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April 1st, 2015

Antibiotic Resistance: Why Senator Michael Bennet is on the Wrong Path

Jeremy.pic.ABX.blog.36

Jeremy, of Denver, is one of millions of Americans who have struggled with antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.

by Lisa Trope

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet can help protect the health of all Americans by sponsoring the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), a bill seeking to curb dangerous factory farming practices that undermine the effectiveness of the hammer in our medical toolkit – antibiotics. While Senator Bennet has recently introduced a bill to streamline the approval of new antibiotics – Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Act, or PATH – it doesn’t adequately address the overuse of antibiotics. Unless he changes course and sponsors PARA, stories like Jeremy’s are likely to become more common.

Jeremy, who lives in Denver, was a healthy thirty-two year-old when he found himself in the hospital unable to walk. Earlier that day, while out on his dry cleaning delivery route, he felt a sharp pain in his left knee. An hour later, he was favoring his right leg. After two hours, he was in full limp mode and his knee was red. Four hours passed and “I couldn’t walk on the leg at all,” Jeremy said. “Too much pain when I tried. It’d collapse under my weight.” Which brings us to the hospital.

“I had no cuts, no abrasions, but nonetheless some type of bacteria managed to enter through my knee,” said Jeremy. “The language got medically technical, but what I had was an extremely aggressive bacterial infection in my leg.” Doctors concluded that the bacteria entered Jeremy’s body while he was kneeling in the back of his work truck; they acted quickly, putting Jeremy on antibiotics.

It soon became clear that the antibiotics weren’t working. The infection spread. “Somewhere during the medical melee,” said Jeremy, “a professional conveyed that if they [antibiotics] couldn’t beat the infection, it could mean the loss of my leg. Meaning amputation. It was also conveyed that if it got into my blood stream, then I could die.”

Jeremy couldn’t understand how this all happened so fast. A handful of doctors began the process of mixing antibiotic cocktails that they believed would be the most effective at fighting the infection. In time, the doctors narrowed down the recipe to two antibiotics, with one crowned the eventual winner; to this day the doctors don’t know which one saved Jeremy’s life.

Jeremy is alive and well today, but stories like his have become too common. Why do two million people like Jeremy all across the country fall ill, and 23,000 die each year from infections that for decades have been treated effectively with antibiotics?

What’s the problem?
Antibiotics have long been prescribed improperly to people and livestock animals as a preventive measure. That’s not how they’re supposed to be used. This abuse is creating “superbugs” – bacteria that are not killed off by antibiotics like they once were. That’s why Jeremy’s infection got out of control.

It is shocking that 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are not prescribed to people, but fed in low daily does to animals on factory farms to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. This wrong-headed practice creates the perfect conditions for superbugs to grow, thrive and spread.

PARA is the solution
Senators have introduced a bill to address this growing public health threat. The Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA) would allow farmers to give animals antibiotics when they’re sick, but not on a daily basis in their feed and water. It is critical for the Senate to pass PARA.

Senator Bennet is on the wrong PATH
Colorado Senator Michael Bennet seems concerned about antibiotics, but he’s taken the wrong PATH to solve the problem. Bennet has introduced the Promise for Antibiotics and Therapeutics for Health Act, or PATH. PATH helps the pharmaceutical industry create new antibiotics by speeding up their approval process. Unless we address the abuse of antibiotics on factory farms, bacteria will continue to develop antibiotic resistance. It will only be a matter of time until new antibiotics become resistant and no longer work for people; the number of people each year who contract and die from antibiotic resistant bacteria could continue to rise.

Tell Senator Bennet to Sponsor PARA
No one should have to go through the scare that Jeremy and millions of other Americans have experienced. In order to protect Coloradans like Jeremy, in order to protect all Americans, Senator Bennet must be a true public health champion and help fix the root of the problem. Take action today to ask Senator Bennet to sponsor PARA to end antibiotic abuse on factory farms.

March 30th, 2015

Detroiters Need an Income-Based Approach to Water Bills

By Wenonah Hauter

WenonahHauter.ProfileThe water crisis in Detroit is not over. In fact, residential shut-offs are poised to continue this spring. To save lives, and to begin to satisfy the city’s dire water infrastructure needs, Detroit needs to expand the current assistance programs and enact the Water Affordability Plan (WAP) approved by the City Council in 2006. When tens of thousands of people cannot afford utility rates in a region with large income disparities, it is obvious that an income-based approach to water is the only equitable solution.

