How Monsanto’s “intelligence center” Targeted Journalists and Activists

Internal documents show how the company worked to discredit critics and investigated singer Neil Young

 Monsanto adopted a multi-pronged strategy to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who investigated the company’s weedkiller. Photograph: Carey Gillam
Monsanto adopted a multi-pronged strategy to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who investigated the company’s weedkiller. Photograph: Carey Gillam

Monsanto operated a “fusion center” to monitor and discredit journalists and activists, and targeted a reporter who wrote a critical book on the company, documents reveal. The agrochemical corporation also investigated the singer Neil Young and wrote an internal memo on his social media activity and music.

The records reviewed by the Guardian show Monsanto adopted a multi-pronged strategy to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who investigated the company’s weedkiller and its links to cancer. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, also monitored a not-for-profit food research organization through its “intelligence fusion center”, a term that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.

The documents, mostly from 2015 to 2017, were disclosed as part of an ongoing court battle on the health hazards of the company’s Roundup weedkiller…

Continued: Revealed: how Monsanto’s ‘intelligence center’ targeted journalists and activists

Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria

“People who experience anxiety symptoms might be helped by taking steps to regulate the microorganisms in their gut using probiotic and non-probiotic food and supplements, suggests a review of studies published today in the journal General Psychiatry.”

Credit: CC0 Public Domain
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

‘Studies have shown that as many as a third of people will be affected by anxiety symptoms during their lifetime.

Increasingly, research has indicated that gut microbiota—the trillions of microorganisms in the gut which perform important functions in the immune system and metabolism by providing essential inflammatory mediators, nutrients and vitamins—can help regulate brain function through something called the “gut-brain axis”.

Recent research also suggests that mental disorders could be treated by regulating the intestinal microbiota, but there is no specific evidence to support this…’

Continued: Anxiety might be alleviated by regulating gut bacteria

Healing Foods for Five Common Ailments

Try healing foods for five common conditions with advice from the experts at Consumer Reports.
Try healing foods for five common conditions with advice from the experts at Consumer Reports.

For some health concerns, your kitchen may provide good medicine. Here’s what to eat and when

Certain foods can have a more immediate benefit and may help tame common health problems such as headaches and insomnia. So the next time you experience one of the conditions below, consider heading to your kitchen before you open your medicine cabinet…

Continue reading: Healing Foods for Common Ailments

Roundup ingredient found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats, and other cereals

“Days after a California jury awarded a school groundskeeper more than $289 million in damages after he claimed Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup gave him cancer, the controversial ingredient – glyphosate — has been detected in popular kids’ breakfast cereals, including Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, according to an activist group.

Lab tests conducted by the left-leaning Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy group that specializes in toxic chemicals and corporate accountability, indicated almost three-fourths of the 45 food products tested detected high levels of glyphosate, which has been identified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization in 2015…

Yet, Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., and senior science adviser for the EWG, says the bottom line is that glyphosate does not belong in children’s food and that recent biomonitoring studies show detectable levels of the ingredient in people’s urine, which likely comes from dietary exposure.”

Article: Roundup ingredient found in Cheerios, Quaker Oats, and other cereals

How US Sugar Subsidies Bring a Red Tide of Algae to Florida’s Shores

“Though other factors play a role in the algae bloom crises, one of the most significant involves the sugar industry. A combination of federal sugar subsidies, federal regulations on pollution, and federal control of Lake Okeechobee (a giant lake in southern Florida) runoff guidelines has created a recipe for disaster.

The federal sugar subsidy prevents Americans from buying sugar from Cuba and other sources. This means that we have to produce our own sugar and that we pay the world’s highest price for sugar. It also means that we grow sugar and sugar substitutes in a high-cost fashion using a lot of fertilizer!

…the solutions are simple and straightforward. End the sugar subsidies and the EPA and its protection limits. Restore the right of the people to sue polluters that cause demonstrable harm.”

Story: How US Sugar Subsidies Bring a Red Tide of Algae to Florida’s Shores

Military Bases Open Their Doors to Home-Schoolers

“A growing number of military parents want to end the age-old tradition of switching schools for their kids.

They’ve embraced homeschooling, and are finding support on bases, which are providing resources for families and opening their doors for home schooling cooperatives and other events.
 
Like home schooling parents in the general population, military families at home often use online curriculum and materials to enhance instruction…”

Source: Military Bases Open Their Doors to Home-Schoolers

New Trump administration rule will require hospitals post prices online

Hospitals will be required to post online a list of their standard charges under a rule finalized Thursday by the Trump administration.

