Saturday, February 28, 2015

Roundup - a converging pattern of toxicity from farm to clinic to laboratory

Chafer Sentry applying glyphosate to
stubbles in North Yorkshire on a sunny
December day. Photo: Chafer
Machinery via Flickr (CC BY).
The Ecologist | Feb 25, 2015 | Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji / ISIS

As scientific evidence grows of the many ways in which glyphosate - pipe-cleaner, herbicide and antibiotic - damages the environment and health, governments and regulators turn a blind eye, writes Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji, and the EU has even raised allowable residue levels. It's time for us all to put bans in place wherever we can!
"Not only is glyphosate toxic to health and the environment, but a cocktail of even more lethal herbicides have to be deployed to deal with glyphosate-resistant weeds. In short, we have an ecological and agronomic disaster."
Glyphosate, perhaps surprisingly for a chemical so ubiquitously associated with our food, was not first used as an agricultural chemical.

Instead it was first patented as a metal chelator in 1964 by Stauffer Chemical company (US 3160632 A) and used as an industrial pipe cleaner.

It was later patented by Monsanto as an herbicidal agent in 1974 (US3799758 A) based on its ability to block the shikimate pathway involved in the production of aromatic amino acids in both plants and bacteria.

It has become the most popular herbicide in the world especially since glyphosate tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops were commercialized in the mid-1990s, together with the assumption (perpetrated by Monsanto) that the herbicide is safe for health and the environment. In 2010, it was also patented by Monsanto as an antibiotic agent.

Widespread use as pre-harvest 'dessicant'

Moreover, it is being increasingly used as a pre-harvest desiccant for drying seeds, a process that results in contamination of non-GM grains, one of the main exposure routes in the EU where GM crops are not commonly grown.

Thus, an estimated 70% of UK oil seed rape (canola) and 50-60% of EU sunflowers are sprayed with glyphosate, resulting in products of major food brands in the UK testing positive for glyphosate residues in a 2014 analysis by GM Freeze, with glyphosate the most commonly detected of all chemicals.

All of glyphosate's chemical properties already mentioned have implications for the health of both people and planet. Scientific research has additionally implicated glyphosate as an endocrine disruptor and a DNA mutagen; and it affects over 291 different enzymes in the body.

It is increasingly linked with a wide variety of illnesses, the sharp rises in illnesses occurring in parallel with glyphosate application across various GM cultivating regions of the world.

The most convincing evidence of glyphosate toxicity is the consistent pattern of diseases associated with glyphosate that has emerged from the farm to the clinic and from scientific studies to citizen testimonials.

Glyphosate widespread in the environment and in our bodies

Glyphosate's popularity is due in large measure to its concomitant use with the most widely planted type of GM crops, those tolerant to glyphosate-herbicides.

Monsanto commercialised the first Roundup-ready crop in 1996 (Roundup being the commercial formulation containing 'adjuvants' that make it much more toxic than the active ingredient glyphosate alone, see later).

In countries such as Argentina where large swaths of the country have been dubbed soy deserts, GM soybean cultivation has resulted in an 858% rise in glyphosate use. Similarly, the US has seen even greater rises of 2,500% from 1987 to 2007.

This widespread and massive application of glyphosate herbicides has resulted in almost ubiquitous contamination of the environment. A 2014 study on US water systems across 38 states found glyphosate and its principle metabolite AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) not only in rivers, lakes and streams, but also rain, soil and sediment, ditches and drains and groundwater.

Yes, it's even found in rainwater!

Some 70% of rain samples tested positive for glyphosate. Similarly in Europe, (in Catalonia, a large region of Spain) it was found that all 11 groundwater sites were positive for glyphosate despite it being a region free from glyphosate-tolerant crop cultivation: 41% of samples were above detection limits.

The detection in groundwater goes against one of the claims on glyphosate safety that its propensity to bind to soil and sediment means it will not leach into our fresh water supplies.

In Argentina, new data of rain sample measurements averaged an extreme 6.5 µg/L and reaching as high as 67 µg/L (67 ppb) across four regions from October 2012 to April 2014. These levels are far higher than those seen in US rain samples where the average and maximum concentrations were 0.11 µg/L and 2.5 µg/L respectively.

Tap water and rivers also test positive for glyphosate with UK samples coming up (30 parts per trillion (ppt) and 190 ppt respectively) at concentrations within range of those found to be toxic in lab studies (see How Roundup Poisoned my Nature Reserve, SiS 64).

Urban areas also get sprayed, prompting London citizens to organise banning campaigns of glyphosate spraying in public areas including child-friendly zones. Even oceans are not spared from glyphosate poisoning, with run-offs into the sea persisting for up to 267 days in sea water obtained from the Great Barrier Reef and tested in the lab.

Officially 'safe' - but where are the data?

Due to the official 'safe' status of glyphosate, data on how much we are being exposed have been scarce, forcing citizen activists and civil society organizations to find out for themselves.

Friends of the Earth Europe commissioned an analysis of 182 volunteers across 18 EU countries and found detectable levels in 44% of urine samples with concentrations ranging from 0.16 ug/L average in Switzerland, to 1.82ug/L in Latvia. Of the UK citizens tested, 7 out of 10 were positive. In the US, urine samples show concentrations 8 times those in Europe.

The analysis, commissioned by Moms Across America, also tested 10 mother's breast milk, which came up positive for glyphosate with levels ranging from 76 µg/L to 166 µg/L (76-166 ppb).

These levels are 760 to 1,600 times higher than the European Drinking Water Directive allows for individual pesticides, and raise obvious concerns as they fall within the range of concentrations at which developmental toxicity has been observed in animal studies (see below).

This analysis is the only study on breast milk to date, as no government or public health body has found it necessary to carry out any study on bioaccumulation in internal organs and tissues or in breast milk fed to infants.

Glyphosate levels in urine samples correlate to ill-health

Recent independent scientific studies have backed up the work of activists and civil society organisations. Awad Shehata and colleagues in Germany looked at glyphosate levels in the urine of both chronically ill and healthy people, and found significantly higher levels in ill people in samples taken from 102 and 199 healthy and chronically ill people respectively.

Those who ate predominantly organic food had lower levels, along with livestock that were fed conventional versus genetically modified feed. The study also looked at levels in cow tissues as well as urine.

Detection of glyphosate in the tissues contradicts one of the assumption-based arguments used by industry and regulators that due to glyphosate's high water solubility, it is rapidly excreted from the body and therefore risks of harm are negligible.

In such a case, the levels of glyphosate in urine would be expected to be much greater than levels found in the tissues. However, urine levels in cows averaged 27-42 µg/ml (27-42 parts per million (ppm)), while the level in tissues (intestine, liver, spleen, kidney and muscle) averaged between 14-20 µg/ml, which is within range of urine levels.

Though they did not compare glyphosate levels in urine and internal organs of the same cow, the average levels across all cow samples dispute the assumptions taken by regulators that glyphosate does not remain in the body at levels that can cause harm.

In summary, glyphosate is almost ubiquitous in our environment and in people and livestock; it has even been discovered in hospital feeding tubes for child cancer patients in the US. The impacts are described below.

