Elena Scotti/The Daily Beast
Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which started Thursday in Orlando, Florida?
Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it.
The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest. They’re probably behind that, too…
To be sure, untangling webs of funders, organizations, and campaigns can often feel like conspiracy-mongering. Your brain begins to resemble one of those bulletin boards from A Beautiful Mind or Se7en, full of paranoid-seeming Post-Its and strings. Bruce Wilson has been untangling these webs for years, and sometimes it shows…
But often he’s dead on. And beneath the hyperbole, The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.
Let’s start with the basics. What is The Gathering?
The Gathering is an annual event at which many of the wealthiest conservative to hard-right evangelical philanthropists in America—representatives of the families DeVos, Coors, Prince, Green, Maclellan, Ahmanson, Friess, plus top leaders of the National Christian Foundation—meet with evangelical innovators with fresh ideas on how to evangelize the globe. The Gathering promotes “family values” agenda: opposition to gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, and also a global vision that involves the eventual eradication of all competing belief systems that might compete with The Gathering’s hard-right version of Christianity. Last year, for example, The Gathering 2013 brought together key funders, litigants, and plaintiffs of the Hobby Lobby case, including three generations of the Green family.
RTFA for a long, deliberate, detailed, fact-filled description of how religious bigots organize much of the funding for their assorted hatreds. For a religion which purports to be founded on loving your neighbor, the sects fighting for theocracy in America require lots of individual ghettoes to separate out all the people, cultures and freedoms they don’t believe in loving.
Then, hypocrisy ain’t exactly a weak suit among American fundamentalists.
Over a single 8-month period, seven infants were admitted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt for treatment of either cranial or intestinal hemorrhaging due to vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB)…
That report prompted researchers in Canada to investigate local vitamin K refusal rates and predictors.
Of the 214,061 children born in Alberta, Canada, from 2006 to 2011, 0.3% had parents who declined the vitamin K injection after birth, Shannon E. MacDonald, PhD…and colleagues wrote in Pediatrics.
In 2006, the vitamin K refusal rate was 0.21%, but by 2012, that rate increased to 0.39% (P<0.001) of live births.
The highest rates of vitamin K refusal occurred in parents who also refused recommended vaccines throughout the first 15 months of life…
The vitamin K refusal rate for parents who delivered in a hospital was very low, 0.2%, compared with parents who had planned home deliveries, 14.5%…and parents who delivered at a birthing center, 10.7%…
The study authors suggested parental decisions to refuse vitamin K were linked to lack of education and misinformation based on two studies from the 1990s (Golding et al.), which suggested vitamin K injections could increase the chances of developing childhood cancer. Those study results, the Canadians said, were since found to be inaccurate…
Refusal rates have increased in Texas, too. At Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Tiffany McKee-Garrett said that when parents refuse, they team up with the parents’ primary care provider to counsel the family extensively and provide the parents with written materials to educate them about vitamin K.
RTFA for details of other regional studies.
I know I get too cranky for some folks; but, what kind of parent is so dedicated to 14th Century dogma that they’re ready and willing to accept the prattle from long-discredited studies – generally from some 3rd or 4th-hand source – instead of taking the time to read a little science about disease prevention, proven health maintenance.
Rather, they risk the lives of their newborn in pursuit of purity of their soul. No sense or balance IMHO.
Call it a homecoming for hemp: Marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin is undergoing a rebirth in a state at the forefront of efforts to reclaim it as a mainstream crop.
Researchers and farmers are producing the first legal hemp crop in generations in Kentucky, where hemp has turned into a political cause decades after it was banned by the federal government. Republican U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul advocate for it, as does state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a Republican who is running for governor next year.
The comeback is strictly small scale. Experimental hemp plots more closely resemble the size of large family gardens.
Statewide plantings totaled about 15 acres from the Appalachian foothills in eastern Kentucky to the broad stretches of farmland in the far west, said Adam Watson, the Kentucky Agriculture Department’s hemp program coordinator.
The crop’s reintroduction was delayed in the spring when imported hemp seeds were detained by U.S. customs officials. The state’s Agriculture Department sued the federal government, but dropped the case Friday after reaching an agreement on importing the seeds into Kentucky. The seeds were released after federal drug officials approved a permit.
Since then, test plots have shown the crop to be hardy and fast growing – and a potential moneymaker with a remarkable range of traditional uses including clothing, mulch, hemp milk, cooking oil, soap and lotions.
“What we’ve learned is it will grow well in Kentucky,” Comer said. “It yields a lot per acre. All the things that we predicted.”
