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    • Why Labour Lost In Britain
      There’s been a vast amount of foolishness in the discussion of this. Labour lost for two main reasons: Their base was split by Brexit, and in a real way, no “positioning” could avoid this. There was a vast propaganda campaign against Corbyn in particular and Labour in general. What urban liberals don’t seem to understand […]
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Toxicity and GM Food

Genetically modified food was declared too safe to label years ago. Greenpeace has been fighting to have Monsanto’s original data released. Their RoundUp resistant crops (“RoundUp Ready” in adspeak) and Bt corn are a large majority of GM crops worldwide. Monsanto lost some legal cases, the data finally became available, and have now been reanalyzed. (Via Slashdot)

The bottom line? You don’t have to stop eating, but it is time to get really, really, really mad.

(Background info for those who’d like it: Monsanto produces RoundUp, a glyphosate-based herbicide. That interferes with plant growth via a pathway not present in animals, although some of the significant molecules in the pathway are also vital in animals. Monsanto also produces the patented crop seeds that resist the herbicide. Then farmers can use more RoundUp to get rid of the increasingly resistant weeds without also killing their crop. In some places, resistant weeds make it unprofitable to grow anything except the patented seeds. RoundUp is widely used on corn and soybeans. Bt corn enables the plant itself to produce a substance toxic to many insect larvae by an insect-specific pathway that doesn’t affect mammals.)

Way back in another lifetime (the 1990s feel like ancient history for some reason) there was widespread concern about the rapid proliferation of GM food. Frankenfoods they were called. In the tabloid concept, these mutant monsters would infect us with extra heads or glowing green tumors. Those concerns were easy to laugh at, and they were. It was gently pointed out that humans are not plants. Dissidents, including me, have said for a while that there are real concerns, but the money was all on the other side. Oddly enough for such an open and shut case, Monsanto was adamant that nobody could see the data that proved how safe it all was.

Now that data is out there. The most charitable view is that they were so convinced of the safety they didn’t feel the need to make sure of it. The uncharitable view is that they cherrypicked the facts to reach the foregone conclusion. I’ll let the article speak for itself. (Numbers in square brackets refer to their references, which are linked in the original article.)

The three animal feeding studies were conducted in two different laboratories and at two different dates; at Monsanto (Missouri, USA) for NK 603 and MON 810 (June 7, 2000) and at Covance Laboratories Inc. (Virginia, USA) for MON 863 (March 14, 2001) on behalf of Monsanto. … Only 10 rats were measured per group for blood and urine parameters and served as the basis for the major statistical analyses conducted. … We note that these unrelated, different non-GM maize types [in the control groups] were not shown to be substantially equivalent to the GMOs. The quantity of some sugars, ions, salts, and pesticide residues, do in fact differ from line to line, for example in the non-GM reference groups. [I.e. the controls did not provide a stable reference point, but varied in ways that could affect the results. –Ed.] This not only introduced unnecessary sources of variability but also increased considerably the number of rats fed a normal non-GM diet (320) compared to the GM-fed groups (80) per transformation event, which considerably unbalances the experimental design. …

The most fundamental point to bear in mind from the outset is that a sample size of 10 for biochemical parameters measured two times in 90 days is largely insufficient to ensure an acceptable degree of power to the statistical analysis performed and presented by Monsanto. … This is exemplified when Monsanto performed one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) calculations at 5% with a sample size of 10 animals for 10 groups. In this case the probability of not detecting a medium size effect [3] (0.5 SD for a t test for instance) is about 70% (power of the test 30%). However, the fact is that within 90 days, a chronic toxicity has a maximum chance of giving rise to a medium rather than large size effects. [I. e. chronic effects would be expected in the long term, but the design looked for acute effects in the short term. –Ed.] …

In summary, the tendency for physiological disturbance is characteristic of almost all rats of all GM-fed treatment groups, and physio-pathological profiles differ according to dose or sex. …

If a “sign of toxicity” may only provoke a reaction, pathology or a poisoning, a so-called “toxic effect” is without doubt deleterious on a short or a long term. Clearly, the statistically significant effects observed here for all three GM maize varieties investigated are signs of toxicity rather than proofs of toxicity [because there isn’t enough data for proof]. …

The first observation that we were able to make was that there is a good general concordance between our data and the results of Monsanto as presented in their original confidential reports, in particular on the proportion of statistically significant observations. However, the methodology we employed revealed different effects, which completely changed the interpretation of the experimental results. For instance, the sex differences are fully taken into account in our study, which contrasts with the first published comments of these data [18, 26, 27]. …

We have previously demonstrated that glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup are highly toxic at very low concentrations to human embryonic kidney cells [36], inducing a decrease in viability, noticeably via inhibition of mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase. …