A birth defect epidemic in people and animals

Argentina is one of the biggest cultivators of GM soybeans and the country has witnessed a sharp increase in serious illnesses since cultivation began. Concerned doctors and health practitioners founded the Network of Physicians of Crop Sprayed Towns and met in 2010.

They presented data showing increased incidence of birth defects, spontaneous abortions, infertility, still births, cancers, Down's syndrome, mental disability, immune and endocrine disorders, as well as acute effects such as increased convulsions in epileptic patients at time of fumigation, respiratory and dermatological problems (see ) and Pesticide Illnesses and GM Soybeans, SiS53 ).

The Network, together with a large citizen movement, is pushing for a complete ban on aerial spraying of agrochemicals plus a ban of its use within a kilometre of residential areas. They documented a 2-5 times increase in birth defects in sprayed towns compared to before spraying began.

Common defects include neural tube defects, which are replicated in laboratory studies on glyphosate (see later).

A 2013 report from the Centre of Congenital defects claims that nationally, the number of cases has not gone up, but a closer scrutiny gives a different picture. Data gathered during a six month period from the hospital Maternidad Provincial in Córdoba showed that despite recording a low level of birth defects of 36 out of a total of 2140 births (1.68%), 22 of those came from mothers living in crop-sprayed towns, which accounts for 61% of all the birth defects.

The US has seen a surge in neural tube birth defects (anencephaly) in the Yakima River, Washington State. The source remains a mystery to officials who have ruled out common causes such as low folic acid and lifestyle choices. Rates have reached 8 cases per 10 000 births from 2010-2013 compared to a national average of 3 cases per 10 000 births.

Glyphosate has emerged as a prime suspect as the state of Washington use herbicides, most often glyphosates, to kill noxious weeds in both land and water. An estimated 146 pesticides were applied in the area in the year 2000, and studies are now needed to confirm whether or not glyphosate, either alone or in combination with other chemicals is responsible for neural tube defects in the area.

Reproductive problems such as miscarriages and infertility have also risen in Argentina (see Glyphosate/Roundup & Human Male Infertility, SiS62). Physicians of sprayed towns have recorded as many as 23% of women suffering from miscarriage in the last 5 years.

The latest victims of Argentina's chemical agricultural system, of which GM cultivation is an extreme example, could very well have been spared if the evidence of the teratogenic properties of glyphosate produced by industry since the 1980s had not been dismissed.

Glyphosate is teratogenic - according to Monsanto's own data

Monsanto's own toxicology tests submitted to the EU commission showed evidence of teratogenicity (see EU Regulators and Monsanto Exposed for Hiding Glyphosate Toxicity, SiS51). The submitted test reports describe rats and rabbits with skeletal abnormalities including the development of a 13th rib in offspring, as well as cardiac abnormalities.

Scientific studies such as that of the late Professor Andrés Carrasco reporting neural tube birth defects in frog and chick embryos exposed to agricultural concentrations of glyphosate have validated both Monsanto's findings and clinical observations (see also Lab Study Establishes Glyphosate Link to Birth Defects, SiS48).

Probing into the mechanisms underlying the defects, Carrasco discovered that glyphosate disrupted retinoic acid activity, a well-known regulator of developmental processes.

Epidemiological studies have linked increased incidence of birth defects (spina bifida, circulatory/respiratory anomalies, tracheo-esophogeal defects, gastrointestinal defects, urogenital defects, cleft lip, adactyly, clubfoot, musculoskeletal anomalies, Down's syndrome and other birth defects) and reproductive toxicity in those who live near agrochemical-sprayed fields.

Other lab studies are accumulating evidence of birth defects and reproductive toxicity in a range of animals from rats to catfish.

Evidence from the farm follows the same pattern. Ib Borup Pedersen recently documented personal experiences on his pig farm, where removing GM soybean feed from the diet resulted in pronounced improvement in the health of his pigs, reducing medicine use by a third and increasing his profits (see "Changing from GMO to Non-GMO Natural Soy, Experiences from Denmark, SiS 64).

Profits were also increased due to his sows living longer and giving birth to more piglets. After researching glyphosate and GMOs Ib investigated further and collaborated with scientists in Germany who analysed 38 of his 1-day old deformed piglets, finding glyphosate in various organs of the pigs.

Pigs suffered defects ranging from severe to mild, including spinal, cranial defects and others affecting limbs, gender, internal organs, tongue and more. Many appear to be neural tube defects as seen in the clinic and laboratory.

Cancer rates skyrocket in South American regions of GM cultivation

Neighbourhood resident organisations such as the association of Mothers of Ituzaingo, in collaboration with the Network of Sprayed Towns have been mapping cancer incidence in their towns for many years to draw attention to the epidemic they are facing.

It is has reached the point where now, 30% of all deaths in these regions are from cancers, affecting both adults and children. Cities such as Hernando have seen a 258% rise in cases between 2001-2002 and 2010-2012.

Rises in cancer rates can be explained by glyphosate's role in cancer-causing mechanisms including DNA damage and endocrine disruption. Endocrine disruption may well also underlie some of the reproductive and teratogenic effects of glyphosate described above.

Lab studies show glyphosate damages DNA in lab animals as well as in people who were exposed to the chemical in Argentina. It also disrupts cell cycle regulation that can lead to increased cell division and cancer development [36,37].

The glyphosate metabolite AMPA was also shown in a 2014 study to induce DNA damage in fish at concentration ranges previously documented in streams and surface water in N. America. Glyphosate's carcinogenic potential has been documented since the 1980s (see Glyphosate & Cancer, SiS 62)

Distinct from DNA damaging properties, glyphosate also mimics oestrogen at very low levels and promotes the growth of hormone-dependent breast cancer cell lines.

Actually glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor and alters the expression of multiple hormones including testosterone, leutinising hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and the aromatase enzyme complexes that convert testosterone to oestrogen.

Cancer doubles in areas of high agro-chemical use

Epidemiological studies corroborate lab studies and reports from local citizens in Argentina and the US. The Ministry of Health of Córdoba in Argentina reported in June 2014 the doubling of cancer cases in high agrochemical use areas compared to the national average.

Consistently, a new meta-analysis found association between glyphosate and cancers following occupational exposure. The study looked at all epidemiological papers on non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) incidence that had been published in English since 1980 that reported agricultural, occupational exposure to specific pesticides.

A total of 44 papers were analysed, covering 80 active ingredients and 21 pesticide chemicals, finding the strongest associations between pesticides and specific subtypes of NHL, including an association between glyphosate and B lymphoma.

They also found that phenoxy herbicides, carbamate insecticides, organophosphorus insecticides and the active ingredient lindane, an organochlorine insecticide, were positively associated with NHL.

The most comprehensive GMO feeding study to date carried out by Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team, looked at the effects glyphosate and glyphosate tolerant maize NK603 on rats during their two-year life-time.

It showed increased incidence of tumours (including cancers), other illnesses, as well as reduced life-span and altered hormone status. The 2012 publication was aggressively attacked by industry and its supporters and unilaterally and illicitly retracted a year after publication following the appointment of an ex-Monsanto employee as an editor for the journal (see Retracting Séralini Study Violates Science and Ethics, SiS 61).

