Good News Friday

Whew, well, looks like I’m going to have some fun this summer after all. That’s my good news, what’s yours?

And from around the web, a collection of interesting items. Enjoy!

• British researchers find magnesium chloride can make a toxic part of solar cell manufacturing cleaner and more affordable.

• Texas broke its wind power production record back in March.

• Ag giant Cargill is marketing a non-GMO soybean oil, because,

” …. consumer interest in food and beverage products made from non-GM ingredients is growing, creating opportunities and challenges for food manufacturers and food service operators,” said Ethan Theis, food ingredients commercial manager, Cargill.

This really pisses me off, actually. When there’s money to be made, Big Food will be there to provide the product. Ok, fine, but I don’t recall anyone ever asking for GMO soybean oil. That was something foisted on us by biotech giants and corporate behemoths like, well, Cargill. Here’s a thought: instead of adding “non-GMO” to your “strategic product mix,” just stop selling the goddamn poison, people.

You know, last I heard, 90% of the soybeans produced in the US are GMO. So good luck stuffing that genie back in the bottle. That was the whole freaking point of the GMO opposition: seeds spread. Cross-contamination and cross-pollination. The entire food supply is now fucked up.

But whatever. At least our voices have been heard.

• A career police officer and lifetime NRA member has submitted his resignation from the pro-gun organization. His letter to the NRA is a thing of beauty.

• Death of another Republican anti-Obamacare talking point.

• Good news on the SCOTUS front: law enforcement will need a warrant to search your cell phone.

• The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down Utah’s same-sex marriage ban. Meanwhile, a U.S. district judge has struck down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage.

• Related: oh, the irony. I can’t imagine this is true — considering the source is WingNut Daily I’m going to guess it’s not — but if it is, good riddance. Don’t let the door hit ya where the Lord split ya.

• Remember the story of the small town in South Carolina with the openly gay police chief? She was fired by the town’s homophobic mayor because, he said, he’d “much rather have somebody who drank and drank too much taking care of my child than somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.” As well as a whole bunch of other anti-gay comments that pissed everyone off. Well, this week the voters of Latta, South Carolina overwhelmingly voted to strip the mayor of a lot of his power, a stunning rebuke to an intolerant old crank. Oh, and the police chief will get her job back.

• IKEA will now pay its U.S. workers a living wage.

• The California state Senate voted to approve a measure calling on Congress to call a Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United.

• The Methodist church has reinstated a pastor who had been defrocked for officiating at his gay son’s same-sex wedding.

• Contrary to NRA propaganda, Americans are buying fewer guns, and gun makers’ stock is tumbling:

For the fourth quarter, Smith & Wesson (SWHC) reported a decline in net sales of more than 4% to $170 million and a 13% drop in income from continuing operations to about $25 million.

Company executives preferred to emphasize record sales of $626 million for the fiscal year, up 6% from the prior year.

“We are very pleased with our record results for fiscal year 2014, which include the highest sales, gross margin and profits in the company’s history,” said Debney, in a press release. “Our successful performance was driven by robust consumer demand for our products, combined with carefully managed increases in our manufacturing capacity.”

Smith & Wesson projects that net sales for fiscal year 2015 will dip to a range of $585 million to $600 million.

Shares of rival gunmaker Sturm Ruger (RGR) also fell Friday, but its drop was less dramatic.

• Scientists implanted a chip in a paralyzed man’s brain allowing him to move his hand with the power of a thought. Amazing.

Good News, Tennessee Edition:

• Congratulations to the Vanderbilt Commodores, winners of the 2014 College World Series.

• Chattanooga’s Unitarian church puts solar panels on its roof, as the “creation care” movement takes hold.

• I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but now it’s official: Nashville Mayor Karl Dean signed into law a bill that extends Metro employee benefits to same-sex partners.

Check out this hilarious gun safety PSA:

29 Comments

Filed under Good News

29 responses to “Good News Friday

  1. Jim in Memphis

    Did Republicans claim health insurance companies would lose money through Obamacare? I don’t see how an insurance company could possibly lose money for the next couple of years. They are guaranteed clients, guaranteed premium payments from the government subsidies, and if they somehow lost money then the government was going to pay them for that too. The article also mentioned how well the drug companies are doing. Again, with the government pumping in so much money into healthcare with their subsidies, how could these companies lose money? Anyway, at least you are happy that insurance companies and drug manufacturers are raking in the profits. Seems kind of backwards from what I thought you wanted healthcare to become.