Increasing price transparency has been a priority for the administration as a way to drive down health-care costs.

“This is a small step towards providing our beneficiaries with price transparency, but our work in this area is only just beginning”, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said in a speech last month. “Price transparency is core to patient empowerment and making sure American patients have the tools they need so they can make the best decisions for them and their families.”

Continued: New Trump administration rule will require hospitals post prices online | TheHill

MRI costs: why this surgeon is challenging NC’s certificate of need law

Dr. Gajendra Singh, a surgeon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who opened his own medical imaging center. He is suing to overturn the state’s “certificate of need” law.  Courtesy of the Institute of Justice
Dr. Gajendra Singh, a surgeon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who opened his own medical imaging center. He is suing to overturn the state’s “certificate of need” law.  Courtesy of the Institute of Justice

Dr. Gajendra Singh walked out of his local hospital’s outpatient department last year, having been told an ultrasound for some vague abdominal pain he was feeling would cost $1,200 or so, and decided enough was enough. If he was balking at the price of a routine medical scan, what must people who weren’t well-paid medical professionals be thinking?

The India-born surgeon decided he would open his own imaging center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and charge a lot less. Singh launched his business in August and decided to post his prices, as low as $500 for an MRI, on a banner outside the office building and on his website.

There was just one barrier to fully realizing his vision: a North Carolina law that he and his lawyers argue essentially gives hospitals a monopoly over MRI scans and other services.

Singh ran into the state’s “certificate of need” law, which prohibited him from buying a permanent MRI machine, which meant his office couldn’t always offer patients one of the most important imaging services in medicine. He has resorted to renting a mobile MRI machine a couple of days a week. But it will cost him a lot more over time than a permanent machine would, and five days a week, his office can’t perform MRIs.

Now Singh has had enough. He filed a lawsuit Monday in North Carolina Superior Court to overturn the state law, news that he and his attorneys from the Institute for Justice shared exclusively with Vox…

Woman battles cancer with diet; Harvard researchers to study her

A woman said her emphasis on diet helped her in her battle against cancer, and now her approach will be studied by researchers at Harvard University to see if it can help others.

For Kathy Bero, time in the kitchen is an investment in good health.

“It isn’t really about eating healthy,” Bero said. “It’s about eating specific foods that fight disease.”

She ought to know. In 2005, doctors diagnosed Bero with inflammatory breast cancer. Her prognosis for survival was 21 months.

At the time, Bero was 41 years old and the mother of two young girls. She fought the disease with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But the cancer fought back.

“Eleven months after my first diagnosis, I was diagnosed with a high-grade tumor in my head and neck,” Bero said.

The medication took its toll.

“My kidneys were failing; my liver was failing,” Bero said. “My lungs were damaged. My heart was damaged. I told my oncologist that I’m done with that protocol because one way or another, I’m going to die. And I don’t want to go that way.”

It was then she decided to go off chemotherapy and use a strategy suggested by a friend.

“My friend kept saying you have to learn about anti-angiogenic foods,” Bero said.

Anti-angiogenic foods essentially block the creation of blood vessels so cancer can’t easily spread. Examples include organic vegetables such as purple potatoes, carrots and leeks.

“Leeks are at the top of the cancer-fighting list,” Bero said.

Also on her list: berries, walnuts, green tea and herbs, especially garlic.

“When a recipe calls for two cloves, I’m probably going to put in six because garlic is a really strong cancer fighter,” Bero said.

Bero said her diet – combined with a type of alternative medicine called Reiki, along with meditation and visualization – worked.

“My doctors just kept saying, ‘Huh. That is interesting,'” she said.

Today, more than 12 years after her first diagnosis, Bero, who is 54, said she’s cancer-free and now works as a cancer coach.

“She’s teaching me food is the best form of medicine,” said Phil Baugh, one of Bero’s clients. Baugh, a 43-year-old father of three, is fighting brain cancer.

“It’s stopped growing now, so it’s wonderful,” Baugh said. “And a huge part of that is food.”

Researchers at Harvard University learned of Bero’s success and will study her method.

“It’s exciting,” Bero said. “I’m now validated. I’m no longer the ‘crazy cancer patient.’ There’s a real science that is going to be there.”

Bero said Harvard researchers will study people who’ve had exceptional outcomes.

“They’re looking at our genetics and the genetics of the tumor,” Bero said. “What the outliers did; their attitude, environment, faith, social support. What they’re trying to do is create a database of all these different things and look for the commonalities between these people.”

