News Summary – June 29, 2015



Some of these stories were found on my news wire:

Fracking banned in New York state;

BIS: ‘There is no defense available to counter the next financial crisis’;

Leaking methane cancels out environmental benefits of using natural gas;

Monsanto still pursuing Syngenta takeover;

‘Pregnancy router’ raises questions about wi-fi radiation, safety for infants, children;

Officials still don’t know location of melted Fukushima nuclear fuel;

Yet another warning about Artificial Intelligence computers ending human existence

News Summary – June 24, 2015



Several of these stories come from my curated news wire:

Pentagon declares journalists considered “unprivileged belligerents” are legitimate war targets.

Over 2500 dead from heatwaves in India and Pakistan since May.

Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as China’s main oil supplier.

New Ebola patients rattle Sierra Leone as it struggles to get to zero cases.

Obama backtracks on promise for more transparency in drone operations, control.

News Summary – June 23, 2015



Some of these stories were found in my curated newswire:

Google Chrome browser auto-download of a feature that allows for remote listening.

Canadian parliamentary committee concerned about wifi, cell phone radiation risks.

Higher death rates evident in areas where air pollution is only 1/3 of what EPA declares safe.

IUCN says species declines still outpacing conservation victories.

Genetically engineered ‘Jellyfish Sheep’ accidentally enters French food system.

Who are the biggest hackers in the world? The U.S. & U.K. governments.

News Summary – June 22, 2015



Some of these stories were found in my curated newswire:

Home sales and prices are surging, with prices near their 2006 peak. Will it continue or is this a sign or a bubble ready to burst?

Roughly half of the U.S. population is overweight, but within that group, more people are now considered obese than just merely overweight.

In Poland, drones will deliver abortion pills to women.

Authoritarianism rising as democracy declines in over half of United Nations’ member states.

Climate scientists confirm that a ‘new normal’ exists the state of the atmosphere and the weather that it is capable of creating.

Proposed (U.S.) legislation would “authorize the creation of a federal database of all college students, complete with their personally identifiable information, tracking them through college and into the workforce, including their earnings, Social Security numbers, and more.”

Invasive Species – The Key to Ecosystem Recovery?



Invasive species are a touchy subject for many environmental advocates, especially those working to protect biodiversity, endangered species and wild ecosystems. But what if they’re wrong about them and are ignoring invasive species to the detriment of their larger goals?

the new wild fred pearceThis idea lies at the heart of ‘The New Wild: Why Invasive Species Will Be Nature’s Salvation,’ the latest book from British journalist and author Fred Pearce. Provocative and engaging, it uses on-the-ground evidence to challenge many long held beliefs regarding alien and invasive species and provides a detailed history of the origins and progression of many dominant ecological ideas. These include that nature is pristine and perfectible, only native species are ‘good’ and ecosystems evolve to a balanced state.

But as Pearce writes, the nature of nature is to be highly dynamic, adaptable and open; perfection by definition would mean the end of change. He considers the ‘myth of the pristine’ to be “…some dangerous mythology about how nature works,” and that the demonization of non-native species says far more about humans and our collective fears of change than any traits or behaviors of the new species.

While most environmentalists have long thought that alien species serve no positive purpose in their adopted locations, in most instances they actually increase biodiversity, provide habitat, help remediate human caused pollution and generally get along with flora and fauna already there. As Christian Kull of Monash University notes, most landscapes are ‘melting pots’ and making any hard distinctions about what belongs where long have been meaningless.

ascension cloud forest
Ascension Island Cloud Forest, 90% non-native. Photo credit:, used without permission.

Pearce utilizes many terms coined by various scientists and researchers in the book to elaborate on his points: ecological fitting, biotic resistance, extinction debt and punctuated equilibrium being just a few. He additionally writes about several locations where alien species have had profound impacts, almost entirely positive, including Ascension Island, Hawai’i, Australia, San Francisco Bay, the Florida Everglades, Surtsey and Puerto Rico.

