The financial reform bill offered a good opportunity to gauge who in the Senate was willing to stand up to the powerful monied interests. Three attempts to amend the financial reform bill offered an insight into the progressive populist base in the Senate. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)s Amendment 3733, which would have imposed leverage and liability limits on bank holding companies to limit the size of too big to fail banks, failed 33-61, with two Republicans joining 31 Dems against the big bankers. Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.)s Amendment 4114 to ban naked credit default swaps, in which investors buy insurance on bonds that they do not own, was tabled 57-38, with two Republicans joining 36 Dems on the populist side. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)s Amendment 3746, to restore to the states the right to protect consumers from usurious lenders, failed 35-60, with two Republicans joining 33 Democrats on the populist side.
Twenty senators (19 Democrats and one independent) voted the populist position on all three amendments: Mark Begich (AK), Barbara Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Roland Burris (IL), Ben Cardin (MD), Bob Casey (PA), Byron Dorgan (ND), Dick Durbin (IL), Russ Feingold (WI), Al Franken (MN), Tom Harkin (IA), Pat Leahy (VT), Carl Levin (MI), Jeff Merkley (OR), Harry Reid (NV), Jay Rockefeller (WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jim Webb (VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Ron Wyden (OR). Remember them, because you can get the banksters will.
Twelve Dems voted populist on two of three: Michael Bennett (CO), Maria Cantwell (WA), Ted Kaufman (DE), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Claire McCaskill (MO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Patty Murray (WA), Nelson (FL), Mark Pryor (AR), Debbie Stabenow (MI), Mark Udall (CO), Tom Udall (NM) as well as Republican Jon Ensign (NV).
Thirteen Dems voted populist on one amendment: Daniel Akaka (HI), Jeff Bingaman (NM), Kent Conrad (ND), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Robert Menendez (NJ), Jack Reed (RI), Charles Schumer (NY), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Arlen Specter (PA), Jon Tester (MT) as well as Republicans Jim Bunning (KY), Tom Coburn (OK), Thad Cochran (MS), George LeMieux (FL), Richard Shelby (AL).
However, none of those Republicans voted to allow the reform bill to proceed. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) were the only Republicans to join 57 Democrats to overcome the Republican filibuster. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) voted for the filibuster because they didnt think the bill went far enough. (Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, also voted for the bill the next day, when it was approved 59-39 on final passage.)
WHICH WAY TO RECOVERY? The US added 83,000 private jobs in June, up from 33,000 in May, but that is still far below the number needed to make a dent among the 15.2 mln unemployed Americans and 200,000 temporary Census workers finished their work. The official unemployment rate dropped to 9.5%, but that was mainly because 652,000 stopped looking for work. Meanwhile, cash-strapped states are laying off teachers, firefighters, police and other employees.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blamed Republicans for blocking additional federal stimulus proposals as well as extension of unemployment benefits. All Americans have been impacted by our jobs crisis, with some families bearing multiple burdens of job loss, foreclosures, and benefit cuts, Trumka said. Were teetering on the brink of a historic national and global depression. And congressional Republicans are pushing closer and closer to the edge.
Within the White House, President Obamas political aides have tended to emphasize voter worries about the deficit, while his economic advisers have been urging additional stimulus spending, Sewell Chan reported in the New York Times (7/5). Three days earlier in the Times, Jackie Calmes reported, Not since the first years of the Clinton administration has a White House had to debate whether to give precedence to stimulating the economy or reducing budget deficits. Now, as the recovery shows signs of faltering, that debate is playing out within the Obama administration, with a twist compared to the 1990s: the economic and political teams have switched sides.
Meanwhile, ThinkProgress.org noted (7/1) that 17 senators from states with double-digit jobless rates have repeatedly voted to filibuster extension of unemployment benefits. They include Sens. Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), 10.8%; Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), 10.4%; Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), 10.2%; Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), 10%; Sens. Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), 10.4%; Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), 11.4%; Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), 14%; Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), 10.3%; Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), 10.7%; Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), 11%; Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), 10.4%.
TERRIBLE UGLINESS IS BORN. Nearly two years ago, an economic collapse forced Ireland to cut public spending and raise taxes, the type of austerity measures that financial markets are now pressing on most advanced industrial nations, Liz Alderman reported in the New York Times (6/28). But without stimulus money, the Irish economy shrank 7.1% last year and remains in recession. Joblessness is above 13% and the ranks of the long-term unemployed those out of work for a year or more have more than doubled, to 5.3%. And the Irish are being warned of more pain to come.
Economist Paul Krugman noted at his New York Times blog (6/29) that the Irish did everything the bond vigilantes at the European Central Bank demanded: All that savage austerity was supposed to bring rewards; the conventional wisdom that this would happen is so strong that one often reads news reports claiming that it has, in fact, happened, that Irelands resolve has impressed and reassured the financial markets. But the reality is that nothing of the sort has taken place: virtuous, suffering Ireland is gaining nothing.
Of course, I know what will happen next: well hear that the Irish just arent doing enough, and must do more. If weve been bleeding the patient, and he has nonetheless gotten sicker, well, we clearly need to bleed him some more.
In the US, the stimulus passed by the Democratic Congress last year helped stabilize the economy, which grew 0.18% in 2009 and 2.7% in the first quarter of 2010.
