Subway's tuna sandwiches may not be their most famous product, but some (including this author) would argue they are one of their tastiest. Needless to say, it was alarming to read a report that a New York Times investigation into the sandwich's tuna found "no amplifiable tuna DNA," suggesting that the so-called tuna sandwich was not, in fact, tuna fish. Subway later questioned the reliability of the DNA tests, claiming in a statement that it "is simply not a reliable way to identify denatured proteins like Subway's tuna, which was cooked before it was tested."
The viral "fake tuna" debacle has undoubtedly hurt Subway's brand, and heightened a popular perception of corporations as shifty and untrustworthy. Yet regardless of the mystery meat's provenance, the saga highlights a larger industrial supply chain problem — namely, that fish fraud, as it is known, is prevalent. That means that if indeed some of Subway's tuna is "fake," it may not entirely be their fault.
"On Subway specifically, I would say that they are probably better than average, as far as companies of their size," John Hocevar, marine biologist and director of Greenpeace's oceans campaign, told Salon. "There are so many problems with the tuna industry that it is very difficult for companies sourcing as much tuna as Subway to be confident that they know their fish wasn't caught with forced labor, or in ways that are very harmful to our oceans."
Tuna isn't the only fish that has fraud problems. Oceana, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ocean conservation group, began to investigate seafood fraud in 2011 and has since uncovered troubling patterns. In 2016 the group released a report about the worldwide scope of seafood fraud that detailed a pervasive, stomach-churning cheat of unsuspecting consumers. On average, one out of five of the more than 25,000 samples of seafood that they tested from 55 countries were mislabeled, with the trend occurring at every stage of the supply chain.
In the United States, studies released since 2014 found the average fraud rate (weighted by sample size) to be 28 percent. Worldwide, Asian catfish, hake and escolar were the fish most commonly substituted; more than half of the replacement fish (58 percent) were from species that could get certain consumers sick. In Italy, 82 percent of the 200 swordfish, grouper and perch samples tested were revealed to have been mislabeled; nearly half of the substituted fish have been labeled "threatened with extinction" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Overall, what we found is that seafood fraud can happen anywhere both geographically and in the supply chain," Oceana deputy vice president for US campaigns Beth Lowell told Salon by email. Lowell explained that the supply chains which move aquatic food from the ocean to your table are "often opaque," making it easy for incompetence or unscrupulousness to lead to a bait and switch at consumers' expense.
Lowell added, "Oceana found that nearly one out of every three fish tested in the United States — in grocery stores and restaurants alike — were mislabeled." Often the mislabeling meant customers were spending more money than the fish was worth, or potentially put consumers at risk from fish that could endanger them. In one instance, Oceana found that high-mercury fish, for which the FDA warns against consumption by young children and pregnant women, were mislabeled and sold as "safe" fish that are low in mercury.
So why is fish fraud prevalent? The answer boils down to lack of regulation, poor regulatory bodies, and the profit motive — in other words, capitalism behaving as usual.
"In addition to the fact that we import a lot of seafood that was caught illegally, once it gets to a supermarket or a restaurant, we can't be confident that the legal seafood that is being sold is actually what it's being labeled as, and there are several reasons for that," Hocever explained. Indeed, very few businesses seriously follow their responsibility to trace the origins of their fish, and they can get away with it because their business is difficult to observe.
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He added, "Another big challenge is something called trans-shipment at sea. Your average person would assume that a boat goes out, catches fish, and then comes back into port, sells those fish, and then goes back out, catches more fish. Instead, tuna vessels often handover their catch to another boat at sea and just keep fishing."
Hocevar advocates for a few specific solutions to the fake fish problem. We can ban or heavily regulate oceanic trans-shipment, increasing third party coverage of boats that exchange products, improve transparency over who owns fishing vessels and more effectively implement existing regulations.
"All seafood sold in the U.S. should be safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled," Lowell told Salon. "Until then, honest fishermen, seafood businesses, consumers and the oceans will pay the price. Consumers have a right to know more about the seafood they eat, including what species it is, where it is caught and how it was caught so they can make their own decisions whether that be for health, sustainability or other reasons." She argued that the United States to expand the number of seafood types covered by the Seafood Important Monitoring Program (SIMP) and make sure that all seafood is traceable from the fishing boat to when it is consumed.