Significant world events have occurred due to the presence of alien species. On the positive side, here in North America we wouldn’t have earthworms or European honeybees unless they were brought here. During the 19th century, ‘acclimatization societies,’ formed in the U.S. and elsewhere to introduce plants and animals from (usually) European landscapes.

Also in the late 19th century, Africa was forever altered by an Asian microbe, brought by the cattle of Italian soldiers, that causes rinderpest. This cattle virus infected a wide variety of cloven-hoofed animals across Africa and led to significant die offs. As Pearce writes, “Herders had no livestock, and farmers had no oxen to pull their plows or drive the waterwheels that irrigated their fields.” People starved decimating many cultures, including the Masai (Kenya), Tutsi (Rwanda), Soga (Uganda), Nama and Herero (SW Africa) and Fulani (Nigeria); most never fully recovered. The outbreak “depopulated and impoverished Africa on a scale” that greatly exceeded the effects of the slave trade. Drought occurred simultaneously in some areas and with few grazers around, the tsetse fly, an endemic insect, flourished in the overgrown bush. Taken together this enabled the final colonization of Africa in the late 1800s / early 1900s.


Should You Pay If Your Identity Is Stolen?


data breachIdentity theft has been an increasingly serious problem for several years, something that’s unlikely to change soon. News stories about a data breach at some large retailer appear regularly, often affecting tens of thousands or even millions of customers. Last year there were almost 50% more data breaches than in 2013, a total of 1,500 separate attacks, more than four every day. The number of records lost or stolen grew by 78% from 2013 to 2014, to nearly one billion. On average, each data breach resulted in almost 700,000 records being compromised.

I have had my personal data ‘stolen’ twice, years apart from two different businesses and fortunately I didn’t have any negative impact other than minor inconvenience. Like most people, I assumed that merchants are responsible for the costs of fixing any problems caused by the data theft, but that’s not necessarily true. At my credit union, when they are notified of a third-party breach, they act “immediately to change account numbers and issue new credit and debit cards for members who were affected.”

However credit unions and other financial institutions often end up absorbing the costs of doing so because merchants are legally allowed to shift the costs of data breaches to others. Following the widely publicized data loss at Target two years ago, credit unions ended up paying over $30 million and issuing nearly five million new credit and debit cards to members. These costs are then passed along to the members, who had nothing to do with the problem (other than being a Target customer).

If this doesn’t seem fair, you can do something about it today. From my credit union:

“We’re calling on Congress to step up and protect credit union members by supporting The Data Security Act of 2015 (S. 961). This bill is a good start to addressing this critical issue by:

  • Strengthening merchant standards to be comparable with those of credit unions.
  • Mandating a federal notification requirement for merchants when breaches occur.
  • Providing a floor for data security standards nationwide.

Overall, this bill represents the best attempt so far at legislation to stop merchant data breaches.”

Contact your U.S Representative and Senators and voice your for this important effort. The Credit Union National Association has also created an online tool to facilitate sending an e-mail to your federal elected officials.

Lloyd’s of London Responds, Sort Of



Almost two months ago, I wrote a post about a Lloyd’s of London underwriter issuing a commercial liability insurance renewal policy with a new liability exclusion clause for electromagnetic fields.

The clause excludes any compensation for claims:

“directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

Read that post for more detail, including how Lloyd’s refused to provide anyone to answer some basic questions regarding the new exclusion.

Today, that same public relations contact referenced in the original piece, who told me there was no one at Lloyd’s who could comment for this story, contacted me to ask that I include the following, which she claimed would correct an inaccuracy: “Lloyd’s has not issued any requirements or guidance relating to a standard market-wide exclusion. It is a matter for the individual underwriters to agree [to] the terms of policies in accordance with their own commercial underwriting criteria and subject to any locally applicable laws.”

