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Member since: Sat May 15, 2010, 03:48 PM
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Why is the Obama administration siding with meat packers over the rights of U.S. consumers . . .

. . . to know the country of origin of the meats they buy? And why on earth would President Obamas Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, in the event of a conflict between the interests of the meat packing industry and the interests of consumers,.allow an unelected international body be the final arbiter of such a conflict?

Doesn't it just warm the cockles of your heart to know that your President and his team are working so hard to protect you from such dangerous knowledge?

And why should American consumers not be free to favor (or not) the products of any country they wish?

I'm not sure why the article refers to Vilsack as "then-Secretary of Agriculture." He is still serving in the post.

(This post refers to this thread, and to this article, excerpted below):

[font size=5]WTO Says U.S. Consumers Don’t Need to Know Where Meat Comes From[/font]

This week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) finally issued a decision in the challenge made by Mexico and Canada to the U.S.’s country-of-origin (COOL) labeling rules for meat. And environmental and food safety groups are hopping mad, as WTO upheld the contention made by those countries, supported by multi0national meat packers, that the rules unfairly impede global trade.

“The meatpacking lobby has lost the COOL debate from the court of public opinion to the Court of Appeals to the halls of Congress so they are taking their complaint to the faceless unelected bureaucrats in Geneva,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “When the meat cannot get its way here in America, it is trying to use the WTO to overturn the will of the American people.”

The current U.S. rules, which went into effect in 2013, require that meat sold in groceries be labeled to show separately where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered. The WTO’s ruling agrees that those regulations unfairly discriminate against imported meat to give an unfair edge to domestic products. In the ongoing dispute, then-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack suggested last November that WTO should resolve the dispute and that the U.S. would abide by what the WTO decided.

Meat packers insists that the labeling rules have cost them profits, and the Canadian government threatened to put a tariff on U.S. meats and other food products imported from the U.S. The North American Meat Association and the American Meat Institute hailed the decision. But Food & Water Watch said that consumers deserved to know where their meat came from.

< . . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Oct 26, 2014, 11:36 PM (32 replies)

NY Times: As Ebola Spread in Dallas, New York Honed Protocol

There is a positively delicious irony at the heart of this story. Consider . . .

In Texas -- that hotbed for the 'libertarian' wing of the Republican Party, which holds as a core principal that the private sector will always do a better job than the public sector, a private hospital (Texas Presbyterian) spectacularly bungles its preparation for and response to its first Ebola patient; whereas in New York, the city's flagship public hospital, Bellevue, executes a near perfect response. Just sayin'.

[font size=5]As Ebola Spread in Dallas, New York Honed Protocol[/font]

This time was different.

When Craig Spencer, a young doctor just back from treating patients with Ebola in Guinea, fell ill with the virus in New York on Thursday, the paramedics who went to get him were dressed in protective suits. He entered Bellevue Hospital through a rear door, far from the busy emergency room, and was taken to a state-of-the-art isolation ward that was locked and guarded.

The carefully planned response was a world apart from the scene that unfolded in a Dallas hospital last month when a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, became the first person to test positive for Ebola in the United States.

It was Ebola’s first surprise encounter with a modern medical system, and it was, by all accounts, a bumpy one. Mr. Duncan lay in an emergency department room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for hours, with a fever and frequent diarrhea, while the same doctor and nurses treated patients in nearby rooms, medical workers said. A lab technician had to comb through his inbox to find an email from the government on procedures for Ebola blood samples, only to find that he had handled them improperly, the workers said.

< . . . . >

Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Oct 25, 2014, 11:56 PM (0 replies)

A huge note of appreciation for Mayor De Blasio, the FDNY and the City's public health authorities

In all the hysteria over New York's first case of Ebola, not nearly enough has been said concerning the truly remarkable level of preparedness the city exhibited in its response. Special protocols, training and other measures had been months in the making, and went off apparently without a hitch. The FDNY created 30 specially trained teams to handle the transport of Ebola patients, as well as in the clean-up and disinfection of such patients' residences. It was one of these teams that was dispatched to Dr. Craig Spencer's apartment, put him in a haz-mat suit, and transported him, under police escort, to Bellevue Hospital. And Bellevue is one of five hospitals in the city that has been outfitted with a special unit, specifically trained and dedicated to treating Ebola patients. And this New Yorker is grateful to, and proud of, all involved!
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 24, 2014, 12:11 PM (1 replies)

The Free-Market Faerie Fails to Deliver . . . Again (Ebola edition)

(This is the text of a comment I posted to a front page article in today's New York Times, which is excerpted and linked below).

Mark Kessinger

This story is a perfect illustration of why free market fundamentalism -- the notion that markets alone can, and will, deliver the best solutions to any problem a society faces -- is sheer folly, and in some instances, such as this one, downright dangerous. Vigorous, hefty public investment in scientific research is absolutely essential if we expect the sciences to be proactive in finding solutions to many of the problems we face, particularly bio-medical ones.