The lead Harvard researcher, Dr. Isaac Kohane, said that because these outcomes are so rare, this particular study will take some time to complete.

Copyright 2018 WISN via CNN. All rights reserved.

Source: Woman battles cancer with diet; Harvard researchers to study her

The Hidden Costs of Ugliness

Photo: Philip Laurell/Getty Images

Photo: Philip Laurell/Getty Images

New Yorkers have long bemoaned their city being overrun by bland office towers and chain stores: Soon, it seems, every corner will either be a bank, a Walgreens, or a Starbucks. And there is indeed evidence that all cities are starting to look the same, which can hurt local growth and wages. But there could be more than an economic or nostalgic price to impersonal retail and high-rise construction: Boring architecture may take an emotional toll on the people forced to live in and around it.

A growing body of research in cognitive science illuminates the physical and mental toll bland cityscapes exact on residents. Generally, these researchers argue that humans are healthier when they live among variety — a cacophony of bars, bodegas, and independent shops — or work in well-designed, unique spaces, rather than unattractive, generic ones. In their book, Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment, Tufts urban policy professor Justin Hollander and architect Ann Sussman review scientific data to help architects and urban planners understand how, exactly, we respond to our built surroundings. People, they argue, function best in intricate settings and crave variety, not “big, blank, boxy buildings.”

Indeed, that’s what Colin Ellard, a neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo and director of its Urban Realities Laboratory, has found in his own work. Five years ago, Ellard became interested in a particular building on East Houston Street — the gigantic Whole Foods “plopped into” a notoriously textured part of lower Manhattan. As described in his book, titled Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Ellard partnered with the Guggenheim Museum’s urban think tank to analyze what happens when someone “turns out of a tiny, historic [knish] restaurant” and encounters a full city block with nothing but “the long, blank façade of the Whole Foods Market.”

The Whole Foods on Houston.
The Whole Foods on Houston.

In 2011, Ellard led small groups on carefully planned Lower East Side walks to measure the effect of the urban environment on their bodies and minds. Participants recorded their response to questions at each stopping point and wore sensors that measured skin conductance, an electrodermal response to emotional excitement. Passing the monolithic Whole Foods, people’s state of arousal reached a nadir in Ellard’s project. Physiologically, he explained, they were bored. In their descriptions of this particular place, they used words like blandmonotonous, and passionless. In contrast, one block east of the Whole Foods on East Houston, at the other test site — a “lively sea of restaurants with lots of open doors and windows” — people’s bracelets measured high levels of physical excitement, and they listed words like livelybusy, and socializing. “The holy grail in urban design is to produce some kind of novelty or change every few seconds,” Ellard said. “Otherwise, we become cognitively disengaged.” The Whole Foods may have gentrified the neighborhood with more high-quality organic groceries, but the building itself stifled people. Its architecture blah-ness made their minds and bodies go meh.

And studies show that feeling meh can be more than a passing nuisance. For instance, psychologists Colleen Merrifield and James Danckert’s work suggests that even small doses of boredom can generate stress. People in their experiment watched three videos — one boring, one sad, and one interesting – while wearing electrodes to measure their physiological responses. Boredom, surprisingly, increased people’s heart rate and cortisol level more than sadness. Now take their findings and imagine the cumulative effects of living or working in the same oppressively dull environs day after day, said Ellard.

There might even be a potential link between mind-numbing places and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. In one case, physicians have linked “environmental deprivation” to ADHD in children. Homes without toys, art, or other stimuli were a significant predictor of ADHD symptoms. Meanwhile, the prevalence of U.S. adults treated for attention deficit is rising. And while people may generally be hardwired for variety, Dr. Richard Friedman, director of the pharmacology clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, makes the case that those with ADHD are especially novelty-seeking. Friedman points to a patient who “treated” his ADHD by changing his workday from one that was highly routine—a standard desk job—to a start-up, which has him “on the road, constantly changing environments.”

Most ADD is the result of biological factors, said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD, and co-authored numerous books on the subject, such as Delivered From Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life With Attention Deficit Disorder. But, he explained, he sees a lot of socially induced ADD, too, a form of the disorder that makes it appear as though you inherited the genes, although you really haven’t. And one way you might have the socially induced condition, according to Hallowell, is to suffer severe boredom or live in a highly nonstimulating environment. “It makes total sense that for these people changing where they work or live to add more visual stimulation and daily variety could be extremely helpful,” Hallowell said. At the same time, many adults may feel they have ADHDbecause the world has become hypersaturated with constant texts, emails, and input. For them, life has become too adrenalizing. “They don’t have true ADHD,” Hallowell said, “but, rather, what I call a severe case of modern life.”

