Tag Archives: green

10 Tips for Using Apple Cider Vinegar

10 Tips for Using Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is my favorite new DIY household product. Just as baking soda has a huge range of uses from personal self-care to household cleaning, apple cider vinegar can do pretty much anything–for your skin, your hair, your house, and even your pets.

I learned about apple cider vinegar when I was researching ways to get rid of the fleas that had unfortunately begun cropping up in my apartment from my roommates’ two cats. Apple cider vinegar, apparently, when rubbed on the pet and added to the pet’s water, can greatly help repel the fleas from the animal.

Why should we all start using more apple cider vinegar? First of all, apple cider vinegar is a completely natural product: apple juice is fermented to hard apple cider, which is fermented a second time to apple cider vinegar. In integrating this natural product into our homes, we instantly decrease the consumption of unnatural chemicals in our daily lives.

Here are many other benefits of apple cider vinegar that can be applied to your lifestyle. Read the list below.

BEAUTY:

Hair: It is widely known that apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your hair after shampooing to add healthy body and shine. Recycle an old shampoo bottle and fill it with 1/2 a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a cup of cold water. Pour through your hair after shampooing several times a week.

Face: Did you know that apple cider vinegar can help regulate the pH of your skin? Dilute apple cider vinegar with two parts water, and spread the concoction over your face with a cotton ball as a toner. You can do this at night after washing, and in the morning before you apply your moisturizer. You can also dab apple cider vinegar directly onto age spots and leave them on overnight to lighten their color.

Hands and Feet: Are your hands and feet feeling tired and swollen after a long day? Treat yourself to a personal spa massage by rubbing apple cider vinegar onto them.

Sunburn: Suffering from a bad sunburn? Add a cup of apple cider vinegar to your bath and soak for 10 minutes.

Teeth: Did you know that apple cider vinegar can help remove stains from teeth? Rub teeth directly with apple cider vinegar and rinse out.

Aftershave:
Fill a bottle with equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and shake to blend.

HEALTH:

Weight-Loss: For daily weight and pH balance maintenance, add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to 16 oz of water. Sip this concoction throughout the day.

Detox: Add 2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a 1 or 2 liter filtered water bottle. Drink this throughout the day to cleanse your body and kidneys all day long.

HOME AND PETS

Cleaning: Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water. You can use this concoction to clean microwaves, bathroom tiles, kitchen surfaces, windows, glasses and mirrors. This mixture also works as a disinfectant.

Flea Reduction: Rub apple cider vinegar onto your pet’s skin. Add a little bit of apple cider vinegar to their water. Spray apple cider vinegar, diluted 50 percent with water, onto your pets and onto your furniture to repel the presence of fleas.

Read more:SOURCE

The Gender Blur

The Gender Blur

by Deborah Blum

I was raised in one of those university-based, liberal elite families that politicians like to ridicule. In my childhood, every human being—regardless of gender—was exactly alike under the skin, and I mean exactly, barring his or her different opportunities. My parents wasted no opportunity to bring this point home. One Christmas, I received a Barbie doll and a softball glove. Another brought a green enamel stove, which baked tiny cakes by the heat of a lightbulb, and also a set of steel-tipped darts and competition-quality dartboard. Did I mention the year of the chemistry set and the ballerina doll?

It wasn’t until I became a parent—I should say, a parent of two boys—that I realized I had been fed a line and swallowed it like a sucker (barring the part about opportunities, which I still believe). This dawned on me during my older son’s dinosaur phase, which began when he was about two and a half. Oh, he loved dinosaurs, all right, but only the blood-swilling carnivores. Plant-eaters were wimps and losers, and he refused to wear a T-shirt marred by a picture of a stegosaur. I looked down at him one day, as he was snarling around my feet and doing his toddler best to gnaw off my right leg, and I thought: This goes a lot deeper than culture.

Raising children tends to bring on this kind of politically incorrect reaction. Another friend came to the same conclusion watching a son determinedly bite his breakfast toast into the shape of a pistol he hoped would blow away—or at least terrify—his younger brother. Once you get past the guilt part—Did I do this? Should I have bought him that plastic allosaur with the oversized teeth?—such revelations can lead you to consider the far more interesting field of gender biology, where the questions take a different shape: Does love of carnage begin in a culture or genetics, and which drives which? Do the gender roles of our culture reflect an underlying biology, and, in turn, does the way we behave influence that biology?

