Thursday, March 16, 2017

Monsanto: Butterflies, Bees, and You're Next.

See Below*
Monsanto: Butterflies, Bees and You’re Next

Fake News is one thing; but “fake scientific research” is quite another. 

The first we can heatedly argue; the latter will put an end to us.

Enter stage right, Monsanto. 

It appears that Monsanto Corporation, a company that has cornered the world market in providing herbicides, insecticides, and questionable genetic modifications, has worked for decades to produce falsified “research papers” that were ghost written by executives and officials and then handed over to legitimate scientists for editing? 

Why?  In order later to affix their names on the documents as supportive of false findings; when in fact, they were only asked to edit a section or paragraph here and there for clarification, appropriate attributions, sentence construction, etc.

Despite all the “evidence” produced over the years by Monsanto, the state of California has decided to list glyphosate - the chief active ingredient in Roundup herbicide -  as a likely carcinogen.  This follows the same designation given by the World Health organization in March of 2015.   

One trillion, four hundred million tons of Roundup are used on crops and lawns across the world annually; the United States consumes nearly 20% of the herbicide: 280 million pounds per year.  

As the CEO Hugh Grant notes in his company’s letter to shareholders this last year, “From the Earth’s deepest roots to its highest satellites, we are more connected than ever to our planet and the food it produces. At Monsanto, we believe these connections hold the key to unlocking positive potential for growers and consumers.”
And a positive potential for profits as well.  The company’s revenues exceed $15 billion annually. 
In order to keep the lid on the downsides of our carefree consumption of herbicides by large Agra and even smaller family farms and gardeners, Monsanto was able to coerce the assistance of the EPA – or at least one of the EPA’s watchdog officials: Mr. Jess Rowland. 

For some time, Jess Rowland had been running interference for the company by curtailing investigations from other EPA and investigative sub-agency groups like the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of Health and Human Services). 

After the World Health Organization’s identification of glyphosate as a carcinogen in April of 2015, Rowland promised to find ways to kill any investigative scrutiny by HHS, and he quipped he should “get a medal,” for his successful efforts. 

Rowland’s and the company’s ploy was to inform the HHS that a scientific review was already in process, and any duplicative investigation would be a waste of labor and government money.

While Rowland blocked or parried interests by other outside agencies, inner-company officials like the heads of toxicology and his manager Bill Heyden ghost wrote scientific reports promoting conclusions that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic.

To make the falsified reports more “palatable” and “less expensive,” according to communications written by Heyden, they handed sections of the reports to scientists to review for accuracy, clarity, scientific argumentation, and other editing labors.  After that, they would pay them minimally and sign their names to the documents.  Thus, what was an in-house and slanted preparation appeared as research which was scientifically substantiated.    

For years, Monsanto also conducted research indicating that toxic levels of Roundup’s glyphosate were much lower than suggested.  While Monsanto argued that the chemical did not bio-accumulate, it in fact did.  They covered over the report’s findings that “After only 24 hours, the toxic chemical was found in the lungs and all body fluids: lymph, blood, urine, and cerebral spinal fluid.  Glyphosate also accumulated in the bone by 30 ppm and in the bone marrow by 4 ppm.”

Mexican Political Street Art
Monsanto avoided including the injurious interaction between the main chemical in Roundup and pancreas of its mammalian subjects.  After review of the research collected, two researchers from MIT believe this oversight was intentional. 

In the Monsanto Sustainability Report, CEO Hugh Grant reminds his shareholders, “Our mission is simple: Provide tools for farmers to help nourish the growing global population and help preserve the Earth for people, plants, wildlife and communities.”
In France, meanwhile, studies of rats and mice fed a Monsanto GM maize diet for an additional month, four months, just one month beyond the research distributed by Monsanto on the safety of their modified corn were disconcerting.  Gilles-Eric Seralini and his French team looked beyond Monsanto’s 3-month studies and “observed profuse cancer and tumor development developed after the 4th month of the study.”  Monsanto disregards these studies as inconclusive. 
Europe has always been more cautious of our rush to genetically modify animals, plants, and produce.  Much of the millions of pounds of Roundup used in the United States finds its way into our streams and rivers, thus the EPA (with Monsanto’s help and influence?) has developed guidelines for the amount that’s acceptable in our drinking water.  The safe level for U.S. water is set at 0.7 ug/L, a level unchanged since 1994 despite the revelations of its actual toxicity.  In Europe, the number has always been 0.1 ug/L.  (micrograms per liter)

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant
Meanwhile, Monsanto’s CEO also reminds his shareholders and all of us that the company’s authentic ethos can be found in its “longstanding commitment to people, planet, and our company.”  Here’s what Hugh Grant promises they’ll do:

Act Ethically and Responsibly.
Advocate for Biodiversity.
Advance Product Stewardship.
Create a Great Work Environment.
Drive Modern Agricultural Innovation.
Engage Communities and Society.
Foster Collaboration and Transparency.
Improve Global Food and Nutrition Security.
Reduce Our Environmental Impact.