So the trick, it seems, is to design a world that excites but doesn’t overly assault our faculties with a constant barrage of information: Scientists aren’t proposing that all cities look like the Vegas strip or Times Square. “We are, as animals, programmed to respond to thrill,” said professor Brendan Walker, a former aerospace engineer and author of Taxonomy of Thrill and Thrilling Designs. In Walker’s University of Nottingham “thrill laboratory,” devices gauge heart rate and skin conductance to see how people respond to adrenaline-producing experiences such as a roller-coaster ride. And he’s reduced “thrill” to a set of multivariable equations that illustrate the importance of rapid variation in our lives: A thrilling encounter moves us quickly from a state of equilibrium to a kind of desirable “disorientation,” like the moment before you rush down the hill of a roller coaster. “Humans want a certain element of turmoil or confusion,” he said. “Complexity is thrilling whether in an amusement park or architecture.” Environmental thrill and visual variety, Walker believes, help people’s psyche. As many of us instinctively feel a wave of ennui at the thought of working all day in a maze of soulless, white cubicles, blocks of generic buildings stub our senses.

It’s not only that we’re genetic adrenaline junkies. Psychologists have found that jaw-dropping or awe-inspiring moments — picture the exhilarating view of the Grand Canyon or Paris from the Eiffel tower — can potentially improve our 21st-century well-being. One study showed that the feeling of awe can make people more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to help others. In an experiment, researchers showed students 60-second clips of waterfalls, whales, or astronauts in space. After only a minute of virtual images, those who said they were awed also felt less pressed for time. In a second experiment, individuals recalled “an awe-inspiring” event and then answered a range of survey questions; they were also more likely to say they’d volunteer for a charity, as compared to those who hadn’t spent time thinking about a past moment of awe. And in yet another variation, people made hypothetical choices between material and experiential goods of equal monetary value: a watch or a Broadway show, a jacket or a restaurant meal. Those who recently “felt awe” were more likely to choose an experience over a physical possession, a choice that is linked with greater satisfaction in the long run. In other words, a visual buzz — whether architectural or natural — might have the ability to change our frame of mind, making modern-day life more satisfying and interactive.

It’s important to note, however, that architectural boredom isn’t about how pristine a street is. People often confuse successful architecture with whether an area looks pleasant. On the contrary, when it comes to city buildings, people often focus too narrowly on aesthetics, said Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City: Transforming Our Through Urban Design. But good design is really is about “shaping emotional infrastructure.” Some of the happiest blocks in New York City, he argues, are “kind of ugly and messy.” For instance, Ellard’s “happier” East Houston block is a “jumbled-up, social one”— the Whole Foods stretch, in comparison, is newer and more manicured. Sometimes what’s best for us, Montgomery explained, just isn’t that pretty.

His research also shows cacophonous blocks may make people kinder to each other. In 2014, Montgomery’s Happy City lab conducted a Seattle experiment in which he found a strong correlation between messier blocks and pro-social behavior. Montgomery sent researchers, posing as lost tourists, to places he coded as either “active façades” — with a high level of visual interest — or “inactive façades” (like long warehouse blocks). Pedestrians at active sites were nearly five times more likely to offer help than at inactive ones. Of those who helped, seven times as many at the active site offered use of their phone; four times as many offered to lead the “lost tourist” to their destination.

Fortunately, it’s not necessarily a dichotomy—new architecture can achieve the optimal level of cacophony and beauty.

Excerpted from:  The Psychological Cost of Boring Buildings | By Jacoba Urist | Science of Us

How the Gov’t Ruined U.S. Healthcare and What We Can Do About It

: “#Government’s meddling in the healthcare business has been disastrous from the get-go. Since 1910, when Republican William Taft gave in to the American #Medical Association’s lobbying efforts, most administrations have passed new healthcare #regulations. With each new law or set of new regulations, restrictions on the #healthcare market went further, until at some point in the 1980s, people began to notice the cost of healthcare had skyrocketed. This is not an accident. It’s by design.” Continue reading…

The Reason Health Care Is So Expensive: Insurance Companies

“The thing that few people talk about, and that no serious policy proposal attempts to fix—the arrangement that accounts for much of the difference between #health spending in the U.S. and other places—is the enormous administrative overhead costs that come from lodging health-care reimbursement in the hands of #insurance companies that have no incentive to perform their role efficiently as payment intermediaries…”

Continue reading: