, the US government will bombard the island with the dead mice starting this spring. The painkillers that the mice will be laced with include acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in medicines such as Tylenol.

Brown tree snakes are one of very few snake species that eat the corpses of dead animals that they didn’t kill themselves. Being highly vulnerable to acetaminophen, snakes that consume the dead mice will most likely expire.

Scientists will drop the dead mice individually from a helicopter. The bait will be attached to a flotation device with streamers that would ensure that the poisoned mice get caught in the branches of a tree, where the snakes live and feed.

Birds are also vulnerable to acetaminophen, but scientists claim that most of the birds have already been wiped out by the snakes anyway.

AP reports that the US government plans to begin dropping the poisoned mice in April or May.

Oil sands mining uses up almost as much energy as it produces

© David Dodge, Pembina Institute
Suncor Millenium oil sands mine
on the east side of the Athabasca River
in Alberta, Canada.
Oil sands mining uses up almost as much energy as it produces
Feb 19, 2013 | Rachel Nuwer | Inside Climate News

Thanks to high global oil prices, industry can afford the large amount of energy needed to extract the oil and turn it into a usable fuel.

The average "energy returned on investment," or EROI, for conventional oil is roughly 25:1. In other words, 25 units of oil-based energy are obtained for every one unit of other energy that is invested to extract it.

But tar sands oil is in a category all its own.

Tar sands retrieved by surface mining has an EROI of only about 5:1, according to research released Tuesday. Tar sands retrieved from deeper beneath the earth, through steam injection, fares even worse, with a maximum average ratio of just 2.9 to 1. That means one unit of natural gas is needed to create less than three units of oil-based energy.

"They have to use a lot of natural gas to upgrade this heavy, sticky, gooky almost tar-like stuff to make it fluid enough to use," said Charles Hall, a professor at the State University of New York's College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Hydrogen from gas heats the tar sands so the viscous form of petroleum it contains, known as bitumen, can be liquefied and pumped out of the ground. In this way, Hall said, gas helps turn tar sands "into something a bit closer to what we call oil."

With most of the world's highest quality resources already exhausted, companies are turning to formerly undesirable alternatives such as tar sands oil, which come with higher energetic price tags yet lower returns.

"We built our nation, economy and civilization on cheap energy - that's where this incredible growth of the U.S. economy has come from," said Hall, who coined the term EROI in 1979. "But that characteristic high energy return on investment fuel from much of the last century is no longer here."

The latest EROI values for tar sands were calculated by David Hughes, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, a non-profit devoted to issues such as climate change and energy scarcity, based in Santa Rosa, Calif. The institute released Hughes' findings on Tuesday.

Hughes' figures include the energy it takes to mine bitumen as well as to upgrade it to synthetic oil that can be put into a refinery. It also includes the liquefied natural gas used to turn it into dilbit (diluted bitumen) so it can flow through pipelines.

Hall, who wasn't involved in Hughes' study, thinks the EROI for oil sands would fall closer to 1:1 if the tar sands' full life cycle - including transportation, refinement into higher quality products, end use efficiency and environmental costs - was taken into account.

Travis Davies, manager of media and issues at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, disputes Hughes' calculations. He said oil sands create 6 to 10 energy units for each energy unit used, but he did not cite a source for those figures.

Both Hughes and Hall think the new data should be factored into the debate over Canada's tar sands reserves, which cover an area about the size of Florida. Environmentalists argue that the oil sands should be left in the ground, because they produce much more carbon than other fossil fuels. The industry, supported by the Canadian government, says the oil sands are crucial to Canada's economy and can provide the United States with a reliable source of fuel from a friendly neighbor.

What isn't often mentioned, Hughes said, is the energy required to extract the oil, or the rate at which it can feasibly be recovered.

"Unless we talk about all three metrics - size of the resource, net energy and rate of supply - we're not getting the full story," he said.

Canada's Oil Sands Boom

The world currently burns through an estimated 88.25 million barrels of oil per day. As the supply of sweet, light crude diminishes, it is being replaced by unconventional alternatives, including tar sands.

Most unconventional energy sources have much lower efficiencies than conventional gas and oil, which operate at a combined energy-returned-on-investment ratio of about 18:1. Shale gas, for example, performs at about 6.5:1 to 7.6:1 - a bit better than the 2.9:1 to 5.1 for tar sands oil. Corn ethanol, with an EROI of about 1.3:1, sits at the bottom of the barrel for investment pay off.

