August 5, 2010
The Cornucopia Institute
A federal appeals court ruled today, overturning a lower court decision, that a group of California almond farmers have the right to challenge a USDA regulation requiring the treatment of their raw almonds with a toxic fumigant or steam heat prior to sale to consumers. For the past three years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied American consumers the right to buy raw almonds, grown in the USA, when they shop in grocery and natural food stores.
A group of almond growers sued the government to challenge USDA’s rule, but the federal district court ruled that courtroom doors were closed to the growers’ claims. The controversial rule has cost individual farmers millions of dollars in lost sales since it was enacted in September 2007.
“We are delighted by the court’s decision,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director. Cornucopia has been coordinating the legal strategy for the farmers’ lawsuit. “At long last the farmers who have been injured by this rule will have the opportunity to stand in court and state why this poorly thought out regulation should be thrown out,” Fantle added.
The USDA and the Almond Board of California imposed the treatment scheme to minimize the risk of salmonella contamination outbreaks like those that had occurred with almonds in 2001 and 2004. USDA investigators were never able to determine how salmonella bacteria somehow contaminated the raw almonds that caused the food illnesses but they were able to trace back one of the outbreaks, in part, to the country’s largest “factory farm,” growing almonds and pistachios on over 9000 acres.
Family-scale growers have argued that the onerous and expensive mandated treatment regime is only needed by the giant industrial producers, who have less control over the quality of their nuts, and has hurt their market because it consumer resistance.
Many in the industry have questioned the logic exempting foreign-grown almonds from the treatment scheme. Imports have displaced raw domestic nuts in many major markets and retail locations across the U.S. This regulatory loophole is part of what has been crushing California producers.
“I am very happy with this first step in overturning this destructive regulation,” said Nick Koretoff, an almond farmer and plaintiff in the lawsuit. “The treatment mandate has been a financial catastrophe for me. My consumers want raw, untreated healthy almonds and I have been denied the opportunity to sell them what they want.”
Attorney John Vetne, who has been representing the almond farmers, said the Appeals Court made a “very strong decision affirming farmers’ rights.” The USDA had been arguing that farmers did not even have the right to legally challenge the USDA regulation. “We are pleased that the Appeals Court rejected USDA’s argument that courthouse doors are closed to farmers. We now intend to demonstrate to the federal district court that USDA acted outside of authority granted by Congress when it denied California almond growers a consumer market for raw almonds,” Vetne added.
Tens of thousands of consumers have expressed their discontent with the raw almond treatment rule in comments to the USDA. Organic and raw foods enthusiasts were particularly incensed that the nuts, despite being processed with propylene oxide (identified as a carcinogen by the federal EPA) or steam-heat, were still allowed to be labeled as “raw” — many believe that essential nutrients in food can be destroyed by heat, radiation and toxic chemicals.
The Cornucopia Institute, an organization known for its research and defense of family farmers involved in organics, artisan and local food production, was impressed with how many consumers have a real passion for maintaining the availability of raw food and nuts, including almonds, and have been willing to financially support the farmers in their legal challenge. “Contributions continue to flow in supporting this effort,” Fantle noted.
“I and many of my friends look forward to the day when we will once again be able to easily purchase truly raw, authentic almonds from California in my local store,” said Joan Levin, a Chicago resident and raw foods consumer. “We hope this Appeals Court ruling brings that day closer,” she said.
August 5, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
The FDA has issued a warning that the risk of severe muscle and kidney damage from the cholesterol drug simvastatin is higher than previously thought.
Marketed under brand names including Zocor, Vytorin and Simcor, simvastatin is part of a drug family known as statins, all of which are known to expose patients to a risk of muscle damage. In some cases, this damage can take the form of a condition known as rhabdomyolysis and can lead to kidney failure and even death.