Let’s back up a bit. A few weeks ago, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Board of Commissioners voted to increase water and sewer rates for city residents by a combined 12.8 percent, effective July 1 should the City Council seal the deal.

Mayor Mike Duggan and the DWSD developed a 10-point plan offering certain assistance programs in an attempt to help residents pay their water bills. Yet, some 26,000 residential customers still could face water shut-offs this spring, to begin after the department tackles outstanding commercial accounts and the 8,355 households that “illegally” (in other words, desperately) turned their water back on themselves. DWSD will dole out about 800 shut-off notices per day.

Detroiters need affordable water. Water is essential to life and the United Nations has recognized that access to drinking water and sanitation is a basic human right. It’s clear that Mayor Mike Duggan’s current assistance programs are wildly insufficient; they don’t address the systemic problems — like unemployment and cyclic poverty — that are a result of decades of misguided policies, and that inhibit residents from being able to pay their water bills. Put simply they haven’t, and won’t, stop the shut-offs and imminent public health consequences.

Here is why the Water Affordability Plan trumps Detroit’s current assistance programs:

Qualification

Only a customer whose water is already shut off or faces a pending shut-off qualifies for the Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program. Similarly, only people already behind on their water bills qualify for the 10/30/50 payment plan program and assistance from the Detroit Water Fund. Whereas these programs act like a Band-Aid, the WAP is preventative — qualification isn’t contingent on a customer being in payment default. Rather, qualification is determined based on the ratio of a household’s income and utility bill. Under the WAP, a customer can receive help before reaching default, and avoid shut-offs and massive make-up payments altogether.

Affordability

The existing water assistance program sets payments on a case-by-case basis. This creates a complicated, time-intensive billing process and requires a unique formula for each household. The 10/30/50 Plan requires at least 10 percent upfront on an outstanding balance and then spreads the rest of the balance over 24 months. It does not actually reduce the amount owed. Assistance from the Detroit Water Fund is strictly limited to: Households enrolled in a payment plan, with balances of $300 to $2,000, without any leaks in their homes, with a new meter installed and with household incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The amount of assistance also maxes out at 25 percent of a household’s monthly bill.

However, the WAP uses a “fixed rate approach” which calculates, based on the household’s income, an affordable utility rate. This means less administrative and billing headaches and more incentive for the customer to conserve water. Not to mention the security of this approach: The WAP caps water utility payment at 2.5 percent of monthly income — what the federal government views to be the affordability threshold. This would be a huge relief for Detroit residents, as some families currently spend upwards of 20 percent of their monthly income on water and sewerage.

Accessibility

Under the WAP, a customer would have ample time to apply for and access the program before ever reaching default. In this sense, WAP is more accessible than existing assistance programs. Under the current Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program, qualified residents (those facing shut-offs) have only ten days to either pay the default or to apply for and be approved for a payment plan. This tight timeline, noting the mental and physical stress that comes with not having water, might keep residents from accessing Mayor Duggan’s assistance, exacerbating the crisis.

Households can apply for assistance from the Detroit Water Fund at any time if they meet all the criteria, but they receive help only if funding is available. The program depends on donations, which isn’t sustainable. And what’s worse, a household loses access to the 10/30/50 Plan and the Detroit Water Fund assistance if it falls behind on its monthly payments more than three times. These existing programs clearly do not reflect the economic reality of many Detroiters, who are living hand-to-mouth and whose livelihoods can be compromised by even minor illnesses or car troubles.

It’s past time to embrace an income-based approach to water bills that is accessible and preventative. With the upcoming shut-offs and the proposed rate hikes, it’s obvious that the current assistance programs aren’t working for residents or the city. To keep utility payments, and water, flowing, Detroit needs to swiftly and fully enact the original Water Affordability Plan approved by the City Council in 2006.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

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March 27th, 2015

Leaked Documents Underscore How TPP Will Provide Special Rights for Corporations

By Patrick Woodall

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Patrick Woodall, Research Director and Senior Policy Advocate

Are you working on state legislation to label genetically modified foods? Or are you working to pass a local ban on fracking? If you are, you’ll want to know what the TPP has in store for you, according to recently uncovered documents.

This week, Wikileaks released the long-secret investment provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that revealed the trade deal would give big business the ability to sue governments for protecting the public interest – confirming our worst fears about the trade deal being pushed by the business community, Republican leadership and the Obama administration.