Patho-physiological profiles are unique for each GM crop/food, underlining the necessity for a case-by-case evaluation of their safety, as is largely admitted and agreed by regulators. It is not possible to make comments concerning any general, similar subchronic toxic effect for all GM foods. However, in the three GM maize varieties that formed the basis of this investigation, new side effects linked to the consumption of these cereals were revealed, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. … This [hepatorenal toxicity] can be due to the new pesticides (herbicide or insecticide) present specifically in each type of GM maize, although unintended metabolic effects due to the mutagenic properties of the GM transformation process cannot be excluded [42]. … In conclusion, our data presented here strongly recommend that additional long-term (up to 2 years) animal feeding studies be performed in at least three species, preferably also multi-generational, to provide true scientifically valid data on the acute and chronic toxic effects of GM crops, feed and foods. Our analysis highlights that the kidneys and liver as particularly important on which to focus such research as there was a clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just 90 days.

The good news is that since males are affected more than females, something may be done about this. The bad news is that the known effects so far don’t include ED, so maybe nothing will be done.

Seriously, though, this is an unbelievable mess. You don’t have to stop eating because these are all chronic effects, and it’s not likely to make a big difference if one consumes GMOs for a few more years until we know for sure whether there’s a problem or not. But that’s all the “good” news there is. Regulators in the US bamboozled us and then the rest of the world into not so much as labelling for genetic modification. Now it’s everywhere, and crops are dependent on it. If further research shows chronic toxicity and the RoundUp resistant and Bt products have to be pulled, crop failures will make prices shoot skyward. In the rich countries, that’s an annoyance. In the poor countries, that can mean famine. We are, in short, screwed. For Monsanto’s chance to make a few billion, we’re going to be paying hundreds of billions. (I just saw that line somewhere else before ….)

For me, there are several morals to this story, in addition to cleaning up the mess we already have. It shows what we have to do to prevent this crap in the future:

–Always insist on clear labelling.

–Always insist on full publication of all backup data before regulatory approval.

–And, I think, have penalties, such as jail time, for regulators who rubberstamp studies with such bad methodology. When somebody with one year of statistics can see a problem instantly (“A sample size of ten?”), the regulators have zero excuse.

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The gritty truth in Mark Halperin’s pulp fiction

Brook's art project, 8th grade

I haven’t read the book but I did read a lengthy 10 page excerpt on the collapse of the Edwards’ marriage and campaign.  I don’t know if Elizabeth was a saint or Edwards a monster as they were written but it became clear over the course of the past several years that Elizabeth was living her ambitions through her husband. After I saw him in Chicago at YK2, I was convinced that Edwards was a one trick pony and PT Barnum his favorite philosopher.  Whether Elizabeth really ripped open her blouse in an airport parking lot or said the things she said is a bit of a mystery.  People with potentially fatal illnesses and dunces for husbands are liable to do all kinds of strange things.  But we weren’t there and there’s a good chance that some of this stuff was taken out of context for dramatic effect, with Halperin being the uber drama queen.

But following up on what Peter Daou said about Hillary’s campaign, this much I can confirm: her campaign never took the low road with us.  We were never official bloggers for Hillary.  We were a pro-Hillary blog almost exclusively after Obama made the “likeable enough” remark, Michelle Obama chastised Hillary about her tone and said she might never vote for her and the Obama campaign surrogates accused both Clintons of racism.  At some point in the campaign, Peter Daou contacted us and told us that he was at our service.  We could call him with questions and he invited us to the press briefing conference calls that I sat in on.  By the way, if you thought Andrea Mitchell was loathsome before the campaign of 2008, try listening to her oh so bored and this is so tedious and dismissively cynical questioning during a conference call with Howard Wolfson.

Never once did Daou ask us to do anything improper.  We weren’t encouraged to engage in character assassination.  We weren’t part of some big plan to subvert other blogs from within.  Instead, we found that posts that were upbeat and optimistic were sometimes linked to Hillary’s blog.  She and Daou seemed committed to winning the war of the blogs with positivity.  I didn’t feel dirty about my posts.

Daou certainly did sleep with his Blackberry under his pillow.  I emailed him at about 2:30am one morning a couple of days after the RBC hearing.  I was so angry and frustrated.  He emailed me back almost immediately and asked if he could call me the next day.  He did.  At about 7:30am. You can’t get that kind of responsiveness and customer service anymore.  He didn’t let Hillary down with us.  I always appreciated his professionalism and access.  I only wish we could have helped her more in return.  I also wish we didn’t have to go our separate ways from Hillary after she suspended her campaign.  But it wasn’t about Hillary anymore after the RBC hearing stripped our votes of any meaning.  It was about the voters’ war with the party.

