Heather Gehlert

Why Trump’s Manipulation of the Media Is More Serious Than Many Journalists Care to Admit

When billionaire real estate investor Donald Trump announced he would run for president, the media blanketed the Internet and airwaves with news of his candidacy. Since then, wittingly or unwittingly, they have built a platform for his (often hate-filled) messages, with every headline and sound bite making his already outsized brand that much bigger. 

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How Toxic Is Your Car?

The average American spends an hour and a half in a car every day, and may be at risk for long-term health problems from toxic chemicals inside the vehicle, a new report from the Ecology Center found.

The report, released this week, shows that most vehicles' seats, carpet, armrests, steering wheel, dashboard and other parts all give off potentially harmful chemicals, including bromine, chlorine and lead.

The Ecology Center tested more than 200 popular 2008- and 2009-model vehicles as well as over 60 child car seats.

Among the worst vehicles were the VW Beetle convertible, Lincoln Navigator SUV and Suzuki Forenza. Among the best were the Toyota Camry Solara, Chevy Cobalt and Honda Accord.

You can find out how safe your car is or learn more about toxicity in car seats by visiting healthycar.org.

National Day of Protest Against Health Insurance Corporations

More than 47 million Americans don't have health insurance (with millions more under-insured), employer-based health insurance is on the decline, and soaring medical bills are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States.

The statistics are sobering. The time for action is now.

Thursday, June 19 is a national day of protest and your chance to push back against health insurers that put profits before people. Protests are being planned in locations across the United States, from California to Kentucky, and will coincide with the annual convention of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a powerful lobby that wants to stop health care reform efforts.

Visit www.guaranteedhealthcare.org to join the fight and www.healthcare-now.org/june19.html to find more information on exact locations and times of protests in your area.

A call to put presidential debates on YouTube

Eleven years ago, presidential candidates began relaying campaign messages on the Web. Four years later, in 2000, they started accepting campaign contributions online. And now, thanks to a recent bipartisan alliance, video footage of campaign speeches could become widely available on the Internet.

Large numbers of organizations and grassroots activists released letters this week to the Republican and Democratic National Committees, asking them to urge debate sponsors to make all debate video footage available for any member of the public to access, share, reuse and blog about freely.

C-SPAN has already announced that it will allow expanded use of its video, and now progressives and conservatives alike are hoping others will follow their lead.

"This is about the Internet empowering the little guy in our democracy," Adam Green, of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said in a statement. "The big TV networks should not be the only ones determining which sound bites are newsworthy after a debate -- everyday people should be able to put candidates positions on YouTube and share them with others without fear of breaking the law."

Right now, television networks retain exclusive rights to debate footage. In years past, this didn't matter because, even if people wanted to share video content, they did not have a forum to do so. But now, with highly trafficked Internet sites like YouTube, it simply doesn't make sense to keep that footage out of the public domain.

For anyone who wants to see the Web become more democratic, you can show your support for the proposal by calling the DNC (202-863-8000) or the RNC (202-863-8500).

MySpace to enter news business

Without further commentary, here's the AP story from Internet Writer Anick Jesdanun:

The popular online hangout MySpace is entering the news business with a feature that lets its users determine what items other members see.

MySpace News brings to a much larger audience the user-recommendation capabilities already available through Digg and Time Warner Inc.'s Netscape. It also marks the site's further inroads into becoming an Internet portal akin to Yahoo Inc. and others.

Unlike Digg and Netscape, which rely heavily on user submissions, MySpace will also scan thousands of Web journals and news sites and group results by categories such as sports and politics. MySpace will go further than Google Inc.'s news offering by letting users vote on items, helping to determine what makes the front or section pages.

As part of the service, MySpace will pull and display headlines from the outside news sites, a practice that contributed to legal challenges against Google. The search engine leader recently reached a settlement with Agence France-Presse and earlier with The Associated Press, although no lawsuit had been filed by the AP.

MySpace, like Google, would let publishers exclude their items from the site, said Dan Strauss, whose group helped develop the news service. He also said MySpace would be helping to drive traffic to the news sites, bringing MySpace readers who might not otherwise be visiting.

The feature, which was expected to debut Thursday as a "beta" test, uses technology developed by Newroo, which MySpace parent News Corp. bought last year. Strauss said items from News Corp., which owns the Fox network and other media outlets, won't get special treatment.

Eating too much red meat could increase breast cancer risk

If animal cruelty, environmental degradation and a growing Type II diabetes epidemic aren't enough reasons to be cautious about eating red meat, here's another: A study published in the November 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine has found a correlation between red meat consumption and hormone-fueled breast cancer.

The results, part of the Nurses Health Study II conducted by Harvard University researchers, were based on an analysis of 90,000 premenopausal women between ages 26 and 46. Researchers followed the women for 12 years, tracking their red meat intake, and found that as red meat consumption increased, so did the risk of breast cancers fueled by the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

According to an article published in Kansas City infoZine, "After adjusting for established risk factors, including weight, alcohol, and consumption of fruit, vegetables and dairy foods, the researchers found that women who reported eating more than one and a half servings of red meat per day had almost twice the risk of developing hormone receptorpositive cancer compared with women who reported eating three servings or less of red meat per week."

