Does your mouth water at the thought of corn that's engineered to produce a poison that kills insects? If not, Connecticut might be the place for you.
The state's Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would require food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically engineered ingredients such as GM corn. The bill sailed through on a 35-1 vote, and now moves to the state House.
First the bad news: The "safest" herbicide in the history of science may be harming us in ways we're just beginning to understand. And now for the really bad news: Because too much is never enough, the Environmental Protection Agency just raised the allowable limits for how much of that chemical can remain on the food we eat, and the crops we feed to animals -- many of which end up on our plates as well. If you haven’t guessed its identity yet, it’s Monsanto’s Roundup, a powerful weed killer.
The EPA and Monsanto are apparently hoping that no one notices the recent rule change -- or, if we do notice, that we respond with a collective shrug. But that, my friends, would be a mistake. While Roundup may truly be the "safest" pesticide ever invented, that isn't quite the same as "safe." It just may be that Roundup represents a hitherto unrecognized threat to our health -- not because of what it does to our bodies, but because of what it does to our "internal ecology," a.k.a. our "microbiome."
As Michael Pollan deftly cataloged in his must-read cover story in the most recent New York Times magazine, scientists are just beginning to explore the inner reaches of our bodies to understand how our microbiome affects our health. Nonetheless, there are some growing signs that Roundup might be the last thing you want in there.
Secretary Moniz spoke to a crowd at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum about his upcoming agenda as secretary.
"Efficiency is going to be a big focus going forward," he said. "I just don't see the solutions to our biggest energy and environmental challenges without a very big demand-side response. That's why it's important to move this way, way up in our priorities." The audience applauded.
It would sure be nice to know what exactly caused a fertilizer plant to explode in Texas last month, killing 14 people -- especially given that 800,000 Americans live near similar facilities. But federal investigators are complaining to Congress that their work has been stymied by other government agencies, meaning the mystery might never be solved.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board, in a letter released Tuesday, accused the Texas state fire marshal and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of hampering its work by blocking access to key witnesses for three weeks after the massive blast — “an unprecedented and harmful delay.”
Board chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso wrote that the “incident site was massively and irreversibly altered under the direction of ATF personnel, who used cranes, bulldozers and other excavation apparatus in an ultimately unsuccessful quest to find a single ignition source for the original fire.” ...
Those rambunctious fossil-fuel flunkies in the U.S. House of Representatives were at it again Wednesday. They passed a bill that would allow Keystone XL to bypass environmental laws and be built without approval from President Obama.
But the vote tally showed that support for construction of the pipeline is waning among House Democrats, following years of campaigning by environmentalists.
The House voted 241-175 to do away with an ongoing environmental review for the northern leg of the tar-sands pipeline project and make it more difficult for opponents to file appeals. (The southern leg is already more than halfway built.) The vote was mostly along partisan lines: All but one Republican voted in favor, and all but 19 Democrats voted against. Reuters reports that the number of Democrats in favor of the bill was down from the 69 that voted to approve similar legislation in April 2012.
I was optimistic when I began reading the Washington Post op-ed on climate change by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), current chairman of the House Science Committee. He began with a plea for a thoughtful and objective discussion of climate science. But like Lucy snatching the football away from Charlie Brown, he quickly dashed my hopes as he proceeded to provide a one-sided view of the state of climate science.
The extreme weather events of the past few years go unmentioned in Rep. Smith’s piece. Americans have watched homes engulfed by wildfires, crops decimated by drought, and infrastructure twisted like a pretzel during Superstorm Sandy. Last week, an analysis estimated that U.S. taxpayers paid a $96 billion bill for cleanup after climate-related disasters in 2012 alone. I recently launched a new House Natural Resources Democrats app that shows the costs of extreme weather, both in terms of dollars spent and lives lost.
Curiously, Rep. Smith’s climate piece ignores the global temperature records of NOAA and NASA that show 2010 as the hottest year on record since 1880, and the decade ending in 2009 as the hottest decade on record. He also ignores the results of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study conducted by independent -- and formerly skeptical -- scientists who also found that global land temperatures have been increasing and that heat-trapping gases are driving that rise. Instead, he relies on a temperature record produced by U.K. scientists that he [PDF] and other Republicans have previously -- falsely, it turns out -- accused of conspiring to alter temperature data. Choosing the temperature record that best fits your argument, especially when it is from a group you questioned just a few years ago, hardly seems objective.
I would welcome, as Rep. Smith writes, a “legitimate evaluation of policy options” by Congress for dealing with climate change and its impacts. Indeed, it was my honor to lead then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, where we held more than 80 hearings and a rigorous bipartisan discussion on both climate science and climate solutions. Sadly, when Tea Party Republicans took control of the House in 2010, one of the very first things they did was eliminate the Select Committee.
350.org and CREDO Action, the political arm of the company CREDO Mobile, are leading the charge. OFA is bracing for it. From BuzzFeed:
OFA circulated a set of talking points to its members for use in dealing with unruly activists. The document, obtained by BuzzFeed, includes information on the science behind climate change and the president’s environmental positions, and ends with a section titled “Keystone Talking Points.” …
Garcetti, a Rhodes scholar and L.A.’s first Jewish mayor, has big shoes to fill: Will he carry on current Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s celebrated efforts to combat L.A.’s image as a smog-choked, car-worshipping, freeway-entangled sprawlsville?
So far, the signs point in that direction. Some have criticized Garcetti for being too friendly to business interests, but he sees working with developers as a necessary component of the smart-growth strategy he’s pursued to revitalize once-blighted areas of Hollywood, Echo Park, and Silver Lake, his home turf.
He authored the nation's largest green building ordinance, the nation's largest local clean water initiative, and legislation making L.A. the nation's largest city with a solar feed-in-tariff. He nearly tripled the number of parks in his district by finding innovative ways to create 31 new neighborhood parks. He led the effort to pass the plastic bag ban and Low Impact Development Ordinance.
Amtrak fans in the House of Representatives have finally stumbled onto that age-old marketing principle: "If you want people to use a service, fill it with animals." (I assume that's what they teach in marketing school, and if they don't they should.) Four House members have introduced a bill that would require all Amtrak trains to have at least one car that accommodates animals. Technically all the animals will be in kennels, but I'm going to cling to my fantasy of being whisked through the countryside in a pile of cats and dogs.
Farragut Square is a classic, austere Washington, D.C., park with much landscaping and statuary but few amenities for actual people. It does at least have a lot of benches, which come in handy during the typical weekday. Come noontime, hundreds of local office workers swarm, blinking, into the sunlight, desperate for sustenance, and run headlong into bounteous providence: a veritable armada of food trucks.
It varies by the day, but Farragut typically has among the densest truck congregations in the city. When I visited last, in the space of 50 feet I could choose between a half-dozen curries, steak sandwiches, tacos, Korean barbecue -- and kebabs, lots of kebabs.
But these trucks may not be here for long. The D.C. City Council is currently considering new regulations that would curtail, potentially drastically, the number of trucks allowed in much of the district.
It’s a familiar story. Similar fights have unfolded in severalothercities. But this time some Big Name Conservatives have spied an opportunity to get young, urban voters onto the anti-government bandwagon. (Mitt Romney losing 18- to 29-year-old voters by 24 points would tend to focus the mind.) As they see it, these humble taco-delivery systems are just the thing to demonstrate the tyrannical, hungering grasp of Big Government.
“What they need is for people to see this and say, 'I’m on the side of the people that the government is messing with,'" none other than Grover Drown-The-Government-In-The-Bathtub Norquist told National Journal.