Remote Re-Posession

This is some pretty scary stuff here. Actually physically re-posessing a vehicle is an entirely different ball game. Guess I will never get a car loan. Read the article below:

Miss a Payment? Good Luck Moving That Car

 

The thermometer showed a 103.5-degree fever, and her 10-year-old’s asthma was flaring up. Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start.

The cause was not a mechanical problem — it was her lender.

Ms. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance of Mesa, Ariz., remotely activated a device in her car’s dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March.

“I felt absolutely helpless,” said Ms. Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. It was not the only time this happened: Her car was shut down that March, once in April and again in June.

This new technology is bringing auto loans — and Wall Street’s version of Big Brother — into the lives of people with credit scores battered by the financial downturn.

Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years. The jump has been driven in large part by the demand among investors for securities backed by the loans, which offer high returns at a time of low interest rates. Roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year were subprime, and the volume of subprime auto loans reached more than $145 billion in the first three months of this year.

But before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers like Ms. Bolender must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. Using the GPS technology on the devices, the lenders can also track the cars’ location and movements.

The devices, which have been installed in about two million vehicles, are helping feed the subprime boom by enabling more high-risk borrowers to get loans. But there is a big catch. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle.

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“I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart,” said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Federal Credit Union in Covington, La. Roughly 30 percent of customers with an auto loan at the credit union have starter interrupt devices.

Now used in about one-quarter of subprime auto loans nationwide, the devices are reshaping the dynamics of auto lending by making timely payments as vital to driving a car as gasoline.

Seizing on such technological advances, lenders are reachingdeeper and deeper into the ranks of Americans on the financial margins, with interest rates on some of the loans exceeding 29 percent. Concerns raised by regulators and some rating firms about loose lending standards have disturbing echoes of the subprime-mortgage crisis.

As the ignition devices proliferate, so have complaints from troubled borrowers, many of whom are finding that credit comes at a steep price to their privacy and, at times, their dignity, according to interviews with state and federal regulators, borrowers and consumer lawyers.

Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor’s appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway.

Beyond the ability to disable a vehicle, the devices have tracking capabilities that allow lenders and others to know the movements of borrowers, a major concern for privacy advocates. And the warnings the devices emit — beeps that become more persistent as the due date for the loan payment approaches — are seen by some borrowers as more degrading than helpful.

“No middle-class person would ever be hounded for being a day late,” said Robert Swearingen, a lawyer with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, in St. Louis. “But for poor people, there is a debt collector right there in the car with them.”

Lenders and manufacturers of the technology say borrowers consent to having these devices installed in their cars. And without them, they say, millions of Americans might not qualify for a car loan at all.

A Virtual Repo Man

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"I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart," said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Credit Union in Covington, La., who said that starter interrupt devices and GPS tracking technology had made his job easier.

“I have disabled a car while I was shopping at Walmart,” said Lionel M. Vead Jr., the head of collections at First Castle Credit Union in Covington, La., who said that starter interrupt devices and GPS tracking technology had made his job easier.Credit Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

From his office outside New Orleans, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers on a computerized map that shows the location of their cars with a red marker. Mr. Vead can spot drivers who have fallen behind on their payments and remotely disable their vehicles on his computer or mobile phone.

The devices are reshaping how people like Mr. Vead collect on debts. He can quickly locate the collateral without relying on a repo man to hunt down delinquent borrowers.

Gone are the days when Mr. Vead, a debt collector for nearly 20 years, had to hire someone to scour neighborhoods for cars belonging to delinquent borrowers. Sometimes locating one could take years. Now, within minutes of a car’s ignition being disabled, Mr. Vead said, the borrower calls him offering to pay.

“It gets their attention,” he said.

Mr. Vead, who has a coffee cup that reads “The GPS Man,” has been encouraging other credit unions to use the technology. And the devices — one version was first used to help pet owners keep track of their animals — are catching on with a range of subprime auto lenders, including companies backed by private equity firms and credit unions.

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Using his computer or cellphone, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers, and if they are late in making a payment, he can disable their vehicles.

Using his computer or cellphone, Mr. Vead can monitor the movements of about 880 subprime borrowers, and if they are late in making a payment, he can disable their vehicles.Credit Cheryl Gerber for The New York Times

Mr. Vead says that first, he tries reaching a delinquent borrower on the phone or in person. Then, only after at least 30 days of missed payments, he typically shuts down cars when they are parked at the borrower’s house or workplace. If there is an emergency, he says, he will turn a car back on.

