Good News/Bad News November 14, 2002

We're not trying to be too terribly alarmist, but we're thinking of renaming this column "DRUNK WITH POWER: BUSH'S REIGN OF ECO-TERROR." Cuz it's kinda true, you know? Witness:

Bad News

After 14 years of an international ivory ban, Bush decides that the ivory trade should be revived. Only for elephants that died "naturally," he says, but surely there's some codicil buried deep in this resolution saying that "gunshot wounds ranging from BB to bazooka sizes shall henceforth be considered 'natural.'"

And since it's week two of BUSH'S REIGN OF ECO-TERROR, and presumably by now people have forgotten about any niceties he may or may not have promised us, Bush also decided to increase by almost 50 percent the number of snowmobiles allowed in national parks. Perhaps this is a concession to the struggling off-road vehicle industry, since the EPA foolishly decided to implement air pollution controls for off-road vehicles like snowmobiles. More likely, though, Bush just wants to line his pretty pockets with some Ski-Doo dough.

Next, Bush wants to dramatically alter U.S. policy regarding mahogany production by opposing any protections of Brazil's mahogany forests, many of which are already illegally harvested and nearing extinction. Because it's selling at such a high price, free trade dictates we must sell it ALL, RIGHT NOW!

Last and most certainly not least, the Bush Administration is going to "modernize" the National Environmental Protection Act. We've said it many times before, and it seems likely that we'll say it again, but we start twitching whenever Bush messes with enviro legislation. Although he's not yet revealed his "improvements" to NEPA, and although it may not explicitly say that the government is going to napalm the Everglades, we're not gonna be surprised when that happens. Lousy manatees could use a napalm sandwich...

You really can't find a better non-governmental source for pure profit-driven evil than the biotech industry. As it was revealed this week that pharmaceutically enhanced biotech corn has contaminated 500,000 bushels of soybeans, here's the industry reaction: "As with any new industry and new regulatory program, we can always do better," ProdiGene president and chief executive officer Anthony G. Laos said in a release. Oh yeah, ProdiGene is facing fines of up to $500K for that little error. That's a whopping $1 a bushel!

Meanwhile, and in utter denial of this latest nail in their coffin, 25 corporate farmers' groups are pressuring Bush to file a WTO complaint against the EU for their "trade-stifling" moratorium on biotech foods. We're taking bets on whether or not Bush will go along with this notion. Odds are currently 74 bajillion to one in favor. Takers?

Nor did contamination news prevent a biotech trade group from hyping the next generation of frankenfoods. This includes cancer-fighting tomatoes, bananas that contain vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases, grapefruits with Dolby Digital quality sound, and so on... Oh, wait. We made that last one up. Or did we?

James Bond this week urged Zambia to accept GM food aid. Some time after this announcement, it was revealed that the U.N. World Food Program(me) distributed GM food without telling Zambian officials. Presumably, the Zambian government was unaware of the distribution, as it came in the form of tiny dehydrated food pellets distributed by a man in a white tuxedo carrying a laser-beam watch/gun and driving a jet-black stealth "rocket-car."

Since it's in our mandate, we're throwing you Good News fiends a small, unsatisfying morsel:

In a Los Angeles suburb, soiled diapers are becoming oil filters, roof shingles, and vinyl siding. That's progress, folks. Sweet, sweet progress.

Two steps forward, one step back: North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri will soon be seeing ad campaigns for fuel-efficient cars using the phrase, "What Would Jesus Drive?" Not to blaspheme too much, but sweet merciful Christ! The backlash from this campaign is not only inevitable, but will probably be three times as effective as the original slogan.

Matt Wheeland is an AlterNet Fellow, and damned irritable lately, to boot. He welcomes any hot news leads, tips or comments.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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