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Archive for July 9th, 2012

How concerned are businesses that their activities might destroy your health?

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I’m sure that they’re concerned to some degree and have stables of lawyers studying whether lawsuits against the business for damages are likely to proceed and, if they do, whether the results will mean a net loss or not. If the likelihood is that lawsuits will not succeed and/or if successful, the awards are probably going to be much less than the profit realized, then businesses will proceed—cf. the tobacco companies, who successfully stalled and obfuscated the health damages from cigarettes for decades until the laws took effect and a settlement had to be made to the various states—a settlement that left the tobacco companies still highly profitable.

Now we see that fracking is likely to leak dangerous chemicals into drinking water in Pennsylvania. That will not causes any concern to businesses, I would think, because they can deny that any resulting health problems people suffer are from exactly that cause and probably win in a lawsuit—they will simply proceed unless the government prevents them. Unfortunately, the government is now much more concerned about the welfare of businesses than citizens and is very slow to take action—the FDA is still dithering about bisphenol-A, for example.

And take a look at the millions if not billions of tons of toxins released into our environment (and on our food and into our drinking water) by businesses that simply do not care about the public’s health: that’s not their concern. Their concern is growing profits. Martha Rosenberg of AlterNet interviewed Janette Sherman, a pesticide expert and toxicologist, on a particular toxin manufactured by Dow. Read the interview and judge for yourself how concerned a business is about the public’s health—i.e., about your health—as a result of the business’s products and actions.

Endocrine disruptors, synthetic chemicals that mimic and interfere with natural hormones, lurk everywhere from canned foods and microwave popcorn bags to cosmetics and carpet-cleaning solutions. The chemicals, which include pesticides, fire retardants and plastics, are in thermal store receipts, antibacterial detergents and toothpaste (like Colgate’s Total with triclosan) and the plastic BPA which Washington state banned in baby bottles. Endocrine disruptors are linked to breast cancer, infertility, low sperm counts, genital deformities, early puberty and diabetes in humans and alarming mutations in wildlife. They are also suspected in the epidemic of behavior and learning problems in children which has coincided, many say, with wide endocrine disruptor use.

Like Big Pharma, Big Chem holds tremendous sway at the FDA, which gave the endocrine disruptor BPA a pass in March, citing “serious questions“about the applicability of damning animal studies to humans. But in April, research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presented new evidence of the ability of endocrine disruptors—in this case the pesticide, chlorpyrifos—to harm developing fetuses. Janette Sherman, a pesticide expert and toxicologist, has studied the effects of chlorpyrifos (found in Dow’s pesticide Dursban) for many years and spoke with AlterNet about what her research has revealed.

Martha Rosenberg: Published studies, including your own, signaled safety problems with Dursban years ago. The EPA’s own data found eight out of 10 adults and nine of 10 children had “measurable concentrations.” Dow paid a $2 million penalty for hiding Dursban’s risks from 1995 and 2003 in New York. But the pesticide was not banned for residential use until 2000, and after it was banned, people were allowed to use remaining quantities. Why did the cases that you and others uncovered seem to have little effect?

Janette Sherman: Dow attorneys took my deposition for four eight-hour days in the mid-1990s and I supplied over 10,000 pages of medical records, depositions, EPA documents, patent information and toxicology studies on which I based my opinion. Even though genetic analyses were conducted for the paper and genetic causes for the defects were ruled out—siblings who were not exposed to chlorpyrifos, for example, were normal—Dow termed the cases genetic and was able to stop most, if not all, chlorpyrifos birth-defect suits.

Dow has almost unlimited money and personnel to fight families and small-town attorneys and they send multiple personnel to the EPA to argue their side. There is also no penalty for withholding information.

MR: Dow claimed there was insufficient proof of chlorpyrifos exposure.

JS: Yes and one of the ironies, that I have cited in several papers, is that monitoring data for pesticide levels, either at the time of application or at the time of birth, is simply not done. People have no records and no way of collecting records of pesticides they have been exposed to.

MR: Lorsban, the agricultural version of Dursban, is still widely in use in crops like applescorn, soybeans, wheat, nuts, grapes, citrus and other fruit and vegetables. Virginia Rauh, the author of the recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper cautioned pregnant women to seek organic produce to avoid chlorpyrifos.

JS: I believe farm workers and pregnant women are at risk and obviously, a pesticide that is used widely in crops will also get in the drinking water. I don’t know how widespread chlorpyrifos use is overseas and in poor countries but the same risks apply.

MR: You published a paper in the European Journal of Oncology in 1999 which is eerily predictive of recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences research about children exposed in the womb to the pesticide chlorpyrifos. This research found actual structural changes in exposed children’s brains, especially related to emotion, attention and behavior control.

JS: Dursban (chlorpyrifos) is a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical Co. and Eli Lilly that has both organophosphate and tri-chlorinated pesticide characteristics and toxicities. Working as a legal consultant, I evaluated eight children with profound abnormalities whose families had proof of their child’s exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb. I was stunned by how much the children resembled one another—they looked so similar they could have been siblings or cousins. The children were all severely retarded and needed feeding and diapering. One had quadriplegia and another died soon after I examined him.