The first sentence is clear enough, however that second one puzzles me. To whose “terms of policies” would underwriters be agreeing? I await a reply from the PR lady. I should mention that I did find some awkward and possibly inaccurate phrasing in the final paragraph of the original story which could have been considered misleading. It was not intended and I have corrected it.

The Bombing of Earth First!



Judi Bari's bombed car.On May 24, 1990 a bomb ripped through the car of Earth First! organizer Judi Bari as she and Darryl Cherney were driving through Oakland, CA. They were on their way to a rally in support of Redwood Summer, a campaign they were organizing to halt the logging of California’s old growth redwoods.

Ten years later, I produced a 5-hour radio special all about the bombing, FBI COINTELPRO activities targeting Earth First! organizers and many aspects of the civil rights lawsuit Judi and Darryl filed (spoiler alert: and won) against the FBI and others.

This 2-minute excerpt from the show features Judi providing a quick synopsis of the bomb plot. I will post the entire special, in segments, shortly.

‘Dear Humanity, We Have A Systems Problem’



Reprinted from Common Dreams – Originally Published Thursday, April 02, 2015

‘Dear Humanity, We Have a Systems Problem’:  New Project Aims to Promote Deep Solutions, Radical Transformation

‘It’s time to talk about alternatives,’ says team of thinkers behind the Next System Project

“It’s time to talk about what’s next.”

“It is time for Americans to think boldly about … what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

Those are the words of academic and author Gar Alperovitz, founder of the Democracy Collaborative, who—alongside veteran environmentalist Gus Speth—this week launched a new initiative called the “Next Systems Project” which seeks to address the interrelated threats of financial inequality, planetary climate disruption, and money-saturated democracies by advocating for deep, heretofore radical transformations of the current systems that govern the world’s economies, energy systems, and political institutions.

As part of the launch, the Next Systems Project produced this video which features prominent progressive figures such as actor and activist Danny Glover, economist Juliet Schor, co-founder Bill McKibben, labor rights activist Sarita Gupta, and others:

According to the project’s website, the effort is a response to a tangible and widespread “hunger for a new way forward” capable of addressing various social problems by injecting “the central idea of system change” into the public discourse. The goal of the project—described as an ambitious multi-year initiative—would be to formulate, refine, and publicize “comprehensive alternative political-economic system models” that would, in practice, prove that achieving “superior social, economic and ecological outcomes” is not just desirable, but possible.

“By defining issues systemically,” the project organizers explain, “we believe we can begin to move the political conversation beyond current limits with the aim of catalyzing a substantive debate about the need for a radically different system and how we might go about its construction. Despite the scale of the difficulties, a cautious and paradoxical optimism is warranted. There are real alternatives. Arising from the unforgiving logic of dead ends, the steadily building array of promising new proposals and alternative institutions and experiments, together with an explosion of ideas and new activism, offer a powerful basis for hope.”

The mission statement of the project—articulated in a short document titled It’s Time to Face the Depth of the Systemic Crisis We Confront (pdf)—has been endorsed by an impressive list of more than 350 contemporary journalists, activists, academics, and thought leaders from various disciplines who all agree  the current political and economic system is serving the interests of “corporate profits, the growth of GDP, and the projection of national power” while ignoring the needs and wellbeing of people, communities, ecosystems and the planet as a whole.

The statement addresses the dire crisis that now confronts humanity, but also marks the important element of optimism which undergirds the project. It reads, in part:

“The good news is that the inability of traditional politics and policies to address fundamental challenges has fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation in communities across the United States—and around the world. It has also generated an increasing number of sophisticated and thoughtful proposals for transformative change. Together these developments suggest that it is possible to build a new and better America beyond the failed systems of the past and present. […]

It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—’the next system.’ It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

As part of the official launch, the team behind the project published a kick-off report—titled The New System Project: New Political-Economic Possibilities for the 21st Century (pdf)—which lays out the problems and the proposed set of solutions in more detail. Key goals of the project, as listed in the report, include:

