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Disturbing Video Shows School Cop Body Slam and Drag a Black Female Student

Mother Jones

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Authorities in Richland County, South Carolina, are investigating a video that surfaced Monday showing a uniformed officer aggressively confronting a high school student. Local station WIS-TV reports that county sheriff’s deputies are investigating the incident, which took place on Monday at Spring Valley High School, according to school officials. The video, which appears to have been recorded on a cellphone by a classmate, shows a white male officer standing over a black female student sitting at her desk; moments later he grabs the student and flips her on her back. After dragging her across the floor, the officer says, “Hands behind your back—give me your hands.” The video has no additional context as to what led to or followed the altercation.

“Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland County School District Two, particularly with families and children of color,” a local black parents group wrote in a statement responding to the video.

Also: Chokeholds, Brain Injuries, Beatings: When School Cops Go Bad

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told WIS-TV that the school resource officer (SRO) was responding to a student who was refusing to leave class. “The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions, which she again refused,” Lott said. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO.”

The video is the latest in a series of disturbingly violent altercations involving school cops. As Mother Jones first reported in July, there have been at least 29 incidents in the United States since 2010 in which school-based police officers used questionable force against students in K-12 schools, many of which caused serious injuries, and in one case death. Data on use of force by school cops is lacking even as the number of officers on campus has ballooned over the past two decades, with little training or oversight.

Update, 6:15 p.m. EDT: Here is a statement released by the school district, via local TV reporter Megan Rivers:


Disturbing Video Shows School Cop Body Slam and Drag a Black Female Student

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This Missouri Prisoner Wants His Execution Videotaped

Mother Jones

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Next week, Missouri is scheduled to execute Russell Bucklew, who has a serious health condition, with a lethal drug whose source is being kept secret from the public. On Friday, Bucklew’s attorneys filed a motion requesting that a videographer be allowed to tape the execution in order to preserve evidence. Bucklew has tumors partially blocking his airway, and attorneys allege that there is “a very significant risk” that he will die “a torturous death” in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

According to the motion:

Mr. Bucklew seeks this Order so he can preserve vital evidence of the events occurring during his execution. His head, neck, throat and brain are filled with clumps of weak, malformed blood vessels that could rupture, causing coughing, choking and suffocation, or impairing the circulation of the lethal drug, causing a prolonged and excruciating execution while he struggles for air. Mr. Bucklew seeks to document these events.

Dr. Joel B. Zivot, a professor of Anesthesiology and Surgery at the Emory University School of Medicine who examined Bucklew, filed an affidavit noting that, “To my knowledge, Missouri’s execution protocol provides no contingency for a failed execution, or a situation in which the prisoner starts gasping for air or experiences hemorrhaging.”

Missouri sentenced Bucklew to death for kidnapping and raping his ex-girlfriend and murdering her partner. Bucklew’s execution arrives less than a month after Oklahoma horribly botched the execution of Clayton D. Lockett, leaving him twitching in pain and partially conscious. (About 15 minutes into that execution, officials closed the blinds, so witnesses couldn’t see.) Like Oklahoma, Missouri is using a secretly-acquired drug cocktail. On Thursday, the Guardian, the Associated Press, and three Missouri newspapers filed a lawsuit arguing that the public has a right to information about the drugs Missouri is using for its executions. The Guardian notes that the state publicized where it obtained its lethal injection drugs until last year, when, like other death penalty states, Missouri faced a shortage of lethal injection drugs in wake of European restrictions.

In Oklahoma, Bucklew’s attorneys also want to videotape the execution in case Bucklew survives and needs evidence to oppose another execution attempt. “Until the botched execution in Oklahoma of Mr. Lockett, the possibility of a prisoner surviving an execution seemed perhaps remote. Now, the possibility of a failed execution is plain,” the motion reads.


This Missouri Prisoner Wants His Execution Videotaped

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The Time I Got Stranded in Antarctica

Mother Jones

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This story originally appear in The Atlantic and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The flight should have been routine: a straight shot from Sjögren Glacier on the coast of Antarctica, over an ocean sound crusted with sea ice, back to the ship where we were based, 20 miles east. But as moments passed, a haze of fog and snow flurries closed in on the helicopter. Our pilot, Barry James, glided lower and lower over the sea ice; with no horizon on sight, the ice’s rippled, wind-pocked texture provided his only frame of reference for keeping the helicopter stable in the air. Even this lifeline began to dissolve into milky white, and James wisely chose to land the helo on the only non-white object in sight: a dark swath of stone and sand that had just come into view — the small corner of an island that was otherwise cloaked in glaciers. James spoke into his radio: “Five papa hotel”—the aircraft’s call letters—”this is Barry. I’ve landed. There’s too much snow and not enough visibility to continue.” And so began an unlikely adventure. We expected to wait 15 minutes for weather to improve. Instead, we waited for days.