None of the borrowers or consumer lawyers interviewed by The New York Times raised concerns about the way Mr. Vead’s credit union uses the devices. But other lenders, they said, were not as considerate, marooning drivers in far-flung places and often giving no advance notice of a shut-off. Lenders say that they exercise caution when disabling vehicles and that the devices enable them to extend more credit.

Without the use of such devices, said John Pena, general manager of C.A.G. Acceptance, “we would be unable to extend loans because of the high-risk nature of the loans.”

The growth in the subprime market has been good for the devices’ manufacturers. At Lender Systems of Temecula, Calif., which sells a range of starter interrupt devices, revenue has more than doubled so far this year, buoyed by an influx of new credit union customers, said David Sailors, the company’s executive vice president.

Mr. Sailors noted that GPS tracking on his company’s devices could be turned on only when borrowers were in default — a policy, he said, that has cost it business.

The devices, manufacturers say, are selling well because they are proving effective in coaxing payments from even the most troubled borrowers.

A leading device maker, PassTime of Littleton, Colo., says its technology has reduced late payments to roughly 7 percent from nearly 29 percent. Spireon, which offers a GPS device called the Talon, has a tool on its website where lenders can calculate their return on capital.

Fears of Surveillance

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While the devices make life easier for lenders, their ability to track drivers’ movements has struck a nerve with a number of borrowers and some government authorities, who say they are a particularly troubling example of personal-data gathering and surveillance.

At its extreme, consumer lawyers say, such surveillance can compromise borrowers’ safety. In Austin, Tex., a large subprime lender used a device to track down and repossess the car of a woman who had fled to a shelter to escape her abusive husband, said her lawyer, Amy Clark Kleinpeter.

The move to the shelter violated a clause in her auto loan contract that restricted her from driving outside a four-county radius, and that prompted the lender to send a tow truck to take back the vehicle. If the lender could so easily locate the client, Ms. Kleinpeter said, what was stopping her husband?

“She was terrified her husband would be able to find out where she was from the tow truck company,” said Ms. Kleinpeter, a consumer lawyer in Austin, who said a growing number of her clients had the devices installed in their cars.

Lenders and manufacturers emphasize that they have strict guidelines in place to protect drivers’ information. The GPS devices, they say, are predominantly intended to help lenders and car dealerships locate a car if they need to repossess it, not to put borrowers under surveillance.

Spireon says it can help lenders identify signs of trouble by analyzing data on a borrower’s behavior. Lenders using Spireon’s software can create “geo-fences” that alert them if borrowers are no longer traveling to their regular place of employment — a development that could affect a person’s ability to repay the loan.

A Spireon spokeswoman said the company takes privacy seriously and works to ensure that it complies with all state regulations.

Corinne Kirkendall, vice president for compliance and public relations for PassTime, which has sold 1.5 million devices worldwide, says the company also calls lenders “if we see an excessive use” of the tracking device.

Even though the device made her squeamish, Michelle Fahy of Jacksonville, Fla., agreed to have one installed in her 2001 Dodge Ram because she needed the pickup truck for her job delivering pizza.

Shortly after picking up her four children from school one afternoon in January, Ms. Fahy, 42, said she pulled into a gas station to fill up. But when she tried to restart the truck, she was not able to do so.

Then she looked at her cellphone and noticed a string of missed calls from her lender. She called back and asked, “Did you just shut down my truck?” and the response was “Yes, I did.”

To get her truck restarted, Ms. Fahy had to agree to pay the $255.99 she owed. As she pleaded for more time, her children grew confused and worried. “They were in panic mode,” she said. Finally, she said she would pay, and within minutes she was able to start her engine.

Borrowers are typically provided with codes that are supposed to restart the vehicle for 24 hours in case of an emergency. But some drivers say the codes fail. Others say they are given only one code a month, even though their cars are shut down more often.

Some drivers take matters into their own hands. Homemade videos on the Internet teach borrowers how to disable their devices, and Spireon has started selling lenders a fake GPS device called the Decoy, which is meant to trick borrowers into thinking they have removed the actual tracking system, which is installed along with the Decoy.