New research suggests that the risk of muscle injury, including rhabdomyolysis, is significantly higher in patients who take the highest approved dose (80 milligrams) of the drug. The risk of muscle damage is an astonishing 50 times higher in patients taking the 80 milligram dose than in patients taking the 20 milligram dose.
Eleven cases of rhabdomyolysis were reported among 6,031 patients taking 80 milligrams of simvastatin per day, and none in those taking 20 milligrams.
Another study found that patients of Chinese descent were at a heightened risk of muscle damage if they took both 80 milligrams of simvastatin on top of any medication containing niacin.
Patients of all ethnic backgrounds taking more than 40 milligrams of simvastatin were at heightened risk of muscle damage if they were also taking the angina/blood pressure medicine diltiazem (marketed as Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, Diltia and Tiazac). Patients taking more than 20 milligrams per day were at a higher risk of muscle damage if they also took the arrhythmia drug amiodarone (marketed as Cordarone and Pacerone) or the drug verapamil (marketed as Calan, Covera, Isoptin and Verelan), which is used to treat angina, arrhythmia, high blood pressure, cluster headaches and migraine.
The FDA issued a categorical warning that patients taking any of the following drugs should not take more than a 10 milligram dose of simvastatin: Cyclosporine, Danazol and Gemfibrozil.
Patients who should never take simvastatin include those taking HIV protease inhibitors, Clarithromycin, Erythromycin, Itraconazole, Ketoconazole, Nefazodone or Telithromycin.
August 5, 2010
By: Jonathan Benson
Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recently conducted a study revealing that cancer cells have a particular liking for refined fructose. In tests, pancreatic cancer cells quickly fed on refined fructose and used it to divide and proliferate rapidly within the body.
“These findings show that cancer cells can readily metabolize fructose to increase proliferation,” explained Dr. Anthony Heaney of UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, one of the authors of the study.
Published in the journal Cancer Research, the findings also reveal that not all sugars are the same, a widely held belief in mainstream medicine. Tumor cells love both glucose sugar and fructose sugar, but fructose directly causes cancer cells to reproduce and spread in a way that glucose does not.
“Importantly, fructose and glucose metabolism are quite different,” wrote the team in the study paper.
So the study solidifies the fact that there is a major difference between high fructose corn syrup, a highly-refined sugar commonly used in processed American foods and beverages, and refined sugar cane. Both can lead to health problems, but high fructose corn syrup is worse in terms of cancer growth.
“I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” said Dr. Heaney in a statement.
It is already known that the pancreas has to work much harder to metabolize fructose than it does glucose and other sugars, so it makes sense that fructose consumption is implicated more seriously in contributing to pancreatic cancer growth.
August 5, 2010
By: S.L. Baker
Heart failure is a progressive condition marked by a worsening of the heart’s ability to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. It is most often caused by a heart attack, years of high blood pressure or other injuries to the cardiovascular system and kills about 250,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Heart Failure Society of America. One of the most debilitating results of heart failure is shortness of breath and severe fatigue with exercise. But a new study by German scientists shows an ancient non-drug therapy — acupuncture — can dramatically improve exercise tolerance in patients suffering from chronic heart failure.
The new research, just published in the medical journal Heart, involved two groups of heart failure patients who were being treated with conventional medications and were in stable condition. Both groups of research subjects believed they were receiving ten authentic acupuncture treatments. However, only one group was given real acupuncture based on traditional Chinese medicine. These treatments focused on acupuncture points believed to boost general strength, influence the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and reduce inflammation markers. The other control group was treated with special placebo needles that only simulated acupuncture needle pricks but did not break the skin.
The results? After the real acupuncture treatments, the patients could walk far longer than those in the placebo group. What’s more, even though the measurable work capacity of the heart was found to be unchanged, the acupuncture treated heart patients recovered more quickly after exercise and reported they felt far less exhausted.
