Feminization of Vertebrate Animals, Police Spying on Activists, Bailout Fallout
Revealing News Articles
December 12, 2008
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the alarming increase in feminizaton of vertebrate animals worldwide from exposure to petrochemicals, police spying on peaceful political activists in the US, more fallout from the Wall Street bailout, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
It's official: Men really are the weaker sex
December 7, 2008, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The male [sex] is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals. The research ... shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. Backed by some of the world's leading scientists, who say that it "waves a red flag" for humanity and shows that evolution itself is being disrupted, the report comes out at a particularly sensitive time for ministers. It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminised genitals. "This research shows that the basic male tool kit is under threat," says Gwynne Lyons, a former government adviser on the health effects of chemicals, who wrote the report. Wildlife and people have been exposed to more than 100,000 new chemicals in recent years, and the European Commission has admitted that 99 per cent of them are not adequately regulated. There is not even proper safety information on 85 per cent of them. Many have been identified as "endocrine disrupters" – or gender-benders – because they interfere with hormones. These include phthalates, used in food wrapping, cosmetics and baby powders among other applications; flame retardants in furniture and electrical goods; PCBs, a now banned group of substances still widespread in food and the environment; and many pesticides.
Note: For many key reports on health issues from reliable sources, click here.
Spying on pacifists, environmentalists and nuns
December 7, 2008, Los Angeles Times
To friends in the protest movement, Lucy was an eager 20-something who attended their events and sent encouraging e-mails to support their causes. Only one thing seemed strange. "At one demonstration, I remember her showing up with a laptop computer and typing away," said Mike Stark, who helped lead the anti-death-penalty march in Baltimore that day. "We all thought that was odd." Not really. The woman was an undercover Maryland State Police trooper who between 2005 and 2007 infiltrated more than two dozen rallies and meetings of nonviolent groups. Maryland officials now concede that, based on information gathered by "Lucy" and others, state police wrongly listed at least 53 Americans as terrorists in a criminal intelligence database -- and shared some information about them with half a dozen state and federal agencies, including the National Security Agency. Among those labeled as terrorists: two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist. One suspect's file warned that she was "involved in puppet making and allows anarchists to utilize her property for meetings." "There wasn't a scintilla of illegal activity" going on, said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit and in July obtained the first surveillance files. State police have released other heavily redacted documents. Investigators, the files show, targeted groups that advocated against abortion, global warming, nuclear arms, military recruiting in high schools and biodefense research, among other issues.
Note: For lots more on increasing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago
December 6, 2008, Chicago Tribune/Associated Press
Outraged and determined Chicago factory workers who were abruptly laid off this week have occupied their former workplace and say they won't leave until they get the severance and vacation pay they say they're owed. The employees say they received three days notice their plant was closing. In the second day of a sit-in on the factory floor Saturday, about 250 union workers occupied the building in shifts while union leaders outside criticized a Wall Street bailout they say is leaving laborers behind. Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give its 300 employees the 60 days' notice required by law before shutting. She said the company can't pay employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement to news outlets Saturday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees. "Across cultures, religions, union and nonunion, we all say this bailout was a shame," said Richard Berg, president of Teamsters Local 743. "If this bailout should go to anything, it should go to the workers of this country." Outside the plant, protesters wore stickers and carried signs that said, "You got bailed out, we got sold out."
Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from major media sources, click here.
All Fall Down
November 26, 2008, New York Times
I spent Sunday afternoon brooding over a [New York Times] front-page article, entitled ["Citigroup Saw No Red Flags Even as It Made Bolder Bets"]. In searing detail it exposed ... how some of our country's best-paid bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn't only the bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics. So many people were in on it: People who had no business buying a home, with nothing down and nothing to pay for two years; people who had no business pushing such mortgages, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business bundling those loans into securities and selling them to third parties, as if they were AAA bonds, but made fortunes doing so; people who had no business rating those loans as AAA, but made fortunes doing so; and people who had no business buying those bonds and putting them on their balance sheets so they could earn a little better yield, but made fortunes doing so. Citigroup was involved in, and made money from, almost every link in that chain. And the bank's executives, including ...the former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, were ... so ensnared by the cronyism between the bank's risk managers and risk takers (and so bought off by their bonuses) that they had no interest in stopping it. These are the people whom taxpayers bailed out on Monday to the tune of what could be more than $300 billion.
Note: For many revealing reports on the Wall Street bailout from major media sources, click here.