It has subsequently been republished elsewhere after massive public protest (see Open Letter on Retraction and Pledge to Boycott, SiS 61).

Fatal kidney disease epidemic across continents foreseen by lab studies

Kidney disease has reached epidemic levels in regions that heavily use glyphosate such as farmers in Sri Lanka and sugar cane workers in Central America. Kidney problems have been highlighted by scientific studies, including Séralini's rat feeding study where kidney tumours were observed.

A meta-analysis of feeding studies conducted by Séralini's lab revealed kidney pathology in animals fed Roundup Ready soybeans, while in vitro studies have shown that glyphosate had cytotoxic effects on human embryonic kidney cell lines [52,53] (see GM Feed Toxic, Meta-Analysis Confirms, SiS52, Death by multiple poisoning ,glyphosate and Roundup, SiS 42).

In Sri Lanka, chronic kidney disease of unknown aetiology (CKDu) has afflicted the agricultural population in recent years. A study published in 2014 linked glyphosate-based herbicides to the epidemic.

It appears that hard water in the agricultural regions leads to heavy metal toxicity in the kidneys via glyphosate's metal chelating activity, and is responsible for the 400,000 cases of the disease and 20 000 fatalities (see Sri Lanka Partially Bans Glyphosate for Deadly Kidney Disease Epidemic, SiS 62).

The government temporarily banned glyphosate from hard water areas, but this decision was reversed due to a lack of agricultural workers to take over the manual weeding required without the application of glyphosate.

Similar health problems are widely affecting communities in Central America with one in four sugar cane workers reporting kidney disease in some areas [58, 59].

This epidemic forced the El Salvador government to call for international help after the epidemic began overwhelming the health systems. The El Salvadorian government has since approved legislation to ban glyphosate herbicides, though this is yet to be enforced.

Digestive illnesses widespread - in pigs, cows and humans

Digestive illnesses plagued the pig farm in Denmark (mentioned earlier) while they were being fed GM soy. When GM produce and glyphosate were removed from their diet, the pigs no longer suffered chronic diarrhoea, which was so severe that 30% of new born piglets were dying as a result.

Chronic botulism, caused by the Clostridium botulinum bacteria, has also been on the rise in livestock in Germany, the US, and UK since the 1990s. The latest study shows that glyphosate results in dysbiosis of the cow gut, with a reduction of beneficial bacteria in the rumen of cows accompanied by a rise in C. botulinum microbes.

The digestive illnesses in livestock mirrors a growing health problem in the West, particularly in the US where food intolerances, allergies, celiac disease, bowel diseases, infections and other problems continue to become more common.

Nancy Swanson and colleagues showed a clear correlation between spikes in both inflammatory bowel disease and intestinal infection with glyphosate in the US. Deaths from intestinal infections have risen from less than 0.25 deaths per 100,000 in 1979 to over 80 deaths per 100,000 in 2010. Inflammatory bowel disease has risen from around 3 diagnosed cases per 100,000 in 1990 to almost 90 per 100,000 in 2010.

Moms across America's testimonials reflect the evidence from the farm and science studies, with children who come off GM and glyphosate covered foods reducing the severity of allergy symptoms as well as other problems such as regular vomiting.

With glyphosate's antibiotic properties, it had already been previously shown to cause disruption of the gut bacteria in poultry, swine and cows. Salmonella and Clostridium are highly resistant to glyphosate, whereas Enterococcus,Bifidobacteria, and Lactobacillus are especially susceptible.

Perturbation in the balance of these microbial species is associated with digestive disorders such as celiac disease. Similarly, chronic botulism in cows is rectified in livestock by feeding fermented and pro-biotic foods along with charcoal and humic acids. These both bind to the toxins produced by the bacterial pathogen.

This treatment also reduces the urinary content of glyphosate, suggesting its binding as an underlying mechanism in the recovery of the infection.

Autistic people are well known to have disturbed intestinal function and dysbiosis of the gut. Autism rates are also spiking in parallel with glyphosate use in the US and glyphosate's antibiotic activity may well be an underlying mechanism behind this.

Indeed, mothers have also documented much improved autism symptoms in their children upon giving them a glyphosate and GM-free diet.

Health of American citizens deteriorating

One argument for the safety of GM food and their associated pesticides is that the US has been consuming them for years without ill effect. However, in the absence of labelling GM foods, it is illegitimate to make such a claim. On the contrary, there has been a drastic deterioration of public health in the US since GM crops were introduced.

A new publication by Swanson and colleagues plots the rise of 20 chronic diseases using available US government data, all correlating closely with increasing glyphosate application to corn and soy crops, especially over the past several years.

The diseases included cancers, Parkinson's, autism, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, digestive disease and kidney failure. Correlation does not prove causation, but such strong association certainly cannot be dismissed, especially in combination with the plethora of other evidence from laboratory studies, and the experiences of doctors in their clinics and farmers in the fields.

For a detailed analysis of the study please see Marked Deterioration of Public Health Parallels Increase in GM Crops and Glyphosate Use, US Government Data Show ( SiS 65).

Though heart disease had not been studied as extensively as cancers and birth defects in relation to glyphosate, the above study implicates its role in cardiac dysfunction. This is corroborated by the new finding that glyphosate formulations cause abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) by interfering with the electrical activity of heart cells in rabbits.

A new study published in 2015 finds a correlation between glyphosate use and pineal gland pathology. The pineal gland is located in the brain and is known to regulate circadian rhythm through melatonin secretion.

Glyphosate is hypothesised to disrupt melatonin metabolism, as well as induce pineal gland neuropathology through aluminium-induced hypoxia that results from the metal chelating properties of glyphosate. In this way, glyphosate use tightly correlates with the rises in sleep disorders as well as other disorders with symptoms of sleep dysfunction such as autism and dementia.

It is becoming clear that glyphosate has multiple toxicities that link it to many diseases through its metal chelating, antibiotic, endocrine disrupting, and genotoxic properties. Glyphosate also has the ability to block cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzyme activity, a class of enzymes involved in detoxifying xenobiotics amongst other things.

Glyphosate therefore not only is a toxin in its own right, but enhances the toxicity of other chemicals by preventing the CYP enzymes from detoxifying the body.

Americans are definitely getting sicker in numerous ways highly correlated with adopting GM crops and rise in glyphosate use and, as shown by all the testimonials from Moms across America, peoples' health improves after removing GMOs and glyphosate residues from their foods by buying organic.

Environmental toxicity a concern for biodiversity, agriculture and sustainability

The spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds is increasingly compromising the effectiveness of the herbicide. There are now a reported 31 species of resistant weeds, up from 23 a year ago as recorded by the Weed Science organisation in the US.

In Brazil, an aggressive spread of weeds prompted a former DuPont agronomist to acknowledge the difficulties faced by farmers cultivating glyphosate-tolerant GM crops both in Brazil and Argentina.

Monsanto now recommends an "integrated weed management" strategy that includes tilling the soil (of previously no-till land) and using multiple herbicides.

