Friday, May 31, 2013

Dutch Scumbag Still Preying On Women

Infamous Dutch serial killer Joran van der Sloot, serving 28 years in prison for murdering a Peruvian woman, and who is wanted in the U.S. in connection with the disappearance of another woman, is scheming to marry his Peruvian girlfriend in an attempt to avoid extradition to the U.S.

26-year-old van der Sloot is currently serving time in a Peruvian prison for the murder of local college student Stephany Flores.  The Dutchman was long suspected in the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway, but her body was never found and charges were never made.   In 2010, van der Sloot tried to extort $250,000 from Natalee Holloway’s mother in return for details about her daughter’s death.  Van der Sloot took a $25,000 down payment and then ran off to Peru, where he met  Miss Flores in a Lima casino,   He became enraged after she found out about his suspected involvement in the Natalee Holloway case and he murdered her. 

He now faces extortion charges in the U.S.,  and his extradition to the U.S. was approved in principle last year by Peru's Supreme Court-- but only after he serves out his sentence in Lima. He could serve less than ten years in his Peruvian prison for good behavior.

After he lost his extradition appeal at the Peruvian Supreme Court last year, there were rumors that he would marry a Peruvian girl in July-- but those plans fell through.

Recently Van der Sloot has been visited in prison by 22-year-old Leydi Figueroa Uced, who was last reported to be pregnant with his child (although no reports of the baby’s birth have ever been released).   If van der Sloot is able to convince Figueroa Uced to follow through with his current wedding plans, he will be able to  automatically apply for Peruvian citizenship, which will hinder America’s chances of ever extraditing him.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Unapproved Franken-Wheat Found In Oregon

Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field, a potential threat to trade with countries that have concerns about genetically modified foods.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has said that the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace. But the department is investigating how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing and whether its growth is widespread.

The unidentified farmer discovered the modified wheat when farm workers were trying to kill some wheat plants that popped up between harvests. The farmer used the herbicide glyphosate to kill the plants, but they did not die, prompting the tests at Oregon State to find out if the crops were genetically engineered to resist herbicides.  USDA officials would not identify the farmer or the farm's exact location-- but the field with the genetically modified wheat is in the eastern part of the state.

The tests confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its herbicides and tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application.

USDA said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests with the same glyphosate-resistant wheat variety. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.  During the original testing and application process, the Food and Drug Administration had reviewed the variety found in Oregon and said it was as safe as conventional varieties of wheat.

As of today, however,  no genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming.  While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are already genetically modified, the country's wheat crop is not.

The discovery could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. wheat industry if the growth of the engineered product turns out to be far-flung. Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the U.S. exports about half of its wheat crop.

The discovery also could have implications for organic companies, which by law cannot use genetically engineered ingredients in its foods. Organic farmers have frequently expressed concern that genetically modified seed will blow into organic farms and contaminate their products.  Consumers have shown increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods. Several states are considering bills that would require them to be labeled so consumers know what they are eating.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bye Bye Batshit Bachmann

Tea Party wing-nut Michelle Bachmann announced today that she will not be running for reelection. In her nine-minute web video announcing the move, she denied that her decision had anything to do with her ongoing ethics inquiry nor the FBI investigation of her presidential campaign.  Maybe it was due to the lawsuit against her for the theft of an email list-- she forgot to mention that.

In any case, it doesn't matter much-- nor does it seem to matter to anyone in her party, as there was no accolades or public comment of any kind from her GOP colleagues.  But that's no surprise, as she was little more than a carnival act, having accomplished next to nothing during her eight-year congressional career. 

While in office, she sponsored 58 bills-- 53 of which were immediately referred to committee (in other words, went nowhere).  Of the remaining five, three were agreed to without a vote: HR 373 (support for designating "National Hydrocephalus Awareness Month") HR 923 (recognizing Minnesota's 150th anniversary) and HR 79 (honoring public child welfare agencies).  Another bill (HR 850, facilitating a proposed project in the lower St Croix river) got out of committee but failed to get any action in the full House.  HR 45 (repeal of "Obamacare") passed the house, but went nowhere further (as it has failed to do another 30 or so times since then).  Impressive!