Growing hemp without a federal permit was banned in 1970 due to its classification as a controlled substance related to marijuana. Hemp and marijuana are the same species, Cannabis sativa, but hemp has a negligible amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
For now, growing hemp is strictly limited. The federal farm bill enacted this year restricts hemp production to research projects designated by agriculture departments in states that allow the crop to be grown. But commercial uses are also emerging.
Which goes to prove for the umpteenth time, our government is managed by cowards, fools and idjits.
RTFA for the measured sign of progress back from a half-century of stupid regulation. All based on fear and an absolute rejection of scientific knowledge.
Cripes, people wonder why I’m so “intolerant”. Why should anyone with a modicum of sense and education have to put up with the range of incompetence – from bigotry and racism to abusive laws regulating vegetables – embraced so thoroughly by the lawgivers of this supposed Land of Liberty.
In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.
New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.
When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”
All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.
The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
There are three things we know about man-made global warming. First, the consequences will be terrible if we don’t take quick action to limit carbon emissions. Second, in pure economic terms the required action shouldn’t be hard to take: emission controls, done right, would probably slow economic growth, but not by much. Third, the politics of action are nonetheless very difficult.
But why is it so hard to act? Is it the power of vested interests?
I’ve been looking into that issue and have come to the somewhat surprising conclusion that it’s not mainly about the vested interests. They do, of course, exist and play an important role; funding from fossil-fuel interests has played a crucial role in sustaining the illusion that climate science is less settled than it is. But the monetary stakes aren’t nearly as big as you might think. What makes rational action on climate so hard is something else — a toxic mix of ideology and anti-intellectualism…
Once upon a time King Coal was indeed a major employer: At the end of the 1970s there were more than 250,000 coal miners in America. Since then, however, coal employment has fallen by two-thirds, not because output is down — it’s up, substantially — but because most coal now comes from strip mines that require very few workers. At this point, coal mining accounts for only one-sixteenth of 1 percent of overall U.S. employment; shutting down the whole industry would eliminate fewer jobs than America lost in an average week during the Great Recession of 2007-9.
Or put it this way: The real war on coal, or at least on coal workers, took place a generation ago, waged not by liberal environmentalists but by the coal industry itself. And coal workers lost…
Think about global warming from the point of view of someone who grew up taking Ayn Rand seriously, believing that the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest is always good and that government is always the problem, never the solution. Along come some scientists declaring that unrestricted pursuit of self-interest will destroy the world, and that government intervention is the only answer. It doesn’t matter how market-friendly you make the proposed intervention; this is a direct challenge to the libertarian worldview.
And the natural reaction is denial — angry denial. Read or watch any extended debate over climate policy and you’ll be struck by the venom, the sheer rage, of the denialists.
The fact that climate concerns rest on scientific consensus makes things even worse, because it plays into the anti-intellectualism that has always been a powerful force in American life, mainly on the right. It’s not really surprising that so many right-wing politicians and pundits quickly turned to conspiracy theories, to accusations that thousands of researchers around the world were colluding in a gigantic hoax whose real purpose was to justify a big-government power grab. After all, right-wingers never liked or trusted scientists in the first place.
So the real obstacle, as we try to confront global warming, is economic ideology reinforced by hostility to science. In some ways this makes the task easier: we do not, in fact, have to force people to accept large monetary losses. But we do have to overcome pride and willful ignorance, which is hard indeed.
While the general point of my personal blog is commentary upon well-done journalism, my reaction to issues and answers – there is little or no need for that following one of Paul Krugman’s excellent Op-Ed pieces.
Recently Zac Goldsmith MP – a former editor of The Ecologist, no less – branded the views of Australian Environment Secretary Owen Patterson as “grotesque” after the minister called anti-GM campaigners “wicked”. Mr Goldsmith stated: GM has never been about feeding the world, or tackling environmental problems. It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations. It’s not wicked to question that process. It is wicked not to.
…Golden rice is a bio-fortified, genetically modified Oryza sativa rice crop that offers a nutritionally enriched staple for those who cannot afford or obtain a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Golden rice can be produced by subsistence farmers in developing countries using varieties adapted to local conditions. Access to the technology is free.
Lack of vitamin A causes blindness and death in over a million children under five that do not have access to a balanced diet, every year. For many their staple diet is rice, but rice does not produce vitamin A in the grain even though it has all the genes necessary to do so (and in fact does so in the leaves).