The helo would become unflyable as icicles encrusted its delicate rotor. Our ship, the 6,000-ton icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer would curtail its scientific research as it attempted to reach us. Our experience illustrates the limits of what even massive resources can accomplish in the deep polar regions. It also sheds light on the drama that has unfolded off the coast of East Antarctica as crew members attempted to free the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy from the sea ice that trapped it for two weeks. Fifty two tourists and scientists were rescued by helicopter on January 1; but the ship remained wedged in ice with 22 crew on board for another six days before finally getting free earlier today. It represents the latest in a troubling trend: Tourist or fishing vessels getting in over their heads in Antarctica, exacting a heavy toll on already-stretched scientific research assets in the area. The Chinese research icebreaker that helped rescue the Shokalskiy’s passengers also became mired in ice for several days, and the US icebreaker, Polar Star, was dispatched from Australia on January 2 to aid both ships.

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The Time I Got Stranded in Antarctica

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5 Ways to be a Better Gardener in 2014

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5 Ways to be a Better Gardener in 2014

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Piles of tar-sands waste in Chicago are pissing people off

Piles of tar-sands waste in Chicago are pissing people off

Southeast Environmental Task Force

Clouds of coal dust and petroleum coke, a waste product from the refining of tar-sands oil, have been enveloping neighborhoods on Chicago’s southeast side. Federal, state, and city officials are finally moving to temper the dangerous air pollution.

The villains: KCBX Terminals (a division of Koch Industries) and Beemsterboer Slag Co.

The villainous acts: The companies own three terminals along the Calamut River that are storing huge piles of coal and petroleum coke, aka petcoke, which is coming from a nearby BP refinery. But they aren’t bothering to cover all that gunk to make sure it stays on site, so it’s being picked up by winds and blown over neighboring homes, forcing residents to stay indoors.

Anthony Martinez

via Southeast Environmental Task Force

A pollution cloud in southeast Chicago.

The plot: The piles of petcoke are expected to grow in Chicago and elsewhere around the country as refineries switch to processing tar-sands oil from Canada. Detroit suffered a similar problem (also courtesy of the Kochs) until city, state, and federal officials banded together to chase it away with lawsuits and legislation.

The victims: Residents of Chicago’s East Side and South Deering neighborhoods.

What the victims want: “Move the piles!” That was the chant that went up Thursday evening at a community meeting to discuss the problem. Another obvious solution: Cover the damned things. That’s what California law requires.

The latest twists: The U.S. EPA on Friday ordered the terminal owners to install pollution monitors, part of an effort to determine whether they are violating the Clean Air Act. That followed lawsuits filed last month by Illinois. On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) joined the fray, as the Chicago Tribune reports:

The mayor’s office announced in an email that Emanuel is ordering the Department of Public Health to adopt “strict regulations on the maintenance and storage” of petroleum coke stored in massive uncovered piles along the Calumet River just south of the Chicago Skyway bridge.

The email was short on specifics but promised that three storage terminals will be required to take more aggressive action to tamp down thick black dust that blows into surrounding neighborhoods and washes into the river.

Here’s hoping that Chicago, the state of Illinois, and the EPA can step up the pressure and close out this story as heroes.

(Memo to Obama: Approving Keystone XL would help flood the country with more tar-sands oil, leading to more petcoke piles and more air pollution.)

Emanuel vows crackdown on air pollution from refinery waste, Chicago Tribune
Feds order pollution monitors near S. Side refinery waste, Chicago Tribune

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:

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Piles of tar-sands waste in Chicago are pissing people off

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One Last Fundraising Pitch for the End of Summer

Mother Jones

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Just a quick reminder that we’re nearing the end of our late summer fundraiser, and we could use your help. Magazine subscriptions and ads pay for only a portion of running our operation, and we rely on donations from readers to close the gap. Maintaining an investigative reporting bureau in Washington DC is an expensive commitment, so if you can spare a few dollars to keep things humming around here, we’d sure appreciate it. Click either of the links below to make a donation via credit card or PayPal. Thanks!

