27 May 2012

End the Fossil Fuel Subsidy

Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison have put forward a plan to cease the tax exemptions utilized by oil, coal, and gas subsidies. Said Mr. Sanders, "We are here not just to announce new legislation, but to send a message that it is time to end the absurdity of taxpayers providing massive subsidies to hugely profitable fossil fuel corporations," Bernie said. "In these difficult economic times, it is imperative that we support the taxpayers of this country and not the fossil fuel industry -- one of the most powerful special interests in the world.”

Endorsed by:
350.org, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club,
Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Oil Change International
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)

At a time when we have a record debt, Congress should not continue to give away taxpayer money to the established, highly profitable fossil fuel industry.
  • Fossil fuels are subsidized at nearly 6 times the rate of renewable energy. From 2002 to 2008, the US Government gave the mature fossil fuel industry over $72 billion in subsidies, while investments in the emerging renewable industry totaled $12.2 billion.
  • The fossil fuel energy industry does not need taxpayer subsidies. In 2011, the Big Five oil companies alone made $137 billion in profits. During the first quarter of 2012, the Big Five oil companies earned a combined $33.5 billion, or $368 million per day.
  • Unlike renewable energy incentives which periodically expire and require Congress to approve extensions, the fossil fuel industry has dozens of subsidies permanently engrained in the tax code from decades of successful lobbying. In 2011, the oil, gas, and coal industries spent a combined $167 million on lobbying the federal government.
The bill would comprehensively abolish fossil fuel subsidies, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. It ends tax breaks, eliminates special financing, does away with taxpayer-funded fossil fuel R&D, and sets fair royalties policies to ensure the fossil fuel corporations pay their fair share. Examples of these giveaways include:

  • $14 Billion Saved by eliminating the intangible drilling deduction.
  • $12 Billion Saved by repealing a 2004 law that allows fossil fuel corporations to take deductions aimed at helping American manufacturers by claiming they are manufacturers.
  • $6.8 Billion Saved by closing the loophole that allows corporations like BP to deduct money they spend cleaning up their own oil spills and paying damages.
  • $2.4 Billion Saved by stopping fossil fuel companies from investing through Master Limited Partnerships, an option not available to clean energy businesses.
  • $3.7 Billion Saved by shutting the federal Office of Fossil Energy.
  • $10.6 Billion Saved by recouping lost royalties for offshore drilling in public
Read the bill here.

22 May 2012

Fluoride in Milwaukee’s Water Unsafe, Unnecessary and Unhealthy: Alderman Jim Bohl proposes legislation to stop Milwaukee’s Fluoridation Program

Statement from Alderman Jim Bohl

May 22, 2012

New research shows that ingesting fluoride delivers health risks without benefit of less tooth decay which makes water fluoridation obsolete, unhealthy and a waste of money, and that is why I introduced legislation today calling for the end of Milwaukee's water fluoridation program.

Fluoride chemicals have been added to Milwaukee’s water supply since 1953 when it was believed that ingested fluoride incorporated into children’s developing teeth would resist cavities. But science disproved that theory.

There is little convincing scientific evidence that swallowing fluoride actually reduces tooth decay. According to World Health Organization figures there is virtually no difference in tooth decay in 12-year-olds whether they have grown up in fluoridated or non-fluoridated countries. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that fluoride hardens teeth from topical application and swallowing fluoride can lead to fluoride overdose symptoms such as dental fluorosis (yellowing, brown, white spotting or pitted teeth). Fluorosis rates increased from 22% of teens in 1986 to an alarming 41% in 2010, according to CDC statistics. If fluoride works topically why are we forcing people to swallow it, especially those who after doing their own research on the issue have emphatically stated that they do not wish to drink fluoridated water? If any one wants fluoride in Milwaukee they can buy fluoridated toothpaste and brush it onto their teeth and spit it out. Milwaukee shouldn't be playing either doctor or dentist to our citizens. We are not qualified to do this and those who urge us to continue accept no legal responsibility for any harm it may be causing.

It’s accepted that fluoride can also damage bones, but no studies have researched the bone damage caused to children with fluoride-induced tooth damage. The condition of teeth and bones may be the least of our worries, however. There have now been 26 published studies that indicate an association between fairly modest exposure to fluoride and lowered IQ in children. Promoters tell us that the level we add to water is very small (1.1 milligram per liter or 1.1 ppm) but that is actually greater than 250 times the level of fluoride that occurs in mothers' milk (0.004 ppm, National Research Council, 2006, p.40).

