Category: Nature


Sources: NOW ON PBS | GASLAND

Will the boom in natural gas drilling contaminate America’s water supply? NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about ‘Gasland’, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling.

In the debate over energy resources, natural gas is often considered a “lesser-of-evils”. While it does release some greenhouse gases, natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil, and is in plentiful supply—parts of the U.S. sit above some of the largest natural gas reserves on Earth. But a new boom in natural gas drilling, a process called “fracking”, raises concerns about health and environmental risks.

This week, NOW talks with filmmaker Josh Fox about “Gasland”, his Sundance award-winning documentary on the surprising consequences of natural gas drilling. Fox’s film—inspired when the gas company came to his hometown—alleges chronic illness, animal-killing toxic waste, disastrous explosions, and regulatory missteps.

Watch Out: The World Bank Is Quietly Funding a Massive Corporate Water Grab

Source: By Scott Thill | AlterNet
Posted on November 2, 2010, Printed on November 3, 2010
 

Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it’s been tried. But don’t tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe’s water resources.

“Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment,” Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. “Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That’s why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank’s private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It’s further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world’s water crisis.”

All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light’s water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That’s just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.

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Would it surprise you to learn that Natural gas deposits, lie buried less than a mile deep throughout parts of Southern Granville, Durham, Wake and Orange counties? Moreover, according to Clean Water for NC, 14 counties in NC have  Natural gas deposits trapped in prehistoric geological formations aka gas shales. Why should you be concerned?

Here is why!

The process of Hydro-fracking is spreading all around our state, even our own NC state Sen. Richard Burr  supports it.

Its time to spread the word folks, we don’t want this here. Not now, not ever, No fracking way.

More to come.

Part 1

Part 2

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Part 4



Source: By Silvia Ribeiro La Jornada | Pravda

A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (Blackwater’s Black Ops, 9/15/2010) revealed that the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services) clandestine intelligence services was sold to the multinational Monsanto. Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State “security services,” that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it.

Many military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies created to divert attention from their bad reputation and make more profit selling their nefarious services-ranging from information and intelligence to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training – for other governments, banks and multinational corporations. According to Scahill, business with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron, and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center. These officers and directors share Blackwater.

One of them, Cofer Black, known for his brutality as one of the directors of the CIA, was the one who made contact with Monsanto in 2008 as director of Total Intelligence, entering into the contract with the company to spy on and infiltrate organizations of animal rights activists, anti-GM and other dirty activities of the biotech giant.
Contacted by Scahill, the Monsanto executive Kevin Wilson declined to comment, but later confirmed to The Nation that they had hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 2009, according to Monsanto only to keep track of “public disclosure” of its opponents. He also said that Total Intelligence was a “totally separate entity from Blackwater”.

However, Scahill has copies of emails from Cofer Black after the meeting with Wilson for Monsanto, where he explains to other former CIA agents, using their Blackwater e-mails, that the discussion with Wilson was that Total Intelligence had become “Monsanto’s intelligence arm,” spying on activists and other actions, including “our people to legally integrate these groups.” Total Intelligence Monsanto paid $ 127,000 in 2008 and $ 105,000 in 2009.

No wonder that a company engaged in the “science of death” as Monsanto, which has been dedicated from the outset to produce toxic poisons spilling from Agent Orange to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, hormones and genetically modified seeds, is associated with another company of thugs. Almost simultaneously with the publication of this article in The Nation, the Via Campesina reported the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which with this action completed the outing of the mask of “philanthropy.” Another association that is not surprising.

It is a marriage between the two most brutal monopolies in the history of industrialism: Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed. There does not exist in any other industrial sector monopolies so vast, whose very existence is a negation of the vaunted principle of “market competition” of capitalism. Both Gates and Monsanto are very aggressive in defending their ill-gotten monopolies.

Although Bill Gates might try to say that the Foundation is not linked to his business, all it proves is the opposite: most of their donations end up favoring the commercial investments of the tycoon, not really “donating” anything, but instead of paying taxes to the state coffers, he invests his profits in where it is favorable to him economically, including propaganda from their supposed good intentions. On the contrary, their “donations” finance projects as destructive as geoengineering or replacement of natural community medicines for high-tech patented medicines in the poorest areas of the world. What a coincidence, former Secretary of Health Julio Frenk and Ernesto Zedillo are advisers of the Foundation.

