Why Honeybees Don’t Have A Chance In The Midst Of Pesticides

I keep writing about honeybees because in my long experience at the US Environmental Protection Agency, nothing affected me more than my discovery that the plight of the honeybees has been a result of industry malfeasance and corruption managed by the EPA. Suddenly, I could read the hidden script of modern archaeology excavating the complex codes of federal regulation, risk assessment, and environmental protection. Honeybees became the mirror of self-delusion and destruction.

It all started innocently. A few ecologists monitoring pesticides and their impact on honeybees raised the alarm as early as 1976. They wrote detailed memoranda on the hazardous and often lethal effects of neurotoxic farm insecticides on honeybees. They recommended a moratorium on such pesticides that crippled the abilities of honeybees to search for nectar and pollen and, at the same time, pollinate some of our crops.

However, by mid-1970s, America’s political class had had it with EPA, which in 1972 dared ban the king of farm sprays, DDT. So politicians tied the EPA to the profits of the industry. My colleagues’ recommendations went nowhere. EPA kept approving “bad actors,” deleterious pesticides, with far-reaching consequences not merely for honeybees but for all life.

This was astonishing to me. By the time I joined EPA, in 1979, the agency was imploding from industry corruption. With utter contempt for public and environmental health, the industry declared war on science and even the environmental laws it had drafted for the government. The agribusiness industry became the alternative model of government and society. It expected no resistance or change. EPA was simply its lapdog. But unexpected things happened.

In 1976, an outstanding pathologist from the US Food and Drug Administration, Adrian Gross, uncovered a massive lab fraud. Companies paid a large laboratory known as Industrial Bio-Test, near Chicago, to test their products for federal approval. IBT did just that, using fraud and deceit to make the products shine.

Gross reported the fraud he discovered and EPA, FDA, and the entire federal government and the industry panicked. Companies went to their paid lobbyists who went to the paid-for Congressmen and Senators who went to the White House that ordered EPA to minimize and ignore the lab crime and its potential deleterious effects on public and environmental health.

It took seven years, from 1976 to 1983, to shut down IBT. And none of the major pesticides that gained license through the flawless data generating IBT machine lost their “registration” with the EPA. In other words, the fraud and crime of approving pesticides with fake data was never punished. The owners of IBT pesticides did not go to prison.

This period of wild industry corruption gave birth to glyphosate, a weed killer that achieved global significance, being the biggest selling pesticide ever. From 1974, when it came to market, to 2014, more than 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate drenched America. This is a Monsanto product.

I don’t know if glyphosate was tested by IBT. But other researchers say glyphosate came out of the house of IBT. Whatever the truth, the result is probably the same: a cloud of suspicion and outright agribusiness fraud has tainted glyphosate.

This history and Monsanto’s fight for global dominance give glyphosate the attention of champions. It is the “active” ingredient of the popular roundup weed killer and the driver of Roundup Ready, genetically engineered crops designed to tolerate glyphosate. Monsanto claims the best, almost harmless virtues, for its precious glyphosate products. Most international organizations, governments, agricultural universities, and the agribusiness industry like Monsanto. Glyphosate continues to be the powerhouse of weed killers and GMOs – worldwide.

Fishing Tycoon Known As ‘The Codfather’ Will Plead Guilty To Conspiracy And Smuggling Charges

Carlos Rafael, a Massachusetts fishing tycoon known as “The Codfather,” is reportedly taking the bait in a settlement deal with the Department of Justice, federal officials said.

The owner of the largest commercial fishing enterprise in New England will plead guilty to federal charges of evading fishing quotas and smuggling money to his native Portugal in a hearing scheduled for March 16, The Providence Journal reported Thursday.

In February 2016, federal authorities arrested Rafael, then 64, after he allegedly misreported 815,812 pounds of fish from 2012 to 2016 in an effort to sidestep quotas set by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to protect vulnerable fish populations.