The study researchers note that the use of hormones in cattle production could be at least partly responsible for the link between meat-eating and hormone-driven breast cancers. About two-thirds of cattle raised in the U.S. today are injected with growth hormones.

The correlation between red meat and breast cancer might also to do with the way the meat is cooked.

"Studies suggest one reason for the increased cancer risk relates to the heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when red meat is cooked at high temperatures (like frying and grilling), especially well-done," writes Karen Collins in the infoZine article. "In laboratory studies, HCAs bond to estrogen receptors and create estrogen-like effects. In earlier research with women past menopause, those who consistently ate hamburger, beef steak and bacon very well done -- thus getting high levels of HCAs -- had more than four times the breast cancer risk of women who consumed these meats rare or medium done. ...

"Although red and white meat both form HCAs when cooked at high temperatures, red meat is higher in a particular kind of easily absorbed iron, called heme iron. Laboratory studies suggest that heme iron may increase colon cancer risk by damaging the colon lining and increasing the growth of precancerous cells. Several population studies link higher heme consumption with greater colon cancer risk. Scientists say that heme iron may interact with estrogen in enhancing initial development of breast tumors."

The meat's fat content could be another culprit: "Several studies link higher fat intake with higher levels of estrogen and a substance the body can convert to estrogen," Collins writes. "Higher saturated fat consumption seems to raise levels of insulin, a hormone that may promote development of breast cancer regardless of estrogen sensitivity.

More research needs to be done to determine which risk factors -- meat type, cooking method, fat content, bovine growth hormones -- relate most closely to breast cancer. Although this study leaves some questions unanswered, for now, it's probably a smart idea for women to limit how much red meat is in their diet. A little prevention can go a long way.

What does your doctor sell out for?

How much influence could a free pen have over what medication your doctor prescribes for you? What about a cup of coffee? A couple of baseball tickets? A couple of baseball tickets from a 20-something woman wearing a short skirt and Rembrandt smile?

Think about it because the drug industry is. And they're convinced these gifts work otherwise they probably wouldn't have approximately four drug sales representatives for every doctor. Or spend twice as much on marketing as they do on research and development. Or have two drug lobbyists for every legislator in Washington.

None of this would be a problem if the drugs worked well, were safe and didn't cost much. But a new documentary from Kathleen Slattery-Moschkau called Money Talks: Profits Before Patient Safety shows that's far from the case.

After all, there's no need to heavily market a cheap drug with known benefits (e.g. Aspirin), and, I'm guessing a cure for cancer would sell itself.

Healthy Crisco?

Smuckers, the manufacturer of Crisco, announced last month that it will be eliminating nearly all trans fat from its shortening.

According to an article in Consumer Reports, each 1-tablespoon serving of Crisco shortening "will contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, instead of its original 1.5 grams."

This is big news considering Crisco pioneered the development of industrially created trans fat. Although some trans fat occurs naturally (in cow milk, for example), most of today's trans fats are the byproduct of partially hydrogenating plant oils -- a process that, according to Wikipedia, was developed in the early 20th century and became commercialized in 1911 with the introduction of Crisco.

Before they became linked to coronary heart disease, partially hydrogenated oils were wildly popular because they are handy for baking and can help increase a product's shelf life.

The Consumer Reports article states that the new Crisco is still just as effective for baking and tastes pretty much the same:

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A new option makes DSL and cable look like chopped liver

A new option in Internet service -- fiber-optic broadband -- is making cable look about as antiquated as dial-up. Called FiOS, the service is much faster and, perhaps more important, offers consumers more choice in a not-so-competitive marketplace.

According to an article in the February 2007 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine, fiber-optic broadband outperforms cable, DSL, satellite broadband and dial-up in speed, reliability and tech support. But the most notable difference is in speed.

For example, a 5-megabyte MP3 file takes about 33 seconds to download using low-cost DSL. That same file takes 10 seconds to download with cable and only 1 second with fiber. A 50-megabyte file containing digital photos takes 5.5 minutes with DSL, 1.7 minutes with cable and 10 seconds with fiber.

The larger the file, the bigger the difference. A 5-gigabyte high-definition movie takes 9 hours to download with low-cost DSL, 2.8 hours with cable and only 17 minutes with fiber.

Most users probably don't need that kind of speed right now, but it's something to consider if you often download large video or sound files. And fast Internet will likely only increase in demand as the Web houses more downloadable files.

The fiber service is offered only by Verizon and is pricier than its competitors. However, the very threat of competition to cable and phone companies could help drive down costs. Already, cable has lowered the price of its broadband in markets where Verizon has moved in.

It's probably too soon to tell exactly what kind of effect fiber will have. Right now, it's only available in approximately 6 million homes in the United States.

More choice in broadband will probably take years before becoming available to the masses. Besides fiber, Consumer Reports says future possibilities include "Internet service over power lines and independent wireless systems that can beam the signal across cities."

To find out what services and providers are in your area, check out www.dslreports.com/prequal.

What happens to your emails when you die?

According to articles in Forbes and Foreign Policy magazine, estate planners are advising their clients to include emails and online passwords in their wills. Without these provisions, online service providers will not grant family or friends access to digital property, some of which could be valuable.

The Foreign Policy article states that, more and more, these cases are landing in court:

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