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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.


ar15rifleVariation on AR-15 rifle. (Photo: Mitch Barrie)

The issue of gun reform often gets simplified after a mass shooting into a question of what gun law would have prevented the latest horror. That is a mistake: The issue of gun violence is complex. It involves not just the gun owner and shooter, but the manufacturer, the gun store, gun shows and other factors.

For example, people who are deemed to be selling guns from their own collections do not need to follow any of the federal laws when they sell a gun. This particularly comes into play at gun shows, where individuals do not have to have a Federal Firearms License if they are not "engaged in the business of dealing in firearms," according to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF). The Columbine shooters, for instance, obtained some of their firearms at a gun show in Colorado.

Gun violence in the United States is multi-faceted and even includes the legacy of violence on which the nation was founded. It also includes, as Truthout writer Kelly Hayes incisively pointed out yesterday, the complex dynamics of oppression, including racism, poverty and class, that are embedded in the US. You can add the police occupation of many marginalized communities into that mix. Hayes attended student walkouts in Chicago, in which participants responded to a national call for a 17-minute protest for gun reform.


ICEFinding freedom from fear in sanctuary cities. (Photo: Peg Hunter)

Perhaps the best political news of the Trump era has been the emergence of sanctuary cities — city governments valuing the presence of immigrants and standing for the protection of their right to live without fear — and their defiance of this country’s current manifestation of legal racism.

“How dare you vilify members of our community by trying to frighten the American public into thinking that all undocumented residents are dangerous criminals? . . . How dare you distort the reality about declining violent crime rates in a diverse, sanctuary city like Oakland to advance a racist agenda?”

So said Libby Schaaf, the mayor of Oakland, Calif., last month, in response Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ outrage that she had tweeted a warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — the ICE men — were preparing to make a massive sweep through Northern California.

ICE, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, was created in 2003, “a direct product of the post-Sept. 11 panic culture,” as Sean McElwee put it in The Nation. Its establishment reframed immigration as a national security issue, which is to say, an exploitable source of national fear. We must protect ourselves from the illegals! The agency’s mission, particularly under Donald Trump, appears to be the dehumanization of people of color born outside the United States. It has the moral resonance of the Klan, or maybe the Brownshirts.


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).


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


secrettrumpSecret Service agents monitoring voting at Trump's discretion? It could happen. (liz west)

In the midst of a week of ongoing chaos and contention emanating from the White House, the gears of government continue to grind, and the president continues to push for outrageous new policies. This week, for instance, while Trump was playing ringmaster of the circus he has brought to Washington, DC, several media outlets reported that he supports the right to send Secret Service agents to select polling places during elections.

Because federal agents are not currently allowed in voting precincts (unless they are with a public official that they are protecting), this intimidating idea would require a change in law. Unfortunately, a bill has already passed the House of Representatives that would allow the Secret Service to patrol voters performing one of their most essential rights in a democracy.

The provision allowing the Secret Service presence is part of a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which will come before the Senate in the near future. The step comes after Trump dissolved his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity after just a few months, in all likelihood because it could not find examples of any massive voter fraud. However, he then turned the task of creating the illusion of widespread voter fraud over to the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS would be "assisted" by the king of the voter fraud myth, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach specializes in voter suppression. He created Operation Interstate Crosscheck, a "caging list" of voters that has been used by a number of Republican secretaries of state to purge voters from the rolls, sweeping up thousands of people who have the right to vote.


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!


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?


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.


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.

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