But I did notice a common theme to all of the excerpts I read of Halperin’s book.  It seems that everyone was out to take Hillary down.  Edwards, Schumer, Reid, Kennedy.  In fact, her enemies came from within her own party.  And even if what Edwards’ supposedly said about taking Hillary out wasn’t an actual quote from a reliable source, one doesn’t have to look very far to find evidence that the sentiment was true.  The whole history of the primaries was of Obama and Edwards tag teaming to make Hillary look bad from that first extremely nasty debate in Philly to Edwards’ eventual endorsement of Obama.  I don’t think Edwards even knew why he had to bring her down.  I have often found this to be the case in the real working world as well.  Men do this to women and they don’t even have a reason.  Over and over again, I have seen a women achieve some managerial power through hard work and then watched as the men who worked with her or under her snipe and criticize and undermine her authority to bring her down.  She only got to be where she was because of a quota or she’s sleeping with someone or she’s not really that smart.  On and on it goes.  I don’t think they do it consciously.  It’s like some bizarre reflex.

Here’s the truth in Halperin’s book that he probably didn’t even know he was writing: men do not mentor women.  There are some exceptions but that’s the cold brutal truth.  When men say that a woman is polarizing or that she won’t be effective, they are really saying they won’t follow her themselves and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If the powers that be do not stand behind their protege and back her up, she won’t be effective.  If her proposals are not treated seriously, they won’t be taken seriously.  If there is no accountability for the dismissive way that others treat her, all her work will be for nothing.  And that will come to haunt the powers that be because training women is expensive.  You might as well not hire them in the first place if you aren’t going to take advantage of their talents.  Why teach them to read?

Being a woman in the real working world is not a ceremonial position or it shouldn’t be.  The Democratic party did a really stupid thing in 2008.  It dumped one of its brightest stars.  Yes, Hillary’s campaign staff let her down and there will always be a certain class of women who fall for the biting criticism of men and decide to join in.  They deserve what they get and no amount of karma is bad enough for them.  But it is the men of the Democratic party who let us down in 2008.  And until they are gone, no woman should trust the Democratic party ever again.

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Wednesday Wake-up

I can hear the voices in your head. They don't like you.


Quake devastates Haiti, many casualties feared
A powerful earthquake struck Haiti’s capital on Tuesday with withering force, toppling everything from simple shacks to the ornate National Palace and the headquarters of U.N. peacekeepers. The dead and injured lay in the streets even as strong aftershocks rippled through the impoverished Caribbean country.

Associated Press journalists based in Port-au-Prince said the damage from the quake — the most powerful to hit Haiti in more than 200 years — is staggering even in a country accustomed to tragedy and disaster.


Tom Campbell to drop out of governor’s race, run for U.S. Senate
Former Silicon Valley congressman Tom Campbell will announce Thursday that he’s dropping out of the California governor’s race to run for Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat, a move that will upend both races and reverberate across the Golden State’s political landscape.

With Campbell out of the GOP gubernatorial primary, former eBay chief Meg Whitman and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a former valley entrepreneur, will now go head-to-head in a race that is bound to turn into a multimillion-dollar spitball fight. Both have already contributed roughly $19 million to their campaign coffers, dwarfing Campbell’s $1 million in donations.

In the Republican Senate primary, Campbell will face former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, also perceived as a moderate, and conservative state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore of Irvine. The winner will face Boxer, who was first elected in 1992.

The winner between Whitman and Poizner will likely be facing Jerry Brown in November.


Divorce Rates Higher in States with Gay Marriage Bans
Over the past decade or so, divorce has gradually become more uncommon in the United States. Since 2003, however, the decline in divorce rates has been largely confined to states which have not passed a state constitutional ban on gay marriage. These states saw their divorce rates decrease by an average of 8 percent between 2003 and 2008. States which had passed a same-sex marriage ban as of January 1, 2008, however, saw their divorce rates rise by about 1 percent over the same period.


Google does an about-face on China policy
In a surprise announcement late Tuesday, Google Inc. said it may turn its back on the huge Chinese market after a sophisticated cyber attack on the e-mail accounts of human rights advocates in the Asian nation.


Was an Iranian Nuclear Physicist Killed by His Own Government?
As Middle East intrigue goes, it doesn’t get much stranger than this: at approximately 8 a.m. this morning, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, a nuclear physics professor at Tehran University, was killed by a bomb outside his home in a quiet northern suburb of Tehran. This may not have seemed that odd if it had taken place in Baghdad or Kabul. But assassinations─particularly with a remote-control bomb hidden inside a motorcycle─are not common in Iran.


Obama wants $33 billion more for wars
Comes on top of record $708 billion request for next year

That Nobel committee must feel really stupid by now.


Mark McGwire owns up to steroid use
Retired baseball star Mark McGwire tearfully acknowledges that he used steroids during his career, including his famous 1998 home-run-record-setting season


There is a new “must read” book out there. It’s Bob Somerby’s How He Got There, the story of the 2000 election and how Bush reached the White House.  The best part is it’s FREE!


Watch your back! Heileman and Halperin may write a book about you next.

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