  2. Tom Dunlap

    So, what is the evidence that GMO soybean oil is “poisonous”? Or is it that GMO = universally bad? Not that I “trust” Big Food, mind you. I’d just like to know the science.

    • I’ll let you hit the great Gazoogle for the scientific data — hey, I’m not your fucking research assistant — but the biggest issue isn’t that GMOs themselves are bad — though some are, here’s one prime example. It’s that as an overall policy it makes the food supply vulnerable. Here’s a story that outlines the arguments against GMOs pretty well. Once you start fucking with the genetics of a large-scale crop like corn and soybeans which cannot be grown in a controlled environment, you are fucking with the planet’s biodiversity and, as I said, there’s no stuffing that genie back in the bottle. Soybeans aren’t grown in greenhouses.

      On top of which, you are putting the food supply in the hands of a profit-oriented multinational corporation whose interests will not always align with the peoples’ interests. See Bowman v Monsanto.

      Monsanto created Round-up, then created Round-Up Ready soybeans, which after a few years suddenly and inexplicably experienced yield declines while spurring glyphosate resistance, aka herbicide-immune super-weeds. AND it’s recently been linked to Monarch butterfly declines. But this shit’s out there, again you don’t grow soybeans in a greenhouse, it’s grown over acres and acres and acres and once it’s out there it can’t be controlled.

      • deep

        Wow, I missed your update. This is the first I’ve heard of that study being “republished” (since it’s 2 days old, I have yet to catch up with it. Note that the original study was widely criticised because not only were their results impossible to reproduce in peer review, but that it became clear that they were falsifying their data.

        Don’t forget how there was a doctor in England who “proved” that vaccines caused autism. Just because someone who claims to be a scientist makes an assertion does not necessarily mean it true. I’ll wait for this “new publication” to undergo peer review.

        I know, I’m not really a good advocate for this because I’m not a scientist, but after seeing all the anti-science vitriol directed toward climatologists and vaccienes I’ve become rather skeptical of these new anti-science fads, especially when we’re talking about scientific consensus versus a few quacks with snake oil to sell.

      • Tom Dunlap

        Like I said, I get it, Big Food bad. But corn to use that example is nothing like what it was when we started messing with it thousands of years ago. Yes, “we” in the form of Big Food have accelerated the process with science and engineering methods, but to now focus on simply GMO is bad takes away from the real argument that you state in your reply. That is “we” don’t have adequate safe guards against Big Anyone taking advantage where ever they can because money. Big food, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, nothing new here. GMO has the capability to do things like increasing or adding to the vitamin content of some staples like rice which alleviates disease in children in some parts of the world. Making GMO the boggey man is throwing the baby out with the bath water IMHO.

  3. ThresherK

    Anyone else have to slow down to re-read “Texas broke wind”?

  4. deep

    Hey Beale, your fear of GMO’s is a little misplaced. Scientific evidence does not show any harm from genetically modified organisms, mainly because they are so vigorously tested before they’re brought to market. In fact, GMO food could solve a great many problems including malnutrition in impoverished communities. The fear of GMO’s is similar to fears of vaccination, and in both cases science is ignored to the detriment of public health.

    I know it’s easy to say that all the scientists are bought and paid for by the major agra-businesses, but likewise the business of “organic” foods have become massively profitable for businesses like Whole foods, and for hucksters like the “Food Babe” who has about as much integrity on science matters as Jenny McCarthy.

    If you have a chance read this to see an explanation of how we’ve even made it to this point: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/food-fears/

    Of course, I don’t want to just throw all of my trust in Monsanto or Conagra, but on the same token I don’t want people to blindly think that Whole Foods really is out for their best interest either. The billion-dollar organics industry has had a two-decade head start to market the “health” benefits of their products and to demonize conventional products.

    • deep

      Oh and here’s the Scientific American article that busts some of the common myths: (I was trying to find this earlier but couldn’t find it.)

      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

      I was completely in agreement with you a few months ago, but a friend of mine on Facebook who is a scientists and often posts things criticizing anti-vaccers and climate deniers started criticizing the Food Babe, so I started looking more into it.