Oscar Fabela Jr., who said his 2007 Dodge Magnum was routinely shut down even when he was current on his $362 monthly car payment, discovered a way to circumvent the system.

That trick came in handy when he returned from seeing a movie with a date, only to find his car would not start and the payment reminder was screaming like a burglar alarm.

“It sounded like I was breaking into my own car,” said Mr. Fabela, 26, who works at a phone company in San Antonio.

While his date turned the ignition switch, Mr. Fabela used a screwdriver to rig the starter, allowing him to bypass the starter interruption device.

Mr. Fabela’s car eventually started, but it was their only date.

“It didn’t end well,” he said.

Government Scrutiny

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"I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted," said T. Candice Smith, who testified before the Nevada Legislature that her car, which had a starter interrupt device installed, was shut down while she was driving on a Las Vegas freeway, nearly causing her to crash.

“I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted,” said T. Candice Smith, who testified before the Nevada Legislature that her car, which had a starter interrupt device installed, was shut down while she was driving on a Las Vegas freeway, nearly causing her to crash.Credit John Gurzinski for The New York Times

Across the country, state and federal authorities are grappling with how to regulate the new technology.

Consumer lawyers, including dozens whose clients’ cars have been shut down, argue that the devices amount to “electronic repossession” and their use should be governed by state laws, which outline how much time borrowers have before their cars can be seized.

State laws governing repossession typically prevent lenders from seizing cars until the borrowers are in default, which often means that they have not made their payments for at least 30 days.

The devices, lawyers for borrowers argue, violate those laws because they may effectively repossess the car only days after a missed payment. Payment records show that Ms. Bolender, the Las Vegas mother with the sick daughter, was not in default in any of the four instances her ignition was disabled this year.

PassTime and the other manufacturers say they ensure that their devices comply with state laws. C.A.G. declined to comment on Ms. Bolender’s experiences.

State regulators are also examining whether a defective device could endanger the borrowers or other drivers on the road, according to people with knowledge of the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Last year, Nevada’s Legislature heard testimony from T. Candice Smith, 31, who said she thought she was going to die when her car suddenly shut down, sending her careening across a three-lane Las Vegas highway.

“It was horrifying,” she recalled.

Ms. Smith said that her lender, C.A.G. Acceptance, had remotely activated her ignition interruption device.

“It’s a safety hazard for the driver and for all others on the road,” said her lawyer, Sophia A. Medina, with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Mr. Pena of C.A.G. Acceptance said, “It is impossible to cause a vehicle to shut off while it is operating,” He added, “We take extra precautions to try and work with and be professional with our customers.” While PassTime, the device’s maker, declined to comment on Ms. Smith’s case, the company emphasized that its products were designed to prevent a car from starting, not to shut it down while it was in operation.

“PassTime has no recognition of our devices shutting off a customer while driving,” Ms. Kirkendall of PassTime said.

In her testimony, Ms. Smith, who reached a confidential settlement with C.A.G., said the device made her feel helpless.

“I felt like even though I made my payments and was never late under my contract, these people could do whatever they wanted,” she testified, “and there was nothing I could do to stop them.”

DRIVEN INTO DEBT Articles in this series are examining the boom in subprime auto loans.

 

FDA Warns Companies Against Things that Help Fight Ebola

This is perhaps the best advertising money can’t buy. If you don’t already get these companies products, you might want to.

Remember it took the FDA 30 years to admit that vitamin C was helpful in combatting another virus…the common cold. BTW, I just started with doTerra. So if you want to get into that, please feel free to email me about it. Young Living has the MOST phenomenal product for helping with eye issues, it’s called Ningxia Juice and it has been tremendously helpful in halting ocular migraines. I can also help get you into that line, although I am not a member. Dr. Rima has been fighting the FDA longer than many of us have been alive. While I haven’t used their products, I think I am going to get some.

I guess I take the contrarian position to the US Federal Government’s agencies. If they are against it, there might very well be good reason to use it. If they recommend it, probably best to stay away from it. Also, my opinions, experiences, thoughts and existence have not been tested, approved, proven effective, nor sanctioned by the FDA.

Here’s the article:

FDA warns three companies against marketing their products as Ebola treatments or cures

 September 24 at 4:21 PM

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent letters to three companies this week, warning them against marketing their products as possible treatments or cures for Ebola. The letters, posted online on Wednesday, document multiple claims from the companies or their paid representatives that essential oils and other natural remedies can “help prevent your contracting the Ebola virus” and in at least one instance, “effectively kill the Ebola virus.”

