The Weekly Pulse: Michael Pollan’s Rules for Thanksgiving, Plus Whole Foods’ Healthcare Lies

Editor’s Note: Happy Thanksgiving from the Media Consortium! This week, we aren’t stopping The Audit, The Pulse, The Diaspora, or The Mulch, but we are taking a bit of a break. Expect shorter blog posts, and The Diaspora and The Mulch will be posted on Wednesday afternoon, instead of their usual Thursday and Friday postings. We’ll return to our normal schedule next week.

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Wednesday is the heaviest travel day of the year in the United States, as millions of Americans head home to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of you are probably reading this dispatch on PDAs as you wait in an interminable line at airport security. Here’s some food for thought.

At Grist, food writer Michael Pollan officially declares himself a Rules Guy. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean he won’t accept a Friday dinner invitation offered after noon on Wednesday. Pollan thinks that our healthy eating skills are passed down to us as part of food culture. In this era of drive-through windows and meal replacement bars, a lot of the old wisdom is falling by the wayside and Americans are finding themselves adrift in a sea of calories. On the eve of Thanksgiving, Pollan provides some helpful guidelines for avoiding the food coma:

[M]any ethnic traditions have their own memorable expressions for what amounts to the same recommendation. Many cultures, for examples, have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of proposing we stop eating before we’re completely full: the Japanese say “hara hachi bu” (“Eat until you are 4/5 full”); Germans advise eaters to “tie off the sack before it’s full.” And the prophet Mohammed recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink, and one-third air. My own Russian-Jewish grandfather used to say at the end of every meal, “I always like to leave the table a little bit hungry.”

But wait, there’s more!

  • Unions representing airline pilots and flight attendants are advising their members to avoid the the TSA’s new backscatter x-ray scans because of concerns about the long-term health effects of x-ray radiation. Crew members who refused scans have been subjected to new “enhanced” pat-down searches. This week, the TSA granted an exception to pilots, but not to flight attendants. As I reported for Working In These Times, all crew members go through the same FBI background check and fingerprinting process. “Don’t touch my junk!” has become a rallying cry for passengers, particularly white men, who are not accustomed to being asked to give up any part of their body’s autonomy for the greater good. Is it a coincidence that 95% of pilots are men and three-quarters of flight attendants are women? [Update: The TSA has relented. The agency announced Tuesday that flight attendants will now get the same exemption as pilots.]
  • Adam Serwer argues in The American Prospect that it’s easy to demand tough security measures when the presumed targets are faceless Muslims in a distant country. When air travelers are asked to compromise their own privacy in the name of security, the tradeoff suddenly seems very different.
  • Employee health insurance deductibles are skyrocketing at Whole Foods and CEO John Mackey is trying to blame the increase on health care reform. “This is very important for everyone to understand: 100% of the increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums in 2011 compared to 2010 are due to new federal mandates and regulations,” Mackey wrote in a corporate memo. In fact, as Josh Harkinson reports in Mother Jones, Mackey’s memo is pure, organic BS. The provisions in the Affordable Care Act that might increase costs won’t go into effect until 2014, so it’s hard to figure out how federal policies could be responsible. Health insurance costs were rising by about 5% per year, year after year, before the Affordable Care Act passed. The truth is that health insurance is getting more expensive because health care is getting more expensive. As Harkinson points out, one of the reasons that health care is getting more expensive is because corporations like Whole Foods are pushing more of their employees into part-time work to avoid covering them. Of course, when those workers get sick, someone has to pick up the cost of their care. So those who have insurance, including some of Whole Foods’ own employees, have to pay more to make up the difference.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: When Will Our Water Be Clean?

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Ed. Note: The Mulch is participating in Blog Action Day 2010, an initiative led by Media Consortium member Change.org that asks bloggers around the world to publish posts on the same issue on the same day. This year’s topic is water.

Last week, rivers in Hungary ran red with toxic sludge, creating the perhaps most powerful image of water contamination possible. Imagine, for a second, if every chemical leaching into waterways in this country had such a brilliant hue. What color would our water be?

Less than crystal clear, certainly. We still don’t know, for instance, what chemicals the government and BP poured into the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon spill, as Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard reports. Beyond one time dumps, American industries and consumers are steadily polluting our water system. Energy companies contaminate waterways. So do massive, industrial farms. Sewer systems overflow, and landfills leach waste. Even household chemicals — pesticides applied to suburban lawns, for instance — contribute to the problem.

Flouting the Clean Water Act

After the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, politicians finally took note of the country’s polluted and within a few years had passed the Clean Water Act. In theory, the Clean Water Act should limit contamination, but as The New York Times reported last year, violations have been increasing. Just this month, in Kentucky, environmental advocates brought a case against two coal companies that allegedly violated the Clean Water Act more than 20,000 times, as Public News Service’s Renee Shaw reports.

The violations “include doctoring water pollution reports, failing to conduct tests, and exceeding permit pollution limits,” Shaw reports.

Toxic run-off

That’s just one example of water pollution. At Grist, Tom Laskawy reports that researchers Indiana found a chemical produced by genetically engineered corn in “25% of streams they tested, and all the streams that tested positive were within 1,500 feet from a cornfield.”

The chemical in question, Bt, is technically organic. Plants grown from Monsanto seeds produce it to ward off bugs, and since it comes from an organic process, it is approved for use in organic farming, too. So, what’s the big deal? As Laskawy writes, it’s still a toxin, and the consequences of injecting large doses into the water system are unclear:

No one has any idea yet of the effects of long-term, low-dose exposure to Bt on fish and wildlife. Perhaps it’s high time somebody did a study on that since, as the researchers dryly observed, the presence of Bt toxin “may be a more common occurrence in watersheds draining maize-growing regions than previously recognized.”

Enforcement

These types of problems continue in part because governments are unable or unwilling to crack down on polluters. In the Kentucky mining case, for instance, Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard reports that the environmental advocates filed the suit in part because they felt the Kentucky office that oversees the Clean Water Act “had not enforced the law.” Sheppard writes:

Donna Lisenby, who works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices, described literally blowing the dust off stacks of reports from the companies that did not appear to have been actually reviewed by anyone in the state office. Or at least, they were not reviewed thoroughly; she also described reports that appeared to have the same data copied and pasted from previous months, and reports that were dated before the testing was actually conducted.

Even when the government does hold companies accountable, however, that doesn’t guarantee a good, quick result. Take General Electric’s clean up of the Hudson River. The company began dumping chemicals there in the 1940s but is still trying to delay its clean-up efforts, writes Change.org’s Jess Leber.

Climate change

As with every environmental issue nowadays, climate change also plays a role. When it comes to our drinking water, carbon dioxide pollution is not a problem. But for ocean dwellers, it is. As Courtney Shelby writes at Care2, the ocean has absorbed 400 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, which has lead to a shortage of oxygen. Shelby explains, “This creates “dead zones” that are absent of all marine life for thousands of years, posing a serious threat to biodiversity.”

Joining forces

Ultimately, though, water contamination is not just about the environment. The lack of clean water extracts a real human costAs Change.org writes, “Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.” What that means, however, is that environmental advocates concerned about water pollution can find allies in other social action movements.

In Detroit, for example, environmental and health advocates joined together to address water issues, as Making Contact reports. The “People’s Water Board” works on water pollution and on water access, and so far has pushed city officials overseeing water issues towards greater transparency.

In all of these cases, whether the culprit is the energy industry, agribusiness, or climate change, the work of environmental advocates is calling attention to and pushing to resolve the problem. With these sorts of efforts, perhaps it won’t take a flaming river to push leaders across the country to work to make our water clean.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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