MR: In your 1999 paper you refer to the brain problems cited in the Proceedings research as possibly pesticide-related.

JS: Yes. The children also had corpus callosum defects, which means there was no connection between their right and left side of their brains.

MR: Where were the children located and where did you examine them?

JS: The children were in Arkansas, on Long Island and in California. The use of Dursban occurred in the homes. Since Dursban has been restricted from home use [in 2000] of concern are agricultural use of chlorpyrifos that continues and questions of birth defects in women agricultural workers. I examined some of the children in their homes. In other cases, the parents brought them to be examined, if they had vans equipped to move the children.

MR: In addition to the mental retardation, paralysis and structural brain problems you found deafness, cleft palate, eye cysts and low vision, nose, brain, heart, tooth and feet abnormalities and many sexual deformities.

JS: Yes, the sexual and reproductive defects included undescended testes, microphallus [tiny penis], fused labias [vaginal lips] and widespread nipples. I also report in the paper, 13 adverse reproductive cases linked to chlorpyrifos from Dow’s own research database (European Journal of Oncology, Vol. 4, n.6, pp 653-659 1999).

MR:  Anyone who is aware of the effects of endocrine-disrupting pesticides on wildlife can’t help but think of the frogs reported with no penises in so many U.S. streams or the sexual abnormalities reported in both male and female birds and other animals. . .

Continue reading.

It’s perfectly clear the businesses don’t care a whit about your health—or, indeed, your life (Ford Motor Co. quite deliberately made the Ford Pinto so that a mild impact could cause the car to burst into flames, burning alive those in the car, in order to save $10/car, figuring that the company would still come out well ahead after settling lawsuits). This is why I favor careful regulation of companies by well-funded agencies, with an independent press probing at the agencies, even if the agency gets in a snit when their inability to do their jobs is exposed. (At the link, the FTC doesn’t dispute the truth of the story, they simply wish that the story had not revealed their inability to do their jobs.)

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 1:04 pm

This made me feel joy

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Thanks to Constant Reader, who passed along the link.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 10:13 am

Posted in Video

Climate change is simple

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Are there still people who deny climate change? (Other than those funded by the coal, oil, and gas industry.)

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 9:35 am

Posted in Global warming, Video

The importance of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

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The importance of the CFPB is underscored by the frantic opposition from Wall Street and their GOP hirelings. John Gravois has an excellent article in The Washington Monthly that provides a good understanding of the issues and the struggle:

If you want a hint as to where the battle of the 2012 general election might go, you could do worse than to look at where it started. On the morning of January 4, 2012, in his first official act of the campaign year, President Barack Obama mounted a podium in a packed high school gym outside Cleveland and rolled out an announcement. Blowing past months of GOP filibustering, he declared his recess appointment of Richard Cordray, a mild-mannered former Ohio attorney general, to serve as the first head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a powerful new regulatory agency created by the Dodd-Frank law. Back in Washington, GOP leaders, who had held Congress open in a pro-forma session during the Christmas break precisely to block such a recess appointment, went into fits of televised dudgeon, calling the move “arrogant,” “unconstitutional,” and—this from Mitt Romney himself—“Chicago-style politics at its worst.”

The consumer bureau has provoked virulent opposition from Republicans ever since it emerged as the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor turned progressive folk hero who is now running for Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat in Massachusetts. Though the GOP couldn’t stop the creation of the CFPB, it did manage to put enough pressure on Obama to make him shrink from nominating Warren to serve at its head, a decision for which he was promptly vilified by liberals. Then, when Obama nominated Cordray, Republicans held the appointment hostage, demanding structural changes to the bureau that would have made it more accountable to congressional committees and the industries that comfortably influence them. Most recently, in May, Glenn Hubbard, a top economic adviser to the Romney campaign, suggested to the Wall Street Journalthat defanging the bureau would be a central agenda item in Romney’s economic strategy.

This GOP fury might seem strange, even self-destructive, from afar. After all, the prime mission of the CFPB, which is still just barely up and running, is to crack down on predatory lending—a range of practices epitomized by the sale of the exploding subprime mortgages that hollowed out much of the wealth of America’s middle class and precipitated the Great Recession. Polls show that, though few Americans are yet aware of the CFPB, an overwhelming majority support it once they learn about its mission of protecting consumers from big financial institutions.

Nevertheless, the now-bailed-out financial sector claims that if a strong regulator scrutinizes the safety of its products—as the federal government does with toys, cars, appliances, airlines, food, drugs, and most everything else that’s for sale in our capitalist economy—it will tank the industry. And so it has gone to war.