The main selling points of Monsanto's Roundup Ready (RR) GM crop system was to reduce environmental damage through no-tillage agriculture and glyphosate use - a supposedly 'safe' herbicide compared to older chemicals.

Not only is glyphosate toxic to health and the environment, but a cocktail of even more lethal herbicides have to be deployed to deal with glyphosate-resistant weeds, and an end to no till agriculture, resulting in further soil erosion. In short, we have an ecological and agronomic disaster.

Glyphosate toxicity to wildlife is well-documented. Many species, including aquatic organisms, reptiles, beneficial soil organisms including certain microbes and worms have been shown in scientific studies to be affected by glyphosate exposure (see Ban GMOS Now, ISIS special report).

This includes chronic and acute toxicity to the model aquatic organism Daphnia magna at below accepted thresholds for glyphosate presence in US freshwater. Amphibians, the most endangered animals in the world, are so sensitive to glyphosate that 78% of frogs died in one study on being exposed to Roundup herbicide.

Glyphosate has also been shown to stimulate the growth of soil fungi, increase the pathogenicity of soil pathogens such as Xylella fastidosa while numerous beneficial soil organisms have been decimated (see Scientists Reveal Glyphosate Poisons Crops and Soil, SiS 47).

The latest study on soil organisms concluded that non-target organisms are at risk of local extinction after finding sub-lethal doses of glyphosate reduced fertility as well as survival of juvenile and adult E.fetida worms.

Monarch butterfly decline has been linked to glyphosate destruction of the milkweed in the US, the only food source for its larvae. Their migration from the US is at an all-time low and has been declining for the last 17 years (1994-5 to 2010-2011) (see Glyphosate and Monarch Butterfly Decline, SiS 52).

This decline has prompted a move to protect the butterflies under the Endangered Species Act by over 200 organisations and 40 scientists in November 2014. A new report on a Welsh nature reserve documents the decline in insects including beneficial pollinators such as bees as glyphosate levels increase (see How Roundup Poisoned my Nature Reserve, SiS 64).

Reducing micro-nutrient availability

Not only are non-target organisms negatively affected, but also the target crops. Glyphosate's metal chelating properties reduce the micronutrients available to the plant, which it needs to maintain a fully-functioning immune system, thereby increasing its susceptibility to disease.

This mechanism is thought to underlie the spread of over 40 crop diseases in glyphosate-tolerant GM crops (see USDA scientist reveals All, SiS53). Indeed, USDA senior scientist Don Huber states that glyphosate's ability to kill plants is through the destruction of their immune system.

This was clearly demonstrated by his experiments showing that non-GM plants grown in a sterile soil do not die when sprayed with glyphosate as the pathogens are not there to take advantage of the compromised immune system.

A reduction in mineral nutrients has health impacts on those eating the crops such as abnormalities in calves that are caused by manganese deficiency, which are on the rise and may well result from glyphosate chelation.

Farm animals are further suffering from other illnesses (and birth defects) as described by the Danish pig farmer earlier. Similar problems have been reported in Germany, where cows are suffering from chronic infections such as botulism. Also in the US, with for example, the veterinarian Art Dunham reporting botulism in dairy cows, as well as reproductive problems, bloody bowels, rickets and viral diseases in hogs.

As a result of the problems faced by farmers, many are now moving away from GM and glyphosate-based systems. The US is seeing a growth in the non-GM seed market (see Global Status of GMO and non-GMO crops, SiS 62).

Agriculture experts such as Howard Vlieger are helping 300-400 farmers in the US switch from GM to non-GM crops without glyphosate use due to its ill effects to soil, plants and animals.

Glyphosate-tolerant crops have also been shown to need more water and do worse in drought situations (see GM Crops and Water - A recipe for Disaster SiS 56, and GM Crops Destroyed by US Drought but non-GM Varieties Flourish, SiS56). This is consistent with their health being compromised by glyphosate.
While GM crops are causing problems for farmers, non-GM crops are leading the way in providing drought- and salt-tolerant varieties, which makes sense when one considers that the majority of traits are highly complex, involving multiple genes and pathways and therefore too complicated to mimic with crude genetic engineering techniques (see Genetic Modification Trails Conventional Breeding By Far, SiS 64).

Regulatory science corrupt, ban glyphosate locally

Glyphosate re-assessment by the EU commission was performed in 2014, not only re-approving glyphosate, but approving increased residue levels for food and feed, with the final decision expected in 2015.

The reassessment was performed by industry, though Germany acted as the rapporteur state, submitting the renewal assessment report to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (see Scandal of Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe(SiS63).

This report relied on summary assessments provided by the Glyphosate Task Force which consists of Monsanto and other chemical companies such as Syngenta UK and Dow Italy. Assessments were made on glyphosate excluding commercial formulations most frequently used such as Roundup, and focused on studies showing less toxic results.

It has been well-documented and previously explained in Ban GMOS Now , that adjuvants present in glyphosate formulation products such as POEA, as well as glyphosate metabolites like AMPA have their own toxicity and moreover, that glyphosate and the adjuvants together are far more toxic than glyphosate alone.

A new 2014 study by Professor Séralini's group further confirms this, showing for the first time that glyphosate formulation products (as well as insecticide and fungicides) are far more toxic than glyphosate alone at concentrations well below agricultural dilutions.

Using human cell lines (HEK293, JEG3 and HepG2), they showed formulations to cause significant reductions in cell viability at concentrations 125 times less than glyphosate alone, challenging the relevance of the current acceptable daily intake (ADI).

It is important to note that studies on the effects of pesticide cocktail mixtures, a far more likely scenario in real life, have yet to be properly investigated.

We must all act against glyphosate where we can

The evidence of glyphosate toxicity to both human and animal health and the ecosystem has built up to such an extent that some governments are taking action.

As mentioned earlier, both El Salvador and Sri Lanka have made steps towards banning the herbicide. The Netherlands successfully banned its sale to private individuals.

Russia has recently decided to ban the import and cultivation of all GM crops due to health and environmental concerns, while a section of the Chinese army has reportedly banned its consumption. In Brazil a public prosecutor is also looking to suspend its use.

For those of us who are not being protected by our governments, it is time to start initiating our own campaigns - banning it first from our homes, communities, schools, cities, counties and regions.

Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji is a scientist working on GMOs with ISIS

This article was originally published by ISIS, the Institute of Science in Society. For ease of reading this version has been stripped of its references, which are available in the PDF version.

Action: Please support research of Seralini's team on analysing glyphosate residues in rats exposed to Roundup.

Heavy Snowfall and Cold Wave in America Not Caused by Global Warming

Global Research | Feb 27, 2015 | Ganapathy Ponmudi

The heavy snowfalls during the months of December 2013 and January 2014 were caused by the excessive snow and ice deposits formed in the Arctic region during August 2013.

Last year, fifty states in the U.S. experienced heavy snowfalls during the months of December 2013 and January 2014. Based on the information released on the internet, I found out that the snowfall was the aftermath of the unusual formation of extensive ice deposits in the Arctic region. However, it is explained on the basis of the “Global Warming” conception.

