Then They Went for the Pigs

Just when you thought the market for controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was completely saturated, a new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems finds that pigs raised on a mixed diet of GM corn and GM soy had higher rates of intestinal problems, “including inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, stomach ulcers, a thinning of intestinal walls and an increase in haemorrhagic bowel disease, where a pig can rapidly ‘bleed-out’ from their bowel and die.” Both male and female pigs reared on the GM diet were more likely to have severe stomach inflammation, at a rate of four times and 2.2 times the control group, respectively. There were also reproductive effects: the uteri of female pigs raised on GM feed were 25 percent larger (in proportion to body size) than those of control sows. (All male pigs were neutered, so scientists were unable to study any effects on the male reproductive systems.)

Damning New Study Demonstrates Harm to Animals Raised on GMO Feed” Leslie Hatfield

This one cuts several ways. We don’t have nearly enough funding going for objective research into the impact of genetically modified foods. Why? Corporate interests harmonize nicely with right-wing fantasies about the all-powerful federal government and debt and so on. If you can shrink the government, then on one will be looking when you introduce dangerous foods into the system. We are all guinea pigs for corporate profit.

Damming research, of course, isn’t yet a solid case. It does suggest the need for a very healthy skepticism about corporate safety assurances, to say the very least. What would be the harm, Hatfield asks, in a precautionary principle? Only corporate profits and common sense. The fact is that we don’t need these modified foods; I suspect that every problem they purport to solve either isn’t important or can be solved in other ways.

Good News Inside the Bad

I know these threats [pandemics, population, climate change, etc.] sound like science fiction, but they are real and my generation will have to address them. The way to overcome these challenges and ensure the continued long-term existence of our species is through investment in rapid scientific innovation.

To make this second giant leap possible, the culture surrounding science in America must change. Too many have rejected evidence-based science. Nearly 60 percent of American public school biology teachers are not teaching evolution properly and another 13 percent admit to teaching creationism. Almost half of Americans believe that the Earth was formed in the last 10,000 years. Taxpayer funded schools in my home state of Louisiana are teaching that scientists and their scientific work are “sinful.” At least 300 taxpayer funded voucher schools nationwide are teaching creationism. Teachers in public schools in Louisiana and Tennessee are teaching unscientific “alternatives” to evolution, the origin of the Earth, and climate change, and this is allowed by state law. Other states may soon follow suit.

President Obama, Please Call for a Second Giant Leap for Mankind,” Zack Kopplin

I should be a little embarrassed to admit it but I had not heard of Zack Kopplin before I saw an interview with him on Moyers and Company. (It aired a few days ago but I watched the tape at lunch today.) I won’t say much about Mr. Kopplin– his ideas speak for themselves– except to say that he’s a wonderful breath of fresh air. Not only is he anti-creationist, he sees the connections between the right’s anti-evolution ideology and their fight against public schools. Kopplin shows that critical thinking and resistance is alive and well.

Good Parks and Schools

The United States confronts a moment of tremendous opportunity and urgency. For the first time in our nation’s history, we are confronted with the very real possibility that we will, through inaction or active disregard, fail to meet a global challenge head-on. For all of the progress our nation has made in expanding educational opportunity and achievement, there are countries far larger than ours that are advancing and improving at rates that surpass ours. If we hope to compete in, let alone win, in the global mind race, we cannot continue to leave so many Americans on the sidelines. American global competitiveness demands the full, active participation of every young person and his or her talents, regardless of location or circumstance of birth.

For Each and Every Child,” Equity and Excellence Commission

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Mr. Paulson’s gift was only one of a number of large donations to the city’s parks: $20 million was given to the High Line in late 2011, an additional $10 million to Central Park this month, and $40 million was pledged to build a field house in Brooklyn Bridge Park, though the plan was abandoned. The gifts have put New York’s green spaces on a par with hospitals, universities and cultural institutions as objects of philanthropy.

The largess has delighted city officials, who say it will ensure that New York’s signature parks have the resources to remain pristine while accommodating millions of visitors a year. But the donations have also highlighted the disparity between parks in Manhattan’s high-rent districts and those, like Flushing Meadows-Corona or Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, that are in less affluent communities. In those parks, conservancies and friends groups must struggle to raise any money at all.

New York Parks in Less Affluent Areas Lack Big Gifts,” Lisa W. Foderaro

I probably like juxtaposition too much, but when it comes to socioeconomic class, nothing works better. We tend to think about class in terms of individual income and wealth. Class, though, is also about neighborhoods and roads, parks and schools. The Reagan Era (which some might say is ending) tended to minimize this sort of wealth by demonizing government and celebrating the so-called competitive private markets.

We got lots of images of rich individuals over the last three or four decades but we have constantly grown poorer as a people as our roads, and neighborhoods, and parks and schools have been neglected. What’s interesting is that we may well be reading some sort of turning point where those rich individuals come to the (bleated) realization that their wealth is inseparable from our collective wealth. Keep your fingers crossed.