According to the Department of Justice, Rafael repeatedly lied to NOAA during the four-year period, telling his boat captains to mislabel thousands of pounds of fish as species such as haddock instead of cod, yellowtail and other types with stricter quotas.

During an undercover investigation, federal agents posing as Russian gangsters heard Rafael describe “bags of cash” he received from New York buyers in exchange for his illegal catch, The Boston Globe reported.

Some of Rafael’s money was smuggled to Portugal with the help of Antonio Freitas, who allegedly used his position as a Homeland Security Task Force officer to access restricted areas in Boston’s Logan International Airport during the criminal operation.

Rafael was charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of bulk cash smuggling and 25 counts of falsifying records. Freitas was arrested in May and charged with bulk cash smuggling and international structuring.

The Huffington Post reached out to William H. Kettlewell, Rafael’s lawyer, but an associate at his law firm said the attorney would not comment.

Dolphin Wipes Out Australian Surfer, And He Couldn’t Be More Delighted

This video of a large dolphin wiping out a surfer looks painful. But surfer Sam Yoon seems to have loved every moment of his close encounter off Australia’s Gold Coast with the leaping aquatic mammal this week.

The dolphin appeared to torque midair in a last-ditch bid to miss Yoon, who was sitting on his board in the waters off Duranbah Beach. But it landed right on top of him.

“I knew that he realized he’s got to do something, too,” Yoon told the broadcaster 9NEWS Thursday. “I looked up and thought, ‘F*** this, there’s no way I can get away from this.’”

The dolphin struck him on the head, shoulder and back, but Yoon wasn’t seriously hurt, except for some “stinging.”

And he was super-charged on adrenaline after watching the strange encounter that a witness had recorded with his cell phone.

Yoon told 9NEWS he continued to stay in the water to surf after the body-slam, accompanied by several dolphins.

“They communicated to each other that every time I’m paddling, they’re coming, they’re supposed to jump, they were getting away from me,” he said.

He later described his encounter with the animals as “so chilled.”

“I was singing to them for like the whole surf … beautiful,” he told the Brisbane Times.

“I’ve never seen that happen to anybody before,” he said of the collision.

But dolphin collisions can happen.

In September, Jed Gradison, 13, was surfing off the West Australian coast when a dolphin leaped from a wave and landed on him.

“The dolphin reacted, I think, really shocked — almost as shocked as I was,” he told PerthNow.

The teen’s back was sore, but otherwise he wasn’t hurt. The dolphin, however, did hit his nose through Gradison’s board, but seemed uninjured. “That must have hurt a bit,” he added.

California Girds To Battle Feds To Save The Environment in 2018

California officials aim to guard some of the toughest environmental standards in the nation against the Trump administration’s plan to cut clean air and water regulations.

But it’s probably not going to be easy.

California has set the standard in many areas of environmental protections, including the toughest regulations for car emissions and fuel economy. The state, with its population of 39 million, is large enough to wield significant clout in the market.

“For the past 50 years, California has led the country and the world when it comes to clean cars,” Margo Oge, who once directed the Office of Transportation and Air Quality at the Environmental Protection Agency, told The Washington Post.

But its progressive environmental standards rely on a kind of special dispensation from the federal government. The Clean Air Act gave the EPA authority to grant a waiver of national emissions standards to California if it enacted tougher regulations. Waivers were later granted to other states that adopted California’s standards instead of the less-stringent federal ones.

California’s cutting-edge rules helped buoy a national agreement by the Obama administration and the automobile industry that calls for cars to achieve an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The state has several other waivers for tougher environmental rules. In testimony last month before the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality, Richard Frank, director of the California Environmental Law & Policy Center, called the arrangement an example of “cooperative federalism.”

But California leaders fear that the administration of President Donald Trump, who leads a Republican Party that typically champions states’ rights, will move to yank California’s waiver on fuel economy — even though it’s supposed to be valid until 2025. The auto industry is already pressing for fuel-efficiency standards to be eased. Trade groups sent letters asking new EPA chief Scott Pruitt to review the fuel economy standards. Pruitt said at his confirmation hearings that he would review the standards — and California’s waiver.

