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Micro 0316wrp optMicrobeads and microplastics. (Photo: MPCA Photos / Flickr)You now have another good reason to avoid bottled water. An investigation on brands from around the world determined that the water is often contaminated with tiny pieces of plastic.

The new study, conducted by journalism organization Orb Media and researchers at the State University of New York at Fredonia, has already prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water.

For the study, researchers tested 259 individual bottles across 11 brands purchased from 19 locations in nine countries. Using fluorescent tagging with Nile Red dye, the scientists found that 93 percent of the samples had some sort of microplastic contamination, including polypropylene, nylon and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The bits ranged in size from the width of a human hair to a red blood cell.

One bottle showed an excess of 10,000 microplastic particles per liter. Only 17 bottles had no contamination.

Published in Guest Commentary


Lead 0314wrp opt(Photo: Mike Morrison / Flickr)Up to 412,000 deaths a year in the U.S. can be attributed to lead exposure, according to a new study published Monday in The Lancet Public Health.

Of that figure, exposure to the toxic metal may be an "important, but largely overlooked" risk factor behind the 256,000 annual cardiovascular disease deaths in the country, the authors found.

“Our study findings suggest that low-level environmental lead exposure is an important risk factor for death in the USA, particularly from cardiovascular disease," the paper states. "It is not surprising that lead exposure is overlooked; it is ubiquitous, but insidious and largely beyond the control of patients and clinicians."

The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to study the blood-lead levels of 14,289 people who were 20 or older between 1988 and 2011. Of the 4,422 people who died by the end of that period, those who had high lead levels (6.7 micrograms per deciliter) were at 37 percent greater risk of premature death from any cause and 70 percent times greater risk of cardiovascular death compared with people with lower lead levels (1.0 micrograms per deciliter).

Published in Guest Commentary


Class 0314wrp opt(Photo: weifly / Flickr)There have been three remarkable breakthroughs in the last month regarding the media's willingness to report and comment on the alarming process of the militarization of America's high schools.  For more than a generation the corporate media has imposed an apparent moratorium on in-depth reporting on deceptive, school-based DOD recruiting programs.

The Associated Press, after years of nudging, finally reported on the list of high school JROTC programs the NRA Foundation funds across the country. Although this information has been available to the public for a generation, it has never been reported by the mass media. The foundation's IRS Form 990 clearly associates the NRA with JROTC shooting programs in high schools across the country.

It's a shame the same news organizations still refuse to report on the role of the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) in managing high school firing ranges and marksmanship programs. The CMP is the privately-run, super-secret congressionally chartered small arms and ammunition dealer with assets exceeding $220 million. We're still waiting for the media behemoths to report on the
CMP's 990

Published in Guest Commentary


Dow 0313wrp opt(Photo: Javier / Flickr)Language matters. For example, the way our society's leaders choose to comment on the health of America's economy can either make clear to us commoners what's going on — or obfuscate, hide and even lie about the reality we face.

Consider that the most common measurement that the media, politicians and corporations use to tell us whether our economy is zooming or sputtering is Wall Street's index of stock prices. The media literally spews out some number every hour indicating that the Dow Jones Average of stock prices is up, down or sluggish — as though everyone is waiting breathlessly for that news.

But wait — nearly all stock is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans, so the Dow Jones Average says nothing about the economic condition of the 90 percent majority of Americans. For us — and for the true economic health of America as a whole — we need to know the Doug Jones Average. In plain language, the question leaders should ask every day is: How're Doug and Delores Jones doing?

As we've seen for years now, stock prices keep rising to record highs, while wages and living standards of the middle class and poor majority have been held down by the same corporate and political "leaders" telling us to keep our eye on the Dow. Indeed, they also play a dirty language trick on us when they issue the monthly report on the health of America's job market. Currently, they say, with the unemployment rate down to four percent, the job market is booming!

Published in Guest Commentary


GunDesert 0313wrp opt(Photo: Stu Rapley / Flickr)I am old enough to recall the shooting of President Ronald Reagan in March, 1981. For those who weren't around at the time, here's a fact you should know:

President Reagan was accompanied by four armed men, all trained to respond to an attack on the Commander in Chief and dedicated to take a bullet for him if necessary. Reagan and his entourage were in the open air, on a Washington street. We can assume his security detail remained as alert as possible to any hint of danger. Yet a young man infatuated with a Hollywood movie star shot Reagan and two other men. He wanted to shoot the President as a token of his love for her. Which is as good a motive as any other armed madman has had.

Fortunately, all three victims survived, and Ronald Reagan went on to serve two full terms as President

Do you suppose Donald Trump knows about this?