The point I’m leading up to—through the example of my son’s innocent love of predatory dinosaurs—is actually one of the most straightforward in this debate. One of the reasons we’re so fascinated by childhood behaviors is that, as the old saying goes, the child becomes the man (or woman, of course.) Most girls don’t spend their preschool years snarling around the house and pretending to chew off their companion’s legs. And they—mostly—don’t grow up to be as aggressive as men. Do the ways that we amplify those early differences in childhood shape the adults we become? Absolutely. But it’s worth exploring the starting place—the faint signal that somehow gets amplified.

Who you pay is what you get….

“There’s plenty of room in society to influence sex differences,” says Marc Breedlove, a behavioral endocrinologist at the University of California at Berkeley and a pioneer in defining how hormones can help build sexually different nervous systems. “Yes, we’re born with predispositions, but it’s society that amplifies them, exaggerates them. I believe that—except for the sex differences in aggression. Those [differences] are too massive to be explained simply by society.”

Aggression does allow a straightforward look at the issue. Consider the following statistics: Crime reports in both the United States and Europe record between 10 and 15 robberies committed by men for every one by a woman. At one point, people argued that this was explained by size difference. Women weren’t big enough to intimidate, but that would change, they predicted, with the availability of compact weapons. But just as little girls don’t routinely make weapons out of toast, women—even criminal ones—don’t seem drawn to weaponry in the same way that men are. Almost twice as many male thieves and robbers use guns as their female counterparts do.

Or you can look at more personal crimes: domestic partner murders. Three-fourths of men use guns in those killings; 50 percent of women do. Here’s more from the domestic front: In conflicts in which a woman killed a man, he tended to be the one who had started the fight—in 51.8 percent of the cases, to be exact. When the man was the killer, he again was the likely first aggressor, and by an even more dramatic margin. In fights in which women died, they had started the argument only 12.5 percent of the time.

Enough. You can parade endless similar statistics but the point is this: Males are more aggressive, not just among humans but among almost all species on earth. Male chimpanzees, for instance, declare war on neighboring troops, and one of their strategies is a warning strike: They kill females and infants to terrorize and intimidate. In terms of simple, reproductive genetics, it’s an advantage of males to be aggressive: You can muscle your way into dominance, winning more sexual encounters, more offspring, more genetic future. For the female—especially in a species like ours,with time for just one successful pregnancy a year—what’s the genetic advantage in brawling?

Thus the issue becomes not whether there is a biologically influenced sex difference in aggression—the answer being a solid, technical “You betcha”—but rather how rigid that difference is. The best science, in my opinion, tends to align with basic common sense. We all know that there are extraordinarily gentle men and murderous women. Sex differences are always generalizations: They refer to a behavior, with some evolutionary rationale behind it. They never define, entirely, an individual. And that fact alone should tell us that there’s always—even in the most biologically dominated traits—some flexibility, an instinctive ability to respond, for better and worse, to the world around us.

This is true even with physical characteristics that we’ve often assumed are nailed down by genetics. Scientists now believe height, for instance, is only about 90 percent heritable. A person’s genes might code for a six-foot-tall body, but malnutrition could literally cut that short. And there’s also some evidence, in girls anyway, that children with stressful childhoods tend to become shorter adults. So while some factors are predetermined, there’s evidence that the prototypical male/female body design can be readily altered.

It’s a given that humans, like most other species—bananas, spiders, sharks, ducks, any rabbit you pull out of a hat—rely on two sexes for reproduction. So basic is that requirement that we have chromosomes whose primary purpose is to deliver the genes that order up a male or a female. All other chromosomes are numbered, but we label the sex chromosomes with the letters X and Y. We get one each from our mother and our father, and the basic combinations are these: XX makes female, XY makes male.

There are two important—and little known—points about these chromosomal matches. One is that even with this apparently precise system, there’s nothing precise—or guaranteed—about the physical construction of male and female. The other point makes that possible. It appears that sex doesn’t matter in the early stages of embryonic development. We are unisex at the point of conception.

If you examine an embryo at about six weeks, you see that it has the ability to develop in either direction. The fledgling embryo has two sets of ducts—Wolffian for male, Muellerian for female—an either/or structure, held in readiness for further development. If testosterone and other androgens are released by hormone producing cells, then the Wolffian ducts develop into the channel that connects penis to testes, and the female ducts wither away.

