Plants + Pesticides = Possible Penis Problems

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Thoreau said “every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food.” Maybe he should have been keeping an eye on his lower faculties. According to a new study published yesterday by the Institute of Child Health at Bristol University, and reported in THE NANDO TIMES, male children of vegetarian mothers are five times more likely to be born with hypospadias, “a condition where the opening of the penis is on the underside rather then the tip.”

The article goes on to say that crop pesticides and naturally occurring chemicals called phytoestrogens may be the culprits. The study followed 14,000 mothers in England from pregnancy through childbirth and their progeny’s childhood. But before all you veggie mums rush to slurp down a bowl of tripe, note that project leader Jean Golding said, “We know vegetables are good for all sorts of reasons and we certainly are not advocating that people stop eating vegetables…We will have to investigate further to see whether this is a rogue result.”

Vatican Calls for Pinochet’s Return to Chile

February 24

In a decision that has confused and angered people across several continents, the folks at the Vatican confirmed that they wrote a letter to the British government requesting that General Augusto Pinochet be returned to Chile, reports THE BOSTON GLOBE. Pinochet ousted democratically-elected President Allende and presided over a 17-year dictatorship during which thousands of people were killed or “disappeared.” He was arrested in London in October on a Spanish warrant alleging grave human rights violations. Apparently the request did not come from the Pope himself, but rather from a “senior level” at the Vatican.

Few seemed thrilled that the Vatican, bastion of morality, was calling for the release of a dictator. The Independent, a London-based paper, wondered if recent events meant “that the Pope, who paid a cordial visit to Chile while General Pinochet was in power, does not want his old pal to face the indignity of standing trial.” The Times, also of London, claimed that the decision split “the Roman Catholic ChurchÉput[ting] the Pope at odds with Cardinal Basil Hume”.

Plenty of U.S. papers have reported the Vatican’s letter, but most have left out the United States’ own shameful role in Pinochet’s rise to power.

U.S. Military Strategy: Control Weather?

February 23

The United States military may have found its weapon of choice for the 21st century: Weather control. Although it sounds like more of an Isaac Asimov brainstorm than an actual project, the U.S. has been influencing the weather for decades.

Currently, more than 25 states have weather modification programs. Most do “cloud seeding” — or artificially induce rainfall, reports the ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE.

However, no one has been more involved in the development of weather-dominating technology than the U.S. government. Before a 1977 U.N. resolution prohibiting the tampering of weather for hostile purposes, the U.S. had seeded clouds to produce heavy rainfall along the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Vietnam War.

More recently, a controversial and experimental project called HAARP (or High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), was developed by the Navy and the Air Force. It aims to control weather by heating the earth’s ionosphere and has been operational for several years in Gakon, Alaska. Testing has continued despite concerns about the unforeseen (and potentially disastrous) environmental effects from HAARP’s emittance of microwaves into the atmosphere. (In fact, London’s The Mirror reported in August 1998 that HAARP may have been to blame not only for Ireland’s wet summer, but also for the bizarre weather patterns worldwide.)

A Lexis-Nexis search reveals that press coverage of HAARP and related technology has been scarce, although last week ABC News aired a segment on the military applications of weather-modification technology. They left out all the nasty details about possible environmental catastrophes, but at least the online report links to a telling 1996 Air Force report entitled “Owning the Weather in 2025”.

Tobacco’s Cozy Relationship with Firefighters

February 22

Everyone knows cigarettes will kill you and that the tobacco industry is about as socially responsible as a drunken Mike Tyson in the midst of a ‘roid rage. But just because you’ve already been very, very naughty, doesn’t mean you’re about to start being good. An article by Scott Shane in THE BALTIMORE SUN reports cigarette manufacturers — not content with giving millions lung cancer — help their customers die painful deaths in other ways too.

Plenty of firefighters warn smokers that careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths. What goes noticed, though, is that one reason smoking causes so many fire-related deaths is due to big tobaccos cozy relationship with firefighters. It seems that the tobacco companies have been giving the National Association of State Fire and National Volunteer Fire Council money for years as a part of a lobbying effort to prevent legislation that would require big tobacco to manufacturer fire-safe cigarettes. “It’s like the police department taking money from the Mafia to support crime control,” says San Francisco fire safety advocate and witty guy Andrew McGuire in the article.

In fact, it’s much worse than that. Imagine John Gotti as head of the Fraternal Order of Police and you get a closer analogy. Yup, the Fire Marshal Association’s Washington office is being run by a former tobacco lobbyist. This isn’t just a happy coincidence, it’s strategy. According to an 1984 internal document from the Tobacco Institute, “Before we began [in 1982], the fire service was slowly uniting against us….By this past summer, several of the largest fire service groups were working closely with us legislatively….We are asked to give speeches and we are invited into the homes and private meetings of America’s fire service.”



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