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WEEKLY WONK

Originally Published: 4/30/2016

Plastic and Marine Life:  13 sperm whales washed up on the shore near the German state of Schleswig-Holstein earlier this year, “the latest in a series of whale strandings around the North Sea. So far, more than 30 sperm whales have been found beached since the start of the year in the UK, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Germany.” Researchers did necropsy of the whales found in Germany and found that 4 of the giant marine animals had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs. The garbage included a nearly 43-foot-long shrimp fishing net, a plastic car engine cover, and the remains of a plastic bucket.” [Emphasis added.] (National Geographic)

 

Plastic and Human Life:  Plastic is also very dangerous to humans. It’s all around us - in our houses, walls, plumbing pipes, bottles and cans, rugs, dental filings, eyeglass lenses, phones, cars, garden mulch, and much more. Endocrine disruptors (EDCs) are the link between human health hazards and plastic. They are found in sunscreen (TWW, Sunscreen, 11/7/15), pesticides (TWW, Pesticides, 2/7/15), fracking chemicals (TWW, Fracking, 12/28/13), and just about everything else. In the human body, EDCs mimic the actions of the hormone estrogen. They upset the hormonal balance and can stimulate the growth of tumors in the breast, uterus, or prostate. They can affect fertility, pregnancy, and can affect a fetus by interfering with testosterone, disrupting normal sexual development. One of the main chemicals used to produce plastics is bisphenol A (BPA). (Polycarbonate Plastics) And now scientists have discovered something that may be worse: bisphenol A fluorinated (BPAF) (TWW, BPAF, 5/15/10). And it’s everywhere. In a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), they found that 93% of urine samples from people 6 years and older contained some amount of BPA. Small children are most at risk because they put everything in their mouths, they breathe and drink more, and they excrete waste more slowly. Plastic comes in many variations, such as phthalates and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Then there’s polyethylene terephthalate (PETs) which is common in water, soft drink, sports drink, and condiment bottles (TWW, Ideonella Sakalensis, 4/16/16); high-density polyethylene (HDPE) which is found in milk, juice, detergent, and shampoo bottles, grocery bags, and cereal box liners; low-density polyethylene (LDPE) which is found in dry cleaning, bread, newspaper, produce, and garbage bags as well as “paper” milk cartons and hot/cold beverage cups; polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is found in plumbing pipes, clear food packaging, shrink wrap, plastic children’s toys, tablecloths, vinyl flooring. And there are so many more. (See the Breast Cancer Fund, Earth Resource, Care2, and Babble for more information. A search will find you even more.) Here are some tips: Never heat or microwave your food in plastic containers - it increases the leaching of the chemicals into your food. Avoid plastic wrap, plastic food containers, and disposable liquid bottles. Look for BPA-free and phthalates-free labels. And avoid plastics numbered 6 and 7 whenever possible.

 

Saudi Arabia:  It announced plans to end its addiction to oil by 2020. The plan is called Vision 2030 by Deputy Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman, “the fast-rising 31-year-old said to be at the helm of Saudi Arabia’s plans to modernize its economy.” This is due to the drop in oil prices. “Last year, the country ran a deficit of $98 billion, about 15% of its gross domestic product. . . A report from the International Monetary Fund released in October warned that the government could run out of money within 5 years.” (Washington Post)

 

New York:  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has denied a “key” permit to 4 oil and gas companies who want to build “a 124-mile fracked gas pipeline.” The proposed pipeline would have taken fracked natural gas from Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania “through Brome, Chenango, Delaware, and Schoharie counties in New York to existing interstate pipelines.” It would have crossed hundreds of streams and wetlands, “including those supplying drinking water to families along the proposed route.” (Earth Justice)

 