Without testosterone, the embryo takes on a female form; the male ducts vanish and the Muellerian ducts expand into oviducts, uterus, and vagina. In other words, in humans, anyway (the opposite is true in birds), the female is the default sex. Back in the 1950s, the famed biologist Alfred Jost showed that if you castrate a male rabbit fetus, choking off testosterone, you produce a completely feminized rabbit.

We don’t do these experiments in humans—for obvious reasons—but there are naturally occurring instances that prove the same point. For instance: In the fetal testes are a group of cells, called Leydig cells, that make testosterone. In rare cases, the fetus doesn’t make enough of these cells (a defect known as Leydig cell hypoplasia). In this circumstance we see the limited power of the XY chromosome. These boys have the right chromosomes and the right genes to be boys; they just don’t grow a penis. Obstetricians and parents often think they see a baby girl, and these children are routinely raised as daughters. Usually, the “mistake” is caught about the time of puberty, when menstruation doesn’t start. A doctor’s examination shows the child to be internally male; there are usually small testes, often tucked within the abdomen. As the researchers put it, if the condition had been known from the beginning, “the sisters would have been born as brothers.

Just to emphasize how tricky all this body-building can get, there’s a peculiar genetic defect that seems to be clustered by heredity in a small group of villages in the Dominican Republic. The result of the defect is a failure to produce an enzyme that concentrates testosterone, specifically for building the genitals. One obscure little enzyme only, but here’s what happens without it: You get a boy with undescended testes and a penis so short and stubby that it resembles an oversized clitoris.

In the mountain villages of this Caribbean nation, people are used to it. The children are usually raised as “conditional” girls. At puberty, the secondary tide of androgens rises and is apparently enough to finish the construction project. The scrotum suddenly descends, the phallus grows, and the child develops a distinctly male body–narrow hips, muscular build, and even slight beard growth. At that point, the family shifts the child over from daughter to son. The dresses are thrown out. He begins to wear male clothes and starts dating girls. People in the Dominican Republic are so familiar with this condition that there’s a colloquial name for it: guevedoces, meaning “eggs (or testes) at 12.”

It’s the comfort level with this slip-slide of sexual identity that’s so remarkable and, I imagine, so comforting to the children involved. I’m positive that the sexual transition of these children is less traumatic than the abrupt awareness of the “sisters who would have been brothers.” There’s a message of tolerance there, well worth repeating, and there are some other key lessons too.

These defects are rare and don’t alter the basic male-female division of our species. They do emphasize how fragile those divisions can be. There is no supermale security in possessing a Y chromosome, no femininity guarantee with the double X. Biology allows flexibility, room to change, to vary and grow. With that comes room for error as well. That it’s possible to live with these genetic defects, that they don’t merely kill us off, is a reminder that we, male and female alike, exist on a continuum of biological possibilities that can overlap and sustain either sex.

Marc Breedlove points out that the most difficult task may be separating how the brain responds to hormones from how the brain responds to the results of hormones. Which brings us back, briefly, below the belt: In this context, the penis is just a result, the product of androgens at work before birth. “And after birth,” says Breedlove, “virtually everyone who interacts with that individual will note that he has a penis, and will, in many instances, behave differently than if the individual was a female.”

Do the ways that we amplify physical and behavioral differences in childhood shape who we become as adults? Absolutely. But to understand that, you have to understand the differences themselves—their beginning and the very real biochemistry that may lie behind them.

Here is a good place to focus on testosterone—a hormone that is both well studied and generally underrated. First, however, I want to acknowledge that there are many other hormones and neurotransmitters that appear to influence behavior. Preliminary work shows that fetal boys are a little more active than fetal girls. It’s pretty difficult to argue socialization at that point. Who’s willing to make the point that an unborn fetus is floating around in the amniotic fluid mulling over its gender identity and making decisions about how often to kick. There’s a strong suspicion that testosterone may create the difference.

And there are a couple of relevant animal models to emphasize the point. Back in the 1960s, Robert Goy, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, first documented that young male monkeys play much more roughly than young females. Goy went on to show that if you manipulate testosterone level—raising it in females, damping it down in males—you can reverse those effects, creating sweet little male monkeys and rowdy young females.