Whale songs drowned out by human noise pollution
December 3, 2008, Seattle Post-Intelligencer/Associated Press
The songs that whales and dolphins use to communicate, orient themselves and find mates are being drowned out by human-made noises in the world's oceans. That sound pollution -- everything from increasing commercial shipping and seismic surveys to a new generation of military sonar -- is not only confounding the mammals, it also is further threatening the survival of these endangered animals. Studies show that these cetaceans, which once communicated over thousands of miles to forage and mate, are losing touch with each other, ... experts said at a U.N. wildlife conference in Rome. "Call it a cocktail-party effect," said Mark Simmonds, director of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a Britain-based NGO. "You have to speak louder and louder until no one can hear each other anymore." Environmental groups also are increasingly finding cases of beached whales and dolphins that can be linked to sound pollution, Simmonds said. Marine mammals are turning up on the world's beaches with tissue damage similar to that found in divers suffering from decompression sickness. Scientists say the use of military sonar or seismic testing may have scared the animals into diving and surfacing beyond their physical limits. Several species of cetaceans are already listed as endangered or critically endangered from other causes, including hunting, chemical pollution, collisions with boats and entanglements with fishing equipment. Though it is not yet known precisely how many animals are affected, sound pollution is increasingly being recognized as a serious factor, the experts said.
Note: For many reports on threats to marine mammals from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
Standing in Someone Else's Shoes, Almost for Real
December 2, 2008, New York Times
Neuroscientists have shown that they can [create] a "body swapping" illusion that could have a profound effect on a range of therapeutic techniques. At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last month, Swedish researchers presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt any other human form, no matter how different, as its own. "You can see the possibilities, putting a male in a female body, young in old, white in black and vice versa," said Dr. Henrik Ehrsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. The technique is simple. A subject stands or sits opposite the scientist, as if engaged in an interview. Both are wearing headsets, with special goggles, the scientist's containing small film cameras. The goggles are rigged so the subject sees what the scientist sees: to the right and left are the scientist's arms, and below is the scientist's body. To add a physical element, the researchers have each person squeeze the other's hand, as if in a handshake. Now the subject can see and "feel" the new body. In a matter of seconds, the illusion is complete. In a series of studies, using mannequins and stroking both bodies' bellies simultaneously, the Karolinska researchers have found that men and women say they not only feel they have taken on the new body, but also unconsciously cringe when it is poked or threatened. In previous work, neuroscientists have induced various kinds of out-of-body experiences using similar techniques. The brain is so easily tricked, they say, precisely because it has spent a lifetime in its own body.
UFO enthusiasts call on Obama to release X-Files
November 30, 2008, The Telegraph (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
UFO enthusiasts are pressing Barack Obama to release classified documents about sightings of alien spacecraft, encouraged by support from within the President-Elect's own White House team. Desperate to see the US emulate the British Government and disclose reported "contact" with UFOs, the enthusiasts have written to Mr Obama to ask that his administration [come] clean about the contents of America's "X-Files". They believe they have good prospects of success after public statements of support from both John Podesta, who is running Mr Obama's White House transition team, and Bill Richardson, the Governor of New Mexico ... who is expected to secure a cabinet post. When he was the White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, Mr Podesta led a project to declassify 800 million pages of intelligence documents. Gov Richardson, a former presidential candidate and fellow UFO aficionado, has written a forward to a book on the so-called Roswell Incident in New Mexico. He has called for full disclosure by the Pentagon of what really occurred. Only last week a US Air Force pilot, Milton Torres, whose testimony was released from the British archives, appeared on US television explaining how he was ordered to shoot down a large UFO over the UK in 1957 and then silenced by military officials, who told him never to speak of the incident.
Note: Podesta has also publicly called for a release of UFO records for years, alleging a cover-up. See the CNN article reporting this available here. For a concise summary of evidence on UFO sightings presented by highly-respected former military and government professionals, click here.
Author's adventures with rats build schools
December 7, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Stefan Lyon has many titles: Author, humanitarian, international philanthropist. And seventh-grader. Stefan has just finished his third book about his San Francisco adventures with his pet rats. As with his first two books, all proceeds go to build schools in Africa. "I want to help the less fortunate," said Stefan, 13, at a recent book signing at a law firm in a downtown high-rise. "There are a lot of AIDS orphans in Africa." For $5,000, he financed the conversion of an abandoned cowshed in Kakamega, Kenya, into a two-room school. He's now halfway through construction of an eight-room school for 100 children ... in the neighboring village of Bungoma. Stefan is on a book promotion tour for the holidays, hoping to raise the last $30,000 to finish the school. Stefan, who has his own nonprofit, the Stefan Lyon Foundation, knows that he's not a typical 13-year-old, but he also doesn't know what all the fuss is about. Stefan was always a compassionate child. "He'd sit with the kids who got bullied at school until they felt better," [his mother] said. By elementary school, Stefan passed out cookies and blankets to the homeless at the Civic Center from his red wagon. He'd insert notes in the cookie bags: "I'm thinking of you." "God loves you." In the third grade at St. Brendan School, he was inspired by his teacher, Renée McHugh, who gave a lesson on Africa and explained how little money was needed to build schools for orphans. He wanted to sell cookies from his wagon to finance an African school. A supermarket gave him free cookie dough, and he got to work.