We are told that the ice deposits on the surface of the sea in the North Polar Region melted and the resultant sea water on the surface evaporated with the heat and rose up. This affected the polar vortex, which usually circles the middle and upper troposphere and extends into stratosphere. This further altered the path of the polar vortex, which widely spread over the entire North American continent causing heavy snowfall.

But the British Meteorological Department has found out from the records of 30,000 stations which recorded weather that during the past seventeen years, i.e. from 1997 to 2014, the world’s temperature had not risen at all.

Hence the explanation given for the widespread snowfall in America last year, during the months of December 2013 and January 2014 on the basis of the “Global Warming” conception is totally wrong.

In the year 2007, BBC released a news item stating that a study conducted by Prof. Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski and researchers of NASA has predicted that particularly in the month of September 2013, the North Polar Region might be ice-free.

But contrary to the predictions of those “Global Warming” scientists, the Arctic Region was not only not sea ice-free, but that ice had unusually formed in an area of around 5,33,000 square miles amounting to 29 percent of additional ice formation in the Arctic Region, and this was captured in the satellite images of NASA.

It proves that the unusual excessive formation of ice in the Arctic Region is the sole reason for the heavy snowfall in America.

There is also a possibility that this incident would recur if excessive ice is again formed in the Arctic Region. So, America, Canada and European nations may be alerted on these grounds.

Ganapathy Ponmudi is an independent scientist from Chennai, India.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Busted! Fukushima Operator Concealed Radioactive Leak for Nearly a Year

© AP Photo/ Toshiaki Shimizu
Sputnik | Feb 26, 2015

Tokyo Electric Power Co., TEPCO, has been slammed by fishermen, for knowingly allowing radioactive substances to flow freely into the sea for ten months.

Operators of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant admitted that a drainage ditch allowed highly-contaminated water to flow into the sea, and that the leak was first detected back in May 2014.
Fishermen were shocked to hear such confession, voicing disappointment in the company that has been criticized for the cleanup of the Fukushima disaster that happened four years ago.

"I don't understand why you (TEPCO) kept silent about the leakage even though you knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked," Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative said.

© AP Photo/ Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Underground water is being released into the ocean through a piping at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant has begun releasing groundwater from the least contaminated areas of the facility into the ocean so it does not run into contaminated areas and create more toxic water amid storage space limitations.
A TEPCO officials justified the cover-up saying the company found out during an investigation.

"This was part of an ongoing investigation in which we discovered a water puddle with high levels of radiation on top of the Reactor No. 2 building, and because this also happens to be one of the sources for this drainage system, we decided to report everything all at once."

A company spokesperson added that it did not disclosed the leak because samples from ocean water surrounding the area showed no substantial spikes of hazardous material.

TEPCO had to get permission from the fishermen to dispose of groundwater in the surrounding ocean.

In Sept. 2013, when Tokyo was announced to be the host country for 2020 Summer Olympics, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised the International Olympic Committee that all radiation leaks at the tsunami-ravaged plant were “under control.”

The Japanese government also announced that TEPCO would be the main sponsor of the 2020 Olympics.

Meanwhile, TEPCO maintains that the contaminated water that has been freely leaking into the Pacific Ocean does not violate regulations and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has not detected a spike in the level of toxins.

In March 2011, the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in Japan was hit by a massive earthquake-triggered tsunami that led to meltdown of three of the plant’s six nuclear reactions. Four people were killed, 37 had physical injuries and two were taken to the hospital for radiation burns. The entire death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is estimated to be around 20,000.

Scientists puzzled by 'bright spots' on surface of dwarf planet Ceres

Two strange reflective patches spotted on Ceres.
Image: NASA, JPL

Mashable | Feb 26, 2015 | Chris Taylor

A dwarf planet is shining two bright lights at a NASA spacecraft right now, and our smartest scientists are unsure what they are.

As bizarre as that sentence sounds, that's the situation with Ceres — the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, officially designated as a dwarf planet (the same category as Pluto).

NASA's Dawn spacecraft is approaching Ceres ahead of a March 6 rendezvous. The picture above was taken February 19, from a distance of just under 29,000 miles, and shows two very shiny areas on the same basin on Ceres' surface.

Previous Dawn images from further away showed a single light on Ceres, which was just as mysterious. Then, to the amazement of every astronomy geek, the one light turned out to be two — reflecting roughly 40% of the light hitting them.

Read more..

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Why conventional agriculture should be banned

© Natural News
Natural News | Feb 26, 2015 | Joel Edwards

When chemicals were first introduced in farming, everyone marveled at what they could do. Yields were dramatically increased. In the beginning, the soil was so healthy, any damage done by chemical fertilizers was imperceptible, and pests had yet to evolve resistance to the insecticides. Our technologies were exported around the world as a revolution in agriculture - the green revolution.

Chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, factory farms, and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. It just keeps coming. Almost no one calls it the green revolution anymore because there is nothing green about it, at least not in the modern ecologically friendly meaning of the word green.

Downsides to the Green Revolution 

There are a number of problems brought on by conventional agriculture's techniques. Conventional methods are inhumane to animals; they spread disease and pollution and degrade our nation's soil and water. In the interests of sustainability, protecting our nation's resources and improving our health, conventional agriculture needs to be banned, both in the U.S. and abroad.

A return to organic agriculture, which prohibits the use of chemicals and encourages crop rotation, will protect our nation's arable land, increase the nutritional value of our food, and dramatically reduce our food's toxicity.

Toxic Food 

Yes, our food is toxic when grown by conventional means. Ninety-three percent of Americans tested by the CDC had metabolites of chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin in their urine. Chlorpyrifos has been banned for use in homes because it has been linked to autoimmune diseases and neurological damage, but it is still commonly used on golf courses and in bait containers, and it is sprayed all over our food.

Over 99% of Americans tested, tested positive for exposure to DDT. DDT has been banned from use in the U.S. since 1972. But it's still perfectly legal to manufacture it in the U.S. ship it to Mexico and other countries, and then have it sprayed on food, and then sell the food to the U.S. DDT has been linked to various cancers and birth defects. It is a persistent toxin that stays in the environment for an extended period of time.

The government sets limits on how much of each pesticide can be on our food, but there is no limit to the number of different approved pesticides that can be on our food or the total amount of chemical contamination. The Pesticide Action Network tells us that Americans are exposed to an average of 10-13 pesticides every day.

As a last resort, organic farmers do use pesticides; however, organic farmers use pesticides that are plant based. These bio-chemicals naturally, quickly decompose. In contrast, conventional agriculture uses a vast array of chemicals, most of them synthetic. There are over 600 pesticides used in the United States. Many of these chemicals are known to last for hundreds or thousands of years before breaking down, and they are toxic to both humans and animals. The degree of exposure to these chemicals directly affects one's risk of developing numerous cancers, especially cancer of the brain, prostate cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.