Is testosterone the only factor at work here? I don’t think so. But clearly we can argue a strong influence, and, interestingly, studies have found that girls with congenital adrenal hypoplasia—who run high in testosterone—tend to be far more fascinated by trucks and toy weaponry than most little girls are. They lean toward rough-and-tumble play, too. As it turns out, the strongest influence on this “abnormal” behaviors is not parental disapproval, but the company of other little girls, who tone them down and direct them toward more routine girl games.

And that reinforces an early point: If there is indeed a biology to sex differences, we amplify it. At some point—when it is still up for debate—we gain a sense of our gender, and with it a sense of “gender-appropriate” behavior.

Some scientists argue for some evidence of gender awareness in infancy, perhaps by the age of 12 months. The consensus seems to be that full-blown “I’m a girl” or “I’m a boy” instincts arrive between the ages of 2 and 3. Research shows that if a family operates in a very traditional, Beaver Cleaver kind of environment, filled with awareness of and association with “proper” gender behaviors, the “boys do trucks, girls do dolls” attitude seems to come very early. If a child grows up in a less traditional family, with an emphasis on partnership and sharing—”We all do the dishes, Joshua”—children maintain a more flexible sense of gender roles until about age

And, returning to children for a moment, there’s an ongoing study by Pennsylvania researchers, tracking that question in adolescent girls, who are being encouraged by their parents to engage in competitive activities once for boys only. As they do so, the researchers are monitoring, regularly, two hormones: testosterone and cortisol, a stress hormone. Will these hormones rise in response to this new, more traditionally male environment? What if more girls choose the competitive path; more boys choose the other? Will female testosterone levels rise, male levels fall? Will that wonderful, unpredictable, flexible biology that we’ve been given allow a shift, so that one day, we will literally be far more alike?

We may not have answers to all those questions, but we can ask them, and we can expect that the answers will come someday, because science clearly shows us that such possibilities exist. In this most important sense, sex differences offer us a paradox. It is only through exploring and understanding what makes us different that we can begin to understand what binds us together.

Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer, a professor of journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women (Penguin 1997).

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Yes, We CAN-NABIS!

Cannabis plant extracts can effectively fight drug-resistant bacteria.

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By NORA SCHULTZ

Substances harvested from cannabis plants could soon outshine conventional antibiotics in the escalating battle against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds, called cannabinoids, appear to be unaffected by the mechanism that superbugs like MRSA use to evade existing antibiotics. Scientists from Italy and the United Kingdom, who published their research in the Journal of Natural Products last month, say that cannabis-based creams could also be developed to treat persistent skin infections.

Cannabis has long been known to have antibacterial properties and was studied in the 1950s as a treatment for tuberculosis and other diseases. But research into using cannabis as an antibiotic has been limited by poor knowledge of the plant’s active ingredients and by the controversy surrounding its use as a recreational drug.

Now Giovanni Appendino of the Piemonte Orientale University, in Italy, and Simon Gibbons of the School of Pharmacy at the University of London, U.K., have revisited the antibiotic power of marijuana by systematically testing different cannabinoids’ ability to kill MRSA.

MRSA, short for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a bacterium that can cause difficult-to-treat infections since it does not respond to many antibiotics. Many healthy people carry S. aureus on their skin, but problems arise when multi-drug-resistant strains infect people with weak immune systems through an open wound. In the worst cases, the bug spreads throughout the body, causing a life-threatening infection.

To make matters worse, resistance to antibiotics is rapidly increasing, and some strains are now even immune to vancomycin, a powerful antibiotic that is normally used only as a last resort when other drugs fail.

But when Appendino, Gibbons, and their colleagues applied extracts from five major cannabinoids to bacterial cultures of six strains of MRSA, they discovered that the cannabinoids were as effective at killing the bugs as vancomycin and other antibiotics.

The cannabinoids even showed exceptional activity against the MRSA strain that makes extra amounts of the proteins that give the bugs resistance against many antibiotics,” says Gibbons. These proteins, he explains, allow the bacteria to “hoover up unwanted things from inside the cell and spit them out again.”

Conveniently, of the five cannabinoids tested by the researchers, the two most effective ones also happen to be nonpsychoactive, meaning that they cannot cause a high. “What this means is, we could use fiber hemp plants that have no use as recreational drugs to cheaply and easily produce potent antibiotics,” says Appendino.