Senator Elizabeth Warren highlighted the risks of these so-called investor-to-state suits in a Washington Post opinion piece last month, but the release of a current draft of the TPP investment chapter brings these legitimate concerns into sharper focus. These TPP investment provisions provide a new and powerful avenue for foreign corporations to attack commonsense public health, environmental and consumer safeguards as well as effectively rollback any local or state legislation or ordinances that threaten their bottom lines.

The TPP investment language allows foreign companies to challenge federal, state and local laws and regulations that the companies claim “indirectly expropriate” their “reasonable investment-backed expectations.” International investment rules were originally designed to prevent other countries from seizing private property without compensating the owner (by building a highway through a company’s land or nationalizing a factory). But the TPP’s indirect expropriation language expands that idea to allow corporations to sue (for financial damages) over rules and regulations that curb dangerous or abusive business practices (like pollution or financial fraud) or even require companies to provide sensible disclosure (like food labels).

So far, the United States has been sued but not faced a penalty under these investment cases, but that is because our trade deals have been primarily with countries in the developing world with few investments in the United States. The TPP would empower major companies from New Zealand, Australia and Japan with new rights to attack federal and local laws. If the companies prevail in these suits, the government defendants (either national or local) could be forced to pay damages for harming expected earnings. Already international trade tribunals have already awarded $3.6 billion to foreign investors that brought successful investor-to-state corporate lawsuits under NAFTA and other U.S. trade deals, according to Public Citizen.

A measure to prevent pollution (like a local fracking ban) would indirectly expropriate the anticipated future profits from fracking, so a foreign drilling firm could sue for damages. One natural gas company has already challenged a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec under NAFTA’s investment provisions. These corporate lawsuits have an especially chilling effect on communities that want to protect their citizenry but lack the resources to defend against a colossal corporate lawsuit, including the more than 250 localities (including New York state) that have banned or imposed moratoriums on fracking.

The leaked investment text highlights the total lack of transparency in the TPP negotiations. It even includes a provision that keeps the investment chapter confidential until four years after the TPP goes into effect. If these special rights for corporate interests are so beneficial, why keep it classified?

March 26th, 2015

Fracking Company Sues for Access to Ohio Town’s Water

By Alison Auciello

UnknownHere in Ohio, the fracking industry can get water from just about anywhere for their thirsty drilling endeavors. Apparently, that’s still not enough for this water-intensive industry. Yesterday, the Oklahoma-based Gulfport Energy sued Barnesville, Ohio to bully them into allowing continued withdrawals from the Slope Creek Reservoir.

The fracking process uses up to 4.1 million gallons per gas well, and 2 million gallons per oil well, and that number is expected to grow. This intensive water use, combined with Ohio’s dry fall, would not leave enough water for Barnesville residents. That’s why officials stopped water withdrawals for any other purposes besides municipal use last fall due to abnormally low water levels. As Village Solicitor Marlin Harper told Think Progress, “We felt like we had to shut everyone off to protect the regular users…” because “We don’t have unlimited water.”

There is no shortage of options for oil and gas companies in terms of buying water. And thanks to multiple sweetheart deals with the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD), oil and gas companies can purchase it on the cheap. Out-of-state companies have purchased hundreds of millions of gallons of water over the last couple of years from reservoirs in the largest watershed within Ohio’s borders. This year, frackers plan to take billions of gallons from the Muskingum Watershed at the rate of less than ten dollars per 1,000 gallons.

The special treatment for fracking companies must end, especially when it means depriving people of water. The water crisis in Toledo last summer should be warning enough of the importance of access to water, and Barnesville took a step to avoid their own crisis and stood up for their citizens when they put their drinking water first.

We can recognize when the industry uses scare tactics and expensive legal action to feed their insatiable greed for profit, and we stand with Barnesville. We can only hope that the judge puts an end to this legal assault on the community’s water and throws the case out.