If growing nutrient deficient, chemical laden food isn't bad enough, conventional agriculture has gone even further by genetically modifying our food to make it easier to grow at an even higher cost to the consumer's health. Many genetically modified foods are modified to produce pesticides within the plant. GMOs radically alter the microorganisms in the soil, damaging the soil's fertility. GMOs introduce new allergens, new toxins, and unknown proteins into our bodies.
"Every day we make life or death decisions, decisions about what we eat. This may sound melodramatic, but it's true." Superfoods RX
Studies have repeatedly shown that the nutritional content of organic food is dramatically superior to the nutritional content of conventionally grown food. Before the advent of today's conventional agriculture, our food contained more nutrients. Organic agriculture's predominant strategy is to cultivate nutrient rich soil. In order to add nutrients back into the soil, organic agriculture uses crop rotation and natural fertilizers. This produces healthy plants, which makes for healthy food.

What About the Soil 

We must protect our nation's arable land in order to protect our food supply for future generations. With approximately 18% to 19% of America's land being arable, we have the world's most abundant farming resources. Even though agriculturally viable resources are obviously of great economic value to the entire nation, our nation's soil is treated as though it were disposable. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and petroleum-based fertilizers strip the soil of nutrients and kill beneficial organisms such as earthworms, predatory insects, and microorganisms. In order to grow anything in such chemical laden soil, more chemicals are added. This process degrades the topsoil and causes salts to build up in the land, leaving barren dirt. After this process strips the land of its agricultural viability, conventional agribusiness moves on, acquiring more farmland. Then the process is repeated, rendering more land barren. By comparison, organic farming replenishes the soil through crop rotation, natural fertilizers, and the use of time-honored, natural techniques.

Deadly Germs 

A whopping 50% of antibiotic use is not for human beings but for livestock. The media is constantly warning about the dangers of overuse of antibiotics. The concern is that overuse (and abuse) of antibiotics can breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It is commonplace to add antibiotics to livestock feed, even when the animals aren't sick. This is because conventional methods typically overcrowd the animals so badly that too many of them will get sick without an on-going diet that includes antibiotics.

It is cruel and inhumane to force animals to live with their own waste and in such crowded conditions. To keep consumers in the dark about the realities of factory farming, many states are passing laws forbidding filming inside these factory farms. The stench of these crowded pens is unbearable to any but the most stalwart and habituated individuals, and the animals' waste is so concentrated that it poses a risk to nearby natural water sources.

These are perfect conditions for pathogens to thrive. It provides bacteria with the opportunity for many different food sources, and many different animal hosts to infect. This gives bacteria an opportunity to develop resistance to our medications. These conditions are also ideal for viruses to spread from animal to animal and potentially to humans.

Dead Zones 

Conventional farming utilizes phosphorous and nitrogen chemical fertilizers. When rain and runoff carry these fertilizers into the ocean, marine life is suffocated. The fertilizers trigger overgrowth of marine plankton. Once the masses of plankton die, their death feeds ocean bacteria. The bacteria consume oxygen, and with an unnatural overabundance of plankton, the bacteria consume just about all of the oxygen left in the ocean. Shrimp, fish, and all other forms of marine life either leave the area or die from lack of oxygen. The end result is hypoxia, oceanic dead zones. These areas are devoid of nearly all life other than plankton and bacteria.

Scientists have documented coastal dead zones, areas that are hypoxic in over 400 coastal areas. All over the world, these dead zones are found downstream of conventional farming from Chesapeake Bay to Oregon to Denmark, and to the Black Sea.

We have a vested interest in marine life. It is not only shameful that marine animals suffocate as a side effect of our farming pollution, it is also economically damaging. The ocean provides us with billions of dollars worth of food annually. Nothing of commercial importance survives a dead zone, fish, shellfish, and shrimp all either leave the area or suffocate in the dead waters. Many of these dead zones are thousands of square miles. The dead zone off of the Gulf of Mexico was once recorded as being an area larger than the state of New Jersey, 22,000 kilometers.


Pesticide residue, antibiotics, preservatives, and genetic modification directly affect the long-term sustainability of farming, fishing, the consumer's health, and the health of those who grow and produce the food. We do not exist separately from the environment in which we live. If what we consume is polluted, our bodies become polluted. Beyond choosing what we buy in the store, we as a nation must choose, for the long term or short term, organic or conventional. This choice affects us all, even those not yet born.

If you are in a position to grow your own food, check out How To Start A Vegetable Garden and Ten Great Gardening Tips. If you're not growing your own food in very healthy soil, it's time to get more nutrition: Make Your Own Homemade Multivitamin and Mineral Formula.


Superfoods RX by Stephen Pratt M.D.

Toxic Relief by Don Colbert M.D.

Environment The Science Behind The Stories 4th edition by Jay Withgott and Scott Brennan

Pesticides on Food - Pesticide Action Network

Chlorpyrifos - National Pesticide Information Center

CIA World Factbook,_opinion

About the author:
Joel learned long ago that pharmaceuticals were not the answer to health and vitality. He gave up on Pharmaceuticals many years ago, and he also gave up wheat and refined sugars. His hobbies include gluten free baking, gardening, and fitness. Joel is passionate about agriculture and environmental issues. Joel believes that progressive, cutting-edge, organic agriculture can feed the world.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Food Rising Mini-Farm Grow Box official launch video

Health Ranger | Feb 24, 2015 | Mike Adams

The Health Ranger launches the Food Rising Mini-Farm Grow Box system in this revolutionary unveiling.

Learn more at

GMOs Are Destroying Our Food Security (and Heirloom Seed Treasures)

TruthStream Media | Feb 24, 2015 | Aaron Dykes

A report from Baker Creek Heirloom Rare Seed's catalog explains how the genetic engineering of crops is having real life consequences for business, as well as food security.

Just from the perspective of a medium sized business, Baker Creek and its partners in the seed industry have lost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of GMO corn contamination.

Baker Creek began testing their Heirloom corn varieties for GMO contamination, and found that more than 50% of their more than a dozen varieties were contaminated. Those varieties, most of which were hand passed down through countless generations, have now been lost – forever, unless a clean source is found and recovered.

Meanwhile, Monsanto has been accused of suing farmers, often financially ruining small farmers, for infringing patent laws when non-GMO varieties become unintentionally cross-pollinated.

Baker Creek reports that Monsanto's lawyers downplayed the effects of contamination as 'hypothetical' and low level, as in the OSGATA et al. vs. Monsanto court case, while their real world experience is massive financial loss.

The proliferation of further GMO crop and vegetable stables will destroy diversity irrevocably and undermine food freedom and security to feed the world.

Four More Mystery Craters Found In Russia, Bright Flash of Light Witnessed Claims Underground Explosions

Dahboo77 | Feb 23, 2015

Four new mysterious giant craters have appeared in the Siberian permafrost in northern Russia.
Scientists spotted the new holes, along with dozens of other smaller ones, in the same area as three other enormous craters that were spotted on the Yamal Peninsula last year.

Drone film of Niagara Falls frozen over

SOTT | Feb 21, 2015

The ice encasing the Niagara Falls, which has drawn in visitors from all over, isn't expected to melt entirely until May. Drone footage captures this rare and beautiful occurrence.