  • To crack through the national media silence and to radically shift the national dialogue about the future away from narrow debates about policies that do not alter any significant decaying trend to awareness that what must be changed is the nature of the political-economic system itself.
  • To stimulate national debate about how best to conceive different possible models of a radically different system based on genuine democracy, equality, ecological sustainability, a peaceful global foreign policy, and a thorough-going culture of cooperative community based on non-violence and respect for differences of race, gender, and sexual preference.
  • To give publicity to the many “next system” models and approaches now being developed and refined in many parts of the nation and around the world.
  • To engage committed academics, on the one hand, and activist organizers and thinkers, on the other, in an ongoing process of close collaborative work and common development in furtherance of such work.
  • To help develop concrete “elements” that will likely be required to deal with the structural reorganization of any next system design— and, at the same time, to invest in and work with others to help nurture a rising generation of young scholars who can carry the work forward over the coming decades.

Next month, as part of the project’s public engagement strategy, key members and supporters—including Alperovitz and Speth—will participate in an online webinar in order to expand the conversation about these ideas with people across the country.

According to Alperovitz and Speth, bringing people together around these ideas is one of the key aspects of the new project. As they note in an essay published on Common Dreams, “If we can roll up our sleeves and get organized and serious about really tackling the system question, about building a new system of political economy, there are grounds for optimism that deep and far-reaching change is possible.”

Let the conversation begin.

Lloyd’s Won’t Discuss Their New EMF Exclusion Clause



no questionsLast week, a couple of blogs noted that a recent commercial liability insurance renewal policy issued through a Lloyd’s of London underwriter contained a liability exclusion clause about electromagnetic fields.

The clause excludes any compensation for claims:

“directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electro-magnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

It is important that “radio waves” are explicitly included as they, specifically the microwave zone, are what enable wireless communications devices like cell phones, wi-fi, cordless phones etc.

After the policy holder made an inquiry seeking clarification about the exclusion language, CFC Underwriting LTD in London, the UK agent for Lloyd’s, sent the following:

“The Electromagnetic Fields Exclusion (Exclusion 32) is a General Insurance Exclusion and is applied across the market as standard. The purpose of the exclusion is to exclude cover for illnesses caused by continuous long-term non-ionising radiation exposure i.e. through mobile phone usage.”

Sharon Noble, Director of the Coalition to Stop Smart Meter Harm in British Columbia (Canada) brought the clause and CFC’s response to public attention.

My interpretation of this revealing statement is that CFC Underwriting, and perhaps all of “the market” has realized that the time has come to hedge against a future surge in “illnesses caused by continuous long-term non-ionising radiation exposure i.e. through mobile phone usage.” Why else would they refuse coverage “across the market as standard.”?

“Unfortunately, Lloyd’s doesn’t have a spokesperson who can talk about this so we’re going to have to decline.”

Lloyd’s of London describes itself as “the world’s specialist insurance market,” and they’ve insured and paid on a variety of unusual risks and catastrophic claims. Unlike many other insurance brands, Lloyd’s is not a company; it’s “a market where our members join together as syndicates to insure risks.” What they insure falls into seven broad categories: casualty, property, marine, energy, motor, aviation and reinsurance.

Reinsurance is the key here, as, among other things, it serves “to protect an insurer against very large claims.” Think tobacco, asbestos and climate change. And microwave radiation apparently, even though regulatory and health agencies around the world refuse to accept RF exposure as causing illness.

Lloyd's of London new blanket EMF exclusion language.

I was seriously intrigued at all of this and emailed an inquiry to the Lloyd’s press center stating that I wanted some more details about the exclusion. I told them that as I primarily produce radio, I’d want to capture the conversation on tape, but would also be happy to talk with someone off tape, but on the record.