The Subway tuna sandwich scandal is not the first one to draw attention to the problem of fish fraud. The New York attorney general issued a report in 2018 revealing that a significant percentage of the fish purchased in New York City was mislabeled. Among other things, Letitia James found that farmed salmon samples were sold as "wild" 27 percent of the time, 87 percent of lemon sole was mislabeled, and 67 percent of red snapper fillets were mislabeled.
"I'm very happy to see law enforcement getting involved," Larry Olmsted, author of "Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don't Know What You're Eating and What You Can Do about It," told Salon at the time. "Mislabeling is rampant in the seafood industry, and if you can't reliably get the fish you want in a port city like New York, just imagine what levels of fraud are like further inland. This business has had a fraud problem for years and years and the only people tracking it have been public interests groups."
Without regulation, us consumers may spend our lives worrying that the purveyors of succulent fish steaks, flavorful sushi rolls and moist crab cakes may be lying to us. That leaves us with a choice: take an informed risk, or avoid seafood altogether — even if that means, in my case, giving up on delicious Subway tuna hoagies.
Over the weekend, Donald Trump held a huge indoor rally in Arizona, called "Rally to Protect Our Elections," which in all likelihood will end up being a super-spreader event since so many of his followers are anti-vaccine and anti-mask. They showed up in great numbers, dressed in their flamboyant MAGA gear, excited and thrilled to be in the presence of their leader.
Trump made passing reference to the vaccines in his endless speech, taking credit for them and telling people he thinks they should get them but then going out of his way to say he respects those who choose not to do it. Of course, the crowd really only cheered the latter.
But the rally was billed as really about "election integrity," which in Trumpworld translates to the Big Lie about 2020. And he delivered. He went on and on about the so-called "fraud" spreading bogus details along the way, reinforcing his determination to organize the party around his lost cause. In the context of January 6th and Trump's ongoing Big Lie, there was a darker message as well.
"Our nation is up against the most sinister forces...This nation does not belong to them, this nation belongs to you," Trump said.
He wasn't talking about a foreign enemy. And the reference to 1776 was, as you'll no doubt recall, one of the insurrectionist rallying cries on January 6th, even pushed by GOP members of Congress on that day:
Let's just say that Donald Trump is not distancing himself from the insurrection. In fact, he is using code words and conspiracy theory signals to suggest that he's still as happy about it as he reportedly was when it happened.
Meanwhile, in Washington, we have seen the Republican Party do everything in its power to bury any investigation into that day. They've waged an ongoing tantrum over Speaker Nancy Pelosi's various attempts to put together a commission or select committee to gather a full account of what happened on that day. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insists that no investigation that doesn't include Republicans who are pushing the Big Lie and are, therefore, complicit in the insurrection, can possibly be fair. (Would he would have wanted members of Al Qaeda on the 9/11 commission as well?)
While there's little doubt that a few GOP members of Congress are true believers, this is really all about one thing: the 2022 elections. And the last thing Republicans want to be talking about in that campaign is the trainwreck of January 6th. But even if they had been able to derail a congressional investigation, they can't shut up Donald Trump, and he can talk of nothing else — and the Republican establishment is increasingly worried about it.
CNN's Manu Raju asked South Dakota Republican Senator John Thune... about the former president's claim that the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 was a "lovefest.""That's not what any of us here experienced," he responded. "Trying to rehash and revisit and re-litigate the past election is not a winning strategy for trying to get the majorities back in 2022."
Raju asked the South Dakota senator if Trump's claims of widespread fraud will hurt the party's chances in the 2022 midterms. "I mean, he's gonna keep saying it. There's not anything we can do about it," Thune said. "But like I said, anytime you're talking about the past, you're not talking about the future. And I think the future is where we're gonna live."
Trump spoke to this at the Arizona rally this past weekend:
I tell this to people. I tell it to Republicans and a lot of them are very good people and they say, "Well, sir, we have to get onto the future." Let me tell you, you're not going to have a future. First of all, our nation is being destroyed, but you're not going to have a future in '22 or '24 if you don't find out how they cheated with hundreds of thousands and even millions of votes, because you won't win anything. You won't win anything.