North Carolina:  U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder upheld North Carolina’s voting law (TWW, North Carolina, 7/27/13) that “reduces the number of days of early voting, prohibits people from registering and voting on the same day, stops ballots cast in the wrong precinct from being counted, ends the practice of preregistering teenagers before they turned 18, and requires a photo ID to vote.” The judge’s opinion said that the aim of North Carolina’s legislature in passing the law to “combat voter fraud and to preserve the integrity of the voting system,” was a legitimate state interest. (Washington Post)

 

Tennessee:  Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed a bill that allows mental health counselors to refuse to treat patients based on the therapist’s religious or personal beliefs. (Washington Post)

 

Vermont:  Governor Peter Shumlin (D) signed into a law a bill “that automatically registers eligible residents to vote when they apply for a driver’s license.” (WCAX)

 

Texas Voting:  The Supreme Court declined to block the use of the Texas voter ID law, the strictest in the nation. “Every judge who has examined the law has found it discriminatory. But it has been used in recent elections because courts have refused to block it until there is a final legal ruling on its legitimacy.” The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is scheduled to consider the law on May 24th, so the Supremes declined to hear the issue. However, it indicated it is open to the possibility of deciding it later if the lower court “has not settled the matter by midsummer.” (Washington Post)

 

Electronic Devices:  The Supremes approved changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure that will make it easier for the FBI to hack into computers remotely, “including those belonging to victims of cybercrime.” The rule change allows a magistrate judge “to issue a warrant to search or seize an electronic device regardless of where it is, if the target of the investigation is using anonymity software like Tor to cloak their location. Over a million people use Tor to browse popular websites like Facebook every month for perfectly legitimate reasons.” (The Intercept) The Congress has 7 months to block the expansion. (Guardian)

 

The Counted:  So far this year 335 people have been killed by law enforcement, up from 316 last week. That’s another 19 people killed by cops this week. (Guardian)

 

Capitalism:  Harvard University surveyed young adults between 18 and 29 years old and found that 51% do not support capitalism. Just 42% said they support it. However, it wasn’t clear what they would prefer as just 33% said they supported socialism. (Washington Post) I’m guessing that they’ve discovered the horrors of runaway, unregulated capitalism but haven’t yet discovered European-style regulated, democratic socialism.

 

Email Privacy:  The House of Representatives passed the “long-stalled” email privacy legislation that “enhances privacy protections for emails and digital documents stored in the cloud.” It passed unanimously. It requires the government to obtain a warrant before accessing an individual’s stored digital effects. “Civil law enforcement agencies lobbied heavily against the reform effort.” However, a similar bill in the Senate proposed by Pat Leahy (D, VT) and Mike Lee (R, UT) has been stalled for years. So, the question now is if the Senate will pass it. (District Sentinel)

 

Fructose:  Hundreds of our brain genes are being changed by fructose - leading to diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD. The primary source of fructose in the American diet is from foods sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Check your labels. However, according to a new study from UCLA life scientists, DHA “seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.” DHA is found in wild salmon (not farmed salmon), fish and fish oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and fruits and vegetables. (Medical Xpress)

 

Ocean Oxygen:  According to research done by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, due to climate change the oxygen loss in the oceans is “already discernible in some parts of the world” and will likely be evident “across large regions of the oceans” by 2030 or 2040. Oxygen-deprived oceans will have significant impacts on the marine ecosystems and may leave some areas uninhabitable for some species. 

 

Pesticides:  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft report on 3 pesticides that have the ability to harm nearly all the endangered species in America. Malathion is used in agriculture, for lawn care, and for mosquito control. Chlorpyrifos is used on a range of crops including cotton, almonds, and fruit trees. These 2 together adversely affect 97% of the 1,782 species listed on the Endangered Species list. Diazinon, which is used in orchards and vegetable crops, was found to adversely affect 79% of these species.

 

Another Merger:  The Justice Department is allowing Charter Communications “to move ahead with its $78.7 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable.” This will create the 2nd largest cable and Internet provider in the country. (Washington Post) Ya think maybe they’ll be raising their prices?

 

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