Two hours later, I received a response from a woman at Prosek Partners, “a communications consultancy that delivers an unexpected level of passion, creativity and marketing savvy,” which apparently handles such issues for Lloyd’s. She wanted to know more about what exactly I was seeking and asked if I would “mind expanding on your request a bit?” so she could best determine how to help me. I obliged, sending back “Basically I’m interested in the 5 Ws, but why especially. I’d also like to how widely the exclusion is being replicated in Lloyd’s policies. Is there any sense internally at Lloyd’s about this being a first step that is likely to be copied industry wide? Was there any conversation pre/post release of the exclusion language with any wireless industry businesses?”

This afternoon (she apologized for the 24 hour ‘delay’) she wrote back to tell me “Unfortunately, Lloyd’s doesn’t have a spokesperson who can talk about this so we’re going to have to decline.”

Now I’m used to rejection as a reporter, but I couldn’t quite believe this and told her so in my reply, mentioning that their refusal to talk about the policy change would possibly “draw attention away from more important aspects of the story.”

The takeaway here is that an underwriter for Lloyd’s of London, the world’s largest insurance market place, has “across the market” refused to provide coverage for any claims arising from exposure to cell phones, wi-fi or any other source of electromagnetic frequency radiation. Lloyd’s has then refused to answer a media inquiry about why, claiming that there is no one “who can.” Hmmm…

Natural, Safe (and Probably Free) Allergy Relief



With each passing minute I type this, I can feel my allergy symptoms disappearing. Luckily, my pollen allergies are mild, short-lived and only occur fairly early in Spring, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. I don’t know what causes my allergies but relief is an easy, tasty fix found in my garden or around my neighborhood.

Allergy relief is very big business. Whether it’s for pollen or animals, most people take a pharmaceutical antihistamine and/or steroid and/ decongestant to relieve their allergy symptoms. These drugs block the production of histamine, a chemical we produce for immune response and many other reasons. However when you have an allergic reaction to something, pollen or animal dander for example, your immune system considers the substance an invader and really cranks up fennelhistamine production, causing cellular irritation which manifests as sneezing, itching, runny eyes and other allergy type reactions. Antihistamines prevent this by not allowing histamines to irritate the cells. Using pharmaceutical antihistamines usually means dealing with side effects that may be as inconvenient as what created the desire to take them in the first place: drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, slow reaction time.

There’s really no reason for you to deal with them any longer. There are many herbs that people have used safely through history as natural antihistamines. Among the most powerful is fennel (left), often viewed as a garden weed, it contains a significant amount of the anti-oxidant quercitin. Eating a small amount of fennel leaves and/or stem completely eliminates my symptoms in maybe 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, I eat a little more without concern for side effects.

A friend of mine who was staying with me a couple of years ago suggested (insisted really) that I try some fennel when we realized that I was having a reaction to one of her cats. I was miserable, sneezing at a record pace and producing tears in volume, reddening my nose and eyes. I was skeptical but there was no harm in trying some fennel sprigs. And I’m glad I did because those leaves totally eliminated all my suffering within half an hour. Thanks Heather!

If you can’t find any fennel to pick, or aren’t confident about confirming it’s identity, you can buy some, but get it organic. Spread the word, your allergic friends and family will thank you.

Dafna Tachover update on Israeli Wi-Fi Court Case



Symbol for no wifi.As I promised a couple of weeks ago, here is the full interview I did with Israeli attorney Dafna Tachover following her appearance in February before the Israeli Supreme Court. She was there to argue that a conditional injunction issued by the Court in 2014 regarding her petition to remove wi-fi from schools in Israel be made permanent. This interview doesn’t go into earlier aspects of the case, but one we did last year, does.


Operation Paperclip – Bringing Nazi War Criminals to the U.S.


Operation Paperclip (née Overcast) was a military intelligence plan, launched by the Office of Strategic Services, late in World War 2 to capture Nazi scientists and bring them to the United States. As Allied troops made their way toward Germany, led by the U.S., they began to seek out Nazi scientists. They wanted the scientists to help them identify weapons and other equipment which the U.S. would bring home for research and development. While the search was underway, some key people concurrently had the same revelation about the project.

