Legal Issues

He Holds the Patent that Could Destroy Monsanto and Change the World

If there’s anything you read – or share – let this be it. The content of this article has potential to radically shift the world in a variety of positive ways.

And as Monsanto would love for this article to not go viral, all we can ask is that you share, share, share the information being presented so that it can reach as many people as possible.

In 2006, a patent was granted to a man named Paul Stamets. Though Paul is the world’s leading mycologist, his patent has received very little attention and exposure. Why is that? Stated by executives in the pesticide industry, this patent represents “the most disruptive technology we have ever witnessed.” And when the executives say disruptive, they are referring to it being disruptive to the chemical pesticides industry.

What has Paul discovered? The mycologist has figured out how to use mother nature’s own creations to keep insects from destroying crops. It’s what is being called SMART pesticides. These pesticides provide safe & nearly permanent solution for controlling over 200,000 species of insects – and all thanks to the ‘magic’ of mushrooms.

Grasshoppers killed by the entomopathogenic fungus.

Paul does this by taking entomopathogenic Fungi (fungi that destroys insects) and morphs it so it does not produce spores. In turn, this actually attracts the insects who then eat and turn into fungi from the inside out!

This patent has potential to revolutionize the way humans grow crops – if it can be allowed to reach mass exposure.

Union Of 30,000 Doctors In Latin America Wants Monsanto Banned!

It was announced this week that over 30,000 doctors and health experts throughout Latin America are demanding that Monsanto’s products be banned. One of the primary cases that these doctors are bringing against Monsanto is the recent confirmation that their main herbicide RoundUp is actually responsible for causing cancer.

“In our country glyphosate is applied on more than 28 million hectares. Each year, the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million liters, which means that 13 million people are at risk of being affected, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF),” Argentina’s union of medical professionals, Fesprosa said in a statement.

The Fesprosa union is comprised of over 30,000 medical health professionals, most of whom wish to enact the ban on Monsanto products, and specifically the chemical glyphosate, the active chemical in RoundUp.

“We believe the precautionary principle should be applied, and that we should stop accumulating studies and take decisions that could come too late. We advocate a ban on glyphosate which should take effect in the short term with restrictions on purchasing, spraying and packaging,” Javier Souza, coordinator of Latin American pesticide action network said.

We cannot allow the business interests of a North American multinational to be more important than the health of the people of our region. Governments should promote the technology and practices of organic farming to protect growers, consumers and the environment,” Franco Segesso, coordinator of the campaign at Greenpeace Andino said.

As we reported earlier this year, Monsanto is continuing to lose profits into the second quarter of 2015, shedding an exceptional 15% profit amid falling GMO seed sales – even more than most experts projected.

John Vibes writes for True Activist and is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter culture and the drug war.


This Vending Machine Sells T-Shirts For 2 Euros, But No One Will Buy One. See Why…

Who made your clothes?

Who doesn’t love a great deal? Whether it’s on household appliances or a new t-shirt, consumers worldwide are always looking for a great bargain.

So of course when shoppers came across a vending machine in Berlin, Germany selling t-shirts for only 2 Euros each (about $2.19), they flocked to benefit from the supreme sale.

€2…? Seems like a bargain!

But there was a catch…

In order to buy a €2 t-shirt, shoppers had to first watch a video about the exploited sweatshop laborers that make cheap clothing possible.

The video showed who is behind the cheap clothing for sale…

Often under-age employees are the laborers, who work for up to 16 hours a day.

…and for as little as 13 cents an hour.

“Do You Still Want To Buy This 2€ T-Shirt?”

Not surprisingly, most chose to donate instead of purchase the t-shirt.

This brilliant social experiment was put on by the non-profit Fashion Revolution, who wants shoppers to reconsider how they shop for their clothes. Watch the entire experiment below:

The video was released on April 24th, or Fashion Revolution Day. This day commemorates the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,000 garment workers who had been making clothing for American brands, like J.C. Penney, Benetton, Walmart, and others, in unsafe conditions.

The workers at such factories, according to aplus, are often underage, and most are also underpaid and overworked. Fashion Revolution wants to encourage people to start asking questions about their clothes, like where they were made and under what conditions they were manufactured.

“We’re not asking people to boycott their favorite stores, we need to change the fashion industry from within by asking the brands and retailers where we like to shop ‘Who made my clothes?'” Fashion Revolution Day founder Carry Somers told Marie Claire.