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One Last Fundraising Pitch for the End of Summer

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A Sneak Peek at Eric Schlosser’s Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons

Mother Jones

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On January 23, 1961, a B-52 packing a pair of Mark 39 hydrogen bombs suffered a refueling snafu and went into an uncontrolled spin over North Carolina. In the cockpit of the rapidly disintegrating bomber (only one crew member bailed out safely) was a lanyard attached to the bomb-release mechanism. Intense G-forces tugged hard at it and unleashed the nukes, which, at four megatons, were 250 times more powerful than the weapon that leveled Hiroshima. One of them “failed safe” and plummeted to the ground unarmed. The other weapon’s failsafe mechanisms—the devices designed to prevent an accidental detonation—were subverted one by one, as Eric Schlosser recounts in his new book, Command and Control:

When the lanyard was pulled, the locking pins were removed from one of the bombs. The Mark 39 fell from the plane. The arming wires were yanked out, and the bomb responded as though it had been deliberately released by the crew above a target. The pulse generator activated the low-voltage thermal batteries. The drogue parachute opened, and then the main chute. The barometric switches closed. The timer ran out, activating the high-voltage thermal batteries. The bomb hit the ground, and the piezoelectric crystals inside the nose crushed. They sent a firing signal…

Unable to deny that two of its bombs had fallen from the sky—one in a swampy meadow, the other in a field near Faro, North Carolina—the Air Force insisted that there had never been any danger of a nuclear detonation. This was a lie.

Here’s the truth: Just days after JFK was sworn in as president, one of the most terrifying weapons in our arsenal was a hair’s breadth from detonating on American soil. It would have pulverized North Carolina and, depending on wind conditions, blanketed East Coast cities (including New York and Washington, DC) in lethal fallout. The only thing standing between us and an explosion so catastrophic that it would have radically altered the course of history was a simple electronic toggle switch in the cockpit, a part that probably cost a couple of bucks to manufacture and easily could have been undermined by a short circuit—hardly a far-fetched scenario in an electronics-laden airplane that’s breaking apart.

The anecdote above is just one of many “holy shit!” revelations readers will discover in the latest book from the best-selling author of Fast Food Nation. Easily the most unsettling work of nonfiction I’ve ever read, Schlosser’s six-year investigation of America’s “broken arrows” (nuclear weapons mishaps) is by and large historical—this stuff is top secret, after all—but the book is beyond relevant. It’s critical reading in a nation with thousands of nukes still on hair-trigger alert.

In sections, Command and Control reads like a character-driven thriller as Schlosser draws on his deep reporting, extensive interviews, and documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act to demonstrate how human error, computer glitches, dilution of authority, poor communications, occasional incompetence, and the routine hoarding of crucial information have nearly brought about our worst nightmare on numerous occasions.

While casual readers will learn a great deal about the history and geopolitics of our nuclear arsenal, Schlosser’s central narrative is built around a deadly 1980 explosion at a missile silo in Damascus, Arkansas, where our most powerful weapon, a W-53 thermonuclear warhead, sat atop a Titan II missile. He puts us on site as the catastrophe unfolds, offering an intimate window on the perspectives and personalities of those involved. It’s a gripping yarn that shows how the military concept of “command and control”—the process that governs how decisions are made and orders are executed—functions in practice, and how it can unravel in a crisis.

Absent the Soviet threat, it’s easy to forget that these ungodly devices are still all around us. An entire generation, as Schlosser told me recently, is blissfully unaware of the specter of nuclear devastation. But Command and Control will leave readers of any age with a deep unease about our ability—to say nothing of, say, Pakistan’s—to handle these weapons safely. Schlosser wrote the book in the hope of reviving America’s long-dormant debate about “the most dangerous machines ever invented.” Fortunately, he delivers a page-turner, not a doorstop.

So below you’ll find the first chapter. It’s just a tease, but it’ll give you a taste of what’s in store. The book is available September 17. Buy it. Read it. Make noise about it. And don’t miss my chat with Schlosser about his epic project, and why he believes “it’s remarkable—it’s incredible!—that a major city hasn’t been destroyed since Nagasaki.”


The following excerpt is reprinted by arrangement with The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Eric Schlosser, 2013.

Not Good

On September 18, 1980, at about 6:30 in the evening, Senior Airman David Powell and Airman Jeffrey Plumb walked into the silo at Launch Complex 374-7, a few miles north of Damascus, Arkansas. They were planning to do a routine maintenance procedure on a Titan II missile.