Germany had put all of its resources for over a decade into the war, enabling its scientists to achieve unparalleled advances in aeronautics, especially rocketry, and the development of chemical and biological weaponry. Many of these advancements involved not only slave labor at concentration camps, but using the prisoners for human experimentation, practices which directly led to the creation of the Nüremberg Principles, which legally define war crimes. Now the U.S. military wanted all that expertise for its own purposes and was willing to do almost anything to get it.

Germany surrendered early in 1945, but the U.S. was already planning for its next war, possibly a “total war” with the Soviet Union. This fear, along with defeating Japan in the Pacific, were the key factors driving the pursuit of the German scientists. It was thought that German weapons could help end the Pacific war, but this ended up being irrelevant as the atomic bombs forced Japan’s hand in early August, 1945. The Soviet Union remained the sole reason for Operation Paperclip thereafter.

No one has written a more authoritative and exhaustive history of these events than Annie Jacobsen. Her book, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America, incorporates information from U.S. and German archives and scores of books, government reports, articles and first-hand interviews and correspondence, to present a highly detailed look at how fears of the next war overshadowed atrocities committed in the one that just ended. Nazi scientists connected to human medical experiments and slavery at concentration camps, as well as horrific chemical and biological weapons research were welcomed warmly by the United States, where they inspired additional infamous ‘research.’

In our conversation, we discuss in great detail the origins of the program, some of the key people involved on both sides, some of the results from bringing the Nazis to the U.S. and what is still to be discovered about this shameful part of U.S. (and German) history.


News Story – The Economics of Happiness



econhappyI spent this past weekend at The Economics of Happiness conference, recording talks, meeting some amazing people, and conducting and setting up future interviews. While it’s a huge challenge to condense many hours of content into a few minutes, I feel like this news story I produced for KBOO, provides a reasonable summation of the event. I have almost 10 hours of audio to produce and will begin loading it here soon, so check back regularly.

Here’s the intro read by the news anchor prior to playing my piece:

Portland hosted the fourth ‘Economics of Happiness’ conference this past weekend. Inspired by a film of the same name, both of which were produced by the International Society for Ecology and Culture, the conference shared many key aspects of global economic re-localization efforts. Andrew Geller was there and filed this report.

Free Stuff!



300 free thingsWhile unsuccessfully avoiding distraction looking for something work related (honest), I found this really big list of free resources for ‘entrepreneurs.’ But it’s so much more than that.

There’s likely something useful for you if you:

  • run a business or website (or would like to)
  • write or collaborate online,
  • edit or post images,
  • work remotely (and need ambient coffee shop sounds)
  • need fonts, icons, stock images or background noise to work better

WARNING. Attempting to view the entire list at once may prevent you from accomplishing anything else today.

Update on Israel Wi-Fi Supreme Court Case



no wifiThis a very brief teaser of a much bigger update to happen soon.

For over three years, Israeli attorney Dafna Tachover has been suing the state of Israel to remove Wi-Fi from Israeli schools due to health concerns and children suffering from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. She’s used a special petition that goes straight to the Supreme Court, which has seemed receptive to her arguments thus far, granting a preliminary (but not intermediate) injunction.

On February 11th at a ‘final’ hearing, the Court was unhappy to learn that the government lied, asserting that the Ministry of Education’s position on Wi-Fi in schools was in compliance with recommendations from the both the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Environmental Protection. So the Court immediately demanded affidavits from both ministries by February 26th, at which point Dafna will have 15 days to respond.

A final decision could arrive in March. If in favor of the plaintiffs, it would be a groundbreaking legal case and possibly a valid precedent that could be cited elsewhere. This short clip summarizes the key part of the February 11 hearing. It is part of a much longer interview I aim to post soon. You can also listen to a lot of background on this case from an interview we did (Dafna joins in at 27:30) in May 2014.