In this case, there was no market -- hence no incentive -- to develop a particular product because the thing the product addressed (Ebola) was not seen as a major problem. The trouble, of course, is that there never would be any such demand until there was a crisis, and by that point (which happens to be now), we would be seriously behind the eight-ball.

To all those, on the other hand, who have been spinning in an irrational panic about Ebola, I respectfully suggest your efforts would be better spent -- and indeed, would be more effective in securing public health -- if you were to demand of your elected leaders that public investment in the kind of bio-medical R&D needed to address things lke Ebola be ramped up significantly.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

[font size=5]Without Lucrative Market, Potential Ebola Vaccine Was Shelved for Years[/font]


GALVESTON, Tex. — Almost a decade ago, scientists from Canada and the United States reported that they had created a vaccine that was 100 percent effective in protecting monkeys against the Ebola virus. The results were published in a respected journal, and health officials called them exciting. The researchers said tests in people might start within two years, and a product could potentially be ready for licensing by 2010 or 2011.

It never happened. The vaccine sat on a shelf. Only now is the vaccine undergoing the most basic safety tests in humans — with nearly 5,000 people dead from Ebola and an epidemic raging out of control in West Africa.

< . . . . >

Dr. James E. Crowe Jr., director of a vaccine research center at Vanderbilt University, said that academic researchers who develop a prototype drug or vaccine that works in animals often encountered a “biotech valley of death” in which no drug company would help them cross the finish line.

Up to that point, the research may have cost a few million dollars, but tests in humans and scaling up production can cost hundreds of millions, and bringing a new vaccine all the way to market typically costs $1 billion to $1.5 billion, Dr. Crowe said. “Who’s going to pay for that?” he asked.
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Oct 23, 2014, 06:05 PM (3 replies)

Maher v. Affleck: One Giant Distraction for Progressives

(Note: This is a status update I just posted this to Facebook.)

I have followed the recent Bill Maher/Sam Harris v. Ben Affleck/Reza Aslan debate over the nature of Islam (a debate that has become something of an internecine war among progressives) fairly closely, and I gotta say that, while I think both sides have made some valid points, I think the entire debate serves as one giant distraction from the debate we should be having -- indeed, a debate we have needed, yet have steadfastly refused, to have since 9-11. That question that we should be discussing is that of the role 70+ years of disastrous U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has played in fueling the rise of religious extremism and terrorism in the region. As Pulitzer prize-winning Journalist Chris Hedges recently pointed out, nobody simply wakes up one day and decides to become a terrorist; it is something people are driven to out of desperation, when they no longer have any real political agency. The fact is, we have been the author of many of our own troubles in the Middle East. Once we admit that to ourselves, then, perhaps, more of us will come to see the utter folly of thinking that yet another round of military action in the region will accomplish anything that is at all constructive.

There were those, of course, who, in the wake of 9-11, did attempt to make this very point. It was the point former ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill, then of the University of Colorado Boulder, was trying to make, how ever inartfully, when he stated that "there were no innocent victims on 9-11" -- a comment that eventually had the effect of ending Churchill's academic career. It is the point President Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was trying to make in his "God damn America" sermon, which was seized upon by conservatives as proof that Wright, and by extension, President Obama, hated America, and which, in an act of utter political cowardice, was ultimately renounced by President Obama. That sermon stood in the highest and best tradition of prophetic preaching of the African American church, but most Americans were too caught up in the political horse race to be bothered with considering its substance. There were others as well who attempted to get America to take an honest look at itself, but to a person, each was met with some variant of the obtuse, "Why do you hate America," or were otherwise shouted down. And thirteen years later, we still wonder why we can't seem to get it right.
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 17, 2014, 05:16 PM (6 replies)

NY Magazine: U.S. Troops Were Injured by Old WMDs in Iraq, Which Doesn’t Mean Bush Was Right

New York magazine was quick on the draw with this article, which they published in response to the wave of conservatives jumping on the "This Vindicates Bush" bandwagon in the wake of the NY Times article on abandoned chemical weapons that were found in Iraq (and which injured soldiers who handled them unawares). In addition to the points made in the article (an excerpt of which appears further down in this message), I also added the following comment (which I also posted to the original New York Times article):


There is yet another reason why none of this serves to vindicate the Bush administration's claims of WMD. Think back to that unfortunate speech Colin Powell gave before the United Nations making the case for invading Iraq. Chemical weapons were mentioned, sure, but the salient point of that speech -- the thing that ultimately 'closed the deal,' if you will -- was the belief that Saddam Hussein either had, or was in the process of developing, a nuclear weapon. Remember all the talk about "aluminum tubes" and "yellow cake uranium?" All of that was about making the case that if the U.S. didn't stop Saddam Hussein, like yesterday,the next thing anybody knew he would have a nuclear weapon, and then Who Knew What Would Happen? Likewise, Condoleeza Rice's infamous comment, to wit, "We don't want to wait until a smoking gun becomes a mushroom cloud," was ALL about scaring the public, both here and abroad, of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein. Chemical weapons were mentioned, but were decidedly secondary in the case the Bush administration made.