Further, the prestigious National Research Council’s (NRC) 2006 fluoride report revealed that fluoride, even in low doses, can harm the thyroid gland, kidney patients, babies and high water drinkers. They also report studies linking fluoride to osteosarcoma (bone cancer). A study conducted at Harvard in 2001 and published in 2006 showed that young boys exposed to fluoridated water in their 6th to 8th years had a 5-7 fold increased risk of succumbing to osteosarcoma by the age of 20. Despite promises that this study would be refuted, no published study has done so.

As a result of the aforementioned NRC report, government, health and dental organizations now advise against routinely mixing fluoridated water into infant formula to avoid dental fluorosis.
The National Kidney Foundation is among a growing list of organizations that has withdrawn its support of water fluoridation saying, “Individuals with CKD [Chronic Kidney Disease] should be notified of the potential risk of fluoride exposure.” The American Dental Association itself now admits fluoride is a concern to all kidney patients, not just those on dialysis.

Fluoride is not a nutrient or essential for healthy teeth. Fluoride is regulated as a drug in toothpaste by the FDA. Fluoride supplements have never been FDA safety tested and it classifies fluoride as an “unapproved drug.” The EPA regards the type of fluoride used to supplement water supplies as a contaminant. Even the CDC reports on its website saying, “It is not CDC’s task to determine what levels of fluoride in water are safe.” If it is not the CDC's task, and the FDA refuses to do it, then whose task is it? Is the Milwaukee Common Council expected to do this?

While the less toxic calcium fluoride does appear in some waters naturally (.17 ppm in Lake Michigan water), Milwaukee adds hydrofluosilicic acid, a waste product of phosphate fertilizer manufacturing captured in its smokestacks, trucked as hazardous waste then injected unpurified into the water supply. These industrial grade fluoridation chemicals contain trace amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury, and other toxins. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen for which there is no safe level. By using these fluoridating chemicals we are knowingly increasing the cancer risk for our citizens. Why should we take these risks to reduce a negligible amount of tooth decay? Such a policy is reckless to say the least.

The ADA continues to actively promote the expansion of water fluoridation programs at the same time the CDC admits growing numbers of kids are fluoride-overdosed. National statistics show that tooth decay has grown in numbers and severity in toddlers more recently, and untreated tooth decay has grown in many age groups. The Pew Foundation reports “preventable dental conditions were the primary reason for 830,590 ER visits by Americans in 2009—a 16 percent increase from 2006.”

Americans are fluoride-overdosed and dentist-deficient. The lack of accessible, affordable dental care to many Milwaukee and Wisconsin residents has been widely reported. With no evidence, some claim that fluoridation helps the poor the most. Actually, the poor and malnourished are the most harmed by fluoride. They also are least in a position to afford expensive filtration systems required to remove fluoride from water, making this an environmental justice situation. According to civil rights leader and former mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young, “I am most deeply concerned for poor families who have babies: if they cannot afford unfluoridated water for their babies’ milk formula, do their babies not count?”

We have served as guinea pigs in this ongoing and failed experiment for far too long. In my position as Alderman, it is my duty to promote the health, safety and welfare of all our residents. Adding fluoride chemicals into our public water supply runs counter to this and therefore needs to end.

16 May 2012

Cultivating Fear in America: Human Rights Watch

Grace Meng and fellow researchers at Human Rights Watch have published a report detailing the widespread abuse of immigrant women in the farming industry. The jobs themselves entail enduring harsh physical conditions and just down right tough work. For women the report details the additional stress of rampant threats, and fear mongering, and outright physical abuse, sexual harassment and rape.

The report also indicates that many of the women never report the crimes for fear of reprisal, deportation, and lack of support.

The report concludes with detailed actions we can take to help.  Recommended actions include encouraging Congress to pass the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill (S. 1925) or similar legislation that strengthens the U-visa and other protections for immigrant victims of sexual violence, including farm-worker women and girls.

Ron Johnson voted against this legislation.

The bill passed the House rather sheepishly with bitter partisan division and only after impassioned testimony by representatives like Gwen Moore.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D) of Wisconsin recounts her own history of
being sexually assaulted as a child, then raped as a young woman,
at a press conference on Capitol Hill to push for an unrestricted
reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on May 16.
Find this invaluable and disturbing report about female immigrant farmhands here.
So Time Magazine's cover has caused a stir. But there's much more to attachment parenting than a controversial photo shoot.