Published in Guest Commentary


Melt 0312wrp optAn Arctic "melt pond." (Photo: NASA / Flickr)A chilling research paper warning about the fate of humanity has received 4,500 additional signatures and endorsements from scientists since it was first released last year.

The paper—"World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice"—was published in November 2017 in the journal Bioscience and quickly received the largest-ever formal support by scientists for a journal article with roughly 15,000 signatories from 184 countries.

Today, the article has collected 20,000 expert endorsements and/or co-signatories, and more are encouraged to add their names.

The "Warning" became one of the most widely discussed research papers in the world. It currently ranks 6th out of 9 million papers on the Altmetric scale, which tracks attention to research. It has also inspired pleas from political leaders from Israel to Canada.

Published in Guest Commentary


Bullet 0312wrp(Photo: Paul L Dineen / Flickr)Early this February, the Republican-controlled Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed new federal budget legislation that increased U.S. military spending by $165 billion over the next two years.  Remarkably, though, a Gallup public opinion poll, conducted only days before, found that only 33 percent of Americans favored increasing U.S. military spending, while 65 percent opposed it, either backing reductions (34 percent) or maintenance of the status quo (31 percent).

What is even more remarkable for a nation where military spending has grown substantially over the decades, is that, during the past 49 years that Gallup has asked Americans their opinions on U.S. military spending, in only one year (1981) did a majority of Americans (in that case, 51 percent) favor increasing it.  During the other years, clear and sometimes very substantial majorities opposed spending more on the military.

Published in Guest Commentary
Friday, 09 March 2018 06:41

Don't Play Chicken With Water


Cup 0309wrp opt(Photo: Gioconda Beekman / Flickr)The severe drought in Cape Town, South Africa, renewed interest in the growing global water crisis, one that affects billions of people a year and is now encroaching upon some major cities like Beijing, Cairo, Moscow and London. Demand for water is exceeding supply, and supply is down not just because we like to drink, cook and shower, but because climate change is drinking up the supply, and we've polluted a great deal of what's left.

The reaction should be deafening considering the statistics: about 3 billion people have limited or no access to water. There are about 2,000 children a day -- 800,000 children each year -- dying as a consequence of water shortages. Public, private and grassroots organizations are trying to balance demand and supply through new irrigation techniques, toilet-to-tap purification, do-it-yourself purification, changing of personal habits and more.

The race is on to solve this problem by 2030, when the world is estimated to have only 60 percent of the water it needs. Funding and human concern remain underwhelming, though.

Published in Guest Commentary


Franklin 0307wrp optRev. Franklin Graham. (Photo: Matt Johnson / Flickr)

CBS News painted the picture: "The preacher and the president, seated side-by-side Wednesday in the lit-for-television Capitol Rotunda, leaned a few inches closer. The Rev. Franklin Graham whispered something to President Trump, who listened as he kept his eyes on the pine casket at the center of the room."

Whatever you might think about the legacy of the late Reverend Billy Graham – his laying in state in the Capitol Rotunda -- know this: His son Franklin is a Trump loving, LGBTQ condemning, Planned Parenthood denouncing, Obama bashing, Putin worshipping Islamophobe, that yearns to be the next inhabitant of his father's unofficial title of "America's Pastor." If anyone personifies the yearnings of white conservative evangelicals, who voted 80% for Trump, it is Franklin Graham. Over the past decade, Graham, who is president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has been creeping closer and closer to occupying the space of some of the most notable all-time Christian Right purveyors of hate.

Published in Guest Commentary


Fracking 0307wrp optThe aftermath of fracking. (Photo: Simon Fraser University / Flickr)Donald Trump's 13-month tenure (so far) as president of the United States has been an exhausting sprint for onlookers concerned about the state of the global ecosystem and the fate of industrial civilization. Nearly every day begins with a new outrage -- whether Trump's gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency, his announcement of the US exit from the Paris climate accord, his selling off of national parks, his opening of coastal waters for offshore drilling, his easing of regulations on fracking, or his seeking subsidies for coal mining and coal power plants.Among my environmentalist friends and colleagues, "Trump fatigue" is a real and common ailment.

But much the same could be said for millions of citizens who are only peripherally interested in environmental issues. They awake each morning to read about the Stormy Daniels scandal, the Rob Porter scandal, the Anthony Scaramucci hiring/firing scandal, the Mike Flynn scandal, the James Comey firing scandal, the Tom Price scandal, the White House nepotism and security clearance scandal. The list could go on and on; who can possibly keep up?

Published in Guest Commentary
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