Like Monsanto, Gates is also engaged in trying to destroy rural farming worldwide, mainly through the “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa” (AGRA). It works as a Trojan horse to deprive poor African farmers of their traditional seeds, replacing them with the seeds of their companies first, finally by genetically modified (GM). To this end, the Foundation hired Robert Horsch in 2006, the director of Monsanto. Now Gates, airing major profits, went straight to the source.
Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.

Source: Washington’s Blog

The FDA is close to approving genetically modified (gm) salmon. See this and this.

We know that at least some genetically modified foods may harm the environment. See this.

And serious questions have been raised about whether some gm foods might increase allergies or cause other health problems in humans and other organisms. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.
Indeed, as Mother Jones pointed out last week, gm salmon may itself increase allergies:

Consumers Union senior scientist Michael Hansen called the company’s food safety tests “woefully incomplete,” and the group pointed out that the FDA approval panel is mostly comprised of GE [i.e. genetic engineering] cheerleaders, with no fish ecologists or allergists. Why’s an allergist important? Because the company’s own tests suggest that the new salmon could be much more allergenic than regular salmon.

In order to understand the allergy tests, a bit of backstory on how AquAdvantage salmon are made is necessary. First, genetic engineers create a “diploid” fish, meaning like people, it has two sets of chromosomes. Then, to make the final market product, they add genetic material from other fish and breed a new salmon with three sets of chromosomes—a “triploid” female that can’t reproduce. AquaBounty researchers compared the allergenicity—or potential to cause an allergic reaction—of a control group of salmon to both the genetically engineered diploids and triploids. They found (PDF, see page 102) that the diploid salmon were 40 percent more allergenic than the control, while the triploid group was 19 percent more allergenic.

AquaBounty says that the triploids’ allergenicity level wasn’t statistically significant, and although the diploids’ level is significant, it doesn’t matter because only triploids will be sold. But Hansen of the Consumers Union finds a few problems with this argument. For starters, the test wasn’t double blind, meaning the researchers knew which fish were part of which test group. Second, the sample size of triploid fish was tiny—only six fish in all. Third, although AquaBounty is going to try to turn all its market-bound fish into triploid sterile females, the process isn’t perfect, and some 5 percent could end up as the more allergenic diploid. Especially scary when you consider that unlike the triploids, the diploids aren’t sterile. So if they escaped, they could breed with wild salmon.

The FDA simply doesn’t have enough information to determine whether AquaBounty’s salmon are likely to cause more allergic reactions than their non-GE counterparts. But there is good reason to be concerned about the potential allergenicity of all GE foods, says Margaret Mellon, director of the scientist Union of Concerned Scientsts’ Food and Environment Program. “You have this technology that allows you to essentially move proteins around from food to food,” she says. “You can move a highly allergenic protein into a new food, and no one will know to avoid the new food.”

Indeed, a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who were allergic to Brazil nuts were also allergic to soy beans that had been implanted with a Brazil nut protein. There is also some evidence that even proteins don’t usually cause allergies can become allergenic when they are moved to a new food. A 2005 Australian study found that mice who were fed peas containing a typically non-allergenic protein from kidney beans experienced allergic reactions.

Another worry is that potentially allergenic GE crops might “escape” into foods. In the late ’90s, the pharmaceutical giant Aventis introduced StarLink, a genetically engineered variety of corn. StarLink was approved for sale in the US, but only for non-food uses, since it contained a potentially allergenic protein. But then, traces of it started turning up in food (most famously, Taco Bell taco shells), and 28 people claimed they had suffered allergic reactions to foods containing StarLink. Although the CDC later found no medical evidence that any of those people had an allergy to the corn, an EPA advisory panel acknowledged that the CDC’s tests did “not eliminate StarLink…protein as a potential cause of allergic symptoms.”

The bottom line: It’s not that genetically engineered foods are inherently more allergenic than traditional foods, but transfering genes does make it more likely that allergens might pop up in unexpected places. “There can be a lot of unintended side effects when you do genetic modification, which means you have to test very carefully,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the watchdog group Food and Water Watch. “In the case of salmon, one test on six fish just seems very insufficient for something that will open the floodgates to other GE meat and fish.”
Allergic reactions can – in a small percentage of people – be more severe than just a sniffle or stomach ache. Some people die from allergic reactions.