And, sadly, this kind of false and despicably twisted pontificating will be further stimulated in a Trump Presidency where funding for the EPA (not one bad character like Rowland) will be cut by nearly a third of its original budget to protect us from poisons like glyphosate. 



Reports Reviewed:



*Above:  My friend Hector Duarte, muralist and activist in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, invited me into his gallery one afternoon to show me a work in progress.  Mr. Duarte; originally from Michoacán, Mexico; knows the insidious affects of corporate poisoning on his beloved Monarchs, the bees, and all of our peoples. The work is pictured in the banner. (Thank you TS)

Monday, March 13, 2017

How Much is that Doggie Worth to You?

Illinois SB1882 & HB2824: How Much for that Doggie?

Many of the vehicle transports at my local animal shelter travel downstate in Illinois, or they journey as far as Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, or Missouri to pick up orphaned animals scheduled for euthanasia in the next few days or hours for lack of room.  Although we’re a small “Mom & Pop” organization, when cages are empty in the “intake room,” we’ll send committed volunteers out on the road for continual driving to save animals – most usually dogs.  Still, as small as our no-kill shelter remains, we save and adopt over 1000 orphaned animals each year to loving families.  Sounds miserable, but in the end it’s good work.

But it’s puppy mills that test our endurances and resolve to believe that there is any humanity in the world.  We’ll get those calls on occasion when farm families in Ohio or Missouri decide they’ve had enough of their cottage industry in pushing out “designer” dogs – Pugs bred with Beagles, Chihuahuas bred with Malteses, teacup Poodles bred with Yorkies. 

Imagine a crazed Frankenstein who could care less about his creations, only the numbers and profits.

A couple of years ago, one of our transports raced deep into Ohio to retrieve as many breeder -dogs who were too old or finished as viable donors before the local farmers began a collective target practice on any left behind.  

Feeling squeamish?  It gets worse, so skip ahead to the blue font.

Most are kept in cages so inadequately small they cannot turn around.  They walk on open cage lattice, so their paws become splayed and unable to tread on normal flat surfaces.  Their elimination falls directly below to the cage and its occupant below and below that, and below that.  Their noses are split and scarred by the constant rubbing against the sides of the cage.  Some kept jammed in groups in smaller cages may be missing parts of limbs or toes as a result.  

When they arrive, we place the survivors in cages only 24 inches by 20 inches and 24 inches high.  To the dogs, this might as well be the Grand Canyon.  They crawl to the back corner, frightened by the expanse and the possible interaction of light and humanity. 

A recent report marked URGENT by the Puppy Mill Project as well as an editorial in the Chicago Tribune warns “the pet store lobby is trying to get its paws on the state Animal Welfare Act.”  I cannot be as pun-fully amusing as the Chicago Tribune, but I do appreciate their warning: “Industry representatives are pushing an amendment – disguised as a mandatory microchipping measure that would sweep aside local ordinances in Chicago and Cook County that ban the sale of dogs bred in puppy mills.” 

According to the Puppy Mill Project, the two bills – appealingly entitled Animal Welfare Micro-Chipping – are not at all what they appear.

At first glance, these bills appear to offer additional protections for animals – and we share and support their stated
goals of protecting consumers, increasing transparency in the sourcing of dogs and cats, and screening out inhumane
breeders. We also support the bills’ microchipping requirements. However, one section of these bills (Section 3.8) is
misguided and will be extremely harmful to consumers and animals. Section 3.8 legitimizes sourcing dogs from
inhumane breeding operations, relies on information that is no longer available for its enforcement, and prohibits cities from enacting their own laws regarding the sourcing and sale of dogs and cats in their communities.”

On the surface, the legislation appears perfectly rational and humane, like requiring breeders to hold a USDA license and clean record, just like the breeders in Ohio who tired of their “business.”

But Section 3.8 of the bill “allows pet stores to source from inhumane breeders without any means of researching those breeder.”

