Thursday, March 01, 2012 10:54 AM
This article originally appeared on Care2.
Monsanto’s bullying tactics received a legal nod of approval on February 24th, when Judge Naomi Buchwald dismissed a suit brought against the company by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). The association was joined by 82 other plaintiffs. Nearly 300,000 organic farmers were represented in the action.
According to Judge Buchwald, the plaintiffs failed to prove their case. Only one farmer and one seed distributor claimed to have already purchased contaminated seed. Neither of them claimed Monsanto’s seeds were among the “offending seeds.” Monsanto had demanded royalty payments from only one of the plaintiffs. The judge did not consider the company’s history of threats and suits against conventional farmers sufficient evidence Monsanto would sue the plaintiffs.
OSGATA’s president, Jim Gerritsen, himself an organic farmer [and Utne Reader visionary], published this response on the organization’s website:
Family farmers need the protection of the court. We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto. The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.
The dismissive tone of Judge Buchwald’s decision is curious in light of Monsanto’s history with conventional farmers. The company has made a practice of raiding fields in search of any infringements of their patents. Most farmers cave when threatened with massive fines, even if wind and pollinating bees brought the unwanted seed into their fields. So the judge’s statement that the “average of roughly thirteen lawsuits per year is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States” is more than a little disingenuous.
Monsanto’s Bullying Tactics
In 2008, Vanity Fair published an investigative report on Monsanto’s tactics. “Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear” charges:
As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.
Judge Buchwald ignored some of the farmers’ concerns. She was silent on the issue of Monsanto seed’s contaminating organic fields. She also did not address their contention that Monsanto’s patents were fraudulent.
OSGATO’s lead attorney, Daniel Ravicher, is quoted on the Food Integrity Now website as saying: “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing.”
Plaintiffs have the right to take their case to the Court of Appeals so Judge Buchwald’s decision will likely not be the last salvo heard in the struggle between small farmers and Monsanto. Still, the outcome is disappointing. David went up against Goliath. In this round, Goliath won.
Image by Thierry Ehrmann, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, February 24, 2012 4:31 PM
This article originally appeared on Care2.
Chicago Alderman Joe Moreno has said that he plans to introduce an ordinance that will create a commission to handle and ensure the protection of transgender people while in police custody.
The proposed ordinance comes after a number of complaints from the trans community over how they have been treated.
Via Windy City Times:
According to a fact sheet put out by veteran activist Rick Garcia and Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda (TCRA), the ordinance will mandate a policy for interacting with transgender detainees and set up a mayoral-appointed commission to oversee the treatment of transgender arrestees.
“It’s a human rights issue,” said Moreno, who added that the ordinance is intended to address a “hole in the policy of the police of Chicago.”
The policy comes after years of complaints from transgender people who have reported being harassed or misgendered by police officers.
Moreno said he hopes the ordinance will tackle distrust widely felt among transgender communities of police.
“We can’t expect our police department to deal with a segment of the population if they’re not trained in how that segment wants to be addressed,” he said.
Formally titled The Police Treatment of Transgender Individuals Ordinance, the measure would specifically add gender identity definitions to police policy, therein requiring police to treat trans individuals as a cognizable group, and requiring police to undergo training with regards to how to deal with trans people in their custody.
More on the oversight commission via the Chicago Phoenix:
In addition to adding protections for transgender people, the ordinance would effectively create the Police Transgender Issues Commission, a supervising body that would develop additional training for police officers and ensure the implementation of such training across the city. It would also release an annual report detailing the police’s adherence to the new guidelines.
Martinez said the commission is the most important part of the ordinance.
“It would be the first of its kind and I think it will have national implications if passed. The Transgender Police Issues Commission would be the first time, to my knowledge, such a body has been created,” he said.
The commission would be composed of six transgender Chicagoans or people who work for LGBT organizations and five Chicago Police officers, according to a fact sheet from TCRA.
The 2010 National Transgender Discrimination Survey carried out by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that over half of respondents said they felt uncomfortable seeking police assistance, often times meaning that they did not report instances of abuse or harassment simply because they feared how they would be treated by police. In addition, almost a fifth of respondents said they had faced harassment from police officers. This figure rose when examining transgender women of color.
This is not to misstate that Chicago has a particular problem with regards to police treatment of trans people beyond that of most other police departments. As the National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed, a lack of protections has left the community vulnerable throughout the USA.
In somewhat related news, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy recently introduced a bill that would add gender identity to Illinois’ hate crimes law. Read more on that here.
