Weekly Pulse: U.S. Social Forum Tackles Health Issues

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tens of thousands of progressive activists are converging on Detroit this week for the U.S. Social Forum to envision a better future. In the fight for social justice and sustainability, health and health care are at the forefront. During the meeting, the Washtenaw Reds plan to launch a free clinic in Detroit. They envision the facility as a center of healing and a nexus of political organizing. The USSF also features workshops on reproductive justice and drug policy issues. Urban farming and food justice are also key items on the agenda, Paul Abowd of In These Times reports.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Republicans are still scheming to overturn health care reform. The GOP leadership and its allies in the health care industry plan to use the upcoming confirmation fight over Dr. Donald Berwick, Obama’s nominee to run Medicare and Medicaid, as an opportunity to air their grievances about health care reform, Jamelle Bouie reports in the Washington Independent.

Deadly pollutants

As oil continues to spurt from the wrecked oil well in the Gulf, everyone is wondering how the disaster will affect human health. The scary part is, nobody really knows. The Climate Desk at Mother Jones says that more than 20,000 workers are slogging through as they attempt to clean up the mess. Fresh crude oil contains a many volatile chemicals, some of which have been shown to be carcinogenic. Over 100 workers have already complained of illnesses that may be connected to their work on the cleanup project, according to Louisiana public health authorities.

The Real News Network takes us on a tour of some of the deadliest pollutants in our air. Guest Michael Ash of the Corporate Toxics Information Project (CTIP) at Amherst University takes host Paul Jay on a guided tour of the nastiest gunk in our lungs. U.S.-based corporations emit over 4.5 billion pounds of toxic chemicals into the air every year. Bayer Aspirin and ExxonMobil are two of the biggest air polluters in the U.S., according to EPA emissions statistics. CTIP uses massive amounts of data that the EPA already collects to educate the public and investors about pollution. Ash hopes that socially responsible investors will decline to invest in dirty industries.

Over the counter birth control?

Finally, at RH Reality Check, Kathleen Reeves argues that the birth control pill should be available over the counter. Reeves maintains that anything a doctor might tell a woman about risk factors could be summarized on the package insert: Don’t smoke, use condoms to protect against STIs, and so on. I would argue that full OTC status might be a step too far. When it comes to hormonal contraception, one size does not fit all. Patients need to discuss their options with a health care professional who can explain the risks and benefits associated with each. Of course it’s silly to make a woman go back to her doctor every 6 months to renew a prescription she’s been taking every day for the last decade. A sensible compromise might to extend the length of prescriptions and the number of times they can be renewed following.

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.



What's Up With the Rainforest: Collapsing biodiversity is a 'wake-up call for humanity'

The global community has been sent a series of wake-up calls lately: the environmental crisis spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, unprecedented droughts in China, and a report outlining the disastrous impacts of the world's collapsing biodiversity. If events like these still don't send the world into action, I have to wonder what kind of devastating catastrophe finally will. Our environment is an issue facing each and every one of us, thus it will require a proactive response from all corners of the world. Let's not miss the opportunity for these tragedies to serve as a call of action to both our country, and the global community, towards a focus on a safer, healthier, and stronger planet. We, along with our partner Rainforest Alliance, hope you will help in the fight to ensure that the recent environmental tragedies we've seen become a thing of the past.

Sending an urgent call for international action is the UN's Third Global Biodiversity Outlook Report, stating how "our natural support systems are on the verge of collapsing unless radical changes are made to preserve the world's biodiversity". The report highlights the main causes behind biodiversity loss, the ecosystems close to the point of irreparable damage, and the role that government needs to play in making this issue a priority. Making the significance of this crisis even clearer, the report also states what we have to gain - "Ending biodiversity loss will help in the fight against poverty and hunger, while improving human health, security, and wealth for the current and future generations".

However, as the UN calls for "a new vision for biological diversity for a healthy planet and a sustainable future for humankind", a new shopping mall boom in Brazil is becoming the latest threat to the Amazon rainforest, with four of the five largest cities in Brazil have made plans to build American-style shopping malls by the end of next year. This trend reflects not only Brazil's increasing economic growth, but also the challenge in "creating a model of sustainable economic development that includes the people who live in the forest". But combining economic growth with environmental values is not impossible. Made clear in Kenya, where the Kakamega Environmental Education Program (KEEP), a community group with leaders who were once poachers, has "worked out alternative incomes from the forest in a bid to save this fragile ecosystem".