“Why is this legislation bad for animals and consumers?
1. It will not screen out inhumane breeders. This legislation offers limited restrictions on where pet stores can source dogs and cats, requiring breeders to have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license and meet nominal inspection criteria – but a USDA license and clean record do not mean that a breeder is humane. USDA standards are barely survival standards. Dogs can live in cages only six inches larger than their bodies for 24 hours a day. Stacked cages, mesh or wire flooring, and unlimited breeding are all acceptable. These facilities tend to mass produce puppies and operate solely for profit. USDA licensure sounds reassuring to a consumer but in reality it accomplishes very little.
2. It does not create transparency. This legislation ties its standards to information that is no longer available.
Prior to January 2017, USDA breeder inspection records were publicly accessible through an online search tool.
However, these records have now been removed from the USDA website indefinitely. Even more troubling, the
legislation states that a pet store is considered in compliance even if the USDA records are unavailable. These
bills were introduced after the USDA search tool had been removed – rendering the bills’ purported safeguards
meaningless. There is currently no means for a consumer to research a breeder’s USDA record.
This legislation denies cities and towns in Illinois the authority to make their own laws protecting consumers and animals. These bills would overturn ordinances in Chicago, Cook County, Waukegan, and Warrenville –similar to legislation passed in more than 200 municipalities across the United States. These cities have determined that the sourcing and sale of dogs and cats is an issue of local concern for their communities and
Illinois home rule units should be able to pass their own legislation as appropriate.”

I was astounded to find my Senator Emil Jones on the list of sponsors and I contacted him immediately. 

Here are more names and directions from the Puppy Mill Project: 

“What can you do?
Contact the sponsors and co-sponsors of these bills in the Illinois House and Senate and tell them that you appreciate their efforts and concern for these issues, but Section 3.8 must be eliminated in its entirety.
Tell them that removing the home rule provision (Section 3.8(e)) is NOT ENOUGH – keeping the rest of Section 3.8 explicitly allows pet stores to source from inhumane breeders without any means of researching those breeders.
Contact your own representative and senator (even if they are not sponsors of this bill) and tell them that animal welfare is important to you and that there is dangerous legislation (SB 1882/HB 2824) pending that you do not support.
If you live in Chicago: Call your alderman. Tell him or her that there is state legislation that will invalidate a city
ordinance and deny Chicago’s home rule authority on an issue that is very important to you. Ask them to voice their
opposition to SB 1882/HB 2824 and stand up for Chicago’s right to regulate the source of dogs and cats sold in our
community. You can also do this for your Cook County Commissioner if you live in Cook County.
How to Contact your Representatives
Illinois House of Representatives Contacts:
State Representative Jerry Costello, II (representative who introduced the bill, representing the 116th District): (618)
282-7284 or staterepcostello@gmail.com
Lawrence M. Walsh Jr. (chief co-sponsor, representing the 86th District, including Joliet): (815) 730-8600 or
statereplarrywalshjr@gmail.com
State Representative Norine Hammond (chief co-sponsor, representing the 93rd District): (309) 836-2707 or
rephammond@macomb.com
Randy Frese (chief co-sponsor, representing the 94th District): (217) 223-0833 or repfrese@adams.net
State Rep John C. D’Amico (chief co-sponsor, representing the 15th District): (773) 736-0218 or johnd@ilga.gov
State Representative Margo McDermed (chief co-sponsor, representing the 37th District): (815) 277-2079 or
McDermed@ilhousegop.org
Copy & paste to email them all at once: staterepcostello@gmail.com; rephammond@macomb.com; repfrese@adams.net; johnd@ilga.gov; statereplarrywalshjr@gmail.com; McDermed@ilhousegop.org
Illinois Senate Contacts:
Michael E. Hastings (senator who introduced the bill, representing the 19th District including Joliet and other
communities): (815) 464-5431 or http://senatorhastings.com/contact-me
State Senator Jil Tracy (co-sponsor representing the 47th District): (217) 223-0837
Senator Emil Jones III (chief co-sponsor representing the 14th District): (773) 995-7748
or http://senatoremiljones.com/contact-us
Senator William R. Haine (co-sponsor representing the 56th District): (618) 465-4764
or http://www.senatorhaine.com/contact-us
New co-sponsor added, State Senator Sam McCann (representing the 50th District): (217) 245-0050 or
SenatorMcCann@gmail.com
Locate your State Senator and State Representative: http://www.elections.il.gov/districtlocator/addressfinder.aspx

For more information, contact The Puppy Mill Project at info@thepuppymillproject.org. “

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fact Check: Rauner Says AFSCME Is Highest Paid in U.S.

FACT CHECK: Rauner Says AFSCME Highest Paid Workers in the U.S.

A now-timely cartoon in the UTNE Reader years ago showed a grim-faced human resources manager behind a desk strewn with resumes and looking down on prospective applicant in a small wooden chair sitting before him.

HR Manager: You will be given an unbearable workload, your colleagues will harass and abuse you, any materials provided will be insufficient, there is no time off, you’ll never find advancement, vermin will bite your ankles, and you get health care.

Applicant:  Health care?  I’ll take the job!