In addition, Conservatives can hardly claim vindication for Bush when the Pentagon, for five years under Bush and two under Obama, repeatedly denied the very existence of these weapons, even as U.S. soldiers were being injured by them after they had been instructed to destroy them and having been kept in the dar as to the nature of what they were handling. There is simply no way the Bush administration comes out of this looking any less guilty of war crimes than it has already looked.

Here's the New York magazine article excerpt:

[font size=5]U.S. Troops Were Injured by Old WMDs in Iraq,
Which Doesn’t Mean Bush Was Right[/font]
[font size=1]By Margaret Hartmann[/font]

In a bombshell report on Tuesday night, the New York Times' C. J. Chivers revealed the existence of a "largely secret chapter" in the Iraq War. Between 2004 and 2011, American troops and Iraqi police officers repeatedly found chemical weapons produced by Saddam Hussein's regime before 1991, and at least 17 U.S. service members were wounded by deteriorating shells filled with nerve or mustard agents. The men suffered burns, severe blisters, respiratory problems, and other long-lasting health problems, but the U.S. government prevented the troops from receiving medical care and refused to recognize that they had been wounded in the line of duty. And to make matters worse, ISIS now controls the area where most of the weapons were found.

There's a lot of infuriating information in the 10,000-word report and accompanying documentary. But conservatives quickly pounced on one point that isn't even true: U.S. troops found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so President George W. Bush was right to invade.

It's well known that Saddam Hussein produced chemical weapons in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, and by 2003 the shells and rockets were so old and damaged that they could not be used as designed. The Times report makes it abundantly clear that these were not the WMDs the Bush administration was referring to in the lead-up to the war. This is the tenth paragraph:

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Oct 15, 2014, 04:13 PM (2 replies)

Indeed . . .

. . . I gotta say, I really didn't think there was anything more that could come out of the mess in Iraq that would have the ability to shock me, but THIS -- a willful betrayal of soldiers by the very government they serve, withholding needed information to enable them to get proper medical treatment -- that is a real stunner, even after everything else that has been written.
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 14, 2014, 09:15 PM (0 replies)

WOW - NY Times Investigative Report: The Secret U.S. Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapon

I have no words for this . . .

[font size=5]The Secret U.S. Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons[/font]
[font size=1]BY C. J. CHIVERS[/font]


< . . . . >

The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

The secrecy fit a pattern. Since the outset of the war, the scale of the United States’ encounters with chemical weapons in Iraq was neither publicly shared nor widely circulated within the military. These encounters carry worrisome implications now that the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, controls much of the territory where the weapons were found.

The American government withheld word about its discoveries even from troops it sent into harm’s way and from military doctors. The government’s secrecy, victims and participants said, prevented troops in some of the war’s most dangerous jobs from receiving proper medical care and official recognition of their wounds.

< . . . . >
Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 14, 2014, 09:03 PM (5 replies)

Democrats ditch Kentucky, leaving Grimes on her own vs. McConnell (WTF???)`

Shades of both the last NJ governors race, and the race in 2010 for Ted Kennedy's seat (which put Scott Brown in the Senate). WTF is the DSCC's problem? Fucking insanity, or incompetence, or both!

[font size=5]Democrats ditch Kentucky, leaving
Grimes on her own vs. McConnell[/font]

In a sign national Democrats no longer believe Alison Lundergran Grimes can defeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is going off the air.

“The DSCC has now spent more than $2 million in Kentucky and continues to make targeted investments in the ground game while monitoring the race for future investments, but is currently not on the air in the state,” CQ Roll Call quoted a DSCC official as saying.

Grimes has kept the race competitive by selling herself to voters as an energetic independent, but she has trailed in most public surveys against McConnell, who leads by an average of 3 points, according to RealClearPolitics.

< . . . . >

A Democratic strategist in Kentucky who has worked on the race told msnbc the DSCC’s decision was shocking, pointing to a recent internal poll showing Grimes leading the race by 2 points, in line with a public poll this month by SurveyUSA. The internal survey was conducted by Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster best known for accurately forecasting Harry Reid’s comfortable win over Sharron Angle in 2010 despite polls showing her with a lead in the final stretch.

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Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Oct 14, 2014, 05:54 PM (102 replies)

Libertarians are SO confused!

LOL! A friend of mine told me about an exchange with a friend of his (whom I don't know) who identifies himself as a Libertarian. His Libertarian friend has apparently decided that Iceland, with its very strong economic recovery now in place, would be the perfect place to live. Apparently, he is unfamiliar with precisely how Iceland accomplished its impressive feat. Hint: it started with a government take-over of Iceland's banks and re-regulation of its financial sector, which had been deregulated in 2000 -- yet these are precisely the kinds of government interventions that Libertarians are always railing against. This reinforces my belief that most Americans who call themselves "Libertarians" have a rather confused understanding of what Libertarian political philosophy actually entails!
Posted by markpkessinger | Fri Oct 3, 2014, 07:11 PM (49 replies)
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