In China, Yunnan's severe drought is one more reminder of the future climate threats we can expect if we continue living the way we do today. According to scientists, "the crisis marks one of the strongest case studies so far of how climate change and poor environmental practice can combine to create a disaster", specifically, the impact of large-scale deforestation and poor water management. But researchers are being adamant learning everything they can from this year's doubt, in hopes of being "better prepared when the next natural disaster strikes".

Closer to home, not everyone is sharing the commitment to learning from the past. While the oil spill in the Gulf may have brought a heightened focus to the broader issue at play - the danger that our dependence on fossil fuels creates for both our coasts and our health - BP doesn't seem to be addressing the concern. As seen by the oil company's announcement that it would continue its plan to build an oil sands pipeline to the British Columbian coast - a project which creates the "risks of a major oil spill, endangering salmon, bears and all wildlife" that calls the Great Bear Rainforest home.

Let's not wait for another environmental crisis to hit before we realize the severity of the issues facing our planet. The predictions of what lies ahead for our ecosystems and our health is not set in stone; so call on yourself, your community and your leaders to make the choices that will set us on the path for a sustainable and brighter future. Visit our Facebook page to continue the conversation and stay informed on the latest issues facing the Rainforest. 

Support Electric Drag Racing

If you think that going green in transportation is like doing acupuncture you’re wrong. If you think driving clean is like tasting nasty medicine you’re wrong again. If you think by going to an electric vehicle you can say good-bye to tinkering in your garage with your hot rod, you are wrong one more time. I bet you didn’t think you would ever be happy about being wrong about anything. Let me tell you, you’re going to be happy about being wrong about this.


For the last 9 years the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington, DC, together with the National Electric Drag Racing Association have been putting together a show in Hagerstown, Maryland of what insaniac, electric gear heads, scientists and engineering departments can put together in their garages.




We are a group of individuals that have been pushing for electric vehicles as a clean and green option to buying dirty combustion engine vehicles for decades. To fight the false rhetorical argument that electric vehicles were nothing but slow moving glorified golf carts we have been putting on a demonstration of electric vehicle raw power for 9 years near Washington, DC. Our constant pushing speed records has made for some wonderfully exciting vehicles. Vehicles that you will not see anywhere else but in electric drag racing. Vehicles such as an eight mini wheeled electric only dragster.


A few years ago we added an electric autocross. An autocross is a timed race where one vehicle at a time goes through a course set up with traffic cones. Our course is set up by the Sports Car Club of America and is certified by them. Hybrids are allowed to enter the race. We invite everyone in the Mid-Atlantic region to come and see this spectacular event on our tenth anniversary.


We call the racing event the Power of DC, PoDC for short, and it will be running June 5th and 6th. The autocross will be held on the morning of the 5th at the Valley Mall in Hagerstown, Maryland and the drag race will be held at Mason-Dixon Dragway.


This year is our 10th anniversary! We are looking for sponsors and I hope you will consider helping us make this event a reality.


Saturday is the Autocross event at the Valley Mall, run by the SCCA.

Sunday is NEDRA drag racing at the Mason Dixon Dragway.


Here are the levels of sponsorship:


$150 Name/logo/url on back of T-shirt Link in website


$250 Name/logo/url on back of T-shirt Link in website Logo on homepage Logo on banner


$500 Name/logo/url on back of T-shirt

Link in website

Logo on homepage

Logo on banner

Portion of event named after company/organization like "ABC Electronics AutoCross"

We have four opportunities for $500 sponsors (AutoCross, Drag Race, Show and Shine, Generator rental - logo/name on generator)


$1000 Name/logo/url on back of T-shirt

Link in website

Logo on homepage

Logo on banner

Entire race named after sponsor


All of this is outlined on the Power of DC Website at http://www.powerofdc.com/sponsorship.html



Thank you,

John Alder



A Green Tsunami Gathers Steam in Colombia

Colombia's Presidential election campaign is now well under way and with 50 days to go before the first round election day, the race is becoming a two person race between Juan Manuel Santos, the former Defense Minister under President Uribe and Antanas Mockus, the twice former progressive mayor of Bogotá who is running as the candidate of the newly formed Partido Verde, a Green party. It's been a meteoric rise for the Green party over the past month. In its primary, the party leadership had hoped to garner some 500,000 votes. Instead, 1,822,865 Colombians voted in the three person race choosing between three former mayors of Bogotá. Additionally, the Greens won 5 Senate seats in their first electoral outing.