This isn’t the first time Marijuana has been shown to have medical benefits. Recently, the father of a 2 year old boy allegedly healed his son of brain cancer by feeding him medical marijuana.

In an attempt to discover how the cannabinoids kill MRSA, the team manipulated several chemical groups within the compounds. Most of the changes did not affect the antibiotic activity at all, and those that did seemed to influence only how well the cannabinoid is taken up by the bacterial cells.

“Everything points towards these compounds having been evolved by the plants as antimicrobial defenses that specifically target bacterial cells,
” says Gibbons. “But the actual mechanism by which they kill the bugs is still a mystery. We’ve tested whether the cannabinoids affect common antibiotic targets like fatty acid synthesis or the [DNA-bending enzyme] DNA gyrase, but they don’t. I really cannot hazard a guess how they do it, but their high potency as antibiotics suggests there must be a very specific mechanism.”

Appendino and Gibbons say that cannabinoids could quickly be developed as treatments for skin infections, provided the nonpsychoactive varieties are used. “The most practical application of cannabinoids would be as topical agents to treat ulcers and wounds in a hospital environment, decreasing the burden of antibiotics,” says Appendino.

Whether the cannabinoids could also be delivered in the form of an injection or in pills is less clear, the pair says, because they may be inactivated by blood serum.

Frank Bowling of the University of Manchester, who has had success treating MRSA-infected wounds with maggots, says that “any alternative treatment that removes MRSA from the wound and prevents it from spreading into the body is fantastic and preferable to using antibiotics that have strong side effects and against which resistance is already developing.” He cautions, however, that the researchers still need to show that the cannabinoids are safe to use.

This is not something that Appendino is too concerned about: “The topical use of cannabis preparations has a long tradition in European medicine, and no allergies have been reported.”

Mark Rogerson of GW Pharmaceuticals, a U.K.-based company that develops cannabinoid-based drugs to treat severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis and cancer, says that the discovery that cannabinoids kill MRSA “really underlines the potentially great diversity of medical applications that cannabis-based medicine can have. You can almost think of the cannabis plant as a mini pharma industry in its own right.” But Rogerson says that it is unlikely that existing cannabis-based medicines could be used to treat MRSA because the exact effect will depend on the correct combination and dosage of cannabinoids.

Meanwhile, Appendino and Gibbons hope that antibacterial effectiveness could also make cannabinoids suitable preservatives for cosmetics and toiletries. “The golden standards of preservatives are parabens and chlorinated phenols,” says Appendino, but these compounds do not degrade well in the environment and are strongly suspected to be hormonal modifiers. He also argues that, since all major cannabinoids are similarly effective, complete purification of a single compound isn’t necessary. So semipurified cannabinoid mixtures extracted from nonpsychoactive plants could make a cheap and easy alternative to conventional preservatives.

SOURCE

Regulators knew? Regulators always seem to know.


Roundup Birth Defects: Regulators Knew World’s Best-Selling Herbicide Causes Problems, New Report Finds

WASHINGTON — Industry regulators have known for years that Roundup, the world’s best-selling herbicide produced by U.S. company Monsanto, causes birth defects, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report, “Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark?” found regulators knew as long ago as 1980 that glyphosate, the chemical on which Roundup is based, can cause birth defects in laboratory animals.

But despite such warnings, and although the European Commission has known that glyphosate causes malformations since at least 2002, the information was not made public.

Instead regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety, according to the report, and as recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, the German government body dealing with the glyphosate review, told the European Commission that there was no evidence glyphosate causes birth defects.

Published by Earth Open Source, an organization that uses open source collaboration to advance sustainable food production, the report comes months after researchers found that genetically-modified crops used in conjunction Roundup contain a pathogen that may cause animal miscarriages. After observing the newly discovered organism back in February, Don Huber, an emeritus professor at Purdue University, wrote an open letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting a moratorium on deregulating crops genetically altered to be immune to Roundup, which are commonly called Roundup Ready crops.

In the letter, Huber also commented on the herbicide itself, saying: “It is well-documented that glyphosate promotes soil pathogens and is already implicated with the increase of more than 40 plant diseases; it dismantles plant defenses by chelating vital nutrients; and it reduces the bioavailability of nutrients in feed, which in turn can cause animal disorders.”