As you can see in the video above, consumers’ reactions to the video were varied, but almost everyone chose to donate to the cause instead of support cheap labor. This goes to show how powerful a tool education is.

“Consumers didn’t cause this problem, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be part of the solution,” she added. And by encouraging people to take a stand and show fashion brands they need to start taking responsibility for their actions, Fashion Revolution is already helping to inspire much-needed change. To learn more, follow the #fashrev hashtag on social media.

What are your thoughts? S hare in the comments section below.


Nation’s Strongest Fracking Ban Bill Introduced to Protect Public Lands | EcoWatch

Congressmembers Jan Schakowsky of Illinois and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, both Democrats, have made no secret of their strong opposition to fracking. Last December, for instance, as new rules were being formulated on the opening new areas of public lands to energy exploration and extraction, they introduced a bill to ban fracking entirely on public lands.

“Federal lands should be preserved for the public good,” said Pocan at the time. “We should not allow short-term economic gain to harm our environment and endanger workers.”

Today they upped the ante with the reintroduction of the Protect Our Public Lands Act, which they announced at a press conference in Washington DC. H.R. 1902 would prohibit fracking, the use of fracking fluid and acidization for the extraction of oil and gas on public lands for any lease issued, renewed or readjusted. The bill is being touted as the strongest bill against fracking introduced in Congress so far.

“Today is Earth Day‚ a time to renew our commitment to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the planet we all call home,” said Schakowsky. “Our public lands have been preserved and protected by the federal government for over one hundred years. We owe it to future generations to maintain their natural beauty and rich biodiversity. I believe the only way to do that is to enact the Protect Our Public Lands Act, and I will continue to fight to see that happen.”

Schakowsky and Pocan were joined by environmental leaders, including Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, Hilary Baum of the American Sustainable Business Council, Andrea Miller of Progressive Democrats of America and Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. The legislation is also endorsed by Environment America and Friends of the Earth.

“Our public lands are a shared national heritage, and shouldn’t be polluted, destroyed and fracked to enrich the oil and gas industry,” said Hauter. “Ironically, the President is speaking in the Everglades today, a unique and fragile ecosystem that is threatened by nearby fracking on public land. Congress must follow Congressman Pocan and Congresswoman Schakowsky’s bold leadership and ban fracking on these land, so that future generations can enjoy these special places.”

Other co-sponsors include Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, who is the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and California Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. All are Democrats.

The reintroduction of the bill follows the new rules for fracking on public lands, which were announced by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in March. Their release followed a comment period that solicited more than a million responses, including more than 650,000 supporting a ban on oil and gas operations. While those rules strengthened some environmental and public health protections, for instance, requiring companies to disclose chemicals used within 30 days of completing operations, Schakowsky called them only “a step in the right direction.”

H.R. 1902 proposes to take another giant step.

“Our national parks, forests and public lands are some of our most treasured places and need to be protected for future generations,” said Pocan today.”It is clear fracking has a detrimental impact on the environment and there are serious safety concerns associated with these type of wells. Until we fully understand the effects, the only way to avoid these risks is to halt fracking entirely. We should not allow short-term economic gain to harm our public lands, damage our communities or endanger workers.”

Why Revolution? Because We Love The People!

Why must we stand up against police brutality? Because we Love the people! For the bombing of innocent women and children? Because we Love the people! For the misappropriation of resources? Because we Love the people! For the slaughter, ruination and destruction of our ecosystem? Because we Love the people! Why do we need revolution?     Our friends at …

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The Rich in Beverly Hills Seem Oblivious to California’s Water Shortage

With California facing one of its most severe droughts in memory, and the state gearing up for the first mandatory water restrictions in history, much attention is being paid to California’s farmers who aren’t being asked to cut back as much as the rest of the state’s citizens.

At the opposite end of the economic scale, however, little attention is being paid to the Golden State’s other water-guzzling citizens: the rich folks who live in wealthy enclaves like Beverly Hills, Malibu, and other desirable zip codes.

According to the LA Times, Beverly Hills and other affluent cities use far more water per capita than less-wealthy communities, prompting concerns that threats of fines for not observing mandatory restrictions may have little effect on those who can easily pay them without missing a beat.