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March 25th, 2015

Monsanto Wants to Keep You in The DARK

By Wenonah Hauter WenonahHauter.Profile

In the absence of a federal requirement to label GMOs, food activists have taken matters into their own hands, passing labeling laws in Vermont, Maine and Connecticut and putting the issue on the ballot in California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Big Food and its friends in the biotechnology industry haven’t liked this one bit, and have spent over $80 million over the past several years to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives. Read the full article…

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A Mega-Merger Too Far: Kraft Foods-H.J Heinz Announce Merger

By Patrick Woodall Ketchup_Kid

Do you like ketchup with your mac and cheese? H.J. Heinz and Kraft sure appear to. This morning, processed food powerhouse Kraft Foods and ketchup kingpin H.J. Heinz announced a merger that will create the world’s 5th largest food company. The post-merger company would sell $28 billion worth of food annually and control eight brands with sales over $1 billion and five more brands with sales between $500 million and $1 billion. Read the full article…

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March 24th, 2015

Bonnie Raitt: Taking A Stand Against Fracking

By Bonnie Raitt, Musician and Activist

1503_FBSq_RaittQuote-C1I’ve been involved in many movements for social justice in my lifetime, from opposing destructive fossil fuel and nuclear energy projects, to standing up for human rights and music royalty reform. As a founding member of Musicians United for Safe Energy, I feel that one of the most critical environmental issues of our time is banning fracking everywhere because it destroys our water, our communities and our planet.

Food & Water Watch has partnered with Movement Music Records to put out a compilation record, “Buy This Fracking Album,” that 22 artists (including myself) have provided tracks to in an effort to spread the word about the dangers of fracking.

Can you help support the “Fracking Album” project to help build the movement to ban fracking?

Food & Water Watch has been a national leader in the movement to ban fracking. They were the first national group to call for a ban on fracking everywhere, and they’ve been working with communities all across the country to pass local bans, and do the hard work to hold elected officials accountable in order to keep our drinking water safe from this dangerous practice.

Art and music play a vital role in building and strengthening social change movements, and “Buy This Fracking Album” will follow in that tradition with your support! There are more than 20 artists, and hundreds of others involved in this project who all believe in this cause and want to help get the message out through our music, but we need your help to get this project into the world.

Can you help amplify the work for a national ban on fracking by supporting this new music project?

In addition to my song, this album includes music from artists including:

-Pete Seeger
-Natalie Merchant
-Michael Franti
-John Butler Trio
-Rusted Root
-DJ Logic and friends
-Josh Fox (“Gasland”)
-Indigo Girls
-Anti Flag
-Marco Benevento
-Tom Chapin
-Meshell Ndegeocello and many more!

All of the songs have been donated, and any proceeds from the sale of the album will go to groups working for a ban on fracking. However, without your support this album might not make it into the world.

We still need to raise about $40,000 to produce the album, manufacture it, and get the word out to the world. If you can help chip in today, you’ll be one of the first to receive the album, and help build the movement to ban fracking. Different donation amounts give you different incentives. I am not only chipping in my music, but also a couple of guitars signed by me, personalized to YOU! Check it out!

Can you chip in today to help get this album out and build the movement to ban fracking?

Thank you for your support.

In solidarity,

Bonnie Raitt
Musician/Activist

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Rep. Slaughter Again Takes on Antibiotics in Factory Farms

By Kate Fried Antibiotics_Pill_Bottle

It’s difficult to pick up a newspaper these days without being reminded of the escalating public health threat posed by super bugs and antibiotic resistance. That’s in part due to the fact that a whopping 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are actually used in factory farms to compensate for stressful, filthy, crowded conditions. That’s why last year Food & Water Watch launched its campaign to save antibiotics for medicine, not factory farms.

Since then, we’ve seen some great developments in the movement to keep these vital drugs working for us when we need them most. In February, the city council of Olympia, Washington became the 51st local government to pass a resolution calling for federal action to end the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Today, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) stepped up and reintroduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). Read the full article…

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March 20th, 2015

Ten Ways to Protect the Human Right to Water on World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo and Ryanne Waters

“Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right.” — Maude Barlow

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an essential common resource that nobody, and no thing, can live without. But around the world, even here in the United States, the human right to safe, clean, affordable water is under great threat; a global water crisis is looming, and in some places, has already begun.

Here are ten ways you can protect the human right to water and promote sustainable water management on World Water Day. Let’s dive in.

1. Join Tap-a-palooza! Mobilize your college campus to kick the bottled water habit and take back the tap.

The commodification of water by the beverage industry is a huge con. Research shows that in the United States, bottled water is not safer than tap water and it only serves to perpetuate our planet’s plastic bottle waste problem. When corporations like Nestlé commoditize what many consider to be a human right, communities lose out and executives fatten their wallets. If you’re a student, encourage reusable water bottle use by pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on your college campus.