Although glyphosate was originally due to be reviewed in 2012, the Commission decided late last year not to bring the review forward, instead delaying it until 2015. The chemical will not be reviewed under more stringent, up-to-date standards until 2030.

“Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable,” wrote the report authors in their conclusion. “What is more, we have learned from experts familiar with pesticide assessments and approvals that the case of glyphosate is not unusual.

“They say that the approvals of numerous pesticides rest on data and risk assessments that are just as scientifically flawed, if not more so,” the authors added. “This is all the more reason why the Commission must urgently review glyphosate and other pesticides according to the most rigorous and up-to-date standards.”

(PECAN) Furthermore, this is the reason why we cannot allow corporations to define the rules they play by. The farmer knows to never let the fox into the hen house, now we need teach Congress.

Lucia Graves
Lucia Graves [email protected]

SOURCE

If at first you don’t succeed……throw another billion at it.

Name one government program that for 40 years has failed to achieve any of its goals, yet receives bigger and bigger budgets every year. If you said “the War on Drugs,” you’ve been paying attention.

The Obama Administration is unable to show that the billions of dollar spent in the WAR ON DRUGS have significantly affected the flow of illicit substances into the United States, according to two government reports and outside experts.

The reports specifically criticize the government’s growing use of U.S. contractors, which were paid more than $3 billion to train local prosecutors and police, help eradicate coca fields, and operate surveillance equipment in the battle against the expanding drug trade in Latin America over the past five years, reports Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times.

“We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who chairs the Senate subcommittee that wrote one of the reports, which was released on Wednesday.

Professor Bruce Bagley, University of Miami: “I think we have wasted our money hugely”

?”I think we have wasted our money hugely,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert in U.S. anti-narcotics efforts. “The effort has had corrosive effects on every country it has touched,” said Bagley, who chairs international studies at the University of Miami at Coral Gables, Florida.

Predictably, Obama Administration officials deny reports that U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production and smuggling in Latin America.

White House officials claim the expanding U.S. anti-drug effort occupies a “growing portion” of time for President Obama’s national security team, even though it doesn’t get many Congressional hearings or headlines.

The majority of wasted American counter-narcotics dollars are awarded to five big corporations: DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, ITT and ARINC, according to the report for the contracting oversight committee, part of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Counter-narcotics contract spending increased by 32 percent over the five-year period from $482 million in 2005 to $635 million in 2009. Falls Church, Va., based DynCorp got the biggest piece of the wasted pie, a whopping $1.1 billion.

Sen. Claire McCaskill: “We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return”

?These contractors have plenty of ways to waste your tax money. They train local police and investigators in anti-drug methods, provide logistical support to intelligence collection centers, and fly airplanes and helicopters that spray herbicides to supposedly eradicate coca crops grown to produce cocaine.

The Department of Defense has wasted $6.1 billion of tax money since 2005 to help spot planes and boats headed north to the U.S. with drug payloads, as well as on surveillance and other intelligence operations.

Some of the expenses are “difficult to characterize,” according to Senate staff members, which is government-speak for “OK, you caught us wasting money again.” The Army wasted $75,000 for paintball supplies for “training exercises” in 2007, for example, and $5,000 for what the military listed as “rubber ducks.

The “ducks” are rubber replicas of M-16 rifles that are used in training exercises, a Pentagon spokesman claimed.

Even the Defense Department described its own system for tracking these contracts as “error prone,” according to the Senate report, which also says the department doesn’t have reliable data about “how successful” its efforts have been. Go figure.

In a separate report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, there is the conclusion that the State Department “does not have a centralized inventory of counter-narcotics contracts” and said the department does not evaluate the overall success of its counter-narcotics program.

“It’s become increasingly clear that our efforts to rein in the narcotics trade in Latin America, especially as it relates to the government’s use of contractors, have largely failed,” Sen. McCaskill said.

The latest criticism of the United States’ War On Drugs comes just a week after a high-profile group of world leaders called the global Drug War a costly failure.

The group, which included former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and past presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, recommended that regional governments try legalizing and regulating drugs to help stop the flood of cash going to drug cartels and other organized crime groups.

US protects the Drug Trade

James Gregory, a Pentagon spokesman, demonstrated his willingness to lie his ass off by claiming the Defense Department’s efforts against drugs “have been among the most successful and cost-effective programs” in decades.

