Archive for June, 2006

You can’t fool all the people all the time

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

but sometimes all you want to do is fool them for a little while.

David Rose | How US Hid the Suicide Secrets of Guantanamo
“Closing Guantanamo to the media meant there were no reporters there as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service team went about its work; none when pathologists conducted post mortem examinations; and none last Friday when, after a Muslim ceremony conducted by a military chaplain, the first body – Ahmed’s – was prepared to be flown home. It was also impossible to gauge the impact of the deaths on the 460 inmates,” writes David Rose….


The Guantánamo Peril
By Aziz Huq

Monday 19 June 2006

Death is typically a moment of truth. But the occasion of three suicides at the Guantánamo Bay-where almost 500 men and boys have been held without trial for up to four years now-have only proved how poorly the Administration grasps the facts of today’s terrorism challenge. And it only showed how deeply ineffectual and counterproductive U.S. counter-terrorism policy becomes when based on flawed assumptions.

The U.S. response revealed how little it has learned since it first launched its “global war on terror” five years ago. The camp’s commander Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris described the detainees’ decision as “an act of asymmetrical warfare.” The Deputy Assistant of State Colleen Graffy classed the deaths as “a good PR move.” And Southcom commander General Bantz J. Craddock commented that, “This may be an attempt to influence the judicial proceedings” of a case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court about the President’s ad hoc military commissions.

Here are the facts: Ali Adbullah Ahmed; Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi; Yasser Talal al Zahrani were three men that were alive two weeks ago in the “care” of the administration and now are dead. Ahmed had a lawyer. No one told him. Al-Utaybi was slated for transfer out of Guantánamo. No one told him. Harris, Craddock, and Graffy just could not see how the possibility of detention without family, without end, without hope, saps the will to live. They could not see how this very kind of detention is itself a blight on humanity. And they could not see how people around the world would recoil in disgust at their thoughtless and cruel incapacity to see such elementary moral facts….

Pesticides and Parkinson’s

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

My brother reports… I’m not sure if this link will work for you, you may have to subscribe but I think the story is being reported (a little less in depth) on MSNBC. Its a study in Minnesota linking pesticide exposure to Parkinson’s. It has some limitations… data set size, no quantification of exposure, some people had to be interviewed by proxy….but if more studies are done a meta analysis can be done later to see if the findings stand.

*Primary source: Movement Disorders
Source reference:
Frigerio R et al. “Chemical exposures and Parkinson’s disease: A population-based case-control study.”

10.1002/mds.21009 *

*ROCHESTER, Minn., June 15 — Men exposed to pesticides are more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as are men who have managed to avoid contact with the toxic chemicals, according to Mayo Clinic researchers.

The risk for Parkinson’s from pesticide exposure was equally high among farmers and non-farmers reported Walter A. Rocca, M.D., M.P.H., and Mayo Clinc colleagues in early online version of *Movement Disorders.* There was no elevated risk associated with exposure to any of six other categories of household or industrial chemicals.


There was no association between pesticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease in women, but women in general had significantly less opportunity for exposure at to pesticides than men, the investigators noted.

“The cause of Parkinson’s disease remains unknown,” they wrote. “The role of environmental factors has been considered, in particular in late onset cases. Several studies have reported associations of Parkinson’s disease with pesticides and other chemical products such as metals, solvents, paints, glues, and printing chemicals. However, other studies have failed to confirm these associations.”

To determine whether there is indeed a pesticide-Parkinson’s link, they conducted a population-based case-control study of all residents of Olmsted County, Minn., who developed Parkinson’s from 1976 through 1995.

They identified 202 county residents with Parkinson’s diagnosed over the two decades, and matched them by age and gender with controls from the general population of the same county who were free of parkinsonism or tremor of any type in the year that their matched cases developed Parkinson’s disease.

The investigators determined chemical exposure by interviewing the patients or their proxies. The interviewers were not told whether they were contacting cases or controls, and the participants were not told the hypothesis of the study to help reduce the chance of interview and recall bias.

The interviewees were asked whether they have ever been exposed through work or recreation to chemicals in any of seven broad classes:

- Insecticides and herbicides
- Paints, varnishes, and stains
- Cleaning products
- Gasoline and petroleum derivatives
- Asbestos
- Glues
- Printing products

All of the participants who had farmed for at least five years were asked additional detailed questions about the main types of crops, their use of pesticides, and the names of the specific products they used.

Participants who had never farmed or farmed for less than five years were considered to have been exposed if they reported the use of pesticides in response to general questions about chemical exposures in jobs or hobbies.

Among the 149 of 202 patients identified for whom interviews could be completed, the median age at onset of Parkinson’s was 70 years (range 41-97) and 60% were men. Of the 202 controls, 129 were available for interviews.

The authors found that after combining pesticide exposures related to farming with exposures related to other occupations (such as landscaping) or to hobbies (such as gardening), there was a significant association for men but not for women.

The odds ratio was 2.4 (95% confidence interval, 1.1-5.4, *P*=0.04), and it remained significant after controlling for smoking, with and odds ratio of 2.5 (95% CI, 1.1-5.7, *P*=0.03) and for education, divided into quartiles, with an odds ratio of 2.8 (95% CI, 1.2-6.5, *P*=0.02).

In contrast, “analyses for the other six categories of common chemical exposures that occurred as part of an occupation or of a hobby, showed non-significant associations in either direction,” the authors wrote.

“This population-based study suggests a link between pesticides use and Parkinson’s disease that is restricted to men,” they wrote. “Pesticides may interact with other genetic or nongenetic factors that are different in men and women.”