In 2011, when lower income communities like Santa Ana in Orange County used approximately 38 gallons a day per capita, residents in wealthier areas like Palos Verdes Estates and Newport Beach were using more than 150 gallons, or almost four times the amount per day.

According to George Murdoch, general manager of utilities in Newport Beach, “Some people – believe it or not – don’t know we are in a drought. We have people that own a home here but aren’t around a lot, so they could miss a leak.”

Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on a UCLA water-use study, has another theory: wealthy Californians are “lacking a sense that we are all in this together.”

“The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich,” Pincetl said.

Beverly Hills officials explain that they have focused on water saving education so far, instituting an emergency water conservation plan that calls for voluntary limits on use of fountains that don’t use recycled water, eliminating pavement washing, and cutting back on lawn watering by 10 percent.

But officials are concerned that the governor’s call to reduce water consumption by 25 percent may fall on the deaf ears of people unaccustomed to having to listen to things they don’t want to hear.

An entertainment industry worker who identified himself only as Eric said he has cut back on water usage, but admits he has a fountain, a jacuzzi, and lemon and orange trees to consider.

“This is America. You gotta live it up a little bit, right?” he said.

City officials in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills, have seen a steady drop in water use over the last few months, but remain concerned how much people in their upscale communities will cut back despite the threat of fines.

“In this part of town, everyone is just too important to see outside themselves,” explained Kay Dangaard, a longtime Beverly Hills resident. “Where are these people going to go with all their money when the water is gone?”

amazon watch chevron

Chevron CEO Doesn’t Deserve “Distinguished Citizen Award”

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak with Marc [YoutubeiTunes, and Podbean] about how sustainability activists in the Global North can support indigenous peoples who are protecting the Amazon rainforest and our climate. Indigenous peoples make up four percent of the world’s population, but their territories encompass 80% of our planet’s biodiversity. Last year the World Resources Institute released a comprehensive study supporting Amazon Watch’s strategy of empowering indigenous peoples and other local communities as the best way to protect the rainforest.

Unfortunately, those forest guardians are facing increasing threats from governments and companies looking to exploit their resources and violate their rights. Nina Gualinga, a youth leader from the Kichwa of Sarayaku, a community that defended its territory from the incursion of multiple oil companies and won a landmark case against the Ecuadorian government, speaks about our collective responsibility to keep the oil in the ground.  Last month we released the Slimy Seventeen, the seventeen oil companies that are most destructive for the Amazon and the communities that call it home.

One of those companies is Chevron, a corporation that lost a $9.5 billion lawsuit for poisoning 30,000 indigenous peoples and campesinos in the Ecuadorian Amazon. While Texaco, the company’s subsidiary, has admitted to deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste water into unlined open pits, Chevron is now refusing to pay. Instead, it has tried to sue the indigenous people it poisoned, their lawyers, its own shareholders, and even NGOs like Amazon Watch that dare to call it out for its abuses. That’s why, as my colleague Paul Paz y Miño wrote:

We were surprised to learn that the Commonwealth Club of California – the “nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum” – plans to honor Chevron CEO John Watson as a “distinguished global citizen” who has “given back” to the global community. They’re actually going to honor Watson’s ability to abuse his power, wealth and corporate connections to evade accountability for the wide range of environmental and human rights crimes he has overseen as head of Chevron since 2010? WHAT?!

There are a myriad of reasons why presenting such an award to Watson is outrageous. Massive pollution and health crises in Ecuador, death and destruction in Nigeria, lying to shareholders, abuse of the justice system, trampling free speech in the U.S., dumping millions into local elections to undermine democracy…the list of Chevron’s violations goes on and on. Watson has either overseen or has taken a personal role in advancing strategies that attack Chevron’s critics and has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid accepting responsibility for Chevron’s well documented actions of harming both people and the planet. It took less than a day to find almost 40 human rights and environmental organizations ready and willing to denounce this decision. If we had taken a week it would easily have been well over 100.

How is it then that none of this leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the Board of Governors at the Commonwealth Club?

Yes, this is all clearly a way for the Commonwealth Club to have a very successful fundraising gala. You present a symbolic award to someone like Watson and all his friends and colleagues come to dine and celebrate, donating thousands to the Club and paying exorbitant amounts for dinner and drinks at the Ritz Carlton. But just how far does someone need to go before it becomes in bad taste to “honor” them, despite how much money it may bring in? Would Bill Cosby be invited to the dinner alongside Jennifer Siebel Newsom as she talks about her work and film project on behalf of women and girls? I think not.