Image by Fibonacci Blue, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 16, 2012 3:34 PM
This article originally appeared on Care2.
When most of us think of helicopter parents, or helicopter parenting in general, our thoughts are relegated to overeager, but undeniably loving and caring, parents trying to “curate” a playdate, or intervening in an awkward social interaction between their child and a fellow grade school-aged child. Helicopter parenting, for those of us not hip to this colloquialism, is an informal brand of parenting where a parent exhibits a profound level of control over their child’s life and attempts to sweep all obstacles out of the paths of their children. The assumption is that that after some time, and some humbling gaffs on the part of the parent, these parents learn to ease up and relinquish control a bit, thus paving the road for their children to find their own way through life, make their own mistakes, and fight their own battles. For most parents, this is true, but some parents of the helicopter variety are persistent up to and past college age.
A recent episode of the sketch comedy show Portlandia takes a playful stab at lampooning helicopter parents and showing how successive generations of these overreaching parents can support, as well as stifle, their children. See below (after you suffer through the 10 second ad):
Laughs aside, this issue is not all that exaggerated. According to a recent NPR report, this brand of helicopter parenting often sticks well beyond college age as more helicopter parents are showing up in the workplace, sometimes even phoning human resources managers to advocate on their child’s behalf. Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, says when it comes to parents acting as lobbyists, she’s heard it all — from parents calling to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids to complaining when their child isn’t hired. “Surely you’ve overlooked these wonderful qualities that my child has,” Fiester says parents often tell her. These sorts of interventions by the parent can obviously backfire and put the employer on the defensive, not to mention reflect poorly on the decision-making of the child/possible employee. Think what you may about helicopter parenting, this has become an issue for many companies and corporations looking to hire right out of college. They have had to adapt and, in some cases, make gestures toward the parent like sending parents the same recruitment packages it sends their children, or initiating a “Take Your Parent to Work” day.
While every parent is convinced their child is “special” is it their distinct responsibility to inform the world, or does that responsibility and advocacy rest in the lap of that child? Should the helicopter land and allow for some self-expression and showmanship originating from the child, or in this case young adult?
Image by Jose Kevo, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:39 AM
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.
According to a new study on dehydration and mood, the optimist may view her glass as half full because she drank that water already. While mild dehydration didn’t appear to affect cognitive function in the young women who participated in the study, it did dampen their moods and caused them to perceive tasks as much harder than when well-hydrated.
For the study, which appears in the January 2012 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, researchers induced mild dehydration among 25 subjects and measured their performance on tests of memory, concentration, and mood. When dehydrated, the women were more negative, had trouble concentrating and were “more fatigued, and this was true during mild exercise and when sitting at a computer,” explained University of Connecticut professor and lead researcher Lawrence E. Armstrong, PhD in a WebMD story.
Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told WebMD that the study should serve as a reminder to stay hydrated. “Just a small change in state of hydration was enough to affect mood, ability to concentrate, and lead to development of headaches,” he said. Dr. Glatter recommends consuming moderate quantities of water, both during and after exercise.
It turns out that, as actress Jennifer Aniston famously warned last year, not drinking enough water can make you “cranky.” While Jen’s right that regularly filling your water glass could improve your mood, if you want to be really smart, you’ll get that water from the tap.
Image by Harald Groven, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011 1:16 PM
This post originally appeared at Care2.com.
Using human stem cells to reproduce highly specialized cells such as blood, nerve or muscle cells has been the source of much controversy because of the moral and ethical issues involved.
But what about using non-human stem cells to save endangered species?
For the first time ever, cells from the highly endangered white rhino (pictured above) and drill (an African primate) were transformed into stem cells that could hold the key to the future of their respective species.
The procedure, detailed in a recently published edition of Nature Methods, theorizes that induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) may eventually facilitate reintroduction of genetic material into breeding populations.
In endangered populations, there are too few reproductively capable animals to maintain adequate genetic diversity. Even when these species are kept in protective environments, there’s no guarantee that males and females will mate, or that the offspring will survive.
Because of this, the researchers could not use stem cells from fertilized embryos. Instead, stem cells were created by “re-programming” frozen skin cells (ARKive).
That’s why the success of this experiment is so significant.
In addition to medicinal applications, the stem cells could also potentially be used to make eggs and sperm, which could be used to create “test-tube” offspring of white rhinos, drills and other endangered species. If appropriate cells are preserved now, even species that go extinct in the next few years might not be lost forever.