California is expected to head straight to court if the Trump administration calls for easing the standards in the state.

It’s unclear when that clash might happen. The state has placed former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on retainer to take on court cases California expects to file against the federal government at some point.

One environmental rule that the administration swiftly dropped was the ban on using lead ammunition and fishing tackle in national parks and wildlife refuges. Lifting the ban was one of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s first actions.

California plans to stick to its state ban, passed in 2013, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told KQED Science. The law phases in a complete prohibition on lead hunting ammo in the whole state by 2019.

Lead bullets left in the environment or in carrion and prey can be ingested by other animals, causing neurological damage and death. Among those most at risk are eagles and the endangered California condor. As many as 20 million birds and other animals die of lead poisoning nationally each year because of the nearly 100,000 tons of lead that sportsmen use, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Radioactive Boars Rule Abandoned Japanese Towns In Wake Of Fukushima Disaster

Six years after the Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster — a major nuclear meltdown brought on by an earthquake and tsunami hitting Fukushima, Japan — some residents who fled the area are getting the go-ahead to finally return home.

A wild boar is seen at a residential area in an evacuation zone near Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 1, 2017. Picture taken March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

The government has cleared four towns in the Fukushima prefecture as being safe for people, but there’s at least one issue standing in the way: Thousands of radioactive wild boars.

The boars, which have been consuming contaminated plants and smaller animals since the nuclear disaster, exhibit levels of the radioactive element cesium-137 that’s 300 times more than would be deemed safe for humans to consume, The New York Times reports.

The presence of the boars, which have thrived in the region since humans cleared out, isn’t news. The Washington Post reported last year on the animals, noting that scientists have found no evidence that the boars have any ill effects from radioactivity in their systems.

The media has compared the situation with the region surrounding Chernobyl, Ukraine. There, wildlife like wolves, deer, bears and owls have flourished since people abandoned the area following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

But in Fukushima, the boars present a dilemma for humans who want to move back home. The Times reports that the boars are causing massive damage to farmland. And, since they’ve lost their wariness of people, they’re likely to be aggressive.“It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars,” Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the deserted town of Namie, told Reuters. Some residents of Namie will be allowed to return at the end of the month.

To make way for the return of townspeople, local officials are deploying hunters to kill off the boars. They’re also setting traps and using drones to try to scare them away, according to the Times. Grisly photos of trapped and dead boars emerged from Fukushima earlier this month.

Bay Area School Gets Rich Quick On Snapchat Investment

Saint Francis High School just taught us all a lesson in finance.

The Mountain View, California, private school parlayed a $15,000 Snapchat investment it made years ago into more than $20 million after the social-sharing company went public in a big way on Thursday, CBS in San Francisco reported.

“I’m not so sure that I call it divine intervention, but I’ll tell you what: If you can turn $15,000 into the vast amount of money that this return will bring, then you have to say God’s looking out for us,” former school president Kevin Makley told the station.

IPO shares of Snap Inc. jumped on the New York Stock Exchange from $17 to $24.48 in the company’s debut on Thursday.

Current school president Simon Chiu estimated the profit to be in the “neighborhood of $23 million.”

Saint Francis High School got in on the action in 2012 when school parent Barry Eggers persuaded the school’s investment fund to back Snapchat after watching his daughter and her friends tinkering with the app, according to the Mountain View Voice.

“We didn’t have real high expectations,” former president Makley told CNN. “We collectively decided that this was going to be a … small investment. So we’ll take a shot at it.”

According to the CBS segment, numerous stock splits before the IPO meant the school was holding millions of shares. It sold two-thirds of those shares at the IPO price.

Chiu told the Voice he hopes to beef up the school’s endowment fund to help families in need ― but said it will be up to the school board to decide how to allocate the money.

“We want to make this education accessible to as many students and families as possible,” he said.