Yet Watson and Chevron’s acts to criminalize free speech and attack their critics were recently condemned by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Amnesty International and a host of other respected groups. Chevron famously lost in its effort to buy the elections in Richmond, hoping to completely undermine the democratic process. Why? Because their new puppets in Richmond would then drop the city’s lawsuit for the deadly refinery fire of 2012.

When Watson took over Chevron in 2010 his company’s handling of its Ecuador disaster took a very different and distinctly aggressive tone. Watson had been one of the architects of Chevron’s merger with Texaco years before. He was there when Amazon Watch warned Chevron not to proceed because of the enormous liability in Ecuador. He knew that Texaco admitted to deliberately dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into the pristine inhabited rainforest. He knew Texaco documents were uncovered proving the company’s policy of hiding leaks and not reporting spills during its operations. Apparently, just as the Texaco executives decided that it was worth the human and environmental toll to save $3 per barrel by dumping the waste for decades instead of lining their open toxic waste pits, Watson decided the merger with Texaco was worth the cost. He literally agreed to own Texaco’s mess.

When Watson took over from David O’Reilly in 2010, he had a choice. He could have ushered in a new era for the company. He could have apologized to the people of Ecuador. He could have negotiated a settlement and agreed to clean up the Amazon wasteland his company had created. True – to do so would have cost a tremendous amount of money. But in addition to being the right thing to do, and stemming the wave of deaths from cancer, it would have also been fiscally responsible. And it would have earned Watson a legitimate reason to be recognized by a group like the Commonwealth Club.

For in the end, Chevron has spent over a billion dollars already just fighting to avoid its responsibility. Lawyers have built careers (and billed more than the affected communities in Ecuador make in a lifetime) providing legal defense for Chevron. When all is said and done, and Chevron finally pays for the clean-up, when it realizes that the resolve of the affected communities and their many global allies in supporters is stronger, then it will have paid twice over for its acts in Ecuador. Thousands more will have died from cancer, however. They are suffering and dying at this very moment.

Will Watson or anyone at the Commonwealth Club gala give a moment’s thought to them on April 2nd?

We could all shrug our shoulders and write this whole event off as just more of the rich patting themselves on the back and move on. But there is a real danger here. The danger is that this isn’t just a pro-oil company lobby group celebrating Watson’s acts to thwart renewable energy programs. This is an institution founded for debate and discussion on the issues of the day granting legitimacy to a known corporate criminal who is free from accountability only because he and his company are rich enough to hire 60 law firms and over 2000 legal professionals to drag on the legal saga for ages in hopes that the affected communities will literally die out and their supporters will exhaust the resources to assist them any more. That act must be protested. The standard that allows Watson to stand next to people acknowledged for actually trying to better the world must always be condemned. That is why we register our outrage. It is on behalf of those sick and dying in Richmond, Nigeria, Ecuador and elsewhere, who John Watson could have assisted – and didn’t.

It probably won’t be until the day Chevron finally pays the Ecuadorian judgment when the reckoning comes for Watson. Perhaps only when the bill at long last arrives, when Chevron’s assets are seized and Watson can’t hide that he’s cost shareholders billions of wasted dollars, that organizations like the Commonwealth Club will keep the name of Watson off the list. At that point it would just be in bad taste.

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The Senate Had A Hearing On Oil Exports And Didn’t Mention The Environment Once

On Thursday, the Senate Energy Committee convened a hearing to discuss the U.S. ban on crude oil exports, which has been in place since 1973. With the United States in the midst of an oil boom – and with Americans using less gas than ever before – lifting the ban would have profound implications both at home and abroad, issues that dominated the panelists’ testimony and committee’s questions.

“The national security side will be an extremely important part of this going forward,” Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said during the hearing. “We all recognize that the world is a very, very volatile place right now.”

Lifting the export ban, several panelists argued, would allow the United States to leverage more power over potential oil sanctions by assuring that the international market would remain stable. It would also, panelists said, move the center of the international oil market away from unstable countries – both Russia and Iran merited a mention – stabilizing the overall supply.