They’d spent countless hours underground at complexes like this one. But no matter how many times they entered the silo, the Titan II always looked impressive. It was the largest intercontinental ballistic missile ever built by the United States: 10 feet in diameter and 103 feet tall, roughly the height of a nine-story building. It had an aluminum skin with a matte finish and U.S. AIR FORCE painted in big letters down the side. The nose cone on top of the Titan II was deep black, and inside it sat a W-53 thermonuclear warhead, the most powerful weapon ever carried by an American missile. The warhead had a yield of nine megatons—about three times the explosive force of all the bombs dropped during the Second World War, including both atomic bombs.

Day or night, winter or spring, the silo always felt the same. It was eerily quiet, and mercury vapor lights on the walls bathed the missile in a bright white glow. When you opened the door on a lower level and stepped into the launch duct, the Titan II loomed above you like an immense black-tipped silver bullet, loaded in a concrete gun barrel, primed, cocked, ready to go, and pointed at the sky.

The missile was designed to launch within a minute and hit a target as far as 6,000 miles away. In order to do that, the Titan II relied upon a pair of liquid propellants—a rocket fuel and an oxidizer—that were “hypergolic.” The moment they came into contact with each other, they’d instantly and forcefully ignite. The missile had two stages, and inside both of them, an oxidizer tank rested on top of a fuel tank, with pipes leading down to an engine. Stage 1, which extended about 70 feet upward from the bottom of the missile, contained about 85,000 pounds of fuel and 163,000 pounds of oxidizer.

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A Sneak Peek at Eric Schlosser’s Terrifying New Book on Nuclear Weapons

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Down on the Ground, Syrian Policy is Notably Lacking in Virtue

Mother Jones

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Here’s a quick trawl through the latest news on Syria:

The White House is blitzing: The lobbying blitz stretched from Capitol Hill, where the administration held its first classified briefing on Syria open to all lawmakers, to Cairo, where Secretary of State John Kerry reached Arab diplomats by phone in an attempt to rally international support for a firm response to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus. Congress is skeptical: Members of Congress from across the political spectrum reacted with deep skepticism Sunday to President Obama’s bid for approval of strikes against Syria, with lawmakers raising doubts about whether a vote would succeed.

Israelis are worried: Many here viewed Obama’s last-minute equivocation as the latest evidence of a growing U.S. reluctance to engage aggressively in the Middle East, a worrisome prospect for a nation that relies heavily on its close American ties to intimidate enemies. Vladimir Putin is….Vladimir Putin: Russia dramatically escalated its denunciations of American threats to attack Syrian military targets on Saturday, with President Vladimir Putin saying it would have been “utter nonsense” for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons as the Obama administration alleges.

Republicans are agonizing between their normal hawkishness and their desire to give Obama a black eye: President Barack Obama got a chilly response from Republican lawmakers on his request for support for military action in Syria after alleged chemical attacks by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad….The list of criticisms from Republicans was wide-ranging: The president should act on his own; he doesn’t have a plan; the U.S. military is degraded; the U.S. is war-weary; Mr. Obama has been too tentative; he has leaked too much of his plans already. Presidential hopefuls are more concerned with 2016 than with the Middle East: Some Republicans may oppose the president simply because they are opposed to the president. But that does not constitute a foreign or national security policy. The Republican Party now is divided among those in the neoconservative wing who led the call for invading Iraq and who continue to argue in favor of more robust action in Syria; those in the libertarian wing who want the United States generally to stay out any conflicts; and those in the middle who see a need for U.S. leadership but are tempered by public weariness with war.

Syrian rebels insist that Assad is now emboldened: Opposition activists said they were “deeply disappointed” with the decision. Rebel fighters also have predicted that Assad loyalists would seek to use the delay to escalate attacks on rebel strongholds. The Saudis want America to remain the region’s policeman: Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal indirectly acknowledged Sunday that the Arab world remained reliant on the U.S. as the region’s policeman of last resort against transgressions by fellow Arab states, as well as the Arab world’s top tier of protection against Iran. “There is no capacity in the Arab world to respond to this kind of crisis,” Prince Saud said, speaking of Syria. But not everyone in the Arab world agrees: However, some influential members of the league, including Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria, have expressed opposition to foreign military intervention.