"If you accept the fact that fossil fuels are finite - and I think most people would - then using a lot more fossil fuels for recovering energy as opposed to doing actual work basically uses them up quicker with no net payback in terms of useful work," Hughes said. "It's an issue of diminishing returns."

Canada is touted as having the third largest oil reserves in the world. But its supply of conventional oil is shrinking, and oil sands extraction has been growing fast in the past decade, from about 700,000 barrels per day in 2000 to 1.7 million today.

Hughes based his calculations on the 25.6 billion barrels of Canadian tar sands oil that are currently under active development. What concerns him more is the EROI of the estimated 143 billion additional barrels of oil sands that are sitting under Alberta's boreal forests, especially since only 8 percent of that oil is accessible via surface mining.

"Those EROI numbers are going to go down as we move away from the highest quality to the lesser quality parts of the resource," Hughes said. "I'd expect that downward shift to probably start about now."

When the entire life cycle of the fuels is considered - including production, transportation and burning the final product - the greenhouse gas differential between conventional oil and tar sands oil is about 20 percent, according to a 2011 study from Stanford University.

While no rigorous studies have been conducted on the association between diminishing EROI values and increased greenhouse gas emissions, Hughes thinks "it's a pretty safe assumption to make" that they are linked.

Those emissions are only going to increase as Canada ramps up to the 5 million barrels per day already approved for extraction, said Simon Dyer, policy director for the Pembina Institute, a Canadian non-profit focused on developing sustainable energy solutions.

"The impacts today are actually irrelevant compared to the tripling of emissions that hasn't yet expressed itself on the landscape," Dyer said. "At a time when we need to be de-carbonizing our economy and making moves to lower our sources of carbon energy, clearly oil sands are a step in the wrong direction."

More Than Just Dollars

Whether mining tar sands oil makes sense financially, depends on the world market price of oil - and on whether a company has already paid off its infrastructure costs or is building a new mine.

With the current price of synthetic crude oil sometimes dipping as low as $30 per barrel, a company that has paid off its infrastructure can still make a profit. For a company that's still building, however, the market price would have to be about $100 per barrel in order to justify construction, Hughes said.

"Cost-wise, this is the most expensive oil being produced today," Dyer said. "It's a pretty clear indicator that our solution to energy needs is not chasing lower and lower quality fossil fuel resources that come with higher impacts."

If oil sands oil eventually finds an easy outlet to the Gulf Coast - perhaps through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project - the price for upgraded synthetic oil will likely rise to reflect the world market value, currently $110 per barrel.

Profitability aside, the development of Canada's oil sands reserves will never offset declines in crude oil. At the world's current rate of oil consumption - 32.2 billion barrels per year - Canada's tar sands oil reserves remain at a finite 168.6 billion barrels, enough to keep the world fueled for less than six years.

Kansas Slammed By Second Worst Storm on Record

Kansas Slammed By Second Worst Storm on Record
Feb 22, 2013 | Samantha-Rae Tuthill |

This article was provided by

Credit: NOAA.
A massive winter storm system gave Kansas some of the highest snowfall amounts it's ever seen. The Wichita Mid-Continent Airport recorded 14.2 inches of snow on Feb. 21, an amount only topped by a storm in 1962 that left them covered in 15 inches of snow. This storm also brought reports of thundersnow.

New Chapter Organics:  Whole-Food, Cultured Vitamins, Supplements & Herbs
"Wichita didn't miss the record amount by much," said Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. "This storm brought around a foot of snow to the Plains, with areas in Kansas being the hardest hit."

The storm resulted in dangerous travel conditions that left many stranded. Highways were closed across the state from the storm. A plane from Denver become stuck in the snow on the tarmac at the Wichita airport.

The Kansas City International Airport shut down all together, canceling nearly 2,000 flights.