Bachmann has never wielded a committee gavel (either at the full or subcommittee level) and her amendments have rarely been considered by any committee, even with the House under GOP control.  As lame as she was, she was certainly entertaining--- and for that, we'll miss her!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Warning To Those (Still) Using Facebook

Facebook has been caught again in an act that further erodes its credibility-- by censoring the free speech of users who are critical of global corporate giant Monsanto.  Facebook recently suspended of an account that posted a photo of children rallying against Monsanto during a protest against genetically modified food.  The photo posted by Facebook user Andrea Lalama shows her children carrying hand-drawn signs.

After this picture was shared on Facebook, Andrea's account was immediately suspended.

As a result, Andrea Lalama can only re-post other people's content but is disallowed from posting her own content. Another woman, Georgia Gallucci, was also censored by Facebook-- her account was also suspended by Facebook after reposting a friend's photo from the Monsanto March.

Yet another account called "Reversing Autism" was also suspended by Facebook for posting Monsanto march photos, claiming that they were "abusive."

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tweet From A Twit

Sarah Palin entertained us yet again with her failure to comprehend current events.  She tweeted the following earlier today: 

It's unclear how the IRS is connected to anything having to do with phones, but it's likely that Palin was confusing that scandal with the controversy over the DOJ's seizure of two months' worth of Associated Press phone records in 2012.   Oops!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Retail Indifference To Bangladeshi Workers

The deadline to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh passed last week, and at least 10 major North American retailers refused to participate.

The agreement, which demands a five-year commitment from participating retailers to conduct independent safety inspections of factories and pay up to $500,000 per year toward safety improvements, has seen greater support internationally than in the U.S.

Major European retailers -- for example, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour -- have joined the agreement. Others who've signed on include companies recently involved with factory disasters in Bangladesh, such as Swedish retailer H&M and Italian fashion house Benetton. A 2010 factory fire at a facility that made cardigans for H&M killed 21 people, and Bennetton had a supplier in the Rana Plaza factory that collapsed last month, killing more than 1,100 people.

PVH, parent to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, signed the accord, along with Abercrombie & Fitch, which agreed just hours before the deadline. Many U.S. retailers are still absent from the agreement, according to the Worker Rights Consortium, an international labor monitoring group.  Many of these companies claim that they are working on/improving their own safety programs.  But of course, none of those measure are legally binding (like the Fire and Building Safety accord)-- so there's no guarantee that those companies will curtail/cut back/eliminate their safety programs after the headlines fade away.

For those of you who factor moral issues into their retailing decisions, here is a list of the largest U.S. retailers who lack the courage to follow the lead of most international companies in guaranteeing improvements in safety for Bangladeshi workers:

Foot Locker
American Eagle Outfitters
North Face

Friday, May 10, 2013

Safety of Women In India Gone To Shit

Most of the cases of rape of women and girls in India's Bihar state occur when they go out to defecate in the open, police and social activists say.  The police reported more than 870 cases of rape in Bihar last year.

Some 85% of the rural households in the state, one of India's poorest, have no access to a toilet.  More than half-a-billion Indians lack access to basic sanitation. Many do not have access to flush toilets or other latrines.

There have been a number of recent cases where women and girls have been raped in Bihar after they stepped out of their homes to defecate:

  •     On  May 5, an 11-year-old girl was raped in Mai village in Jehanabad district when she was going to the field at night;                                                                                                                  
  •     On April 28, a young girl was abducted and raped when she had gone out to defecate in an open field in Kalapur village in Naubatpur, 21 miles from the state capital, Patna;                           
  •     On April 24, another girl was raped in similar circumstances on a farm in Chaunniya village in Sheikhpura district. She told the police that two villagers had followed and raped her. One of them has been arrested.

Senior police official Arvind Pandey said that about 400 women would have "escaped" rape last year if they had toilets in their homes.  The Bihar government says it plans to provide toilets to more than 10 million households in the state by 2022 under a federal scheme.  A law making toilets mandatory has been introduced in several states as part of the "sanitation for all" drive by the Indian government.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Donald Trump's New Career As A Military Expert

This week, the Pentagon released a report on the rampant sexual assaults occurring within the military.  According to the report, the number of rapes reported by members of the military rose from 3,192 to 3,374 in 2012, while the department estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted, based on anonymous surveys.   Most politicians and observers condemned the findings, but rocket-scientist real estate mogul Donald Trump had a different take on the matter:


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