“By any reasonable assessment, the U.S. has received ample strategic national security benefits in return for its investments in this area,
” said Gregory, who seems to inhabit a particularly improbable alternate reality.

Back in the real world, the only effects most objective observers can see run along these lines: Backed by the United States, Mexico’s stepped-up Drug War has had the unintended effect of pushing drug cartels deeper into Central America, causing violence to soar in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Another effect has been the vast expansion of Orwellain surveillance technology, supposedly to combat drugs, but ever-so-useful to the authoritarian regimes in Central America (and in the United States) in suppressing dissent.

The U.S. is currently focusing on improving its efforts to intercept cellphone and Internet traffic (of “drug cartels,” yeah right) in the region, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

During a visit to El Salvador in February, William Brownfield, the head of the State Department’s anti-drug programs, opened a wiretapping center in San Salvador, as well as an office to share fingerprints and other data with U.S. law enforcement.

SOURCE

EU to ban cars from cities by 2050

EU to ban cars from cities by 2050: Cars will be banned from London and all other cities across Europe under a draconian EU masterplan to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent over the next 40 years.

Bruno Waterfield
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a “single European transport area” aimed

Obama was here. An overview of “sustainable” environmental policy

President Obama’s Energy, Environmental Policy “Guiding Principles”

By , About.com Guide

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Feb 7 2011

The following article sets forth President Obama’s basic goals and underlying principles for energy and environmental policies and plans under his administration.

The White House
Energy and the Environment – Guiding Principles

“To take this country in a new direction, the President is working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to protect our nation from the serious economic and strategic risks associated with our reliance on foreign oil and the destabilizing effects of a changing climate. Policies to advance energy and climate security should promote economic recovery efforts, accelerate job creation, and drive clean energy manufacturing by:

Investing in the Clean Energy Jobs of the Future

“President Obama does not accept a future in which the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders. It is time for the United States to lead again. Under President Obama, we will lead again, by developing an American clean energy industry, a 21st century economy that flourishes within our borders.

  • Creating new Jobs in the Clean Energy Economy. Drive the development of new, green jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced.
  • Investing in the Next Generation of Energy Technologies. Invest $150 billion over ten years in energy research and development to transition to a clean energy economy.

Securing our Energy Future

“Our reliance on oil poses a threat to our economic security. Over the last few decades, we have watched our economy rise and fall along with the price of a barrel of oil. We must commit ourselves to an economic future in which the strength of our economy is not tied to the unpredictability of oil markets. We must make the investments in clean energy sources that will curb our dependence on fossil fuels and make America energy independent.

Ensuring Energy Security and Fighting Climate Change

The President has committed to put America on a path to a clean energy economy that improves our energy security, reduces our use of fossil fuels, and drives a new era of American innovation. The United States recognizes the need to break from old ways that threaten our economy and our planet and the President has committed to investing $150 billion in clean energy research and development over ten years.

The United States will be a leader in addressing global climate change both by making contributions of our own and engaging other countries to do the same.

  • Breaking Dependence on Oil. Promote the next generation of cars and trucks and the fuels they run on.
  • Producing More Energy at Home. Enhance U.S. energy supplies through responsible development of domestic renewable energy, fossil fuels, advanced biofuels and nuclear energy.
  • Promoting Energy Efficiency. Promote investments in the transportation, electricity, industrial, building and agricultural sectors that reduce energy bills.
Jesus - REAL change

Closing the Carbon Loophole and Cracking Down on Polluters

“We must take immediate action to reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our climate and sustains our dependence on fossil fuels. We have had limits in place on pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and other harmful emissions for some time. After decades of inaction, we will finally close the carbon pollution loophole by limiting the amount of carbon polluters are allowed to pump into the atmosphere.

  • Closing the Carbon Loophole. By stemming carbon pollution through a market-based cap, we can address in a systematic way all the energy challenges that we face: curbing our dependence on foreign oil, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and promoting new industries right here in America.
  • Protecting American Consumers. Revenues generated by closing the carbon loophole will be returned to the people, especially vulnerable families, communities, and businesses.
  • Promoting U.S. Competitiveness. Ensure a level playing field for domestic manufacturing and secure significant actions to combat climate change by our trading partners.”

Source – The White House website, April 2010

http://usliberals.about.com/od/environmentalconcerns/a/ObamaEnergyPolicies.htm