© All rights reserved. More from

Obama's Possible Frack-Friendly Energy Plan a 'Nail in the Coffin' for Climate

MIT professor Ernest Moniz
Obama's Possible Frack-Friendly Energy Plan a 'Nail in the Coffin' for Climate
Feb 22, 2013 | Common Dreams | Jon Queally

Choice of MIT professor Ernest Moniz, known for championing gas fracking, as head of Department of Energy receives rebuke

Reports that President Obama is poised to nominate MIT professor Ernest Moniz to be the next head of the Department of Energy is raising serious concerns for those worried that the administration will betray its promise to take on the threat of the climate crisis by making a major domestic push for natural gas drilling using the controversial practice known as fracking.

 The choice of Moniz, known for his adamant support for fracking—which he's called "paradigm-shifting"—seems to confirm reporting last week that a major part of Obama's plans for energy creation in his second term will be to "initiate widespread gas fracking in the US."

“Mr. Moniz is affiliated with the industry-backed MIT Energy Initiative, so we shouldn’t be surprised about his favorable position on fracking," said Mitch Jones from Food & Water Watch. "But President Obama could do a lot better."

"Appointing Mr. Moniz," Jones continued, "would be a nail in the coffin for one of his most lauded inaugural speech promises: a commitment to focus on climate solutions.”

Obama is expected to nominate new heads for both the Dept. of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency as early as next week. Topping the expected list as the EPA's next head is Gina McCarthy, who currently heads the agency's Office of Air and Radiation under the outgoing Lisa Jackson.

McCarthy, whose focus on air quality and pollution from traditional coal and gas-fired plants will make her a target of the fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress, appears cautiously agreeable to environmental groups though most have to weigh in strongly for or against the longtime Massachusetts energy regulator.

But for Moniz, coupled with the growing controversy over the dangers of groundwater pollution and climate impacts of the methane released by fracking, the most serious opposition will likely come from those who challenge the idea the natural gas is a "clean energy" or that a investing in a so-called "bridge fuel" is a better alternative than the swift transition to a truly renewable energy system.

“Mr. Moniz's appointment to the DOE could set renewable energy development back years," concluded Jones. "If we pursue our fossil fuel addiction by expanding fracking, which Mr. Moniz will likely advocate, the oil and gas industry will thrive while true energy efficiency and renewable solutions languish. Our water, public health and climate would suffer."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?

The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?
Feb 21, 2013 | Stefan Molyneux

Freedomain Radio is the largest and most popular philosophy show on the web -

Donations gratefully accepted at

Fish Fraud Widespread in US: Report

CREDIT: Zenpix | Dreamstime
Fish Fraud Widespread in US: Report
Feb 21, 2013 | Live Science | Tia Ghose

You might want to take a second look at that red snapper you ordered — it could be another fish entirely. Seafood is frequently mislabeled in supermarkets and other retailers, according to one of the largest studies to date.

The results, released today (Feb. 21) by the ocean conservation organization Oceana, found that one-third of 1,215 seafood samples purchased across 21 U.S. states were mislabeled. And 87 percent of the time, fish labeled as red snapper was something else entirely. Nearly 60 percent of the time, fish labeled as tuna was also another fish.

Several other studies, some by the same organization, have found frequently mislabeled fish in New York, but this is the largest study to date to look at the problem.

According to the report, 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and less than 1 percent of it is inspected for mislabeling or other fraud.

To conduct the study, the group purchased fish from sushi vendors, supermarkets and restaurants from 2010 to 2012. Nearly 74 percent of fish eaten at sushi venues was mislabeled, while 18 percent of the grocery store fish was mislabeled. Fish fraud was relatively low in Seattle, at around 18 percent, while more than half of fish from Southern California and Pennsylvania were mislabeled.

Not only were most of the tuna and snapper species mislabeled, but most of what was labeled white tuna was actually a fish called escolar, which can cause serious digestive issues in susceptible people who eat more than a little bit of the fish, the study found. Because many types of fish are high in mercury, consumers could also be unknowingly consuming high levels of mercury.

Figuring out where the mislabeling occurs is a tricky business, because right now there isn't a good way of tracking fish from the boat all the way to the consumer's plate, the study notes.