There are currently no approved treatments, cures or vaccines for Ebola.

Natural Solutions FoundationYoung Living, and dōTERRA International LLC all produce products that were promoted on the Web as cures for a variety of ailments, all without FDA approval. The products in question, the letters note, are not FDA-approved drugs, yet their marketing makes the sort of claims that only approved drugs may make — that they can be used to treat, mitigate, prevent and cure diseases.

According to the three letters, those promotions — either on Web sites owned by the companies or on sites and accounts used by paid “consultants” promoting and selling the products — included Pinterest messages, Facebook postings and blog posts claiming products such as “CBD Organic Dark Chocolate Bars,” “Clary Sage” essential oils and the “Family Protection Pack” can do what has not yet been done: Treat, cure or prevent the deadly Ebola virus.

In one letter, to doTERRA, the FDA outlined the extent of those claims:

“Your consultants promote your above mentioned dōTERRA Essential Oil products for conditions including, but not limited to, viral infections (including ebola), bacterial infections, cancer, brain injury, autism, endometriosis, Grave’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, tumor reduction, ADD/ADHD, and other conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners. Moreover, your consultants redirect consumers to your website, http://www.doterra.com, to register as a customer or member (i.e., consultant), and to purchase your dōTERRA Essential Oil products.”

According to the FDA, these promotions — especially ones related to Ebola — are inaccurate but not unexpected. “Oftentimes with public health incidences, like Ebola or even during H1n1, we see products that are marketed, often online, that claim to treat or cure the disease…without FDA approval,” FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Yao said in an interview, adding that “these sorts of things pop up” in almost any public health crisis.

In August, as the Ebola outbreak was accelerating in West Africa, the agency issued a preemptive warning to consumers, emphasizing that there is no FDA-approved vaccine or drug for the prevention or treatment of Ebola. The letters issued this week are something of a follow-up to that concern, Yao said, based on the results of online monitoring from the agency’s health fraud unit. The FDA will continue to monitor for similar claims.

Here is a sample of one such post, which was at the time this article was published available here:

Written by a paid consultant (referred to as a “member”) for Young Living, the post goes on to tout the possible benefits of a few oils sold by the company: “The Higley Essential Oil Reference guide mentions that the Ebola Virus can not live in the presence of cinnamon bark (this is in Thieves) nor Oregano. I would definitely add those two oils to whatever I was using.”

It adds: “I pray we don’t have to hear about this virus coming to the U.S. but if you travel outside of our country or know someone who goes to Africa or lives in Africa, maybe you could send them a care package of Young Living essential oils!”

In a statement provided to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Young Living said that the company was “cooperating fully with the FDA regarding its inquiry.” Young Living “members,” the statement continued, “are provided specific instructions on how to promote our products to their customers. In the coming days we will be contacting all our membership to ensure that they understand how to best use our products and remain compliant with regulatory directives.

“We have already contacted each of the Members cited in the FDA letter to help get them into compliance.”

One company targeted by the FDA, Natural Solutions Foundation, had materials on related Web sites promoting the company’s products as cures to several serious diseases and viruses, including Ebola.

On one YouTube video posted to the Natural Solutions Foundation account, the written text complains that the “WHO, FDA, the New York Times, etc., have gone on a rampage of disonformation [sic] to keep you in the dark about natural ways to dispose of dangerous microbes without damaging your beneficial bacteria.”

The video features Rima Laibow, the company’s medical director, claiming that the Natural Solutions product, Nano Silver, can “inactivate viruses like the HIV Virus, the Hepatitis B and C virus, Influenza viruses like H1N1, and Ebola virus.”

According to the FDA, all three companies have 15 days to respond to the documented violations and notify the agency of any corrective actions. If the companies are unable to correct those violations within 15 days, they’re required to explain why and provide a timeline for completion.

If they don’t take corrective action, the FDA could take any number of enforcement actions against the companies. Those include seizure, or possible criminal charges.

We’ve reached out to all three FDA-warned companies for comment.

The agency’s three letters are available here.