Happiness is contagious: study
December 5, 2008, Reuters News
Happiness is contagious. The more happy people you know, the more likely you are yourself to be happy. And getting connected to happy people improves a person's own happiness, [a research team] reported in the British Medical Journal. "What we are dealing with is an emotional stampede," Nicholas Christakis, a professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said. Christakis and James Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, have been using data from 4,700 children of volunteers in the Framingham Heart Study, a giant health study begun in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1948. They have been analyzing a trove of facts from tracking sheets dating back to 1971, following births, marriages, death, and divorces. Volunteers also listed contact information for their closest friends, co-workers, and neighbors. They assessed happiness using a simple, four-question test. "People are asked how often during the past week, one, I enjoyed life, two, I was happy, three, I felt hopeful about the future, and four, I felt that I was just as good as other people," Fowler said. The 60 percent of people who scored highly on all four questions were rated as happy, while the rest were designated unhappy. People with the most social connections -- friends, spouses, neighbors, relatives -- were also the happiest, the data showed. "Each additional happy person makes you happier," Christakis said. "It is not just happy people connecting with happy people, which they do. Above and beyond, there is this contagious process going on." And happiness is more contagious than unhappiness, they discovered.
The 10 big energy myths
November 27, 2008, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
There has never been a more important time to invest in green technologies, yet many of us believe these efforts are doomed to failure. What nonsense. Myth 1: solar power is too expensive to be of much use. In reality, today's bulky and expensive solar panels capture only 10% or so of the sun's energy, but rapid innovation in the US means that the next generation of panels will be much thinner, capture far more of the energy in the sun's light and cost a fraction of what they do today. Myth 2: wind power is too unreliable. Actually, during some periods earlier this year the wind provided almost 40% of Spanish power. Parts of northern Germany generate more electricity from wind than they actually need. Northern Scotland, blessed with some of the best wind speeds in Europe, could easily generate 10% or even 15% of the UK's electricity needs at a cost that would comfortably match today's fossil fuel prices. Myth 3: marine energy is a dead-end. This year we have seen the installation of the first tidal turbine to be successfully connected to the UK electricity grid in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, and the first group of large-scale wave power generators 5km off the coast of Portugal, constructed by a Scottish company.
Note: The remaining energy myths treated in this article are: Myth 4: nuclear power is cheaper than other low-carbon sources of electricity. Myth 5: electric cars are slow and ugly. Myth 6: biofuels are always destructive to the environment. Myth 7: climate change means we need more organic agriculture. Myth 8: zero carbon homes are the best way of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. Myth 9: the most efficient power stations are big. Myth 10: all proposed solutions to climate change need to be hi-tech. For lots more on exciting new energy technology developments from reliable sources, click here.
Surgeon trades riches for a wealth of smiles
November 27, 2008, Orlando Sentinel/Associated Press
As a plastic surgeon, [Geoff] Williams could live in a sprawling house, cruise in a snazzy sports car and wear custom-made shoes instead of the $5 pair he snagged at the thrift store a few years back. Instead he spends his money on hundreds of strangers, half a world away. Grown men with rope-like tumors engulfing their eyes, nose, lips. Teenage girls with heads cocked permanently to one side because of burn-tightened skin. But mostly children – with faces split up the middle like a half-open zipper. Williams invests in faces. As he worked and taught in wealthy hospitals, his mind was preoccupied with thoughts of the hundreds of desperate mothers in Vietnam who had swarmed him during a volunteer training trip, thrusting their deformed babies at him and begging for help. Only 20 babies were treated that trip; about 180 were sent away. "Leaving, looking down at those lights, I knew these mothers were going home with total disappointment," Williams recalls. "I remember making a promise to myself then, to those mothers: I may not be able to find you, but I'll find someone like you. I'll come back. I'll do more." Several months later, he took another volunteer trip, this time to India. "I thought I'd do it a couple of times and get it out of my system. After about a year, it just hit me – it would not be easy to stop doing it." He took a leave of absence from the University of Texas in 2003 to immerse himself in treating the forgotten patients in developing countries. He never went back.
Special Note: For a powerful analysis of the financial crisis by Catherine Austin Fitts, former assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development, go to minute 15 at this link. See her powerful and inspiring website at http://solari.com.
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Feminization of Vertebrate Animals, Police Spying on Activists, Bailout Fallout