Domestically, Carlos Pascual, fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, argued that lifting the export ban would lower gas prices and boost the U.S. economy. “The critical focus on the part of Americans is price,” Pascual said. “Every single study that has been done by a major institution has come to the same conclusion: lifting the export ban will reduce the price of gasoline in the United States,” while adding $38.1 billion to the U.S. GDP by 2020.

In all these calculations, however, there was one glaring omission: no panelist – or senator – talked about how lifting the export ban would impact the environment.

“It feels ridiculous to have a discussion about lifting the ban on oil exports and not talk about climate change,” Karthik Ganapathy, U.S. communications director at, told ThinkProgress. “What it boils down to is lifting the ban encourages and incentivizes oil production in the U.S. and that’s the wrong direction.”

Lifting the crude oil export ban would increase demand for oil in the international market, which would incentivize U.S. oil companies to expand their businesses and explore new options for drilling. Most likely, that would mean the extraction of tight oil reserves – the kind of petroleum extracted from shale or sandstone through hydraulic fracking.

“Our concern is that we need to be moving away from oil,” said David Turnbull, campaigns director at Oil Change International. “We need to be not relaxing U.S. oil regulations in the context of the climate crisis.”

Here are three issues surrounding crude oil exports that weren’t mentioned in Thursday’s Senate hearing.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“The industry wants to lift the ban so they can increase production and have a bigger market to send their oil around,” Turnbull said. “The logical conclusion to that is that they would be ramping up production, and that has a clear climate impact.”

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), one-third of the world’s fossil fuel reserves – including coal, oil, and natural gas – need to remain in the ground to have a 50-50 shot at staying beneath the 2° Celsius warming limit internationally agreed upon by 141 countries in the Copenhagen Accord (a limit that, by some estimates, doesn’t go far enough in protecting us from the negative effects of climate change). To raise that chance to 80 percent, only one-tenth of current fossil fuel reserves can be extracted and burned by 2050. Working under those incredibly tight parameters, a huge amount of America’s natural gas needs to remain in the Earth for the 2°C goal to be feasible.

Lifting the crude oil export ban would encourage producers to flood the market with even more crude oil, stimulating the burning of a fuel that needs to stay in the ground if the 2°C goal has any chance of being a reality. As Oil Change International warned in a 2013 report, “Without an effective international regime to keep global greenhouse gas emissions below recognized thresholds, deregulating U.S. crude oil exports can only exacerbate the impending climate crisis.”

CREDIT: Josh Burstein / NextGen Climate Action

In addition to encouraging the extraction of tight oil, lifting the export ban could increase the amount of heavy crudes – like tar sands – brought into the U.S. for refining.

“Before we had this new boom of the lighter, desirable crude, [the U.S. oil industries] built a number of refineries that are specialized in getting usable product out of heavier crude,” Janet Larsen, director of research at Earth Policy Institute, told ThinkProgress. “If we can export the lighter stuff, we may end up … sending it to places that can refine it better, and using the refineries we have to process the heavier stuff.”

That, Larsen explains, would be tantamount to an double-whammy, increasing the production of both light crude and heavier, more greenhouse gas-intensive heavy crude.

Water Concerns

If deregulating crude oil exports encourages U.S. producers to ramp up extraction of tight oil, leading to an increase in fracking, the country’s already dwindling water supply could also be on the line.

Fracking is a water-intensive process, requiring millions of gallons of water to drill a single well. In places like California, which is in the midst of a historic drought, fracking would require the diversion of precious water resources to drill for a fuel that will simply exacerbate climate change, which some say caused the drought in the first place.

CREDIT: AuntSpray

But it doesn’t take a drought to raise concerns about the impact an increase in fracking would have on water supplies. Last week, the Environmental Working Group released a report on the chemicals found in California’s fracking wastewater, listing things like “petroleum chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive elements.”

Even in places not currently experiencing drought, fracking – which, according to the EWG, produces more wastewater than it does oil or gas – gives environmentalists pause. “Pennsylvania is not necessarily in a drought,” Turnbull said, “but that doesn’t mean that people’s drinking water should be impacted.”

Dangerous Transportation

Since mid-February, four trains carrying crude oil have derailed in the U.S. and Canada, sparking massive fires and spilling their contents into waterways and communities.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that trains are not a particularly safe method of transporting crude oil. And yet, if the export ban is lifted, oil companies looking to ship their crude overseas will have to get their oil to market somehow – either by train or pipeline.