So, what actually makes a job a worthy exchange for your labor?  Is it just the pay?

Novice Governor Bruce Rauner, who is girding up for his forced strike with the 38,000 AFSCME employees would drew a line in the sand concerning pay:  We have the highest paid state employees in America.  We need a fair system.” 

We can debate the beginner Governor’s concept of “fair” later, but do we really have the highest paid state workers in the country?  That’s an interesting claim.

According to a recent American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy released by Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine, the answer is “not so much.”

The research “Overpaid or Underpaid?  A State-by-State Ranking of Public Employee Compensation” provides a detailed review of how the cumulative packages of benefits, salaries, pensions, security, and sundry other elements add up in the fifty states which utilize public unions to provide for the general welfare of their people.  It is clear from the onset that “highest paid” is a vague and nebulously emotional term. 

According to the authors, to say unequivocally that one state’s employees receive a higher or highest compensation is overly simplistic: “The compensation premium is not uniform across the nation. Many states pay government employees at market levels. Others pay huge premiums, and still others fall somewhere in the middle. Because there are large differences from state to state, broad generalizations and national-level analyses are not especially useful to the policymakers who must make budgetary decisions for their own states.”

Indeed, public sector workers like AFSCME in Illinois do not hold a “highest” or even “most expensive” position in terms of workplace benefits.

First, when we look directly at salary (Figure 1, p. 62) – as the Governor would adjure us to do – we will find as we always suspected that the dollar and cents premiums we provide our state workers fall significantly behind those working comparable jobs in the private sector.  Well, that is, unless you happen to reside in Connecticut.   Illinois does not lead the way, but public sector workers in Illinois certainly fare better than our neighbors in Indiana – a state that provides a model for Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda demands.  Indeed. There exists an almost 10% differential in Illinois wages in contrast to Indiana state employees.

But if you have job security (think tenure or due process), doesn’t that move the advantage needle for workers in the public sector?

We find also Illinois still does not outpace other states.  Note that in Fig. 13 – p. 74,  “Total Compensation differential versus comparable Private Sector Workers – Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania lead the way in double digit numbers when contrasted with Illinois.  We’re not only NOT the highest paid in Illinois; public sector workers like AFSCME fall significantly behind other states. 

In another later graph, throw in the added value of “Job Security” and those same states accelerate past Illinois, along with California, Michigan, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

Finally, when we look at the same data but add in the values of a Defined Benefit, a Defined Contribution and/or a Pension, Illinois still does not exceed other states (Figure 3 – p. 74) .  In fact, the states in which public sector employees receive a greater or same “integrated value for a year’s work” include the following 19 other states: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming. 

So, why the hyperbole?

Rauner’s long-standing beef with AFSCME (which he refers to as Af-Scammy) is not with their overpriced salaries, not at all.  It is the simple fact that they are a union, and especially a public sector union.  That is what aggravates him to blindness and pushes his administration into an unrelenting refusal to negotiate with the leaders of AFSCME – no different than with the state budget and the General Assembly.

The researchers went on to “show that state government employees in most states receive greater total compensation than similarly educated and experienced private-sector employees who work for large employers.

“Public-employee wages in nearly all states fall below those paid in the private sector, but fringe benefits – in particular health and retirement benefits – are significantly more generous in government than in the private sector. In addition, public employees in every state have greater job security than they would likely enjoy outside of government.”

As you may already know, Rauner believes the Illinois Labor Board’s unanimous November ruling of an impasse in contractual talks between his administration and the union renders additional discussion unnecessary.  Rauner expects only the implementation of his “last” offer. “The time for talking is over.”

AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) is seeking a court ruling, and has taken a membership vote on a job action, receiving an over-80% willingness to strike. 

Areas of disagreement included length of a work-week, increased health insurance coverage costs, freezes in salaries for four years, a merit pay system, and the administration’s plan to outsource work to private companies competing with the workers’ union through competitive bidding. 

In fact, reports indicate that Rauner and his staff are working feverishly to identify replacement workers when and if a strike does occur. 

Executive Director AFSCME Roberta Lynch
Executive Director of AFSCME Roberta Lynch is hoping that her rank and file’s strike response to Rauner’s intractability will serve some measure of incentive to the administration’s reconsider hammering out some commonalities. 

I personally hope a strike can be avoided, but it seems very doubtful to me.  Rauner is a man whose obdurate leadership, or lack thereof, has veered a state through half a dozen investor bond downgrades and an Everest of unpaid bills reaching beyond $12 billion.  His non-involvement in the Senate negotiations is an indication of his inability to lead, to embrace the concept of compromise, and to the toxicity he brings to any civil discussions.

Like his current business counterpart in the White House, he leads by generating conflict and crises.