At least genetically modified salmon will be labeled as such, so people can avoid it if they wish. Right?

Wrong.

As the Washington Post notes:

The FDA says it cannot require a label on the genetically modified food once it determines that the altered fish is not “materially” different from other salmon – something agency scientists have said is true.

Perhaps more surprising, conventional food makers say the FDA has made it difficult for them to boast that their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients.

Unfortunately, stifling the ability of producers of traditional foods to tell consumers they are not using an additive is nothing new. For example, Monsanto has sued milk producers who labeled their product as not containing growth hormone.

Similarly, Scientific American notes that gm seed producers control research, so that independent scientists can’t study the effects of gm:

Scientists must ask corporations for permission before publishing independent research on genetically modified crops.

Liberals and conservatives, progressives and libertarians should all be up in arms about this.

We have a right to know what we’re eating.

Postscript: Farmed salmon contains less of the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and more pollutants than wild salmon. See this and this. GM salmon will be farmed (unless it escapes into the ocean). So eating wild salmon may potentially be one way to avoid gm salmon, reduce exposure to pollutants, and increase healthy Omega 3s.

The reason that wild salmon has more Omega 3s than farmed salmon is that wild salmon eat Omega 3 rich foods. It is the same reason that grass-fed beef contains more Omega 3s than beef from cows fed corn, meat or other “modern” feeds. See this and this.

Eating Omega 3 rich foods can increase gray matter in adults and boost neurological development in children. Conversely, low dietary levels of Omega 3s in mothers can reduce their kids’ IQ.

This is not entirely surprising, given that (1) our brains are about 60% fat, and (2) leading nutritionists say that humans evolved to consume alot of Omega 3 fatty acids in the wild game and fish which they ate (more), and that a low Omega 3 diet is a very new trend within the last 100 years or so

Hydro-Fracking aka Hydraulic fracturing is an industry-wide process in which large volumes of unknown chemicals, water and sand are injected at extremly high pressure to extract natural gas from underground rock formations. Basically, the process creates fractures in bed-rock formations such as shale, allowing the natural gas to escape into a well for recovery. Once, thought of as a method of last resort, hydraulic fracturing is now the primary method used to extract natural gas and its use is literally exploding across the country.

Pa. Environmental Agency Butts Heads With Gas Drilling Company Over Towns Water Woes

by Marian Wang | ProPublica, 44 minutes ago

Residents of Dimock, Pa., whose water woes have been widely chronicled as a prime example of the hidden costs of natural gas drilling,  will get a safe and permanent water supply to replace their methane-contaminated wells, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

For about two years, Cabot Oil & Gas, a natural gas drilling company, has supplied drinking water to some Dimock residents after several private drinking wells were found to be contaminated with methane, the main component of natural gas. A few wells have exploded. The Pennsylvania DEP has said that Cabot is responsible for the problems and announced intentions to bill the company for the cost of an $11.8 million plan to construct a new public water line to serve these residents.

“We have had people here in Pennsylvania without safe drinking water for nearly two years,” said John Hanger, head of Pennsylvania’s DEP. “That is totally unacceptable. It is reprehensible. We have given Cabot every opportunity to resolve this matter.”

But Cabot has pushed back against the agency, taking out a full-page ad this week in several local newspapers and calling plans to construct the water system “unreasonable, unprecedented … and unfair.”

The company also issued the following statement:

Despite the fact that the company has presented overwhelming scientific evidence and historical documentation to the Pennsylvania DEP proving it is not responsible for methane gas migration to local water wells, the Pennsylvania DEP has chosen to ignore such evidence, preferring instead to base unprecedented and costly mandates on biased and unscientific opinions and accounts.

Pennsylvania’s DEP chief said earlier this week that the agency and the company would likely end up in court on this issue.

As we’ve reported, the agency fined Cabot $120,000 last fall after determining that water supplies were contaminated by methane gas leaked through Cabot’s faulty well casings. It was fined again in April for failure to address the problem of methane contamination. This time the fine was heftier 2014 a $240,000 penalty, plus $30,000 each month until the department determines that the problem has been properly addressed. It also ordered the company to permanently shut down some of its wells.

