Good News/Bad News December 12, 2002

We're shocked and amazed by the sheer amount of Bad News this week. The whole year, really, but this is one of the low points. We were all set to give up the ghost on GN, but then Canada saved our hides and hearts. So let's celebrate them, what say?

Good News

After months of debate that engaged citizens and politicians alike, Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol! Makes us wonder why the U.S. never got a chance to discuss Kyoto publicly, either before Clinton joined it or Bush pulled us out of it. Anyway, once Russia signs on early next year, the Kyoto Protocol will have the proper number of signatories to go into effect. Huzzah!

And yes, New Zealand ratified Kyoto this week as well. We're grateful and all, but sometimes we feel like those Kiwis are just rubbing our noses in it. Like, "we're a great and perfect wonderland, and we do it all right." They even got the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Back to Canada, then: the Canadian minister of the environment is urging civic-minded Americans to pressure Dubya to sign back on to the treaty. Not bloody likely that he'll hear us, but we do appreciate the suggestion.

All you residents of Southern California aren't going to appreciate us putting this up here, but that's our opinion, and we write the column. So thanks to the stubbornness of some SoCal farmers, who rejected a plan to give some water to San Diego, the U.S. Government is now petulantly threatening to drastically restrict SoCal's water supply. This is only good news insofar as hopefully people will start realizing that the vast majority of Southern California is a frickin desert, and all your golf courses and manicured lawns are not gonna change that. Go with the flow, friends: deserts are in.

That's it for the good stuff this week. Painful, to be certain, but let us shake it off, and boldly and bravely turn to face the onslaught of Bad News:

So much bad stuff. Where to start? When in doubt, always focus on BUSH'S REIGN OF ECO-TERROR! Now entering its 23rd month, it shows no sign of abating. This week, Bush made good on his promise to loosen logging rules in time for fire season, bypassing Congress and the people of this great nation. To the courts, Batman!

And just a little more fine Bush news. It seems that he's bowing to pressure from anti-abortion groups, as he's been doing since he was "mandated" into office. Now Bush has slowly and quietly launched a War on Safe Sex by removing information about condoms, safe sex and abortions from the CDC Web site and urging abstinence-only education. What a great and effective idea!

Thanks to industry support for massive antibiotic doses for all future food products (aka animals), the bacteria found in chickens is getting stronger and more virulent, leading to our recent deadly outbreaks of food-borne pathogens. The truly galling part of this story is that one federal inspector says he's been warning the government about one of the offending plants for over two years.

Remember that little oil-tanker wreck a couple weeks back? Well, it's still out there, and it's still leaking 33,000 gallons of oil a day into the ocean. Oh yeah, and it'll probably leak until about 2006. So, is there still any opposition to banning single-hulled tankers?

And since we're speaking of tragic oil spills, we may as well mention Exxon. Thirteen years after the fact, the World's Worst Company got a $1 billion break on their fines from the Valdez oil spill. They're still planning on appealing this, since every month they delay, they make another billion dollars in profit, and it's worked so well thus far. Thirteen years of delays equals $156B in profit, minus $3.2B in payouts on Valdez, equals a whole lotta happy shareholders!

And how's this for unexpected? A Bush-appointed judge ruled this week that Cheney's Energy Task Force documents are private and unavailable to the public. Shocking!

Despite a recent Israeli study that showed the smallpox vaccine to be toxic for a much higher percentage of the populace than previously thought, Bush is going ahead with plans to vaccinate half a million people. After that, he's going to make the vaccine available to anyone who wants it. Does that mean we'll have a choice? Again, not bloody likely. "You're either with us and our toxic innoculates, or you're with the terrorist disease..."

Speaking of dangerous drugs: is Accutane, the acne medicine, the next underground drug? It causes birth defects and possibly suicidal depression, but it cures acne! Some groups are urging the FDA to end sales of the drug, but we're sort of afraid of angering the hordes of depressed, acne-riddled teens any further.

And finally, what you've all been waiting for: your weekly biotech Bad News roundup:

The E.U. has finally set strict limits and rules for allowing GM foods in its member nations. "Not fast enough," says Dubya. He's threatening to sue the E.U. through the WTO to get them to speed up. Talk about making friends across the pond ...

And the E.U. is not helping much, as they announced, logically enough, IOHO, that firms trying to sell GM food will have to pay to test them.

Biotech crops moved into new terrortory, er ... territory, as the Phillippines approved its first Monsanto-sponsored GE corn crop.

Thank God for a magnanimous federal government. ProdiGene's fine for contaminating 500,000 bushels of soybeans with an unnamed pharmacrop was slashed in half this week. They'll pay $250K in fines, plus having to buy and destroy said devil-crop. We think the punishment should have included making ProdiGene executives eat all them beans. That's how our parents did it, and it worked just fine...

Despite much bitching and moaning, the U.S. decides they can scrounge up thirty thousand tons of non-GM corn of food aid for Zambia. This is technically Good News, but the sheer amount of whininess from U.S. Embassador Tony Hall moves it down here to the depths of BN.

In closing, one unintentionally brilliant biotech CEO summed it all up: "We're finally starting to affect patients' lives." Indeed you are. Thanks to your unregulated and poorly planned planting of pharmacrops, you're going to turn us all into patients.

Matt Wheeland is an AlterNet Fellow, and in the words of one admirer, has a voice "like listening to a mountain brook during marmot season." Some lucky folks will get to hear for themselves, as Matt is appearing on Madison, Wisc.'s WORT-FM community radio at 8 AM on December 23. Stay tuned, it'll be sublime!


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