Abby Ohlheiser is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

 

 

First Volunteer For Untested Ebola Vaccine Innoculated

What chance is there that this is “out of the frying pan and into the fire” decision making? In my opinion, which is irrelevant as far as any government goes, the only thing to do is to fully quarantine. With a 21 day incubation period, this strain is bound to go globally because of decision making on the part of “officials”. The article below states that there is only one protein in this vaccine and that it is not possible for this to transmit the virus. I guess we shall see.

The US is sending troops there, the Ebola is airborne, not long lived in the air, but nonetheless, as sneeze could transmit it to others…Does anyone else feel like we are in the plagues of the last days?

Here’s the article about the human guinea pigs for the new Glaxo vaccine:

First Volunteer Receives Ebola Vaccine in U.K. Trial

Ruth Atkins, 48, a communications and and engagement manager in the National Health Service in the U.K. is the first volunteer to be injected with an Ebola vaccine in a safety trial at the University of Oxford. The drug is in development by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The current Ebola outbreak has infected 4,963 people and killed 2,453 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. One of the greatest concerns is that there are currently no vaccines or drugs to fight the disease, largely because researchers say pharmaceutical companies did not have a financial incentive to invest in them before the outbreak.

MORE: A Timeline of the Worst Ebola Outbreak in History

Clinical trials in the U.S., Canada, and in the U.K. are underway on various drugs, the majority of which have never been tested on humans. Though the World Health Organization (WHO) has endorsed the use of experimental drugs during the outbreak, countries will want to know which drugs have the greatest probability of working.

Atkins is the first participant out of 60 volunteers in Oxford’s trial. “I volunteered because the situation in West Africa is so tragic and I thought being part of this vaccination process was something small I could do to hopefully make a huge impact,” said Atkins in a statement. She heard about the trial while listening to one of the developers being interviewed on the radio.

Safety trials with a small number of participants are needed to determine whether a vaccine is effective and safe enough to initiative larger efficacy trials in higher-risk populations. So far, Atkins has reported feeling fine. The drug uses a single Ebola virus protein to generate an immune response in the volunteer. There’s no infectious components involved, so an individual will not get infected with Ebola by participating. GSK is beginning to manufacture about 10,000 doses of the vaccine so that if safety trials are successful, the vaccine can be made immediately available to the WHO.

 

 

 

Measles Vaccine Kills 15

Nuff said…

Syria: 15 children die after getting vaccinations

 

BEIRUT (AP) — At least 15 children died after receiving vaccinations in rebel-held parts of Syria, and activists said Wednesday that the death toll from two days of government airstrikes in the central city of Talbiseh climbed to nearly 50, a heavy toll even by the vicious standards of the country’s civil war.

The children, some just babies, all exhibited signs of “severe allergic shock” about an hour after they were given a second round of measles vaccinations in the northwestern province of Idlib on Tuesday, with many suffocating to death as their bodies swelled, said physician Abdullah Ajaj, who administered the vaccinations in a medical center in the town of Jarjanaz.

It was unclear what killed the children, but Ajaj said in an interview via Skype that they all exhibited the same symptoms to varying degrees. He said it was the first time he had ever seen such symptoms after vaccinations.

“There was shouting and screaming, it was hard for the parents. You get your child vaccinated and then you find your child dying, it’s very hard,” Ajaj said. There weren’t enough respirators in the clinic, making the situation even worse, he added.

Video footage uploaded to social media showed a medic examining a young girl who was squirming. Another child, in an orange tee-shirt and blue pants, appeared lifeless as a medic administered CPR. He then opened the child’s mouth to reveal a swollen, blue-tinged tongue. The footage corresponded with Associated Press reporting of the event.

Syria’s conflict, now in its fourth year, has caused the collapse of its health system in contested areas, scattering medics, destroying clinics and making medicines and equipment difficult to obtain. Nationwide vaccination efforts have been thrown into disarray, and polio re-emerged in parts of Syria last year.

The Western-backed opposition based in Turkey said it had suspended the second round of measles vaccinations, which began on Monday. The campaign was meant to target 60,000 children. In a statement, it said the vaccines used Tuesday met international standards and did not say what may have caused the deaths.

It is extremely unlikely that the vaccinations killed the children, said Beirut-based public health specialist Fouad Fouad, who said spoiled vaccinations were more or less harmless. “It cannot cause death,” he said.