Fireball & sonic boom witnessed from Florida to South Carolina

Heat map of fireball sightings
(Image from
RT | Feb 23, 2015

Residents of the Sunshine State say they spotted a massive fireball soar through the Florida sky over the weekend, and similar reports have since surfaced from as far away as South Carolina.

According to the American Meteorological Society (AMS), 189 people have filed reports since late Saturday evening, when they saw a fireball cut through the night sky. At least 15 eyewitnesses described seeing the phenomenon accompanied by what the AMS called a "window rattling delayed boom."

It “sounded like an explosion,” a witness, who gave her name as Kasey W. from Lake City, FL, told the AMS. Another person who said she encountered the fireball, Lindsey E., also of Lake City, said her “windows and walls shook along with a loud pop and boom.”

The AMS has logged reports from supposed witnesses in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and experts told local media that the apparent sightings seem to suggest a meteor is to blame.

“The fact that people heard sonic booms [means] it did survive down to the lower atmosphere," Robert Lunsford, a volunteer with the AMS, told Jacksonville’s WJXT. "So there's a good chance that some small fragments may have reached the ground probably about 50 miles west of Jacksonville.”

“The best way I can describe it is it looked like a large firework,” witness Tracie Sradley told Jacksonville’s Action News. “But then there was a big ball of fire behind it and as quick as we seen it, it was gone.”

The fireball, Sradley said, was “just like the brightest, the prettiest – it was actually gorgeous, it was beautiful.”

According to the AMS, reports from across the Deep South suggest the meteor was heading northeast and indeed met its demise just west of Jacksonville — around 250 miles south of Augusta, GA, where some witness reports were filed.

Sunday’s incident came just a few days after similar reports surfaced up the East Coast, where residents of the Mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday described seeing a fireball that the AMS believes was a 500-pound meteor that was traveling at around 45,000 miles per hour before breaking up in western Pennsylvania.

Lunsford told WJXT that this time of year presents the perfect conditions for meteor viewing.

"At this time of the year in the evening sky, we have a path in the sky called the ecliptic is where the moon and the sun and the planets all follow," he said. "During those three months it's highest in the sky during the evening hours.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

10 Foods That Make You Smarter

Eco Watch | Feb 22, 2015 | Michael Gonzalez-Wallace

Who doesn’t want to become smarter? Who wants to look better or feel healthier? Many recent studies have shown how certain nutrients can positively affect the brain, specifically in areas of the brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Generally speaking, you want to follow a healthy diet for your brain that will lead to strong blood flow, maintenance of mental sharpness and reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies
the same way that when we use
our car we need to fill the gas tank.
We know that foods play a great role in our brain, as concluded in several studies led by a phenomenal neuroscientist at UCLA, Gomez Pinilla.

According to one study, the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies the same way that when we use our car we need to fill the gas tank. Unfortunately, we generally take better care of our cars than our bodies. Why is that? We are hearing frequently that consuming the right nutrients can help our health, aging process, and more efficient brain-body functioning.

With that said, I want to share with you 10 foods you must keep in your diet to maintain brain health:

1. Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This magical nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, which is a phytonutrient.

2. Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.

3. Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue.

4. Blueberries and Strawberries: Studies show that people who eat berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect your brain from the oxidative process.

5. Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate offers incredible concentration powers. It is a very powerful antioxidant containing natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: you need to find dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving for optimal benefits.

6. Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.

7. Dried Oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, this powerful spice has shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than that of blueberries or strawberries.

8. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6 which all promote healthy neural tissue.

9. Whole Grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain.

10. Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells.

Make sure that from now on you select and plan a great menu that include these brain foods. Life is about choices and selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.

Michael Gonzalez-Wallace is the author of Super Body, Super Brain.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Discourses on an Alien Sky | To Hear the Ancient Witnesses

Thunderbolts Project | Feb 21, 2015

The subject of this video series is the ancient experience of towering celestial forms that are no longer present. From a single snapshot of the configuration, we can work backwards to the first appearance of these bodies out of an undifferentiated cloud or sea of dusty plasma. We can then follow the configuration’s evolution through phases that range from quasi-stability to earth shaking catastrophe.

This is 4th in the series. View the other three Discourses--
Discourse #1: When Planets Were the Gods
Discourse #2: The Acid Tests of Reconstruction
Discourse #3: Cosmic Catastrophe & Cultural Obsession

Midwestern - Eastern U.S. record breaking cold and snow as seen from space

Watts Up With That | Feb 21, 2015 |

From NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center: NASA snaps picture of Eastern US in a record-breaking ‘freezer’

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this picture of snow across the eastern United States on Feb. 19 at 16:20 UTC (11:20 a.m. EST). Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

 NASA’s Terra satellite captured an image of the snow-covered eastern U.S. that looks like the states have been sitting in a freezer. In addition to the snow cover, Arctic and Siberian air masses have settled in over the Eastern U.S. triggering many record low temperatures in many states.

On Feb. 19 at 16:40 UTC (11:40 a.m. EST), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a picture of the snowy landscape. The snow cover combined with the frosty air mass made the eastern U.S. feel like the inside of freezer. The MODIS image was created at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

On the morning of Feb. 20, NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center (WPC) noted, “There were widespread subzero overnight lows Thursday night (Feb. 19) extending from Illinois to western Virginia, and numerous record lows were set. Bitterly-cold arctic air is setting numerous temperature records across the eastern U.S. and will keep temperatures well below normal on Friday (Feb. 20).”

In Baltimore, Maryland, a low temperature of 1F broke the record low for coldest morning recorded at the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington-International Airport.

In Louisville, Kentucky, temperatures dropped to -6F, breaking the old record low of 0F, according to meteorologist Brian Goode of WAVE-TV. Meanwhile, Richmond Kentucky bottomed out at a frigid -32F.

In North Carolina, a record low temperature was set at Charlotte where the overnight temperature bottomed out at 7F breaking the old record of 13F in 1896. In Asheville, temperatures dropped to just 4F breaking the old record of 10F in 1979. Temperature records for Asheville extend back to 1876.

Several records were also broken in Georgia, according to Matt Daniel, a meteorologist at WMAZ-TV, Macon Georgia, who cited data from the National Weather Service. Daniel said that Macon set a new record low when the temperature dropped to 18F, beating the previous record of 21F set in 1958. Athens broke a new record low, too dropping to 14F and beating the old record of 18F set in 1958/1928.

NOAA’s NPC noted that “Highs on Friday (Feb. 20) will struggle to get out of the teens from the Ohio Valley to the Mid-Atlantic region. After Friday, temperatures are forecast to moderate and get closer to February averages as a storm system approaches from the west.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Camping in Amerika: How the System Does Not Protect You

TruthStream Media | Feb 17, 2015

This video is a rant of sorts filmed half an hour after we confronted someone who had drunkenly tried to break into our tent (and subsequently, our car) at Garner State Park in the middle of the previous night at 3 am. Authorities, however pointless, got involved.

All their rules and regulations, all the police state security theater and when it really counted, could they protect us? Nope. And the fact that it was a gun free zone only left us and our children that much more vulnerable to a very real and potentially deadly threat.