But the technique is far from perfected, and quite expensive. Many experts say that it should only be thought of as a complement to conservation, not an alternative
“The prospects for using these techniques for continuing the genetic lineages of the last few individuals of a species will be a last-ditch effort, after we have failed to protect the species in earlier, simpler, cheaper, and more effective ways,” said Robert Lacy, a conservation scientist at the Chicago Zoological Society.
, licensed under
Wednesday, August 17, 2011 4:54 PM
My master’s degree is worth less than my husband’s bachelor’s degree, according to a survey report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Of course, I don’t need the survey to tell me, since I know it from our paychecks, wherein I earn 79 cents for every dollar he earns. Hey, I must be doing something right: That’s one generous penny more than the national average.
Yes, the most recent census reveals that women workers are still paid a scant 78 cents on the dollar earned by men. If I wanted to make as much money as my husband, the Georgetown report says, I would need to earn a PhD. “All told,” writes Kristina Chew on Care2, “over their lifetimes, women with the same educational achievements as men earn about a quarter less than their male counterparts.”
Naysayers argue that these statistics are skewed by women with advanced degrees who exit the workforce for years to be stay-at-home moms. But the survey accounts for the time-off disparity, and the report makes clear that its numbers are actually a conservative estimate of the gender wage gap, concluding, “The findings are stark: Women earn less at all degree levels, even when they work as much as men.”
Solutions, anyone? Mine is to move salaries out of the realm of used car haggling and into that of a modern and healthy transparent business model, wherein each employee’s wages are listed in the employee handbook for all to see and shared with new hires during the interview process. Just one dreamy step toward equal pay for equal work.
Image by j.o.h.n. walker
, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 18, 2011 12:54 PM
This article originally appeared at Care2.com
A recent Thomson Reuters World IP Today report found women are 14 percent more likely than men to select environmentally friendly packaging over conventional alternatives.
According to the study, World IP Today: Convenience vs. Conscience – Food Packaging in the 21st Century, men are more inclined to choose the most convenient packages over those that are environmentally friendly, and women tend to do the opposite.
The report showcases the state of the food and beverage packaging industry by looking across a number of information sources, including patents, trademarks, scientific literature, litigation data and more.
The study's findings show that convenient packaging is not just an indulgence, but reduces food waste, aids in portion control and makes food preparation easier for the elderly. The challenge is finding a way to serve convenience while offering consumers a believable way to make conscientious choices.
Advances in eco-friendly packaging have been popping up in many different markets, including food.
A New York company called Evocative Design has created a compostable alternative to polystyrene made from mushrooms.
Since 2005, Earthcycle has developed an innovative way to turn palm fiber waste into environmentally responsible packaging alternatives such as produce packaging, food trays and other applications.
Walkers, a popular division of PepsiCo UK, recently announced plans to use potatoes both inside and outside the bag in an attempt to make its packaging more environmentally friendly.
And just last month, PepsiCo announced that it has developed the world's first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources.
The Reuters poll of 1,011 adults found that while women are more likely than men to select environmentally friendly packaging, overall, people are fairly evenly split between conscience and convenience.
Image by lyzadanger, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:58 AM
This post was originally published at Care2.
The very essence of democratic rule may be about to die in Michigan.
If Gov. Rick Snyder (R) gets his way soon he will have the ability to unilaterally declare a “fiscal emergency.” Once such an emergency is declared he would then have the power to dissolve the entire municipal government of wherever this “emergency” exists, dismiss the elected officials with no replacement election to follow, seize control of local civil services and, last but certainly not least, cede control of taxpayer money, services and powers to private corporations.
Anyone else sense the Koch brothers lurking in the shadows?
Like other power grabs in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, this one is couched in terms of needing to wrest control away from the people and their unions in the name of financial austerity.
Snyder is like his other Tea Party Republican governors a product of crony-capitalism at its worst. After campaigning on concepts of limited government and democratic by-the-people rule, once in power Snyder, Walker and the others have almost immediately taken the unprecedented steps of trying to secure unilateral authority in the hands of the executive branch of government and granting unto themselves the ability to reward their corporate backers with the keys to the taxpayer safe.
It's not just the idea of the governor overriding the will of the electorate for the sake of his corporate overlords that is so offensive, it is that no one seems to care. The Michigan voters don't seem to understand the power grab at play and most of the media has decided to ignore the story for more pressing matters like the Charlie Sheen meltdown.
If Snyder does get this bill through in Michigan, and it is likely he will, then the citizens of Michigan will have, perhaps unwittingly, given up their right to determine who governs at their consent.
Don't let Governor Snyder steal Michigan's rights!
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