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Trump administration lifts GMO crop ban for US wildlife refuges

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The Trump administration has rescinded an Obama-era ban on the use of pesticides linked to declining bee populations and the cultivation of genetically modified crops in dozens of national wildlife refuges where farming is permitted.

Environmentalists, who had sued to bring about the 2-year-old ban, said on Friday that lifting the restriction poses a grave threat to pollinating insects and other sensitive creatures relying on toxic-free habitats afforded by wildlife refuges.

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“Industrial agriculture has no place on refuges dedicated to wildlife conservation and protection of some of the most vital and vulnerable species,” said Jenny Keating, federal lands policy analyst for the group Defenders of Wildlife.
Limited agricultural activity is authorized on some refuges by law, including cooperative agreements in which farmers are permitted to grow certain crops to produce more food or improve habitat for the wildlife there.

The rollback, spelled out in a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service memo, ends a policy that had prohibited farmers on refuges from planting biotech crops – such as soybeans and corn – engineered to resist insect pests and weed-controlling herbicides.

That policy also had barred the use on wildlife refuges of neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, in conjunction with GMO crops. Neonics are a class of insecticides tied by research to declining populations of wild bees and other pollinating insects around the world.

Rather than continuing to impose a blanket ban on GMO crops and neonics on refuges, Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan said in Thursday’s memo that decisions about their use would be made on a case-by-case basis.

Sheehan said the move was needed to ensure adequate forage for migratory birds, including ducks and geese – favored and hunted by sportsmen on many of the nation’s refuges. U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose department oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, has made expansion of hunting on public lands a priority for his agency.

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Sheehan wrote that genetically modified organisms have helped “maximize production, and that neonicotinoids might be needed “to fulfill needed farming practices.”

It marked the latest in a series of Obama-era environmental restrictions to be reversed under Trump, his Republican successor, who campaigned on a pledge to roll back government regulations.

In a 2014 Obama administration memo announcing plans to phase in the ban, Jim Kurth, head of the refuge system, wrote that seeds treated with neonics give rise to plants whose tissues contained compounds that could harm “non-target” species. He also said, “refuges throughout the country successfully meet wildlife management objectives without” GMOs or neonics.

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Thursday’s memo named 50-plus national wildlife refuges across the country where the revised policy now applies. The entire system consists 560 refuge units encompassing roughly 150 million acres nationwide.

Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler

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Former right-wing presidential candidate scamming Americans with toxic bleach cure

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Former diplomat and Reagan adviser Alan Keyes is a well-known gadfly who has run multiple times for president and for Senate, most famously against future President Barack Obama in 2004.

But lately, according to The Daily Beast, he has been involved in a different pursuit: the promotion of a dangerous pseudoscience scam known as the "Miracle Mineral Solution," or MMS.

The substance, which is actually just the powerful bleach chlorine dioxide, is supposedly a cure for everything from viral infections to infertility, and there was even a cultlike church known as the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, that promoted it as a gift from God. MMS has particularly taken root in developing countries like Uganda, but it also has a following in the United States, and many autistic children have been forced to drink it. Versions of this scam have even been promoted on Amazon.

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American exceptionalism is killing the planet

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Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America's wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?

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Joni Ernst accused of involvement in ‘dark money’ re-election scheme: report

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According to a report from the Associated Press, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) has been accused of illegally working with an outside group to help her re-election prospects in a tough 2020 fight with Donald Trump on the ballot.

According to AP: "An outside group founded by top political aides to Sen. Joni Ernst has worked closely with the Iowa Republican to raise money and boost her reelection prospects, a degree of overlap that potentially violates the law."

"Iowa Values, a political nonprofit that is supposed to be run independently, was co-founded in 2017 by Ernst’s longtime consultant, Jon Kohan. It shares a fundraiser, Claire Holloway Avella, with the Ernst campaign," the report continued. "And a condo owned by a former aide — who was recently hired to lead the group — was used as Iowa Values’ address at a time when he worked for her."

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