“Transporting oil, no matter which way you do it, is not safe,” Turnbull said. “It’s a combustible fuel. It causes problems when it gets mixed with water. When a pipeline leaks in a neighborhood, it can decimate it.”

To Turnbull, the debate over relaxing crude oil export regulations highlights a dangerous chasm between energy policy and climate policy. “It’s really incoherent,” he said, “to talk about the crude export ban and relaxing oil regulations without talking about climate change.”

PHOTO CREDIT: Anan Kaewkhammul
Written By: Natasha Geiling

HUGE Win for Internet Freedom: FCC Approves Net Neutrality

In what one Republican called a “monumental shift toward government control of the Internet,” the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a proposal granting the federal government the authority to regulate Internet broadband providers under the same law as public utilities.

The five commissioners voted 3-2 along party lines in favor of the proposal known as net neutrality. The 332-page plan, which has not yet been publicly released, bans broadband providers from blocking, throttling or prioritizing certain Internet pages over others. The FCC has said the proposal will not seek to impose any new taxes or fees.

The three Democrats voiced their support of the measure while the two Republicans dissented. Democrats say they have the authority to impose the new regulations under under Title II of the Federal Communications Act of 1934.

In his remarks, Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai called the plan a “monumental shift toward government control of the Internet” and a “rapid departure” from market-oriented approaches.

“It is sad to to witness the FCC’s unprecedented attempt to replace that freedom with government control,” he said.

Even Obama weighed in:
net neutrality obama

Wheeler announced the plan in a Feb. 4 op-ed, in which he called it the “strongest open Internet protections ever proposed, saying it “assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

Republicans made numerous efforts to stop the issue from coming to this. They have argued – and are still arguing – that the FCC shouldn’t get to decide how to regulate the Internet. That power, they say, is one that should be granted by Congress.

In fact, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) drafted legislation that would address many of the same issues as the ones the new FCC rules address. Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Fred Upton (R-MI) joined with Thune in the House in trying to find a legislative solution ahead of the meeting, but were unable to push through a bill in time.

With Thursday’s vote now on the books, the issue might still be far from over. Some have said the fate of these new rules is destined for the Supreme Court.

Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly hinted at future challenges Thursday, saying the plan is “not likely to survive judicial scrutiny.”

Toxic Waste Spill in North Carolina: Coal Ash (Part 1) | VICE News

Coal ash, which contains many of the world’s worst carcinogens, is what’s left over when coal is burnt for electricity. An estimated 113 million tons of coal ash are produced annually in the US, and stored in almost every state — some of it literally in people’s backyards. With very little government oversight and few safeguards in place, toxic chemicals have been known to leak from these storage sites and into nearby communities, contaminating drinking water and making residents sick.

On February 2, 2014, up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water spilled out into the Dan River in North Carolina after a pipe broke underneath a coal ash pond at a Duke Energy power plant. The environmental disaster thrust Duke Energy, the country’s largest electricity company, into the spotlight, revealing a history of violations and inadequate oversight of ponds at all of its plants across the state.

In part one, VICE News travels to North Carolina to visit a river that’s been poisoned with arsenic from a nearby Duke Energy site, speak with a resident who has found toxic heavy metals in her drinking water, and question a Duke Energy spokesperson about the power company’s policies.

Watch “Showdown in Coal Country”

Watch “Petcoke: Toxic Waste in the Windy City”

Read “Humans Are Destroying the Environment at a Rate Unprecedented in Over 10,000 Years”

Read “The Economic Cost of Carbon Pollution Is Much Greater Than Estimated, Say Stanford University Researchers”

Read “The EPA Tightened Rules on Coal Waste, But Not Enough, Say Environmentalists”

Pot Is Making Colorado So Much Money They Literally Have To Give Some Back To Residents


DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s marijuana experiment was designed to raise revenue for the state and its schools, but a state law may put some of the tax money directly into residents’ pockets, causing quite a headache for lawmakers.

The state constitution limits how much tax money the state can take in before it has to give some back. That means Coloradans may each get their own cut of the $50 million in recreational pot taxes collected in the first year of legal weed. It’s a situation so bizarre that it’s gotten Republicans and Democrats, for once, to agree on a tax issue.