As we’ve noted, methane in drinking water itself isn’t necessarily harmful or dangerous, but it can be when it evaporates from the water and into people’s homes. If the gas becomes concentrated enough, it can ignite, even in water.

A private lab that tested water in Dimock found that water supplies in the areas affected by methane contamination were also contaminated by toxic industrial solvents including toluene, xylene and ethylbenzene, the Scranton Times-Tribune reported earlier this month.

A group of Dimock residents 2014 among them, a former Cabot employee and several residents whose wells had caught fire 2014 filed a lawsuit last year against the company for the contamination and the health risks it could pose to them.

Cabot mentioned the lawsuit in its ad this week, adding that it “does not believe it caused these conditions and intends to fight these allegations through its scientific findings.”

Kudos goes to Robert K. Schaeffer of Manhattan, Kansas  for a moment of critical thinking regarding the National Bio and Agro Defense Factiliy, (NBAF) and it’s risk to the community of Manhattan,KS.

NBAF risk

Proponents of National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility argue that the risk is low of accidentally or intentionally releasing lethal pathogens (anthrax, plague) from the germ lab. But it is not up to government officials to assess the level of risk. Instead, the private insurance companies that provide coverage to households and businesses in Manhattan will determine the level of risk.

If insurance companies view the risk of NBAF as low — as rare as an earthquake in Kansas — households might pay about 5 percent more on their insurance policies, about $40 a year, according to insurance company estimates. Together, the 19,170 households in Manhattan would pay $766,800 a year, or $7.6 million over the next 10 years, to protect themselves from a big government project that puts their lives and property at risk.

But if insurance companies view the risk as high — as risky as a major quake in California — households could see their insurance premiums rise by 60 percent or $480 a year, which would amount to $9.2 million annually or $92 million over the next 10 years.

Federal and state officials should answer these questions: Will insurance companies provide coverage for the risks associated with NBAF? How much will premiums increase for households, businesses and Kansas State University? And what will they do if companies refuse to offer coverage or if they charge prohibitive rates?

ROBERT K. SCHAEFFER

Manhattan

Clearly the NBAF will be a money-maker for all “Businesses”, but what of the communities who will host and fund the facility? Folks in Butner, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia  have already spoken, been there and have a T-shirt.  What’s the old saying “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is?  Wake-up Kansas! The threat of Foot and Mouth disease for farmers should be a pricey proposition, don’t you think? Or do you?

Source:  Indiana University Media Relations

Every three years, the same phase of the moon happens on about the same date of each month. The annual Perseid meteor shower of August last happened in a moonless sky in 2007, so this year if the sky is clear when the Perseids peak before dawn on Aug. 12 and 13, there will be an unhindered display of silent fireworks.

This shower is one of the most popular every year because it happens on warm summer nights, when gazing at the starry sky is always enjoyable. There may be as many as 100 bright meteors per hour, some with smoke trails that last several seconds after the meteor has vanished.

The Perseids will be visible for most of August, though there will be fewer meteors to see the farther from the peak date you watch. If the peak on Aug. 12-13 is hidden by clouds, try looking for meteors again as soon as the night sky is clear.

To minimize the effect of local light pollution, which can obscure as many as half of the meteors, try to avoid artificial lights. Face east if you have a clear view in that direction, and look about half-way up the sky from the horizon. You won’t need binoculars or a telescope — the meteors move much too fast for that. The chances of seeing a fireball will be greatest near dawn, when Earth will be moving head-on into the meteor stream.

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Source: BBC

The bio-tech company Monsanto can sell genetically modified seeds before safety tests on them are completed, the US Supreme Court has ruled.

A lower court had barred the sale of the modified alfalfa seeds until an environmental impact study could be carried out.

But seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices decided that ruling was unconstitutional.

The seed is modified to be resistant to Monsanto’s brand of weedkiller.

The US is the world’s largest producer of alfalfa, a grass-like plant used as animal feed.

It is the fourth most valuable crop grown in the country.

Environmentalists had argued that there might be a risk of cross-pollination between genetically modified plants and neighbouring crops.

They also argued over-use of the company’s weedkiller Roundup, the chemical treatment the alfalfa is modified to be resistant to, could cause pollution of ground water and lead to resistant “super-weeds”.

But Monsanto says claims its products were dangerous amounted to “bad science fiction with no support on the record”.

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