The inventors of golden rice, Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, worked out how to “turn on” the synthesis of vitamin A in the edible grain itself by inserting two genes, resulting in a rice variety with boosted vitamin A levels. Widespread adoption of golden rice could decrease deaths due to vitamin A deficiency by an estimated 25% or more. This is a result, and a crop, that could not be achieved using conventional breeding.
From the outset golden rice was a public good project governed by the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. Swiss biotech company Syngenta contributed to the project by developing improved varieties in their labs but arranged that any intellectual property associated with golden rice was licensed free of charge to allow the technology to be available to resource-poor farmers who are permitted to save seed.
Yet protestors continue to promote misinformation and destroy field trials. Many refuse to engage in a meaningful dialogue and discuss GM issues on a case-by-case, evidential basis. For the first time since the introduction of GM crops almost two decades ago, developing countries now grow more than industrialised countries, contributing to food security and alleviating poverty in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. The technology is not forced onto growers. Today over 17m farmers in 29 countries grow GM crops.
Virtually all the anti-GM crop opposition I have confronted are little different in substance from so-called climate skeptics. They don’t read a damned thing other than declarations from pundits fitting preconceived notions. Little or no examination of peer-reviewed scientific discussion enters the equation. In the rare instance of a publication accepting an article they can pull useful quotes from – they ignore responses, criticism and contrary proof from scientists.
The science utilized by independent university researchers to create most GM crops is not owned by corporations like Monsanto. It is often patented with provisos for free use or a requirement that any profits be returned to universities to further research. The anti-GM movement has become a religion as damned by know-nothing ideology as the conspiracy-laden crowd of Birthers and Tea Party mousies. Sad to say, that condemns their good intentions to the same cul-de-sac in history as Luddites.
Same myths stateside as in Oz – same silly anti-science culture
Recently released government figures show levels of childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming re-ignition of “the vaccine debate”…
Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.
1. Vaccines cause autism
Thiomersal or ethyl-mercury was removed from all scheduled childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.
Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism.
Yet the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving several vaccinations and also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.
2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore
It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as smallpox have disappeared…
The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the current measles epidemic in Wales where there are now over 800 cases and one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR vaccination following the Wakefield scare.
In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success, leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget just how serious these diseases can be.
3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated
Although this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s actually true, but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work as anti-vaxers will conflate. Remember that no vaccine is 100% effective and vaccines are not a force field. So while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated against, disease severity and duration will be reduced…
So since the majority of the population is vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be vaccinated, but critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term effects than those who are completely unprotected.
Do you believe that a covert group called the New World Order is planning to take over the planet and impose a single world government?
Do you think the moon landings were staged in a Hollywood studio?
What about 9/11—do you suspect the US government deliberately allowed the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks to happen in order to concoct an excuse for war?
If you believe these sorts of things, you’re a conspiracy theorist. That much goes without saying. But according to new research, if you believe these sorts of things, you are also more likely to be skeptical of what scientists have to say on three separate issues: vaccinations, genetically modified foods, and climate change.
The new study, by University of Bristol psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues in the journal PLOS ONE, finds links between conspiratorial thinking and all three of these science-skeptic stances. Notably, the relationship was by far the strongest on the vaccine issue. For geeks: the correlation was .52, an impressive relationship for social science. Another way of translating the finding? “People who tend toward conspiratorial thinking are three times more likely to reject vaccinations,” says Lewandowsky…
As if the new study won’t provoke enough ire by linking anti-vaccine views to conspiracy theories, Lewandowsky also finds links—albeit much weaker ones—between conspiracy theories and both anti-GMO beliefs and climate change denial. On GMOs, the board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science has stated that “crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.” Accordingly, Lewandowsky’s survey respondents were asked to react to items like “I believe that because there are so many unknowns, that it is dangerous to manipulate the natural genetic material of plants” and “Genetic modification of food is a safe and reliable technology.”
Plant biotechnologist Dr. Swapan Datta at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines
One bright morning this month, 400 protesters smashed down the high fences surrounding a field in the Bicol region of the Philippines and uprooted the genetically modified rice plants growing inside.
Had the plants survived long enough to flower, they would have betrayed a distinctly yellow tint in the otherwise white part of the grain. That is because the rice is endowed with a gene from corn and another from a bacterium, making it the only variety in existence to produce beta carotene, the source of vitamin A. Its developers call it “Golden Rice.”