Inspiring, isn’t it? Why, it’s almost as if the only thing anyone really cares about is their own narrow parochial interest. Enforcing a century-old ban against the use of chemical weapons may sound high-minded in the abstract, but down on the ground there’s virtually no one who (a) actually cares about that and (b) would view a U.S. strike through that lens. You’re for it because you’re a Democrat or a Sunni or an Israeli or a member of the rebel army. You’re against it if you’re a Republican or a Shiite or an Egyptian or Vladimir Putin. Hardly anyone truly cares about American credibility or international norms or foreign policy doctrines or any of the other usual talking points. They’ve just chosen sides, that’s all.

Regardless of your own personal view on a Syrian strike, you should keep this in mind. Your motivations—either for or against a strike—might be entirely virtuous, but there’s very little virtue among the actors whose opinions actually matter. The lesson you think will be sent by either restraint or action is probably not the lesson the rest of the world will take from it.

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Down on the Ground, Syrian Policy is Notably Lacking in Virtue

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"Stand Your Ground" Did Indeed Play a Role in the Zimmerman Trial

Mother Jones

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Over the past week, I’ve heard endlessly from various talking heads that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law had nothing to do with George Zimmerman’s acquittal for killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, they said, was actually acquitted on ordinary grounds of self defense. I’ve gotten really tired of hearing this obvious misconception, and today Mark Follman and Lauren Williams finally demolish it for good. You should read the whole thing, but here’s the key bit:

The jury instructions—and a reason for their verdict: Just because Zimmerman’s defense team didn’t bring up Stand Your Ground in the trial (more on that below), that doesn’t mean the law was irrelevant to the jury’s decision. To the contrary, Judge Debra Nelson made clear in the jury instructions (PDF) that they should consider the law:

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

And consider it they did. According to the most outspoken juror, known only as Juror B-37, Stand Your Ground was key to reaching their verdict. She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that neither second-degree murder nor manslaughter applied in Zimmerman’s case “because of the heat of the moment and the ‘stand your ground.’ He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

Let’s at least get the basic facts right in this case. “Stand Your Ground” did play a role. There’s really not much doubt about it.

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"Stand Your Ground" Did Indeed Play a Role in the Zimmerman Trial

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As world marches against Monsanto, senators protect it from labeling laws

As world marches against Monsanto, senators protect it from labeling laws

Any U.S. senators paying attention to what was happening in the entire world over the weekend may have noticed a teensy disconnect between their protectionist votes for Monsanto and global discontent with the GMO giant.

Steve Rhodes

Marching against Monsanto in San Francisco

On Saturday, protestors in dozens of countries took to the streets to “March against Monsanto.” The coordinated day of action against genetic engineering and reprehensible business practices by the Missouri-based company came just two days after the Senate rejected a bid by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to ensure that his state and others are free to mandate labels on transgenic foods.

First, to those protests. Organizers tallied rallies in 436 cities across 52 countries, according to the AP:

The ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement began just a few months ago, when founder and organizer Tami Canal created a Facebook page on Feb. 28 calling for a rally against the company’s practices.

“If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said an “incredible” number of people responded to her message and turned out to rally. …

Protesters [marched] in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying “Monsanto — Get out of Latin America.”

In Portland, thousands of protesters took to Oregon streets. Police estimate about 6,000 protesters took part in Portland’s peaceful march, and about 300 attended the rally in Bend. Other marches were scheduled in Baker City, Coos Bay, Eugene, Grants Pass, Medford, Portland, Prineville and Redmond.

Across the country in Orlando, about 800 people gathered with signs, pamphlets and speeches in front of City Hall. Maryann Wilson of Clermont, Fla., said she learned about Monsanto and genetically modified food by watching documentaries on YouTube.

Now, to those senators. From The Guardian:

The Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly rejected an amendment that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified foods.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said his amendment was an attempt to clarify that states can require the labels, as several legislatures have moved toward putting such laws into place. The Vermont house and the Connecticut senate voted this month to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages.

The Senate rejected the amendment on a 71-27 vote, during debate on a wide-ranging, five-year farm bill that includes generous supports for crops like corn and soybeans that are often genetically modified varieties. Senators from farm states that use a lot of genetically modified crops strongly opposed the amendment, saying the issue should be left up to the federal government and that labels could raise costs for consumers.

The vote did not affect a bill introduced in April by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) that would mandate labeling of all products containing genetically ingredients sold in America. But it was a reminder that the labeling bill doesn’t stand a honey bee’s chance in a field full of Roundup of becoming law.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who


, posts articles to


, and

blogs about ecology

. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:


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As world marches against Monsanto, senators protect it from labeling laws

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