Tuna caught near California still have traces of Fukushima radiation

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Huge Meteor Seen Above San Francisco Bay Area February 15, 2013

Huge Meteor Seen Above San Francisco Bay Area February 15, 2013
Feb 19, 2013 | AlienPeace1

On the same day that a massive meteor

Florida Legislators Preparing Home Swindle: The Problems with House Bill 87

The Problems with House Bill 87
Feb 17, 2013 | Mark Stopa

As you may have read on the front page of today’s Bradenton Herald, I’ve joined Florida Consumer Justice Advocates, a group that is fighting against the passage of House Bill 87, a proposed piece of legislation being touted by some of Florida’s congressmen as a solution to the logjam of cases pending in Florida’s courts.  Frankly, I’m concerned about what a small handful of legislators are trying to do to consumers in Florida – hence my involvement – and it’s probably past time that I explain what’s going on here.

According to some misinformed Florida legislators, the Florida court system is unable to adjudicate foreclosure cases quickly enough.  Proponents of such a position point to the number of days – something like 850 – which they say it takes to prosecute a foreclosure case in Florida.  These individuals love to blame the judges and the court process, acting as if the system is broken and needs to be fixed.  House Bill 87 is the proposed “fix” of these misinformed few.

Before I go any further, please realize this is merely *proposed* legislation.  I’m confident we can and will defeat the bill (and that’s why I’ve joined a group fighting against it).  That said, we all need to take action and talk to our congressmen to ensure our collective voice is heard.

House Bill 87 has two enormous problems, but before I address this disgraceful piece of proposed legislation, let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  Judges are not the problem.  Court resources are not the problem.  The court process is not the problem.  The biggest reason foreclosure cases go slowly in Florida is because banks want them to go slowly.  That bears repeating.

The biggest reason foreclosure cases go slowly in Florida is because banks want them to go slowly.

Sure, foreclosure cases often go slower when lawyers like myself are involved.  However, even with the increasing number of lawyers defending foreclosures nowadays, the vast majority of foreclosure cases in Florida remain unopposed.  Think about that for a minute … advocates of this proposed legislation complain about how long it takes to adjudicate a foreclosure case, yet most cases are unopposed.  Let me be frank … there is absolutely no excuse for banks to be unable to finish a foreclosure case in, say, less than a year when a case is unopposed.  Yet, somehow, it’s rare for any foreclosure to be finished that quickly, even when nobody is putting up a fight on the defense side.

Those considering this proposed legislation should think about this dynamic and ask themselves this …

Why are we working to change the law in a manner that’s adverse to consumers when banks are able to prosecute foreclosures under the current system but refuse to do so?

If you don’t agree or don’t understand, go read Florida Statute 702.10.  This statute has existed for many years, since long before the foreclosure crisis began.  I’ll spare you the legal jargon and summarize the statute this way … if a bank wants to get a quickie foreclosure against a homeowner, it can obtain a “show cause” hearing under the current statute.  If the homeowner doesn’t defend that hearing and “show cause,” then the bank gets the quickie foreclosure.  One hearing and that’s it - case over.

So why do foreclosure cases in Florida take so long despite such a statute?  Simple.  Banks can use Florida Statute 702.10, but they choose not to do so.  In fact, I’d say the banks use this statute in less than 1% of foreclosure cases in Florida.  Yes, fewer than 1% of cases utilize the accelerated foreclosure process that’s been in place for years.  (I acknowledge I don’t have hard data to support that estimate, but I’m comfortable it’s accurate based on my vast experience over the past few years.  And lest you think my estimate is off because the banks don’t use the quickie procedure on my cases (but do on others), please understand that banks make the decision whether to utilize the quickie procedure before I am ever retained.  The banks are choosing not to utilize the quickie procedure across the board, not merely on cases that are defended with counsel.)

Hence, for anyone involved in the process of considering House Bill 87, I reiterate my initial question:
Why are you changing the law to make the system faster when the banks don’t utilize the accelerated procedures already in place?

If the banks’ conscious decision to forego the accelerated procedure in Fla. Stat. 702.10 isn’t enough to convince you, then go ask a judge.  I could give examples (of the many Florida judges who have lamented how banks don’t prosecute their own cases), but there’s no need – go ask ANY Florida judge.  I’m quite confident that ANY and EVERY Florida judge will tell you the reason foreclosure cases go slowly in Florida is because banks file the cases then don’t set hearings, don’t set trial, and don’t try to win.  In fact, many of the disagreements foreclosure defense attorneys such as myself have had with Florida judges is when the judges set trials or hearings in cases when the banks have failed to do so.  Yes, it’s often the judges, not the banks themselves, who set hearings and trials in foreclosure cases whcih the banks themselves refuse to prosecute.