    • See my response to Tom Dunlap. The arguments against GMO go far beyond just “does GMO cause cancer” or whatever. It’s a bad idea on a whole range of other fronts, not the least of which being we’re giving an evil multinational corporation control of the global food supply. They threw a Tennessee farmer in jail when some of their GMO seeds ended up in his fields, fer crissakes.

      • deep

        Well, then you’re not being entirely fair to the many scientists and corporations who are not at all afiliated with Monsanto who are using science to improve public health. I know it’s easy to vilify Monsanto because of their use of economic tools to enforce their patents, but the science behind GMOs is sound and undergoes much more stringent tests than currently is required for “natural” or “organic” products.

      • What, you don’t think it’s fair that biopharm companies like Monsanto and AstraZeneca are being criticized for creating GMO products whose only purpose is to increase the profitability of Big Agribusiness, not, say, solve environmental problems or health problems?

        And I don’t think you’re being fair to the entire body of science, nor are you being fair to the policy implications. The Supreme Court has supported Monsanto’s copyright of this stuff. I happen to think that’s a huge fucking deal, that Monsanto basically has the copyright on 80% of all corn.

        And no, the science behind GMOs is not sound. There is not enough “science” out there to make such a claim. This shit was rushed to market in the mid-90s so multinationals could make more profit. The “science” is being done right now, in real time, as GMO corn and soybeans interact in the environment, and we stand around and watch what happens.

  5. greennotGreen

    I was all in favor of GMO when it was first introduced in “golden rice”, a way to enrich rice to provide sufficient levels of beta-carotene in areas of the world where deficiencies often cause blindness, but when it became obvious that big ag was only going to use it to increase their profits, I became skeptical. Then, when one of the first plants they market is corn which is *wind pollinated* (and therefore you can’t control where the pollen is going to go) it’s just obvious big ag is not being very responsible about this.

    Thinking back, my early enthusiasm for golden rice may have been misplaced since rice is also wind pollinated, but that may not be a problem if it can’t cross-pollinate with other local plants.

  6. Re: Deep:

    No question that there is a lot of bullshit being peddled by the “organic” companies like Whole Paycheck. I don’t know who the Food Babe is but that anyone who’s shilling on teevee might be lying is something that does not rate a “GASP!”.

    The real problem with GMO foods IS that they cross pollinate with other crops and reduce diversity. It’s virtually impossible to find out what is in about 99% of the foods that are prepared or even produce that isn’t clearly labeled “organic”*.

    There are some possible advantages to sowing GMO crops but the fact that one major botanical pandemic could wipe out a year’s supply of a crop before anyone could stop it, is sobering.

    Monsanto gave us Round-Up and its daddy, Agent Orange. The Monsanto Company no longer exists in the same way it did when it made money from the manufacture of Agent Orange and the successor company goes to great lengths to disassociate itself from the old company. It was “Vuss only followink orders!” and it’s the gummint’s fault–blow me, Monsanto.

    Jimbo asks:

    “Did Republicans claim health insurance companies would lose money through Obamacare?”

    http://www.redstate.com/diary/gsandlapper1/2013/10/31/obamacare-is-working-to-kill-the-private-health-insurance-industry/

    The above asshole seems to think so, as does this lying fuckbag:

    http://hotair.com/archives/2013/04/03/krauthammer-obamacare-is-pretty-much-destroying-the-essence-of-insurance/

    The thing is, Jimbo, it makes no fucking difference how healthcare is delivered or paid for until you decide that certain parties will not receive either care or affordable insurance. You, Mr. $250K all butthurt about paying a few bucks more in taxes are in a tizzy over what, exactly? Go on, tell us all how you and your family have SUFFERED ‘cuz poors and blacks and illegals have been siphoning off all of the healthcare. Be sure to make up some really good shit and provide your sources.

    You stupid fucker.

    * And I’m no dewy-eyed optimist where those folks are concerned either.

    • On the Whole Paycheck thing, don’t know if you saw this story about the mom who refused to feed her 12-day-old baby anything but vegan formula or give it medicine doctors had prescribed because it “contained animal parts.” The kicker: “Markham said she purchased organic soy formula, and when asked if she confirmed with a doctor if it was safe for a newborn, she said that if Whole Foods Market sells it then the formula doesn’t contain any animal parts and, therefore, must be safe, according to police.”

