In today’s On the News segment: Each day in the US, 89 people die because of gun-related violence; Big Oil gets to write its own energy policy in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; Costco will not sell genetically modified salmon; and more.
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Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Science and Green news …
You need to know this. Every day in America, 89 people die because of gun-related violence. Yet, for the last 20 years, scientists have been banned from researching a way to stop this violence. Twenty years ago, the Dickey Amendment tied the hands of policy makers and medical experts who want to study the causes of and solution to our nation’s out-of-control gun violence. That’s why more than 2,000 physicians are calling on Congress to overturn that research ban. At a press conference last Wednesday, lawmakers and medical professionals joined the group Doctors for America to call for change only hours before news broke of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California. At that press conference, Representative David Price – who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force – said, “Regardless of where we stand in the debate over gun violence, we should all be able to agree that this debate should be informed by objective data and robust scientific research.” Over the last two decades, the gun lobby has come up with lots of creative ways to defend that research ban, and their puppets in Congress have repeated those talking points. However, as the number of mass shootings this year exceeds the number of days this year, those excuses seem more ridiculous everyday. The Dickey Amendment has nothing to do with banning guns, and everything to do with making it impossible to solve our gun violence problem. Without research, scientists can’t even begin to figure out why the US is the only developed nation where these mass shootings occur on a near-daily basis, or how we begin solve this problem. Representative Carolyn Maloney, who also spoke at the press conference, said, “Politicians have put a gag order on public health research for gun violence only to score political points.” She added, “On public health matters, it’s critical we listen to doctors – not politicians.” And she is exactly right. There is absolutely no legitimate reason why doctors and scientists should be banned from conducting this research. Call Congress and tell them to overturn the Dickey Amendment today.
Gut microbes may be the answer to eating less. According to a recent findings published in the journal “Cell Metabolism,” certain types of bacteria tell our bodies when we’re hungry, and when we should stop eating. And those findings suggest that our gut bacteria may be much more involved in regulating our appetites than previously thought. To determine this, researchers studied how these microbes effect the appetite of mice, and found that the E. coli bacteria started telling the mice to stop eating about 20 minutes after they started a meal. Basically, the microbes use the food an animal eats to maintain the bacteria population. But about 20 minutes after they started getting nourishment, the bacteria stopped multiplying and started releasing a new protein that reduced the animal’s appetite. These findings could have important implications for obesity in humans, and they underscore how much we still have to learn about the symbiotic relationship between us and our gut bacteria. It may be too soon to say that gut microbes can help us maintain our weight, but it’s always a good idea to make sure we’re getting enough beneficial bacteria.
Facebook may be ruining our lives. According to a recent study by the University of British Columbia, the social media site contributes to feelings of envy and an overall lower self-worth. For that study, called “Why Following Friends Can Hurt You,” researchers asked about 1,200 German college students about their Facebook habits and emotions. Although more than one third of respondents said that they find pleasure in following their friends online, they also said that the most common emotion that they feel while online is “envy.” And, according to one of the study researchers, “When envy goes up, emotional and social well-being comes down.” In other words, when we see our friends posts and pictures, we can often feel like our own lives are inadequate in comparison – regardless of whether those images are accurate portrayals of our friends lives. So, even if we know that someone has staged the perfect vacation photo, we still feel jealous of their seemingly perfect life. Like previous studies, this research is not suggesting that people delete their Facebook accounts, but it is encouraging all of us to be aware of these problems. If you find that Facebook is making you jealous of your friends, it may be time to take a break from social media.
You and I don’t get to negotiate the details of massive trade agreements, but Big Oil is getting to write their own energy policy in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). New documents obtained by the Guardian newspaper show “an extraordinary glimpse into the full degree of collusion between the European [trade] commission and multinational corporations seeking to use TTIP to increase U.S. exports of fossil fuels.” And allowing oil companies to write their own rules could undermine global efforts to reign in climate change. These documents reveal that Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and other major oil and gas companies were given special access and information about the trade negotiation. Just like the TPP, multinational corporations are being given exclusive access to the TTIP to write the rules of trade and business for the future. If we want any chance to put people and our planet over profit, we better stop these trade deals while we still have a chance.
And finally … Costco is known for doing right by workers, and now, they’re also being praised for listening to their customers. Last week, the nation’s second-largest retailer announced that they will not sell genetically modified salmon in any of their stores. In response to a petition signed by more than 300,000 customers, community members, and activists, the company said that they will not sell GMO fish, and they recently reaffirmed that commitment after the FDA approved the modified salmon for human consumption. Heather Day, the executive director of Community Alliance for Global Justice, said, “Salmon is too important for our diets, economy and cultural heritage to accept anything made in a lab – we want the real deal and applaud Costco for ensuring its customers that’s what they’ll get when they shop there.” Well said Heather. And once again, well done, Costco.
And that’s the way it is for the week of December 7, 2015 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science and Green News.