They found that pesticide exposure was similar among controls between men and women, whereas in the Parkinson’s cases men had significantly more farm and non-farm exposure to pesticides than women. A similar association between insecticide exposure and Parkinson’s disease in men but not in women was seen in a French study, the authors noted.

There are a number of limitations to the study, which were noted by the authors:
- The sample size was too small to detect weak associations, and several analyses involved a small number of subjects.
- Because several statistical tests of association were conducted, it is not possible to exclude that the findings for men were due to chance (type 1 error).
- Proxy interviews were used more frequently for cases (67%) than for controls (51%), because patients with Parkinson’s have an increased mortality and an increased frequency of cognitive decline, and may be frail in the advanced stages of Parkinson’s. This asymmetry in type of informantion may have introduced an imbalance in data quality.
- A direct validation of chemical exposure was not possible in this study; exposure to chemicals was not defined using a job-exposure matrix methodology. In addition, it was not possible to quantify the level of exposure or the lifelong cumulative dose of exposure.

For these reasons, they suggest that “our findings should be interpreted with caution and should be replicated in independent studies.”

More fun than an NPR fundraiser!

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

That’s right, I’m talking about the Flaming Grasshopper contest. Entries still encouraged.

World Wide Local Web

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

It’s a great irony when something place-less like the web is used to help people in some particular locale organize themselves. You got your dating websites, you got your Meetups, and now you got something very cool we learned about from the Growers & Grocer’s blog: a website that helps farmers link up with local customers, a kind of (as they call it) “virtual farmer’s market.” Very cool.

Food for Thought – How buying local food contributes to sustainability

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

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Food for Thought – How buying local food contributes to sustainability
By Heidi Garrett-Peltier, CPE Staff Economist
June 21, 2006

In 1810, 84 percent of the U.S. workforce was employed in agriculture. Today, it’s down to two percent. Thanks to dramatic increases in productivity resulting from advances in technology and the mechanization of agriculture, we can produce a great deal more food with far fewer people than we could 200 years ago. But does this progress come at a cost?

Sierra Club’s blue collar; Steelworkers’ green thumb

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Cool beans… fingers are crossed.

A green union
After years of courting, organized labor and environmentalists partner in the Blue/Green Alliance.

By Amanda Griscom Little

Jun. 19, 2006 | NewsOrganized labor and environmentalists — engaged in an on-again-off-again flirtation for years — may finally be getting to third base….

On the big screen

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Over at Vermont Commons, there’s a film review…

FILM REVIEW: Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient (Half) Truth”
Submitted by Rob Williams on Fri, 06/16/2006 – 10:35am.

An Inconvenient (Half) Truth: Peeking Over The Hedge At Our Future

By Rob Williams

I just took my two kids to see the most important film of the summer.

I mean “Over the Hedge,” of course, Dreamworks” new movie that satirically celebrates America’s great gift to the world.

The suburbs.

Thanks be to those zany animators for providing impressionable American tykes with a playful picture of the most unsustainable living arrangement the world has ever seen, a world we can now condition our wee ones to laugh about in all of its fossil-fuel powered, cell phone-obsessed, television-addicted, nacho cheese snorting glory.

Duking it out in Nation-land

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

On the one hand you’ve got Kos, celebrating the democratization of media technology. On the other hand you’ve got Cockburn, curmudgeoning that the establishment Left has made a boogey man out of Rove and a mountain out of a molehill in the political power of blogs (read: Kos). First of all, credit goes to The Nation for being a place where left-of-centers can disagree face to face (though the two pieces are not part of a structured debate). Second of all, Kos is right. Third of all, Cockburn is his usual entertaining self, doing a great service for us all by keeping progressives and lefties honest. That doesn’t mean that he’s right in this, or any other particular, instance. But when he points out that Karl Rove has come to be seen, by many Nation readers and their allies, as the uber-conspirator in the unstoppable Bush machine, and that this view just might not be backed up by the evidence — well, that’s a good reminder. The evidence matters. And in politics and culture, the trend of evidence changes over time, and we have to be clear-headed enough to notice those changes. That’s the take home message of Cockburn’s column. Whether or not he is accurately guaging these particular trends, I leave to others to judge.

When Will the Dems Learn to Frame?

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

As my colleague Jonathan Teller-Elsberg would say: How many times do I have to tell you: Don’t Think of an Elephant. The Democrats must learn to do some framing of their own, and learn it quickly.

GOP wants `cut and run’ label to stick
Analysts: Branding of Democrats’ war policy could pay off

The Boston Globe
By Joseph Williams
June 21, 2006

WASHINGTON — It began in the 1700s as nautical shorthand for a swift retreat, a commander’s order to slash his ship’s anchor chain and outrace overwhelming enemy fire. Over centuries, as sailing ships gave way to ironclads, the phrase drifted to the linguistic backwater.

Now, however, “cut and run,” has sailed back into the national lexicon — particularly on Capitol Hill.

As Congress debated the Iraq war yesterday, Republicans bombarded Democrats at every turn with the phrase, the GOP’s latest way of branding their opponents on the congressional record — and in headlines — as weak on defense.


CGP author one of most influential lawyers in Ameirca

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Michael Ratner, author of Guantanamo: What the World Should Know has been selected as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by The National Law Journal.

The National Law Journal
Michael Ratner
63, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York

A human rights advocate, Ratner is president of this liberal public interest group, which uses litigation to advocate positions on government abuse, torture and civil rights; the 40-year-old nonprofit was among the first to bring suits after Sept. 11, 2001, on behalf of alleged terrorists imprisoned in the U.S. Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; has opposed the Bush administration’s use of executive power in the war on terrorism and the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program; an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University, Ratner has written books including Against War With Iraq and Guantánamo: What the World Should Know.

See the list of the 100 lawyers chosen for this award.

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