The annual Dead Zone from fertilizer runoff is getting ready to hit the Gulf of Mexico


The Gulf of Mexico teems with biodiversity and contains some of the globe’s most productive fisheries. Yet starting in the early 1970s, large swaths of the Gulf began to experience annual dead zones in the late summer and early fall. This year’s will likely be nearly a third larger than normal, about the size of Connecticut, according to a recent report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University.

The problem is tied to industrial-scale meat production. To churn out huge amounts chicken, beef, and pork, the meat industry relies on corn as cheap feed. The US grows about a third of the globe’s corn, the great bulk of it in the Midwest, on land that drains into the Mississippi River. Every year, fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms leaches into the Mississippi and makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Intended to feed the nation’s vast corn crop, this renegade nitrogen instead feeds vast aquatic algae blooms in the early summer. When the algae blooms die and decay, they tie up oxygen from the water underneath. As a result, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization puts it, “habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.”…

Researchers are expecting an unusually big nitrogen load this year. And their report amounts to a de facto rebuke to the federal effort to address the problem: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, a largely voluntary effort to reduce fertilizer pollution in the Mississippi watershed. If this year’s dead zone turns out to be as large expected—about 6,800 square miles—it will be more than three times larger than EPA task force’s maximum target of around 2,000 square miles. As for the goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen streaming into the Gulf? No progress has been made,” the Louisiana researchers bluntly stated.

We’re all caught up with the gun manufacturing lobby – otherwise known as the NRA – nowadays. For good reason. But, agribusiness – from cattle ranchers all the way back to fodder farms, corn and soy, own the USDA and EPA as solidly as Colt Firearms has the Senate by the short and curlys.

Prizing intelligent use policy from the death-clutch of agribiz lobbies is a task that has confounded progressive politics for decades. All the lies in the food service world line up: from “we provide cheap food for our children” to “we keep costs to a minimum for American consumers”. Half-truths, sophistry designed to ignore health and environmental concerns.

News orgs demand DOJ release secret rules targeting journalists with gag order National Security Letters

Freedom of the Press Foundation recently filed a huge brief in the organization’s case demanding that the Justice Department release its secret rules for targeting journalists with National Security Letters…A coalition of 37 news organizations – including the New York Times, The Associated Press, USA Today, Buzzfeed, and tons more – filed an amicus brief in support of the Freedom of the Press Foundation case, demanding that the Department of Justice do the same…

NSLs are controversial (and unconstitutional) surveillance tools that allow the FBI to collect private information in national security cases without any involvement whatsoever from judges or courts. FPF filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2015 demanding their secret rules for using NSLs on members of the media, and Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press filed the amicus brief on behalf of the thirty seven news organization…

In response to our lawsuit, the Justice Department released to us some documents in December 2015 that confirmed that these secret rules do, in fact, exist. However the agency refused to release the specific rules or even acknowledge where the actual rules are located — even though we already know they appear in the classified annex of the FBI’s Department Investigations and Operations Guide, which is published in redacted form on the FBI’s website…

By exempting National Security Letters (and potentially FISA court orders) from their media guidelines, the Justice Department makes a mockery of the supposed restrictions. Because almost every leak investigation involving the media involves national security, the FBI and DOJ can simply use NSLs to freely get much of the information they would otherwise need to comply with strict rules to get — all in complete secrecy and without any oversight.

Our government and its alphabet soup of spies simply rewrite their way around constitutional protections every time they are caught snooping illegally.

True – a lot a of this corruption started with the Bush Administration’s so-called Patriot Act. National Security Letters containing gag orders are a particularly malevolent police state tool. You can’t tell anyone you’re even being investigated or contacted. But, the Obama Administration hasn’t changed the rules regardless of their public chatter about a return to constitutional law.