Opposition representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The U.N. children’s agency is “waiting to receive more clarification on the facts,” said UNICEF spokeswoman Juliette Touma.

The United Nations says that more than 190,000 people have been killed since the start of Syria’s uprising against President Bashar Assad in March 2011. The revolt began with peaceful protests but escalated into an insurgency and set off a civil war after government forces waged a brutal crackdown on dissent.

In the latest violence, Syrian government airstrikes killed some 50 people in the opposition-held city of Talbiseh this week in an apparent attempt to target a rebel commander, activists said Wednesday. The dead included a mother and her five children, who were crushed under the rubble, and a rebel commander and several fighters, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory, which obtains its information from a network of activists on the ground, said it counted 48 killed in two days of strikes on Monday and Tuesday in Talbiseh. Similar information was reported by a local Talbiseh activist collective. Both groups said the death toll was likely to exceed 50 as residents were still pulling bodies from the rubble.

The Syrian government has stepped up its bombardment of opposition-held areas of the country over the past week.

Videos uploaded of the aftermath in Talbiseh showed a man weeping as he clutched his lifeless baby boy, and residents praying over the shroud-wrapped bodies of the mother and her children. The videos appeared genuine and corresponded to The Associated Press’ reporting of the event.

State-run media said Tuesday that the army targeted a meeting of “terrorists” in Talbiseh, the term the government uses to refer to all the rebels. The Observatory said that leading members of a rebel group were killed, without providing further details.

Syria’s government meanwhile accused Turkey of “sabotage” on Wednesday, saying Ankara had trained and armed opposition fighters and allowed them to cross into Syria. A Foreign Ministry official was quoted by state-run news agency SANA as saying that Turkey was also buying Syrian oil from fields under the control of the extremist Islamic State group.

Ankara has called on the United Nations to take action over what it called “systematic and repeated” use of chlorine gas in Syria. The SANA report fired back on Wednesday, accusing Ankara of supplying chemical weapons to the rebels.

The Western-backed Syrian opposition is based in Turkey, which has been a strong supporter of the rebels. The Syrian government and rebels have traded blame over the past few months for alleged chlorine gas attacks.

 

California Almonds and the Drought

Several articles are stating that the California almond crop is doing alright despite the drought. Yet a few months ago stories were rife of almond growers dozing their trees because their was no way to keep them alive on 40% of the water that they need to produce. I would truly love it if some almond growers could tell me how it is really going for them in California.

One report states that the total cost of the drought to the state was just over $800 million. Other figures place the cost at $2.2 million. California has a huge share of US produce. If you have been marveling over the increased costs at the grocery store, the drought in CA may be a large part of that cost increase.

Here’s an article on the almond crop in particular:

How the Drought is Devastating California’s Number 1 Export- Almonds

How the Drought Is Devastating California's #1 Food Export: Almonds

California grows a mind-boggling amount of the nation’s produce: 99 percent of artichokes, 97 percent of kiwis, 97 percent of plums, 95 percent of celery, and on and on. That’s why the record-breaking drought (yes, it’s finally raining—no, it won’t help much!) can affect your grocery bill, even if you live nowhere near California. But with almonds—the state’s most lucrative agricultural export—the effect could reverberate for years.

Sure, almond milk lattes and almond butter could get more painful on your health-conscious wallet, but California’s thirsty almond trees also reveal a bigger fight over water in an increasingly thirsty state. California now grows 80 percent of the world’s almonds. The almond trade has become so lucrative that we’re growing them in the desert—and that, unsurprisingly, has come back to haunt us.

The fact is that almonds are especially ill-equipped to make it through drought. Farmers are already making the difficult decision to let fields lie fallow this year to conserve water. With crops like tomatoes and cotton, they could start planting again next season, but almond trees take years to mature before they bear nuts. Bulldozing an almond tree would be devastating for a farmer for years. And it’s already happening as the drought chokes up the area’s water supply.

How the Drought Is Devastating California's #1 Food Export: AlmondsEXPAND

Greener days for almond trees in 2007. AP Photo/Ben Margo

The forces that led to California’s almond trade are much larger than poor planning from any individual farmer, and Joaquin Palomino’s recent piece in the East Bay Express does an excellent job of chronicling them. In one particular corner of the Central Valley, called the Westlands, irrigation has transformed desert into bountiful farmland. Improved irrigation techniques have also been touted for increasing almond yields—all to go along with the world’s rising almond demand. On the face of it, this seems like a miraculous triumph of technology. But it hasn’t changed the fact it’s in the middle of desert.