Early polls back in March showed a wide open race though the pro-Uribe candidates were clearly in front. In mid-March, Santos polled near 40 percent with Noemí Sanín, a former Foreign Minister and the narrow winner of the Conservative party primary just above 20 percent with the rest of the seven person field in single digits. The biggest loser in the Congressional election was Sergio Fajardo, the former mayor of Medellín, who had been mounting an independent civic campaign. His lists fail to win a single seat in either the Senate or the House. Mockus immediately after the Congressional elections on March 13 polled 9 percent.

The race has dramatically altered in the last month. To begin with Mockus selected Fajardo as his running mate bringing together a wider spectrum of pro-reform forces. And with more Colombians beginning to tune in to the race, the Greens have honed their message to one based on the redemption of morality in politics. Our message is simple: every life is sacred, every peso in the public treasury is sacred. In a country where homicide is again on the rise and where numerous minor corruption scandals have occurred under Uribe, that message has resonated.

The latest poll conducted by Datexco released just yesterday shows Juan Manuel Santos still leading with 29 percent of the vote but with Mockus surging to 24 percent. Meanwhile Sanín has fallen back to 16 percent after numerous gaffes including her botching the national anthem. Even the revelation that Mockus has early stages of Parkinson's has been turned into a positive. "We'd rather have a President whose hands shake but not have his morals waver" came back the refrain. And as one noted Colombian observer noted, Mockus may have Parkinson's but it's the Uribe camp that's shaking.

This is a campaign unlike other in our history. Never before has a race been conducted in this manner. In the primary, all appearance by Antanas Mockus, Enrique Peñalosa and Lucho Garzón were joint appearances to underscore that this was a campaign of ideas, not of personalities. To show their commitment to prudent financial management of public monies, the party returned 4,500 million pesos that it was entitled to but did not spend. The message is clear, corruption will not be tolerated.

There's more...

Feeling Dirty?

We all know that we need clean air and water to live. But what many of us DON’T realize is that there is another resource we depend on just as much to survive: dirt. Yes, that stuff you played in as a kid and obsessively clean off your car. Believe it or not, dirt is an essential element to our existence on Earth, and DIRT! The Movie aims to teach us all about it. This acclaimed documentary goes beyond preaching about the dangers of pollution, educating the viewer on why we need dirt to survive, how it affects our daily life, and what we can do to improve it.

Every person on Earth, regardless of age, race, or social status depends on healthy dirt to survive. However, it is one of the elements of our planet we take most for granted. DIRT! The Movie does a great job of mixing facts, personal anecdotes, and animation to create a film that educates as well as entertains. Experts from all over the world weigh in on just how important dirt is to us, and they do so in a way everyone can understand- no scientific mumbo jumbo. The animation is clever and cute while remaining relevant, and lets be honest, how could you NOT love little Digby? (If you don't get it, watch the movie)

Although the film does a great job describing why dirt is important to human kind, the real takeaway from this film is that everyone can help to restore it to a healthy state. The movie highlights people from all different ages and backgrounds. A young couple owns their own organic farm that provides vegetables to inner-city people. Children attend a sustainable school and learn about composting. Inmates learn the environmental and personal benefits of gardening. A woman in the Bronx creates her own green rooftop. The possibilities are endless and range from small lifestyle changes to huge worldwide movements. But it is clear after watching DIRT! The Movie that people from all walks of life can really make a difference.

It is that balance of teaching as well as motivating the viewer to take action that makes DIRT! The Movie unique and fun. In fact, that sense of involvement has been pushed beyond the movie into local communities with DIRT!’s program that sets up screenings all over the country. On the DIRT! The Movie website, it is simple and free to create your own screening to bring the movie to your own town or find a showing near you. These screenings make the dirty, fun, and relevant DIRT! The Movie available to people everywhere, and hopefully also creates an impact so that people can work toward restoring our dirt to a healthy state, and save the planet in the process.

Want to learn more? Check us out on Facebook.


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