Archive for April, 2015

Lowe’s vs. the Bee Killer

April 16, 2015
The Dead Honeybee

The Dead Honeybee

Thumbs up to home improvement big box store Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW, $74.18) for its commitment to get rid of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, the ones that kill honeybees!

Thumbs at half-mast when we realize that this commitment is but a small part of their 2014 Annual Report, backed by a press release that says the phase-out will take 48 months, or a full four years!

This timetable (which I frankly can’t find in Robert A. Niblock’s CEO Message, silly me) also contains the dubious phraseology, “…as suitable alternatives (to neonicotinoids) become commercially available”.

As if this might be a clarion call to chemical manufacturers to clean up their act! In the United States, no less, ranked 33rd among developed nations for its abysmal environmental record with chemicals. Not to mention its status as one of the few developed nations to regulate pesticides, drugs and cosmetics so badly that the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act, 1976) allows manufacturers to market some products before they are even studied for their toxicity!

The opposition (surprising, or not?) comes from lib dems and environmental/health groups, which say that the proposed TSCA revisions will make things worse, not better. Like they could get worse?

An interesting side note to the U.S.’s updating the TSCA? It announced on March 17 (2015) that it will begin getting rid of the chemical weapons stockpile in Pueblo, Colorado. This dubious rectitude is sort of like any possible response to, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

So where does our imaginary thumb end up? Well, mostly up. At least Lowe’s has gone on record as opposed to neonicotinoids. It has also pledged to offer more “organic” substitutes and work with growers to eliminate the use of this dangerous pesticide (i.e., insecticide), notably from plants that attract bees. This is sort of like shutting down liquor stores and drug dealers near a treatment center; it works, but it has impacts.

Thumbs at a 45-degree angle (visualize a half-open door) for Lowe’s attempts to educate employees and customers on the dangers of this pesticide. Raise said thumb as far as 90 degrees – an open door – for its continued sponsorship of bee-friendly gardens through Keep America Beautiful. Woot!

 

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The Real Cause of Childhood Diabetes

April 14, 2015
Fat Children

Fat Children

In the United States, the rise in childhood/adolescent cases of obesity and diabetes is shocking.

The US Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, calls it “epidemic”. From 1978 to 2004, the incidence of childhood diabetes rose from 14.8 percent to 23.9 percent in one sample population alone.

This increase, greatest among Native American/Alaskan Native youth, Asian Americans (Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese, etc.), Hispanics, and African Americans, rose 3.3 percent in two years – from 2010 to 2012. Among Hispanic populations, hardest hit are Puerto Ricans (14.8 percent), with Mexican Americans coming in a close second at 13.9 percent.

The statistics are appalling. The terrifying part? Deaths from diabetes are very likely under-reported. Death certificates with diabetes as the cause were issued in 10 to 15 percent of cases, but a whopping 35 to 40 percent showed the disease as an underlying cause of death. That is, a child may have died from pneumonia, but it was diabetes that destroyed his or her immune system and allowed the pneumonia to take hold.

We have been warned about this. In a 1999 paper, researchers baldly stated that an epidemic of type 2 diabetes was about to emerge, especially among (then called) “minority groups”. They were speaking of primarily of Hispanics, but also focused on Native Americans, all of whom share what is called a “thrifty” gene.

This gene, found among populations who were historically hunter-gatherers, subject to feast-or-famine eating cycles, loses its ability to regulate blood sugar in a primarily “feast” environment.

Experts cite fast food, refined sugar, and white flour as a few of the probable causes, and they are no doubt right, as far as it goes. But there may be more to the story. In the case of type 1 diabetes, researchers now say that stress – death in the family, divorce, separation, illness, or extreme poverty – is three times more likely to raise the risk of diabetes than any other effect alone.

This 300-percent increased risk decreased when researchers factored in birth size, heredity (of type 2 diabetes), parental education, economic status, and obesity, but remained statistically significant.

What can we as parents (and citizens) do? We can vote for a return to what some disparagingly call “the nanny state”, particularly where safety-net programs for children and young people are concerned.

Free school lunches? Why not, if General Electric earned $10.3 billion but ended up paying no taxes in 2011? Free health care for the children of parents making less than $25,000 a year ($35,000 for a joint income)? Again, why not, except for Obamacare, which was admittedly written by the insurance companies and withheld from public scrutiny until it was passed!

Next time you go to vote, think about income disparity, another rising epidemic in America. Remember the saying, “A man who has nothing has nothing to lose”, and stop asking yourself why violent crime is on the rise among the nation’s poor.

The Real Racial Divide

April 13, 2015
National Urban League, March 12, 2009

National Urban League, March 12, 2009

Michael F. Potter, in his seminal work, noted studies showing that the racial stereotypes and myths about African Americans and other residents of white-imposed ghettos were the result of historical and cultural ignorance.

This ‘residential segregation’, in turn, fostered a belief that such minorities were (and are) less intelligent, lazier, and generally more inferior (than whites).

The true culprit may in fact have been (and still may be) malnutrition. Consider the diet of slaves in the Deep South pre-1870, where the luxury of meat was most likely once a week at best and consisted of the leftover parts of the pig – ham hocks, fried pork rinds, etc.

The same ‘dumbing down’ is still going on today, but now it occurs among the poor of every color. The food is GMO-based, which is more affordable than organic produce or field-raised meat, but its results can be seen in an increasingly sick and insensible portion of humanity: those at the bottom, who now as always eat at the bottom of the USDA food pyramid, when they eat at all.