TBTT

2. Say “no” to international water privatization schemes; oppose fast track of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The United States and the European Union are secretly negotiating a deal that would make it easier for the world’s biggest corporations to privatize our public water systems. And when private companies buy out public water systems, community members often experience degraded service at a higher price. Opposing fast track would make it harder for Congress to pass terrible trade deals like the TTIP.  Tell your member of Congress to oppose fast track today.

Fast Track

3. Support the campaign to stop water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria on twitter.

The city of Lagos, Nigeria is in great need of water supply and infrastructure improvements. But research shows that private ownership of municipal water systems does not benefit the community and often results in poor service at an unjust rate. 180 cities in 35 countries have fought hard to “re-municipalize” their water systems because of these failures. Lagos should not have to go down the same path. Tweet your support Tweet: I stand with Lagos, Nigeria. NO to water privatization! #OurWaterOurRight #Right2Water @followlasg @tundefashola for public water to the Lagos state government (@followlasg) and the governor (@tundefashola) by using the hashtag #OurWaterOurRight and #Right2Water.

LagosShareFB_we

4. Write to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

Did you know that our national forests and land surrounding our national parks are being fracked? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and associated activities such as wastewater injection can contaminate nearby rivers and streams that feed these treasured places – their vegetation and wildlife. Stopping fracking on public lands will bring us one step closer to stopping fracking, and protecting water, everywhere. Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

PublicLands

5. Sign this emergency petition to immediately stop fracking in California.

According to NASA, California has only one year of water left. But did you hear that oil and gas industry regulators in California recently admitted that they’ve failed to protect the state’s precious water supply from toxic contamination? Regulatory systems like these are unacceptable. Join us in calling on Governor Brown to issue an immediate emergency moratorium on fracking in California.

California

6. Urge the Ohio Legislature to protect the Great Lakes from toxic algae blooms.

Industrial agriculture is threatening Lake Erie. Last summer, a huge algae bloom left half a million people in Toledo, Ohio without water. The state legislature is trying to address the problem, but their bill falls short of real, meaningful agricultural reform. Tell them to toughen up and protect the Great Lakes from factory farms!

Toledo Algae

7. Demand that authorities in Detroit restore affordable water service.

Detroit’s water is simply unaffordable, and thousands of residents have had theirs shut off as a result. The United Nations recently visited Detroit to investigate the water shut offs and found that they violate the human right to water. Protect public health and the human right to water by urging officials in Detroit to restore water service under a water affordability plan.

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8. Educate yourself and your friends on the global water crisis by reading Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow.

Maude Barlow is a water justice warrior. The latest in her best-selling series, Blue Future exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. It lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis and details the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Maude_Barlow

 

9. Keep an eye out for a pre-screening of the film Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice from Jon Bowermaster.

In this film, Bowermaster takes a national look at the issue of fracking and the threats it poses to water quality and public health. The film profiles the victims of fracking across the U.S., checks in with experts on the topic, and takes a look at alternative energy sources gaining traction around the globe.

DearPresidentObama

10. Stay up to date on global water issues and learn how you can get involved by signing up here.

Whether by banning fracking, stopping terrible trade deals, promoting public ownership of water systems or protecting waterways from agricultural pollution, Food & Water Watch is working with communities to hold the industries that threaten the right to safe, clean, affordable water accountable.

IMG_3406

Update, March 22: Check out Maude Barlow’s World Water Day post about how to address the world water crisis.

March 18th, 2015

Beware of the Corporate GMO Spin Doctors

By Wenonah Hauter

This piece originally appeared on Food Tank.

BlogThumb_BillNyeYou may have heard that popular scientist Bill Nye has mysteriously revised his outlook on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Several years ago, the children’s show host advocated for the labeling of genetically modified foods, citing concerns about what GMOs could do to ecosystems. But now his position on the controversial technology has flipped. This development is the latest in a trend spearheaded by agribusiness giants to discredit the GMO labeling movement, and it’s especially hard to disassociate his reversal from this PR blitz since it coincided with Nye’s recent trip to Monsanto’s headquarters.

We’ll never know what actually went down during Nye’s visit, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, but we do know that Monsanto has poured millions of dollars into public relation efforts to sell the public on GMOs. Because that’s what you do when you are a corporation with deep coffers and a product that the public is wisely skeptical of.

Read the full article…

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