If you don’t me (because you think I’m biased) and don’t believe the judges (because you think they don’t want to accept the blame), or if you just can’t believe a bank wouldn’t try to win a foreclosure case, go sit in a courtroom for a day. Or go check out a few court dockets online.  As you do, you’ll see how foreclosure cases often languish in Florida because the banks who filed them don’t prosecute them quickly.  Everyone involved in the process knows this is how it works in Florida.

Foreclosure cases languish because the plaintiffs who filed them don’t prosecute them.

My initial point, hence, is this … there is no need for new legislation to make foreclosures go faster, as the system itself isn’t the problem.  The banks are the problem.

Now that we’ve established how House Bill 87 is being proposed to address a problem that doesn’t exist, let’s address the two big problems with the language of the bill.

First, under the current version of Fla. Stat. 702.10, if a homeowner defends at a “show cause” hearing, then the judge “shall” not enter a final judgment of foreclosure via the accelerated procedure.  In other words, as the law currently exists, if the homeowner doesn’t defend the case, then the bank gets a quickie foreclosure, but if the homeowner defends, then the bank has to go through the normal court process, i.e. summary judgment or trial, to prevail.

Even as a consumer advocate and defense attorney, I understand the rationale of the statute as it presently exists.  If a homeowner isn’t going to defend a foreclosure case (as many don’t), then why drag out the process?  Just give that bank a judgment (presuming compliance with the statute and the proper, verified pleadings).  But if a homeowner defends the case, then the bank should have to prove its entitlement to foreclosure as any plaintiff in any court case would, i.e. at summary judgment or trial, after the case is litigated like any other court case.

The first, huge problem with House Bill 87 is that it completely changes Fla. Stat. 702.10 with one small word – “may.”  Under the current statute, if a homeowner defends the case and files the appropriate paperwork at that quickie hearing, then the judge “shall” preclude the final judgment from being entered at that hearing.  As a consumer, if you show up and defend, you at least know you’ll get your day in court, just as you should, and just as you’re entitled in any court proceeding.

Under the proposed House Bill 87, the statute would be changed so the judge “may” preclude the final judgment from being entered at that quickie hearing.  The problem with “may” instead of shall” is that “may” implies ”may not.”  Hence, a homeowner could defend the case and file the appropriate paperwork at that “show cause” hearing, yet the judge could allow a final judgment to be entered anyway.  No day in court, no trial, no discovery, no due process - the judge could simply rule in the bank’s favor, without a trial and without summary judgment, simply because he/she wanted to do so.  Perhaps worse yet, the proposed change to the statute provides no guidance as to why/when a judge should allow the quickie foreclosure even when the case is being defended and why/when the judge should not … it would simply be up to each judge to decide when to allow a foreclosure case to proceed like a normal case and when to allow a quickie judgment.

If this statute were enacted in this format, it would be a complete and total disgrace.  Consumers would be deprived of trials and discovery and due process simply because the judge preferred that the bank win the case quickly, even where that homeowner was presenting legitimate defenses.  With all we’ve learned about bank fraud and robosigning and the legitimate defenses homeowners have to foreclosure, it’s absurd anyone has to even advocate against such a draconian piece of legislation.

Another glaring problem with the proposed change to “may” is that there is no guidance given as to why/when a quickie judgment should be entered and why/when it should not.  There would be no uniformity in the rulings of judges, as some would allow the quickie foreclosures while others would not, with little rhyme or reason for the disparate rulings.  Public confidence in the judiciary would further deteriorate, as those who allowed the quickie foreclosures would be viewed as “pro bank” while those who did not would be viewed as “pro homeowner.”  Lawsuits simply aren’t adjudicated this way.

The second glaring problem with House Bill 87 is that it authorizes judges to require mortgagors of properties that are not owner-occupied to make monthly mortgage payments into the court registry during the pendency of a lawsuit, failing which the homeowner loses possession of the property as a sanction, even without the bank proving its standing or its entitlement to foreclose.

Yes, House Bill 87 would make homeowners who don’t live in the property pay on a monthly basis for the right to defend the case.  No payment = no right to defend.  And the payments wouldn’t be based on current market rates, but based on the original loan amount.  Miss one payment and down comes the hammer – loss of possession – even if the bank didn’t prove its standing or its entitlement to foreclose.