So what was the acupuncture actually doing to improve heart failure symptoms? The research team, headed by cardiologist Dr. Johannes Backs of Heidelberg University Hospital, pointed out in a press statement that previous studies have shown that the ability of heart failure patients to tolerate exercise is independent of the pumping function of the heart and appears to stem primarily from the muscles. Inflammation chemical messengers in the blood are increased in chronic heart failure and that’s what makes muscles tire easily, causing extreme fatigue.
“The blood level of a certain messenger, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) actually drops after the real acupuncture treatment. Since TNF alpha leads to a reduction of muscle mass and muscle strength among other things, this would explain the positive effect (of acupuncture) on skeletal muscle function,” Dr. Arnt Kristen, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement to the media.
The research team also noted that heart failure is much more complex than previously assumed and involves an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system and various nerve transmitters. “This is precisely where acupuncture may intervene, by bringing these processes back into balance — it influences the autonomic sympathetic nervous system (excitation), boosts the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation), and also has an anti-inflammatory affect,” the researchers explained in the press statement.
August 5, 2010
By: Ethan A. Huff
A team of researchers from Florence University in Italy have found that the modern Western diet of high-sugar, low-fiber processed foods is contributing to allergies and other problems not seen in those who eat more primitive diets. According to study results, junk foods alter beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn disrupts normal digestive function.
Compared to children in a small village in Burkina Faso, Africa, who eat primitive diets, children in industrialized countries who consume lots of modern junk food are more prone to allergies, based on study findings. In fact, the bacterial compositions found in junk food-eating children are actually causing obesity, allergies, eczema, inflammation, autoimmune disorders and other illnesses.
Primitive diets composed mostly of cereals, beans, nuts and healthy vegetables — the kind eaten by the African children — help to properly balance gut bacteria. But diets rich in bad fats and processed sugars — the kind eaten by most industrialized children today — disrupt this healthy bacteria and replace it with harmful bacteria.
Interestingly, only industrialized children who were still being breastfed by their mothers had a bacterial composition that even somewhat resembled the composition of what the African children had. The rest had an entirely different bacterial makeup in their systems.
According to the report, gut bacteria is a vital “organ” that processes food, protects the body from disease and inflammation, and maintains health and immunity. When this bacteria is disrupted by regular consumption of bad foods, the floodgates are thrown wide open for disease to proliferate in the body.
“The gastrointestinal microflora plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of [inflammatory bowel disease] IBD and recent studies demonstrate obesity is associated with imbalance in the normal gut microbiota,” researchers explain in their study paper.
August 5, 2010
The number of Americans who are receiving food stamps rose to a record 40.8 million in May as the jobless rate hovered near a 27-year high, the government reported yesterday.
Recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program subsidies for food purchases jumped 19 percent from a year earlier and increased 0.9 percent from April, the US Department of Agriculture said in a statement on its website.
Participation has set records for 18 straight months.
Unemployment in July may have reached 9.6 percent, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts in advance of the Aug. 6 release of last month’s rate. Unemployment was 9.5 percent in June, near levels last seen in 1983.
An average of 40.5 million people, more than an eighth of the population, will get food stamps each month in the year that began Oct. 1, according to White House estimates.
The figure is projected to rise to 43.3 million in 2011.
August 5, 2010
The Washington Post
By: T.W. Farnam
When General Motors went through bankruptcy last year, it suspended its political donations. Now that it’s owned by the U.S. government, it’s donating to lawmakers’ pet projects again.
The carmaker gave $41,000 to groups associated with lawmakers, the vast majority of it — $36,000 — to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the company reported on a disclosure form last week. The CBC Foundation is a charity with 11 members of the Congressional Black Caucus on its board.
“We’ve always given to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation as far back as anyone can remember,” said Greg Martin, GM spokesman. “Our commitment remains unabated, and we continue to be a proud supporter of their work to advance economic development in communities throughout the U.S.”
According to its disclosure forms, the company did not give any money to honor lawmakers in 2009, the year of its bankruptcy filing. The U.S. government now has a 60 percent stake in the reformed company.