The concerns voiced by the participants in the Aug. 8 act of vandalism — that Golden Rice could pose unforeseen risks to human health and the environment, that it would ultimately profit big agrochemical companies — are a familiar refrain in the long-running controversy over the merits of genetically engineered crops. They are driving the desire among some Americans for mandatory “G.M.O.” labels on food with ingredients made from crops whose DNA has been altered in a laboratory. And they have motivated similar attacks on trials of other genetically modified crops in recent years: grapes designed to fight off a deadly virus in France, wheat designed to have a lower glycemic index in Australia, sugar beets in Oregon designed to tolerate a herbicide, to name a few…
But Golden Rice, which appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2000 before it was quite ready for prime time, is unlike any of the genetically engineered crops in wide use today, designed to either withstand herbicides sold by Monsanto and other chemical companies or resist insect attacks, with benefits for farmers but not directly for consumers…
Not owned by any company, Golden Rice is being developed by a nonprofit group called the International Rice Research Institute with the aim of providing a new source of vitamin A to people both in the Philippines, where most households get most of their calories from rice, and eventually in many other places in a world where rice is eaten every day by half the population. Lack of the vital nutrient causes blindness in a quarter-million to a half-million children each year. It affects millions of people in Asia and Africa and so weakens the immune system that some two million die each year of diseases they would otherwise survive.
The destruction of the field trial, and the reasons given for it, touched a nerve among scientists around the world, spurring them to counter assertions of the technology’s health and environmental risks. On a petition supporting Golden Rice circulated among scientists and signed by several thousand, many vented a simmering frustration with activist organizations like Greenpeace, which they see as playing on misplaced fears of genetic engineering in both the developing and the developed worlds. Some took to other channels to convey to American foodies and Filipino farmers alike the broad scientific consensus that G.M.O.’s are not intrinsically more risky than other crops and can be reliably tested.
At stake, they say, is not just the future of biofortified rice but also a rational means to evaluate a technology whose potential to improve nutrition in developing countries, and developed ones, may otherwise go unrealized.
RTFA. Especially if you are unused to wandering the world of scientific abstracts and peer-reviewed journals. Unfortunately, though my peers and friends in dissent from status quo politics often can rely on well-informed sources footnoted by left-wing journalists on issues ranging from war to peace – questions of advances in food crops are crippled by an anti-science bias worthy of any 19th Century Luddite.
Anti GMO foot soldiers deny that identity, of course. In truth, it’s the exact quality common to middle class radicals who rely on as little reading and research on their own as any Tea Party bigot.
Golden rice is open source. Corporate agribusiness makes no special profit from the crop. Aside from anything else, the product adds Vitamin D to the diet of most of the 3rd World.
I’m embarrassed by some stalwarts who say they’re on my side in the confrontation of workingclass needs versus the class of profiteers who control our world. I spent 2 years reading, defining my own understanding of climate change. Years before the IPCC Report and Al Gore. It was worth the debate, worth learning. I’ve done the same with genetics, though admittedly easier for knowing scientists active in microbiology for decades.
I still don’t recommend relying on priests, politicians or pundits.
The United States Anti-Vaccination Movement is composed of a variety of individuals ranging from former doctors who should know better, to semi-celebrities who have no medical training, to anti-government conspiracy theorists who distrust anything that the government says. They all hold onto the mistaken belief that autism is caused by receiving childhood vaccines.
Most anti-vaccination believers claim that the compound Thimerosal led to an increase in autism cases. The Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine is their usual target. However, Thimerosal was never used as a preservative in the Measles/Mumps/Rubella vaccine. No vaccine licensed since 1999 has contained Thimerosal as a preservative, except a few multi-dose container vaccines such as some (but not all) HIB and Influenza vaccines. Autism has not declined since 1999, thereby disproving this connection. However, this has not stopped anti-vaccination believers from claiming that it was the MMR vaccine itself that caused autism or that it was vaccines in general that caused autism. All of these ideas have been disproven in multiple scientific and legal examinations of the evidence. The primary scientific reason for the increase in autism diagnoses is due to more disorders being included in the Autism Spectrum and doctors getting better at diagnosing the characteristics of autism…
The Anti-Vaccination Movement has a body count attached to its name. This website publishes the total number of vaccine preventable illnesses and vaccine preventable deaths that have happened in the United States since this 2007 increase in speaking out against vaccines.
“Is the United States Anti-Vaccination Movement directly responsible for every vaccine preventable illness and every vaccine preventable death listed here? No. However, the United States Anti-Vaccination Movement may be indirectly responsible for at least some of these illnesses and deaths and even one vaccine preventable illness or vaccine preventable death is too many.”