Even some pot shoppers are surprised Colorado may not keep the taxes that were promised to go toward school construction when voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

“I have no problem paying taxes if they’re going to schools,” said Maddy Beaumier, 25, who was visiting a dispensary near the Capitol.

But David Huff, a 50-year-old carpenter from Aurora, said taxes that add 30 percent or more to the price of pot, depending on the jurisdiction, are too steep.

“I don’t care if they write me a check, or refund it in my taxes, or just give me a free joint next time I come in. The taxes are too high, and they should give it back,” Huff said.

Legal weed has collided with the tax limitation movement because a 1992 voter-approved constitutional amendment called the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights requires all new taxes to go before voters.

The amendment also requires Colorado to pay back taxpayers when the state collects more than what’s permitted by a formula based on inflation and population growth. Over the years, Colorado has issued refunds six times, totaling more than $3.3 billion.

Republicans and Democrats say there’s no good reason to put pot taxes back into people’s pockets, and state officials are scrambling to figure out how to avoid doling out the money. It may have to be settled by asking Colorado voters, for a third time, to cast a ballot on the issue and exempt pot taxes from the refund requirement.

Republicans concede that marijuana is throwing them off their usual position of wanting tax dollars returned to taxpayers. But they also tend to say that marijuana should pay for itself – that general taxes shouldn’t pay for things like increased drug education and better training for police officers to identify stoned drivers.

“I think it’s appropriate that we keep the money for marijuana that the voters said that we should,” said Republican Senate President Bill Cadman. His party opposes keeping other refunds based on the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights but favors a special ballot question on pot taxes.

“This is a little bit of a different animal. There’s a struggle on this one,” said Sen. Kevin Grantham, one of the Republican budget writers.

After legalizing marijuana in 2012, Colorado voters returned to the polls the following year and approved a 15 percent excise tax on pot for the schools and an additional 10 percent sales tax for lawmakers to spend.

Voters were told those taxes would generate about $70 million in the first year. The state now believes it will rake in about $50 million.

But because the economy is improving and other tax collections are growing faster, Colorado is obligated to give back much of what it has collected. Final numbers aren’t ready, but the governor’s budget writers predict the pot refunds could amount to $30.5 million, or about $7.63 per adult in Colorado.

“It’s just absurd,” said Democratic state Sen. Pat Steadman, one of the Legislature’s budget writers.

The head-scratching extends to Colorado’s marijuana industry. Several industry groups actively campaigned for the pot taxes but aren’t taking a position on whether to refund them.

Mike Elliott of the Denver-based Marijuana Industry Group said it isn’t pushing for lower taxes, but that’s an option lawmakers don’t seem to be considering. State law doesn’t bar lawmakers from cutting taxes without a vote.

Lawmakers have a little time to figure out how to proceed. They’ll consider pot refunds and a separate refund to taxpayers of about $137 million after receiving final tax estimates that are due in March.

When they talk about pot refunds, they’ll have to figure out if the money would go to all taxpayers, or just those who bought pot. Previous refunds have generally been paid through income tax returns, but Colorado also has reduced motor vehicle fees or even reduced sales taxes on trucks.

Lawmakers seem confident that the refund mechanism won’t matter because voters would approve pot taxes a third time if asked.

“This is what the voters want, and if we’re going to have (pot), and the constitution says it’s legal, we damn well better tax it,” Steadman said.

Sanitary Pads on A Train

Looking at my screen, noticing the blotch marks of oil and grease. There’s dust everywhere and my keys don’t seem to press down with the same elegance they once did when she was new, my laptop, who I affectionately call “my baby” has been good to us. It is the fourth hour on our train from Kishengar to New Delhi and …

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Super Plant: Stinging Nettle

Super foods. They seem to be trending. So much about consuming these preciously nutritious products as part of our daily diets. Acai berries, quinoa, chia seeds, matcha, hemp seeds, raw cacao… It’s great that we are becoming more aware of the role good nutrition plays in our lives and that the accessibility of highly nutritious …

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Why We Keep Pressing Snooze On Climate Change

In a recent interview, retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley explained that climate change impacts were a threat to national security [1]. The threat of war is just one more in a long list of climate change horrors that scientists and activists say will occur by the end of the century—that list includes economic meltdown, …

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