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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Public Health Risks from Agro-business, Livestock Industry

A Johns Hopkins panel released a report yesterday sharply criticizing the use of sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics in livestock, saying it poses “unnecessary and unreasonable public health risks” by increasing bacteria’s resistance to antibodies. Livestock industry leaders attacked the report as “scare-mongering.” This comes five years after the landmark 2008 report by Pew Charitable Trusts finding that feeding animals antibiotics makes them increasingly less effective and calling for the industry to end the practice. 2 million people contract antibiotic-resistant illnesses and 23,000 people die from them each year. Due to industry lobbying, however, nothing has changed and Congress is unlikely to ever take action.

Meanwhile, an AP report revealed that pesticides sold by Monsanto – specifically, glyphosate-based weed-killers – have led to growing health problems in Argentina, ranging from birth defects to elevated rates of cancer. A major issue seems to be that the agrochemicals are being used in unforeseen ways, some expressly banned by law. Monsanto has called for the misuse of pesticides to stop, saying glyphosate is otherwise safe.

Tunisians Protest for Government’s Resignation

While thousands of anti-government protesters marched through Tunis, at least seven police officers were killed during an attack by Islamic militants in the south of the country. The demonstrations took place hours before the planned national dialogue between the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda and the opposition. The talks coincided with the second anniversary of Tunisia’s revolution.

Prime Minister Ali Larayedh confirmed today that his government would step down once it had completed negotiations to create a caretaker government that would run the country until its next elections.

More US Citizens in Deep Poverty

A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the number of families with children living in deep poverty has risen 130% since 1996. Extreme poverty is defined as living on $2 a day or less. The value of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program benefits has steadily declined since. There is currently no state in the country where TANF benefits would raise the annual income of a single parent with two children above $9,700.

In New York City, the homeless population has soared. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, homeless numbers this high have not been seen since the Great Depression.

Al-Shabab’s Western Followers

Norway’s domestic intelligence service tried to prevent one of the suspected gunmen in the Westgate mall attack in Kenya from joining the Somali militant group al-Shabab three years ago. The Norwegian is the only attacker to have been identified thus far. The BBC has compiled a list of almost 50 people from Britain with links to al-Shabab, over half of whom are likely currently in Somalia.

A silver lining to the group’s rising international profile seems to be that a ‘civil war’ may be breaking out within al-Shabab, as it increasingly splits into two factions – global jihadists and local nationalists.

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