      How can people be so fucking stupid.

    • OH also I realize this is a little off-topic, but I just watched the documentary “Pink, Inc.” about the cult of the pink ribbon … I did not know that Monsanto had sold its rBGH to Eli Lily. rBGH has been linked to breast cancer, and Eli Lily also makes cancer drugs. So it’s a sweet little move, making and distributing a product linked to cancer and then making money off of cancer drugs, too.

      Profit!

  7. deep

    In response to both demo and greennotGreen who mentioned similar concerns:

    Fears about cross-polination going bad, or biodiversity being reduced are unfounded. Did you know that of the three banana varieties eaten in the United States, two are already extinct? Extinction of crops if we become overly reliant on a single strain is certainly an issue. This is actually a strength of GMO crops. We can create genetic variants that protect against each new fungus or insect pest and we can do it a lot faster than we could breed a pest-resistant strain. New bugs, fungi, etc. are destroying crops like coffee and chocolate. GMO coffee and GMO chocolate are being developed to protect those crops. Are you willing to live in a cafe mocha-free world? Also, carrots used to be purple. They were selectively bred for color, not for nutrition. That seems like a worse food strategy than fortifying foods we already eat with vitamins from other foods we already eat. As the world’s population grows, we will need healthier food that can grow in smaller spaces across more diverse climates with fewer pesticides.

    Even Monsanto is doing things that could be considered good. What you don’t hear about Monsanto is the work they are doing to develop drought resistant crops in Africa. The work isn’t entirely altruistic. They are field testing. They are also giving away the crops to farmers. For free. So yes, be skeptical of Monsanto, but don’t discount everything they do.

    Also, Golden rice is free and is being produced by someone other than Monsanto (I forget their name off hand) and it saves lives. A carte blanche block of GMOs will have a body count and I’m sad to see to much anti-science sentiment against foods, when already opposition to science is having devastating affects in combating climate change or deadly diseases.

  8. deep

    Also Beale, I looked over that “republication” of the debunked study, they didn’t actually change any of the methods that were called into question in the first place. The primary author is also the head of an anti-GMO group, so I’m not sure we can call him unbiased, his motivation almost seems as suspect as that doctor in England who made huge profits from convincing people that vaccines caused autism.

    The article that outlines the arguments against GMOs said this:

    “A number of medicines are made with GMO technology, for example the injectable insulin that diabetics use. That’s been made through this technology since the 1980s, and I don’t think anyone would argue that’s a bad use of this technology.”

    Plus, GMO farmers can use less pesticides and herbicides, and Neher says research shows those chemicals have a greater negative impact on the soil than the GMOs do.

    “That convinced me, and I’m a skeptic,” Neher said.

    When it comes to actually eating products that contain GMOs, Dr. Neher says no studies have proven or disproven the effect of the product on people.

    Their scientist acknowledges the benefits of GMO right there, so I’m not sure why so much hostility or skepticism of the benefits of GMOs. Likewise the FDA requires thorough safety testing before a new GMO can be introduced, meanwhile Organic foods don’t get any such testing despite studies that have shown how some organic foods have greater amounts of toxic metals than conventional foods

    Finally, I agree Monsanto has used very heavy-handed methods to protect their patents, but we have to be clear that the farmer in Tennessee was jailed not because of Monsanto’s suit but because he violated a court order and destroyed evidence. Even that case in Canada http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto_Canada_Inc._v._Schmeiser, there was no question that the farmer had collected and concentrated Monsantos seeds; there were too many in his field for it to have been coincidence from airblown seeds.

    • Well nothing you’ve said has addressed what I’ve said is my MAIN concern, which is how these things interact in the environment. The main opposition to GMO has always been from the ecological sciences, not biological ones. I’m not surprised some biotech geek in his Novartis-funded lab thinks GMOs are peachy keen, and maybe a diet of GMO corn isn’t going to cause cancer in lab rats (yet) but the jury is still out on how these things interact in the environment at large. As I said, they were rushed to market for corporate profit, not out of any biological necessity, and their only purpose is to inflate corporate profits. These are not products developed to solve climate change or help starving people in third world countries. Roundup Ready was developed to be resistant to Roundup so farmers could liberally apply a pesticide without killing the corn crop. Meanwhile, superweeds have developed a resistance to the Roundup. That means more pesticides, not fewer, and more profits for Monsanto. Funny how that works.