NBCUniversal Invested $500 Million In Snap Inc As Part Of IPO

Comcast Corp’s (CMCSA.O) NBCUniversal said on Friday it had invested $500 million in Snap Inc (SNAP.N) as it continues to spend heavily on digital media companies.

Snap’s shares jumped 8.6 percent to $26.59 in early trading. The company finished its first day of trading with a 44 percent gain compared to its IPO price of $17.00.

The investment was made as a part of the Snapchat owner’s initial public offering, NBCUniversal Chief Executive Steve Burke said in a memo to employees.

Earlier, CNBC reported that Snap’s stock allocation to NBCUniversal seems to be the only one made to a new strategic investor, making NBCUniversal the lone U.S. media company with a stake.

Comcast has invested heavily in digital-native companies such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media, partly in an effort to better service existing advertisers.

“With the Snap investment, we have invested over $1.5 billion in promising digital businesses in the last eighteen months,” Burke said in the memo.

NBCUniversal has already launched entertainment programs such as The Voice, SNL and E! News’ The Rundown on Snapchat. The media company said it expects to launch more Snapchat shows in the coming weeks.

NBCUniversal has agreed to hold Snap’s shares for at least a year, according to the CNBC report.

Snap disclosed last month that it expected investors buying up to a quarter of its shares in the company’s $3.4 billion initial public offering to agree not to sell them for a year.

Lock-up periods help companies moderate stock volatility by preventing company insiders from selling their shares within an allotted time.

NBCUniversal courted Snap co-founder Evan Spiegel for the past year, CNBC said, and both companies have been working on deepening their relationship.

Snap declined to comment beyond details noted in its prospectus and other U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Comcast’s shares were marginally lower.

(Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Anya George Tharakan; Editing by Maju Samuel)

Where To Invest Your Money In The Trump Era

Donald Trump is president, like it or not. And with a new administration comes changes in policy that will affect your portfolio. Some Trump policy changes and key Cabinet appointments came quickly, and their impact on financial markets has already started taking hold. In other areas, we have little more than general comments from the administration to indicate policy direction.

Whatever you may think about the changes, it’s a good time to assess the investment risks and opportunities — which sectors are likely to surge, and which might flounder — under the Trump administration. Here are eight worth examining:

1. Infrastructure opportunities brewing

Possibly one of the most obvious bets is in construction companies. Pipelines and giant walls are just two of the sorts of projects Trump has advocated during his first weeks in office. As a candidate, he also promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild many of the nation’s roads and bridges.

If he can convince Congress to pay for it all, there could be lots of money flowing to construction companies over the next few years. Industrial equipment maker Caterpillar could see some of this cash come their way to purchase the backhoes and bulldozers required for big projects. Cemex, a Mexican company that makes concrete and cement, could also do well.

The possibilities go beyond bridges and roads; there may also be major improvements and expansions to the nation’s communication networks and power infrastructure — a potential boon for companies that make and install things like power lines and fiber optic cables.

2. Energy industry shifts

Companies that mine uranium and run nuclear power plants are excited by the prospects under the Trump administration, owing to comments that suggest he’s pro-nuclear. Professionals urge care in investing in the industry, since it is quite volatile.

Oil and gas companies have also rallied, since Trump seems to be a friend to companies that pull carbon out of the ground. One strong indication was his appointment of Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, to be his secretary of state.

Trump often talks about revitalizing coal — in part by removing environmental regulations to rev up the industry — but problems with coal go beyond those regulations and are unlikely to be solved by the president. For one thing, plentiful natural gas has supplanted coal as the fuel of choice for utilities and other big users.

Trump’s comments also signal renewable energy may become a loser. If his policies lower gas and oil prices, people won’t be as quick to switch to environmentally friendly energy sources like solar. Additionally, federal subsidies for these industries may dry up.