“By anyone’s definition that was an extraordinary time for the company,” Martin said. “We did suspend giving for that particular time.”
GM’s return to the business of donations remained small compared with the giving of some corporations. Overall, corporations and other entities that were registered to lobby Congress gave $10.7 million to honor politicians and military figures in the first six months of the year. That is down slightly from the $10.8 million spent in the last half of 2009. Donations were down 27 percent from the same period two years ago, but there were still 37 entities that gave at least six figures in the latest six-month period.
Defense contractors disclosed some of the biggest gifts. One of the top honorees was Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who was a guest at an April gala for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a nonprofit group that provides counseling to friends and family who have lost loved ones in the military. BAE Systems donated $150,000 to the event, and defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation donated $100,000, according to disclosure forms. General Motors also gave $5,000 to honor Skelton.
General Motors has not reactivated its political action committee, which can give to election campaigns, according to the latest reports with the Federal Election Commission. The PAC contributions come from senior employees who give to support the company’s political goals.
The CBC Foundation and affiliated entities took a big hit, raising $686,000 from January through June, compared with $1.4 million in the last half of 2009. Anheuser-Busch gave the largest contribution to the foundation this year, $150,000 in March.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute raised about $1 million from companies in the six-month period, including $385,000 in two contributions from Wal-Mart.
Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, was honored at a gala for the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor with a $250,000 donation from FedEx and $100,000 from Northrop Grumman. Science Applications International Corp. is also listed as a “presenting sponsor” on the museum’s Web site but reported no contributions to the event. A spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.
Lockheed Martin donated $85,000 to the Dallas Military Ball, where Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, was a keynote speaker.
The drug industry was another big spender. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America gave $95,000, including $60,000 to the ALS Foundation to honor Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.). Pfizer spent $103,000, including a $25,000 contribution to honor Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) at the National Osteoporosis Foundation awards dinner.
AT&T disclosed giving $1 million to the George W. Bush Foundation, which is raising money for Bush’s presidential library.
The Distilled Spirits Council spent $10,529 for a February reception on the first floor of the Capitol with the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, founded by Reps. John Yarmouth (D) and Brett Guthrie (R) of Kentucky.
August 5, 2010
The head of an eastern Pennsylvania amusement company has yanked a carnival game in which players shot foam darts at an image resembling President Barack Obama.
Irvin Good Jr. pulled the target-shooting game after receiving a complaint from a Massachusetts woman attending a fair in Roseto, about 65 miles north of Philadelphia. Good said Wednesday his company, Hellertown-based Goodtime Amusements, won’t offer the game again.
“It was just a big, big mistake in judgment, and I feel sorry about it,” he told The Associated Press. “I can’t take it back, but I can try to make it better.”
The game, dubbed “Alien Attack,” featured a large painted image of a black man wearing a belt buckle with the presidential seal and holding a scroll labeled “Health Bill.” Players could win prizes such as stuffed animals by hitting targets on the image’s head and heart.
The game was featured in late July at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Big Time Celebration, an annual fair that raises money for the Roman Catholic parish in Roseto.
Kathryn Chapman, 55, of Medford, Mass., who spent part of her childhood in Roseto and was in town for a family reunion, spotted the game and complained to Good.
“What is the message you are sending kids, that if your views don’t agree with somebody else’s, shoot them? I just found it incredibly disrespectful and violent,” Chapman said Wednesday. “And this was the president, the highest office in the country. It was absolutely appalling.”
Good said that he voted for Obama and that the game wasn’t meant to encourage violence against the president. He said the image was conceived and painted by a staffer.
“He just drew it up, and that’s the way it came out,” Good said. “We didn’t talk about it being political.”
Good said he has not been contacted by anyone in law enforcement regarding the game.