Is that really what Florida has become, a state where one must pay for the right to defend?  Silly me, I thought the right to due process was a right enjoyed by all, not just those who can afford to pay for it.

There are many other problems with House Bill 87.  Frankly, I could go through it line by line and point out problems all day long.  That said, these are the things that get my ire.  Why are we changing the law in a way that harms Florida consumers to “fix” a court process that isn’t broken, one which enables banks to prosecute cases quickly even as they refuse?  How can we possibly allow any judge to deprive homeowners of their day in court, particularly without any set guidelines in place?  And how can anyone justify forcing homeowners to pay on a monthly basis for the right to enjoy due process?

I firmly believe we will defeat this bad bill.  Just don’t take my word for it.  Join me in the fight.  Talk to your friends, family, and neighbors.  More importantly, call your local Congressman.  Tell him/her House Bill 87 is bad and should not become law.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fake sweetener Splenda fills our oceans, scientists find

Image of Gulf Stream
Fake sweetener Splenda fills our oceans, scientists find
Feb 19, 2013 | J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) A new study by scientists from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington found that the bulk of the popular sweetener Splenda, which is used all over the world, is winding up in the Gulf Stream, the "conveyor belt of water transport" that circulates in the Atlantic Ocean from the coast of North American to Europe, Africa and beyond.

The study, conducted by the scientists at the university's Marine Atmospheric Chemistry Research Laboratory and the journal Marine Chemistry, said that only about 10 percent of the main component in Splenda, which is sucralose, is absorbed by the body, meaning 90 percent of it leaves the body and winds up in sewage systems.

"Sucralose, discovered in 1976 and made popular by Splenda in 1999, is used in 80 countries to sweeten foods and drinks without the calories and carbohydrates of sugar," said the university in a press release. "Although it is a derivative of table sugar (sucrose), sucralose cannot be effectively broken down by the bacteria in the human digestive tract. As a result, the body absorbs little or no calories and 90 percent of the chemical compound leaves the body through human waste and enters sewage systems."

Long-term effects? We don't know yet, and that's the problem

Ralph Mead, Brooks Avery, Jeremy Morgan and Robert Kieber, professors at the lab, along with graduate student Aleksandra Kirk, said they were surprised by the dearth of peer-reviewed research regarding what happens to sucralose once it enters the environment.

They said some scientists from Switzerland and North America previously found the chemical compound inland, but the MACRL researchers focused on whether sucralose had entered ocean currents.

After the research team found significant levels of the compound in North Carolina's Cape Fear River, scientists conducted research cruises, sampling waters of the Gulf Stream off the coasts of North Carolina and Florida.

"All of the samples revealed the presence of sucralose," said the university, "which indicated that the artificial sweetener endures the wastewater treatment processes designed to dissolve foreign chemicals."

"If sucralose is not eliminated through wastewater treatment and makes its way to the Gulf Stream, then theoretically, it will travel where the Gulf Stream goes." said Kieber.

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified the artificial sweetener as a "contaminant of emerging concern," but it does not yet regulate personal care products (PCC's) and pharmaceuticals, which is the bioactive chemical class that sucralose falls into.

Further, the university said, there are limited long-term studies on the compound's impact to humans, the environment, wildlife and vegetation.

The scientists said it's unclear what kind of damage, if any, prolonged exposure to the compound will cause.

"What happens when we have been exposed to these chemicals for 20-plus years, and we can't expel them? We have to start monitoring sucralose now," said Morgan.

The scientists said they are concerned that sucralose could have long-term impacts on the environment.

"One concern," said the university, "is that the feeding habits of animals could be altered because sucralose mimics sugar but has no nutritional value."

Sucralose causes weight gain as well

Currently, the research team is examining how science might mitigate the impact of sucralose on the environment by equipping waste water treatment plants with technology designed to remove the compound before it reaches the world's oceans.

An earlier study from nearby Duke University in 2008 found that Splenda use contributes to weight gain and other health problems.

The Duke study "makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda and its key component sucralose pose a threat to the people who consume the product," said James Turner, chairman of Citizens for Health, an international non-profit consumer health education group.

"Hundreds of consumers have complained to us about side effects from using Splenda and this study ... confirms that the chemicals in the little yellow package should carry a big red warning label," he said.