‘Tiny houses’: California homelessness gets new $40 solution (PHOTOS)

Watch video
RT | Feb 21, 2015

An Oakland artist is ingeniously battling homelessness in Oakland, California: he builds small houses out of materials he can find in the streets, with each edifice costing around forty bucks.

The tiny homes are made of pallets, bed boards, washing machine doors, and other bizarre objects that catch Greg Kloehn’s attention. Mr Kloehn first noticed that homeless people built shelters from whatever they find in the street, and he wanted to make a house like this.

He jokes that he constructs "illegal homes out of illegal garbage." The cost of one house is “$30 to $40,” Kloehn told RT.

Image from
“The real cost is just in the wheels: I buy large casters for the bottom, so that they are mobile, and then nails, and screws, and paintbrushes. But everything else I get for free,” he said.

The houses are just comfortable enough to lie down in a warmer place than a cardboard box, and the homeless in Oakland are “so happy,” Kloehn told the Independent. "One cried and got on his knees to thank me. They think I should make them bigger and suggest improvements. They like to decorate them themselves.”

Image from
Currently, about 25 people use the homes. One couple’s home burned down, another one was stolen, and a third was sold.

“It is tough out there. So I keep making more," Kloehn said. It takes about a week to finish a house, depending on the style.

“There are some quick, easy homes in maybe two or three days. But some more elaborate ones, some more Victorian-style ones, some different dome shapes – it takes a little bit longer," he told RT.

Image from
Some people choose to change their homes, Kloehn said to RT. “One guy remodeled the house and made it twice as big!”

The creator chooses funny names for the homes: R2D2, The Settler, Romanian Farm House, Uni-bomber Shack, the Tank and The Chuck Wagon to name a few.

Image from
“They are not just homes but fast becoming a life style option. They are usually cheaper than regular homes, giving more people the opportunity of ownership,” he said.

"By skipping the traditional 30 years mortgage, perhaps the tiny home movement could even reshape the way we think about work and what we want to accomplish with our lives."

Image from

Image from


Maya Mural Reveals Ancient 'Photobomb'

A man with the title "junior obsidian" kneels before the king
in a Maya mural researchers uncovered in Guatemala in 2010.
Credit: Illustration by Heather Hurst, copyright 2014
Live Science | Feb 20, 2015 | Laura Geggel

An ancient Maya mural found in the Guatemalan rainforest may depict a group portrait of advisers to the Maya royalty, a new study finds.

Most Maya murals depict life within the royal sphere, but the newfound mural, uncovered in the Guatemalan rainforest in 2010, shows a vibrant scene of intellectuals consulting with the royal governor, who is dressed as the Maya wind god.

Behind him, an attendant, almost hidden behind the king's massive headdress, adds a unique photobomb to the mural, said Bill Saturno, the study's lead researcher and an assistant professor of archaeology at Boston University. [See Photos of the Ancient Maya Mural]

The murals also provide information about a man buried beneath them. During an excavation, the archaeologists found the skeleton of a man dressed like the sages in the mural. It's possible the man once lived in the room, which later became his final resting place, Saturno said.

Archaeologists discovered the approximately 1,250-year-old mural in the ancient city of Xultun, located in the northeastern part of present-day Guatemala. During an archaeological study of Xultun, an undergraduate student inspecting an old looters' trail noticed traces of paint on an ancient wall covered by dirt.

"My assumption was that there would be very little to see," Saturno said. "Not because the Maya didn't paint murals — they did — but they don't preserve well in a tropical environment."

However, the elements had been kind to the building and its treasures. The excavation uncovered a rectangular room covered with murals and a Maya calendar, the oldest known Maya dating system on record.

Mysterious obsidians

The mural is one of only two known murals in the eastern Maya lowlands that have lasted throughout the ages, the researchers said. The Xultun paintings, illustrated in vibrant red, blue, green and black pigments, cover three of the room's four walls. The fourth wall, damaged by looters, contains the door.

Saturno and his colleagues excavated past the point where the looters tunneled, and came face-to-face with "the polychrome face of a king seated with his blue-feathered headdress," Saturno said. A man kneeling before the king, labeled itz'in taaj, or "junior obsidian," faces the king in profile.

ch'ok, or "youth," and another is called sakun taaj, or "senior obsidian."

This illustration shows a view of the northern
and western walls in the Xultun mural chamber.
Credit: Illustration by Heather Hurst, copyright 2014
Behind the junior obsidian, on the west wall, are three men dressed in black and sitting cross-legged. One of the men is labeled

It's unclear what "obsidian" means, the researchers said.

"Are they religious? Are they scholars? Is there a line between those things?" Saturno said. "They seem to be making books and painting tables on the walls."

All three men wear the same headdress with a medallion and feathery plume, a white loincloth and a medallion on their chests.

"You see these three guys dressed identically and lining up on one wall," Saturno said. "That's strange. They're clearly being represented as a unit."

The fact that they're all wearing the same uniform suggests the obsidians shared similar duties, Saturno said. Moreover, the people who filled the obsidian order probably lived in the room for a period of time, as there are dozens of texts painted on the walls. [Maya Murals: Stunning Images of King & Calendar]

Water and tree roots largely damaged the east wall, but the archaeologists still managed to find the painted remains of three individuals.

All the king's men

The mural may depict a consultation between the king and the obsidian, the researchers said. The king is dressed as a version of the wind god, holding a staff with wind symbols on it.

"Maya kings often dress up as deities in performance," Saturno said. "Essentially re-enacting events from the mythic past."

The timing of the performance was important, and the obsidian may have been advising the king about its correct date, he said. To remember meetings such as these, obsidians or artists may have painted the mural, he said.

"The mural establishes a direct relationship between a particular order, or guild, of Xultun artists and scribal-priests and their lord, and it celebrates its members’ achievement in consulting and producing work for their sovereign's reign," the researchers wrote in the study.

The king sports blue, green and orange accessories, whereas the obsidians are painted in reddish and black colors. The pigments from the king's portrait "are not common to that part of the region where it's from," Saturno said. "These are materials that are being traded in."

The painting also shows an attendant behind the king, possibly to hold up his headdress, Saturno said. "It's like a photobomb," he joked. "He's almost like, 'Do you see me here?'"

In contrast, the orange and red colors are made from local pigments, which likely helped differentiate between royal and non-royal subjects in the mural, the researchers said.

The study is "a brilliant gem of scholarship," said David Freidel, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved with the study.

"This room celebrates a special group of members of the royal court of Xultun that are called obsidian, [or] taaj," Freidel said. "The obsidian people appear to be present at other sites, but we don't know much about them."

It's remarkable that the intricate mural wasn't painted at the royal residence, said Takeshi Inomata, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, who wasn't involved in the study.

"This comes from the residence of a courtier, a court official," Inomata said. "This tells us about how those political organizations of Maya society were run, and then we can really get to the people who are really doing all of those things."

The study was published in the February issue of the journal Antiquity. The coauthors are Heather Hurst at Skidmore College in New York, Franco Rossi at Boston University and David Stuart at the University of Texas at Austin.

Follow Laura Geggel on Twitter @LauraGeggel. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.