Goodtime Amusements has been in business for 26 years, operating carnival-themed fundraisers throughout the Allentown region. The Obama-themed game had been running since April. Good said he had received one other complaint about it before Chapman’s.
August 5, 2010
By: Andrew Hough
The former Prime Minister allegedly banned reporting of the “bizarre” incident, off the east coast of England, for half a century amid fears disclosures about unidentified flying objects would create public hysteria.
He is said to have made the orders during a secret war meeting with US General Dwight Eisenhower, the then commander of the Allied Forces, at an undisclosed location in America during the latter part of the conflict.
The claims are contained in thousands of pages of declassified files on UFOs, released on Thursday online by the National Archives.
The 18 files, which cover from 1995 to 2003, are made up of more than 5,000 pages of reports, letters, and drawings drawn from correspondence with the public and questions raised in parliament.
The allegations involving Churchill were made by the grandson of one his personal bodyguards, an RAF officer who overheard the discussion, who wrote to the Ministry of Defence in 1999 inquiring about the incident after his grandfather disclosed details to his family.
According to the series of letters, written by the guard’s grandson who is now a physicist from Leicester, a reconnaissance plane and its crew were returning from a mission over occupied Europe when they were involved in the war incident.
During their flight, on the English coast, possibly near Cumbria, their aircraft was approached by a metallic UFO which shadowed them.
Photographs of the object, which the crew claimed had “hovered noiselessly” near the plane, were taken by the crew.
Later, during discussions about the unexplained incident, the two men were claimed to have become so concerned by the incident that Churchill ordered it remain secret for 50 years or more.
During the meeting, a weapons expert dismissed suggestions the object was a missile as the event was “totally beyond any imagined capabilities of the time”.
Another person at the meeting raised the possibility of a UFO, at which point Churchill ordered the report to be classified for at least half a century and reviewed by the prime minister to stop “panic” spreading.
“There was a general inability for either side to match a plausible account to these observations, and this caused a high degree of concern,” wrote the scientist, whose details are redacted.
“Mr Churchill is reported to have made a declaration to the effect of the following: ‘This event should be immediately classified since it would create mass panic among the general population and destroy one’s belief in the Church’.”
Apart from telling his daughter – the scientist’s mother – about the incident when she was nine, the bodyguard, who was “greatly affected by his experience”, only disclosed the details to his wife on his deathbed in 1973.
The scientist, also an expert in astronomy who said he developed software for use in “spacecraft thermal engineering”, was told years later by his mother.
Stressing he was not a “crackpot”, he said he wanted to investigate the science behind the incident after his grandfather, who was bound by the Official Secrets Act, remained convinced that the object was secret technology being tested by a foreign power.
After investigating the claims, an MoD official said there was no evidence to support the claims as all “UFO files before 1967 were destroyed after five years” due to insufficient public interest. This was supported by a Cabinet Office official.
While there was documents supporting the events, historians last night believed it more than likely occurred.
They said that Churchill had a known interest with UFOs, even asking for a report in 1952 on “flying saucers” and what it “amounted to”.
Dr David Clarke, author of The UFO files and Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said the “fascinating” files showed the level of concern about such “bizarre incidents” during the war.
“It does tie in with what we already know as you have to remember that this was also long before the phrase UFO was created,” he said.
“I suspect there is an element of truth to the statement.”
August 5, 2010
“The country’s scientists are working on a three-stage rocket that will take us to 1,000 kilometres,” Ahmadinejad, quoted by Fars, told a local television in the western city of Hamedan.
He said the rocket’s engines would have a thrust of between 120 and 140 tonnes, four times greater than the rocket thrust used to launch Iran’s first satellite into space in February 2009.
“Last time, we sent a satellite to 250 kilometres … Next year it will be sent to 700 kilometres, and the year after that to 1,000 kilometres,” he said.
The launch of Iran’s first satellite, named Omid, stirred a wave of criticism from Western countries which fear the potential uses of the Islamic republic’s ambitious space programme.