Obama’s rather nervy decision to begin 2012 by appointing Cordray suggests that he is prepared to make the CFPB an issue in the campaign—as well he should. We might as well just say it: saving the CFPB is essential to fixing the fundamentals of our economy and even restoring the American Dream. Americans need a strong financial sector, but not, as we now know from painful experience, one that profits by methodically stripping its customers of their assets. Predatory lending has become endemic to the business model of American finance, and until that changes, it’s hard to see how the economy can once again provide broad prosperity. Not even the financial services industry itself will prosper in the long run unless it adopts a business model that helps build, rather than erode, the wealth of average Americans. The question is whether the bureau can survive the Republican onslaught, and, if so, whether this “twenty-first-century agency” will be powerful enough to change the way our consumer finance market behaves.

The origins of the CFPB trace back, as many things do, to a conversion experience. In the early 1980s, Elizabeth Warren was a young conservative law professor in Texas who had set out to study why families filed for bankruptcy. The laws governing bankruptcy had recently been liberalized, and Warren had a dim view of the likely consequences. “I was going to expose these people who were taking advantage of the rest of us,” she recalled in a 2007 interview. “I set out to prove they were all a bunch of cheaters.” But her data came back telling a vastly different story.

American families weren’t going broke from shopping sprees at the mall, Warren found. They were going broke because their incomes were stagnating while their fixed costs—health care, housing, car payments—continued to rise. The struggle for these necessities was driving families to rely on a set of financial products that were increasingly mystifying to them and profitable for issuers: credit cards, home equity loans, payday loans, and the like. Once a family’s assets were depleted, bankruptcy was often just an illness, a job loss, or an exploding interest rate away.

The way Warren tells the story, she first had the idea for the consumer bureau years later, in 2007, at a time when she was having a lot of meetings with credit card executives. She was trying to sell them on the idea of offering what she called a “clean card”—a credit card that listed all its costs, its fees, and its true, long-run interest rate up front. (That is: instead of selling a card with, say, a 4.9 percent teaser rate and then jacking it up to 18.9 percent after some months, companies would just market a card with a straightforward 7.9 percent rate.) The card would then be granted a kind of Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

But the credit card executives all took a pass. At one meeting, an executive confided in Warren. “If we had to tell people what these things cost while our competitors play the same old games, no one would use our product,” he told her, as she recalled in a speech in 2011. There was no advantage for anyone in the business to be the first mover, she realized; the government had to get involved and set rules across the entire market. It was around that time, she says, that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 8:55 am

Bennie Moten’s Kansas City Orchestra: Kansas City Shuffle

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To help everyone get off to a good start, another fine jazz piece via Kansas City Shuffle. Bennie Moten had an important jazz band, and this was recorded in 1926, 3 years before he hired Count Basie, who played with Moten’s band until Moten died (at age 41 in 1935). Then Basie went out on his own and enjoyed some success.


Probably Moten’s best-known tune is South:


I’ll add that Lucky Number Slevin is one dynamite movie.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 8:25 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

A bird that sings with its wings

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Astonishing. Hayley Dunning has a brief note at The Scientist:

The odd mating song of the male club-winged manakin is created by solid bones, an oddity in the bird kingdom. Most birds have slim, hollow humerus and ulna bones that help them to fly, but in the manakin, these bones are solid, and the ulna is covered in lumps and bumps, revealed a study published last month (June 13) in Biology Letters. Raising its wings over its back, the manakin can make a high-pitched peep, which the researchers think is made by special resonating feathers that are anchored in the ulna’s bumps. The solid bone then amplifies the sound by bouncing it throughout the feather.

Despite the extra weight, Makain birds are still able to fly, and the authors of the study conclude the benefit to sound production must be great. High-speed cameras reveal that to make its unusual song, the manakin bird rubs its wings together with intense vibration, around twice the speed of hummingbird wings.


Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 8:10 am

Posted in Science, Video

Slant on Monday

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Monday’s shave tackles a two-day stubble, and a Slant is a pleasant razor for the task—and 70% of those who try a Slant love it. (23% find it’s an okay razors, and 7% report that it doesn’t work for them.) I got this lightweight Bakelite slant as NOS (and stocks are now exhausted). It shaves beautifully, but I do have to supply the pressure: the weight of the razor doesn’t do it.

Before that, though, was the pre-shave wash using Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap, and then one of those great Strop Shoppe lathers, this time the Black Tie fragrance, worked up with the Simpson Case, big brother to the Wee Scot. I would describe the Black Tie fragrance if only I had a literate nose, which I don’t. (For a wonderfully entertaining profile of a man with an extraordinary sense of smell, I recommend Chandler Burr’s The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses(inexpensive used copies at the link).)

I had a wonderful shave. Those readers who are now routinely getting fine shaves with their regular razor should certainly try a Slant at the first opportunity: the odds favor you, and if it doesn’t work, you can quickly sell it on reddit/r/shave_bazaar.

A splash of Captain’s Choice, a very nice handmade bay rum with no cloves, and I’m ready for another good day. And I just backed up my hard drive again—is it time for you to do a back-up? (PSA)

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2012 at 8:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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