Whether they like it or not, the GOP strategy in 2022 is going to be about relitigating 2020. Trump is out there endorsing candidates who defended him and nixing anyone who may have balked, creating even more anxiety among Republican leaders. He is still in charge.
You might wonder why they are so nervous since Trump does get out their base and in the midterm that could be decisive. Well, they are probably aware that Trump continuing to dominate will also help Democratic turnout. And while it is very true that much depends on the Democrats' ability to deliver the material benefit they promised, negative partisanship is a very powerful motivator and nobody brings it out like Donald Trump.
CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein has written about this, noting that Democrats were able to produce exceptional turnout in 2018 and 2020 among people who don't always vote because of the deep antipathy to Trump. They have all the contact numbers for these folks and will be sure to let them know exactly what Trump is up to, even if they aren't paying close attention.
Michael Podhorzer, political director of the AFL-CIO, has said that the 7.7 million voters who didn't vote in 2016 but came out in the next two elections, along with the 18 million first-time voters in 2020 are key to success in 2022. According to the Catalyst election analysis, half of those first-time voters who cast a ballot for Biden, did so to vote against Trump. If he's out there talking his usual trash, the Democrats will likely have a much easier time persuading those voters to come out in 2022.
Beyond that, Mitch McConnell is almost certainly concerned about Trump's ongoing disparagement of the voting system. After all, he knows there's a good chance he lost the Senate because Trump's accusations of rampant electoral corruption resulted in Georgia Republicans failing to vote in the runoff that elected two Democratic senators. Trump has a very loyal base but there may be more than a few who figure it just isn't worth it when they hear the constant refrain about corrupt election systems.
Whether Democrats are able to take advantage of this opening remains to be seen. The official line is that they are going to depend upon a good economy and the proverbial "kitchen table issues" to get out the vote. But last week the president himself seemed to indicate that he understands that Democratic voters are still highly motivated by their loathing of the man who still insists he won the election. At a campaign rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, Biden threw down the gauntlet, calling McAuliffe's Republican opponent a "Trump acolyte."
Biden added: "I whipped Donald Trump in Virginia and so will Terry." He trolled Trump in a way designed to thrill the crowd, which it did:
He knew what he was doing. It was a subtle, but effective jab at the former president who famously had to hold his glass with two hands. Don't be surprised to see more of this. If Trump won't go away the Democrats wouldn't be fools not to take advantage of it.
On Monday night, former President Donald Trump endorsed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton as he fights to keep his current position. George P. Bush, the commissioner of the Texas General Land Office and son of Jeb Bush, had publicly and enthusiastically sought out Trump's endorsement in the race, only to be rejected.
It was a humiliating blow for the man who had overlooked the demeaning treatment his family had received at Trump's hand in order to advance his own political prospects.
After all the overtures from George P. Bush, Trump gives his "complete and total endorsement" to incumbent Texas AG… https://t.co/hSbzUTnBGX— Andrew Solender (@Andrew Solender) 1627344393.0
Trump repeatedly mocked and shamed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in 2016 as they competed for the GOP presidential nomination, a race in which Bush had been seen by some as the favorite. Trump also repeatedly attacked former President George W. Bush, George P. Bush's uncle, and former President George H.W. Bush — his grandfather. Billy Bush, a nephew to the first President Bush, also lost his job when the infamous Access Hollywood video became public in the last days of the 2016 campaigning, showed him laughing as Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women — conduct Trump has never been punished for. Trump even insulted George P. Bush's mother:
Despite this bleak history with his family, George P. Bush went out of his way to make nice with Trump in order to win his favor.
As part of this demonstration, Bush even made light of the fact that Trump had publicly disparaged his family members:
Trump's choice of Paxton isn't particularly surprising — he's been a devoted sycophant and played a prominent if ultimately witless role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election — but the sitting attorney general's apparent weaknesses as a candidate only enhance Bush's humiliation. He is currently under indictment for securities fraud, and he has been accused of additional crimes, including bribery, by his own aides. He is reportedly under federal investigation apart from the existing indictment against him, to which he's pleaded not guilty.
Nevertheless, he's Trump's man, as the former president made clear Monday to Texas voters. Despite turning on his family, George P. Bush couldn't compete with that.
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