While you can always buy shares in large companies like ExxonMobil or BP, it might be safer to look for a fund you like that trades in the sector. Check out, “Think Oil Will Rebound? Here’s How to Pump Some Profits,” for ideas

Uber Has A Secret Program Called ‘Greyball’ It Uses To Evade Police

For years, Uber used a secretive software tool known internally as “Greyball” to identify and steer its drivers clear of potential threats ― including law enforcement officers hoping to catch Uber operating in their cities illegally.

UPDATE: March 9 ― Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan announced late Wednesday that the company is reviewing its use of “greyballing” technology and “expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”

Earlier:

According to The New York Times, which first reported the story, the company deployed the software in cities that deemed the ride-hailing service illegal or otherwise tried to slow the company’s rapid expansion.

The Times reports that Uber’s software clues into a number of signs from prospective riders to determine whether they might pose a threat to the company or its drivers, notably in the form of enforcement officers trying to catch Uber operating illegally.

This includes the rider’s behavior using the app itself, such as the phone type, and patterns in the frequency of its use. Another clear tell: interacting with the app in close proximity to police stations and other government buildings.

In 2014, for instance, officials in Portland, Oregon, sued Uber for operating in the city illegally, and promised to hit every driver caught working for the service with a fine of up to $3,750.

The threat accomplished little, as Uber continued operating anyway. Portland officers pushed forward with sting operations in an attempt to catch the unlicensed operators, yet were stymied as drivers repeatedly canceled their rides, as this 2014 video by The Oregonian demonstrates:

“There were two drivers that were available at one point in time, and they both canceled on me,” Portland Code Enforcement Officer Erich England comments in the video, giving a perplexed shrug. “Now there are no drivers available.”

Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman acknowledged the city’s relationship with Uber was “pretty tumultuous” in 2014, but he told The Huffington Post that doesn’t excuse the company’s behavior.

“I’m appalled that Uber would direct its employees to work on developing software to deliberately thwart the efforts of Portland, and no doubt other cities,” Saltzman told HuffPost. He characterized the city’s regulatory efforts as dedicated to “the safety and wellbeing of our citizens and our tourists.”

Portland and Uber smoothed over their relationship in 2015, but Saltzman said the city would consider levying fines or banning the company (again), should it run afoul of regulations.

GM Sells Opel To French Company For $2.3 Billion, Exits Europe

PARIS/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – PSA Group has agreed to buy Opel from General Motors in a deal valuing the business at 2.2 billion euros ($2.3 billion), the companies said on Monday, creating a new regional car giant to challenge market leader Volkswagen.

The maker of Peugeot and Citroen cars vowed to return Opel and its British Vauxhall brand to profit, targeting an operating margin of 2 percent within three years and 6 percent by 2026 underpinned by 1.7 billion euros in joint cost savings.

PSA shares jumped 4 percent after Chief Executive Carlos Tavares said GM’s European arm could be turned around using some of the lessons from the French group’s own recovery.

“We’re confident that the Opel-Vauxhall turnaround will significantly accelerate with our support,” he said.

By acquiring Opel, PSA leapfrogs French rival Renault to become Europe’s second-ranked carmaker by sales, with a 16 percent market share to VW’s 24 percent.

Last year, PSA and GM Europe recorded a combined 72 billion euros in revenue and 4.3 million vehicle deliveries.

GM will receive 1.32 billion euros for the Opel manufacturing business – 650 million euros in cash and 670 million in PSA share warrants.

An additional 900 million euros will be paid by the Paris-based carmaker and BNP Paribas for Opel’s financing arm, to be operated jointly and consolidated by the French bank.

The sale of Opel seals GM’s exit from Europe. Eight years after coming close to a sale to Canada’s Magna International, the Detroit auto giant has faced renewed investor pressure to offload the business and focus on raising profitability rather than chase the global sales crown currently held by VW.

After fending off 2015 merger overtures by Fiat Chrysler with support from her board, GM boss Mary Barra agreed to target a 20 percent minimum return on invested capital and pay out more cash to shareholders.