      I don’t want Big Ag fucking with my food supply, thank you very much.

  9. Martin Norred

    Another thing to think about, here in Oregon, probably 20 years ago, Oregon State was testing for one of the big companies. They grew the product several years(5-6?) and used the company guidelines to keep the pollen from drifting. After the tests,per company guidelines, all product was burned, fields were sterilized(burning the stubble). About 5 years later, some was found growing in a road ditch 35 miles away! And the company wanted to blame someone else for ‘stealing’ their patented seeds!

  10. CB

    I’m not getting into the gma argument. Just don’t have the energy or inclination. I’ve been eating what the grocery stores provide for north of 60 years, and I’m not dead yet.

    … which brings me to my point. Cargill making non-gma veg. oil is, indeed, all about the $$$. Any time a food product is made in a way that differs from the norm, the manufacturer feels perfectly justified in jacking the price up, oh, 50-100%, ESPECIALLY if it’s something consumers have been asking for.

    • What I find hilarious about the Cargill story is this, from the link:

      “Supplies of Cargill’s new oil are limited, and one food manufacturer already has purchased a significant portion of the available supply. According to Theis, producing an IdP soybean oil from non-GM soybeans is an intricate process, from procuring a dedicated supply of non-GM soybeans to developing processes to avoid co-mingling with bioengineered crops during harvesting, transportation, storage, handling, processing and refining.”

      IOW, they’re having a hard time meeting demand for this “new” product because they’ve already corrupted the food supply with their Frankenfood. Major fail. I should never have put this on the list.

  11. @Deep:

    I have been reassured, many times in this life, by both gummint and industry sources that all sorts of things that were going on were harmless, necessary and desirable. They have been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay wrong, more times than I care to think about.

    “Did you know that of the three banana varieties eaten in the United States, two are already extinct?”

    I certainly did (and Snopes, btw, disagrees). Do you know why? Because United Fruit, Dole and others decided that we needed to be sold a particular sort of banana.

    • I wrote about bananas five years ago, here. Apparently bananas haven’t had sex in 10,000 years. They’re a mutant crop with three sets of chromosomes and no functioning way of reproducing.

      I always get a kick out of that Kirk Cameron/Aussie fundie video showing how bananas are proof that God exists. They could not BE more wrong.

      • “They could not BE more wrong.”

        You need the “/s” after that one. They have been, are and will continue to top themselves in their race to the bottom of the barrel of rationality.

    • deep

      [citation needed] on that snopes claim demo, I can’t seem to find what you’re talking about on their site. Though in the end, Beale is right that Bananas (and many other crops) are frankenfruits these days and probably not the best for humans diets anyway.

      Anyway, my main thing was just to let ya’ll know that’s it not at all clear cut. Like I said, I had been completely anti-gmo up till a month ago, but the more I look into it the more it becomes clear that the “organic” industry does not have our best interest (nor even the environment’s best interest) at heart. We’re all laughing around her about how Republicans can never believe it when scientists make claims about global warming because “the evil government” commissioned the study, but then we’re equally blind when scientists make claims that were commissioned by “big corporations.” They’re still scientists, and a majority of them agree about the safety of GMOs these days just as a majority agree with the evidence for climate change.

      • I get what you’re saying and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but I really want to be clear, I never said my objection was that “GMO are not safe for human health.” My objection is that it’s waaaay too soon to be introducing these things into the environment when we really don’t know how they’re going to interract out in the world. And the fact that we’re going that route purely for corporate profit, not necessity, is even worse. This stuff is too new, we’ve had GMO for, what, 25 years? And now we’re going to unleash it on the environment at large without really understanding what we’re playing with here? We’re playing with fire. The earth is not a fucking petri dish. And just so you know, my degree is in environmental science, I spent two years studying evolutionary biology, so my opinion is not completely uninformed. Granted I’m not a Nobel scientist but I do understand a little bit about the less hysterical aspects of science as it translates into public policy.