“It’s really an area that should have never been farmed,” Richard Walker, a retired UC Berkeley geography professor, told the Express. And especially not farmed with almonds. Even with the more efficient irrigation techniques, almond trees still use about twice as much water as cotton and tomatoes.

How the Drought Is Devastating California's #1 Food Export: AlmondsEXPAND

An almond storehouse in California. AP Photo/Roger J. Wyan

As devastating as the current drought is in the short-term, it leads us to a crossroad. Farmers tending to mature almond trees have little incentive to switch to another crop—unless they are forced to by tree-killing drought. The future of farming in Westlands also depends on the controversial Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which would upgrade the system bringing water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for irrigation. The 34,000-page plan is currently up for public comment.

One idea is that to stop irrigating the land and retire the Westlands from agriculture. (The dominance of almond farming in California requires other imports, including, oddly enough,honey bees from South Dakota to pollinate the trees.) Technological inventions have let us farm land that can’t naturally support those crops. We can continue to prop them up, or we can let it go. That’s going to be a hard pill to swallow for farmers—but it’s a decision that might be made for them, if the drought continues. [East Bay Express]

Top image: Dead almond crop in the Westlands from 2009. AP Photo/Russel A. Daniels

 

GMO Bananas…Straight to Human Trial

It seems like each day has more stupidity paid for by taxpayer dollars with the overages charged to future generations. In Des Moines, they are doing a straight to human GMO banana trial, which is described below. If my daughter was willing to do this for the $900 offered, I would be deeply ashamed and upset. Despite our bilateral symmetry, we are only given one earthly vessel to occupy. Please read the article and share it around. It’s linked on the title:

naturalnews.com

Originally published September 16 2014

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Human trials with a new genetically modified (GM) banana with artificial levels of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene are set to begin this fall without prior animal testing. Researchers plan to feed the “frankenfruit” to college students attending Iowa State University (ISU), though details outlining how the study will be conducted and whether or not students will know what they are eating have been limited.

The Des Moines Register (DMR) reports that 12 female students out of 500 who responded to a call for volunteers will be selected in the next few months to eat the GM banana for four days during three separate study periods. Each participant will receive $900 in compensation for her participation, the outcome of which is entirely unknown, as the GM banana in question has never before been tested on a living organism, let alone a human being.

A project of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GM banana is intended for cultivation and use in poor African countries, where vitamin A deficiency is widespread. Like the infamous GM “Golden Rice,” which has failed in every trial thus far conducted, the novel GM banana is being offered up as the solution to vitamin A deficiency, even though there are plenty of other natural fruits and vegetables like mangoes and sweet potatoes that already contain high levels of beta-carotene.

Why won’t Gates’ scientists test GM banana on animals first?

Besides the controversial nature of the project itself — foods genetically modified to contain added nutrients have repeatedly been shown to harm humans — many are wondering why animal trials are not being conducted on the new GM banana. European regulations require that any proposed new GMO first be tested on animals for at least 90 days, but in this case scientists are rushing it straight to humans.

This amounts to gross experimentation on humans, cut from the same fabric as Nazi scientists who during World War II performed heinous medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners. It is impossible for those participating in such a trial to give informed consent because they have no idea what they’re consenting to — and neither do the scientists who will be performing the experiments!

“Going straight from GMO development to human trials is exactly what happened with the GM golden rice trials, where GM golden rice was fed to children without informed consent and without prior animal testing,” wrote Claire Robinson for GMWatch.eu. “The lack of animal testing was condemned by international scientists as a breach of the Nuremberg Code, established after World War II to prevent a repeat of Nazi experiments on humans.”

Natural bananas with high amounts of beta-carotene already exist

When confronted with the fact that beta-carotene-rich bananas already exist in nature, scientists backing the GM banana project humorously tried to claim that people living in East Africa probably wouldn’t eat them because, get this — they’re too sweet for their tastes. Thus, it is essential that Bill Gates & Co. swoop in and save the day with a man-madebanana that could end up killing the target population in the end.

Such lunacy is what drives the genetic scientists pushing this type of nonsense on the world, when something as simple as inexpensive vitamin A supplements would be more than adequate at addressing deficiency in the Third World. Either that, or teaching people in these countries to grow foods that are naturally rich in beta-carotene and other carotenoid precursors to vitamin A.

“Like Golden Rice, these wannabe super heroes from the West will fail with their silver bullet for what is a complex societal & ecological problem,” wrote one DMR commenter. “The first step to helping these kids would be to stop dumping our surplus corn into their economy at below the cost of production.”

“Diversity in agriculture is the answer to the dietary problems afar and in our own [country]. Doubling down, with fingers crossed, on biotech silver bullets will not help… and if history is any indicator, we’ll probably just make it worse.”

Sources for this article include:

http://www.gmwatch.eu

http://www.desmoinesregister.com

http://www.independentsciencenews.org

http://science.naturalnews.com

http://science.naturalnews.com



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Trash or Treasure in Michigan

Erie Township To Sell Farmer’s Antique Equipment, Saying ‘It’s Garbage’

Erie Township prides itself on farm land.
 Below is the story and the link is in the title at the top as well as the full url at the bottom of this article. Of importance, particularly in Missouri, Michigan is a “Right to Farm” state. Since they have the “Right to Farm” Michigan small holders have been under more attacks by zoning and phenotype regulations that any other state that I know about. The “Right to Farm” very quickly becomes, “Zoning and Confiscation Rights for Government”. This seems to never happen to CAFO’s though. Please read and share this story:

Ray Swan owns a 70-acre farm in Erie Township, Michigan. He owns and collects antique farming equipment that he often uses on his property. Some residents don’t like looking at the antiques or the condition of his yard, however. Earlier this year, Erie Township decided to take Mr. Swan to court to force him to make his land more presentable. Swan has been told he needs to cut his grass and remove the garbage. The garbage they are referring to, Swan says, is his farming equipment.

“In the lawsuit it’s called ‘garbage,’ ‘refuse’ and ‘trash,’” Swan told Farm World. “They wouldn’t give me the respect of calling them antiques. This is historical machinery; it’s not a junkyard and it’s not trash.”

The Erie Township farmer has until September 18 to remove his antique farm equipment from his 70-acre farm, or the township will come onto his farm, hold an auction, and sell the equipment they don’t feel should be on his property.

According to Township council meeting minutes, Mr. Swan tried to discuss the matter publicly at a council meeting in February. He does not use social media and can not spread the word the way other Michigan Farmers have when their township residents complained. Swan is not the only farmer in Michigan who has to battle neighbors’ complaints.

In July, an Air Force vet in Bay County had to fight for the right to raise chickens on his nine-acre farm. This summer, a Williamston Township farmer was held in contempt of court for failing to remove her livestock, citing her “Right To Farm” and apparent GAAMPs compliance.

Erie Township Supervisor Bill Frey told Farm World that Swan’s property has been a problem for the township for two years. The Erie Township Supervisor Frey said the farming equipment is “quite old. He has a lot of it sitting in his front yard. His grass isn’t mowed.”

A judge ruled that, at that time, Swan wasn’t protected under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act because he hasn’t proven that he was using the Michigan standards covered under the Generally Accepted Agriculture and Management Practices.

“The township said they’d allow one tractor, one disc and one sprayer for my operation,” Swan told Farm World. The judge sided with the township, except told the Erie Township farmer he could have three tractors for his 70-acre farm instead of just one.

Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) official Tim Kwiakowski refused to talk with the journalist Kevin Walker about Swan’s case, citing confidentiality issues.

Erie Township has a website with contact information and township news. It also has the new Erie Township Master Plan uploaded. Adopted in 2012, the plan still places Swan’s property in an area zoned “Rural Agricultural.” The Master Plan states that it seeks to protect and maintain the culture of the township’s history and to actively encourage “the continuation of local farming operations and the long-term protection of farmland resources.”

The introduction to the Erie Township Master Plan explains surveyed residents mostly believed that “rural places represent history, tradition, family, culture and nature.” The summary states that the “one clear message” from the Erie Townships survey was that the rural character and historical farming atmosphere of Erie Township were exceptionally valued.

[Photo via the Monroe library archive]


Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/1454858/erie-township-to-sell-farmers-antique-equipment-saying-its-garbage/#UMH3CM5ZTjTXAc7S.99

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