SOCIAL SECURITY WARNING BELLS. Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) co-chair of the Presidents National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also known by Sam Seder as the Make Our Grandparents Eat Cat Food Commission), is eyeing changes to stabilize Social Security. None of the ideas that have been presented will affect anyone over age 58. But were going to make the system work. As it is, it cant sustain itself, he told Steven Beschloss in Parade Magazine (7/4).
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org) notes that Social Security is good to pay currently promised benefits for at least 27 years, so no immediate action is needed to save Social Security; however, if conservatives want to shore up the Trust Fund, they could simply remove the cap on wages subject to the FICA tax, which is only levied on the first $106,800 of salary (which results in minimum-wage workers paying a higher rate than millionaires). According to the Social Security Administration, eliminating the cap on taxable earnings would fully close any projected shortfall, but for some reason you dont hear that solution coming up from the deficit hawks.
Speculation is that the cat food commission will come up with recommendations to be enacted in the lame-duck session after the election. Its time to get your Congress member Republican or Democrat on the record on whether they will support any measures to cut Social Security benefits or extend the retirement age for anyone who is now paying into the system.
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that if the GOP takes over, he would support raising the retirement age to 70, cutting Social Security benefits for seniors with outside income and making Social Security cuts the top fiscal priority.
FED DEBT: DO NOTHING. If deficit hawks in Congress want to bring the federal budget closer to balance, they can do nothing, Ezra Klein noted at WashingtonPost.com (7/1). If the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are allowed to lapse this year, theyll improve the deficit outlook by about $4 tln over the next 10 years. Instead, Republicans propose to extend the deficit-busting Bush tax cuts but not unemployment benefits. This will be a test for any politician who claims to care about the deficit, Klein wrote. If theyre willing to let the tax cuts expire a tough decision, given the politics of taxes its good evidence that theyre serious about cutting the debt. If theyre not willing to let the cuts expire, its irrefutable evidence that theyre not.
WHAT DEMS DONT KNOW CAN HURT THEM. Recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center have found a sizeable gap between Republicans, who cant wait for the general election, and Democrats. Pew found that 56% of Republican voters say they are more enthusiastic about voting this year than in previous elections. It is the highest percentage of GOP voters expressing enthusiasm since the 1994 midterms, when Republicans gained control of the House and Senate during the Clinton administration.
Its not all bad news for Dems. The Pew poll found that Dems lead the GOP 50% to 34% as the party more concerned about needs of people like me; 45-33 on being able to bring about the changes the country needs; 41-31 on governs more honestly and ethically; and 43-35 on selects better candidates for office. Republicans narrowly led Dems 41-37 on being better able to manage the federal government. And Democratic voters are not particularly pessimistic about the election: 29% expect Dems to do better in this years midterm; 48% expect the party to do about the same as in recent elections; and just 18% expect it to do worse.
Ironically, while control of the Senate is at play, Democrats are more likely to lose control of the House, which is the more progressive chamber. House Democrats, with a 39-seat majority, have been sending progressive bills over to the Senate for a year and a half, only to see them held hostage there.
Also, control of many state legislatures will be at play, and they will be in charge of redistricting Congress after this years Census.
Steve Benen wrote at WashingtonMonthly.com (7/3) Republican voters, according to multiple polls, are practically counting the days until November, almost desperate to elect far-right candidates. If rank-and-file Dems seriously believe their party is positioned to do well indeed, if nearly a third of these Dems expect the partys candidates to do better than usual theyre living in a fantasy world.
The awakening next January will likely be a rude one intractable gridlock, endless and pointless investigations, and a progressive policy agenda brought to an immediate halt. Hell, presidential impeachment might even find itself on the table.
Democratic leaders, if not panicking, see the need to raise the alarm. I think the prospect of a Republican takeover while not likely, but plausible will be very much part of the dynamic in October, and I think that will help us with turnout and some of this enthusiasm gap, David Plouffe told Dan Balz of the Washington Post (7/2). Plouffe, Obamas campaign manager two years ago, is helping to oversee Democratic efforts this fall and he put all Democrats on notice, saying: Wed better act as a party as if the House and the Senate and every major governors race is at stake and in danger, because they could be.
White House senior adviser David Axelrod said the economy is going to be a decisive issue. The question is whether people believe at the end of the day [that] turning backward to the policies that got us into the disaster is really the answer. Thats a debate were going to have, he said. But Obama must aggressively rebut Republicans arguments that the presidents policies have led to excessive growth of government spending and regulation. If we allow a Republican Party that took a $237 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.3 trillion deficit over eight years to masquerade as the party of fiscal responsibility, then shame on us, Axelrod said.
GOP-TIED CORPORATION HELPS GREENS IN TEXAS. A corporation with Republican ties helped the Green Party come up with more than 90,000 signatures to get a line on the Texas ballot. Take Initiative America, a Missouri-based nonprofit corporation, spent $532,000 to collect the signatures. The Texas Democratic Party claimed the contribution violated a state law that limits corporate spending in policies. State District Judge John Deitz, an Austin Democrat, agreed and barred the Greens from the ballot, but Republican lawyers helped the Greens appeal to the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, which allowed the Greens to field candidates, pending a full hearing on whether the use of corporate money to gather signatures is legal.
Take Initiative America has not disclosed its donors, but the Austin American-Statesman reported that the groups counsel is co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association and a Republican operative, Tim Mooney of Arizona, helped arrange for Take Initiative America and the Green Party to work together, the Dallas Morning News reported. And the Green Partys attorneys include prominent GOP lawyer Andy Taylor, who has represented several Republican officeholders and advised Gov. Rick Perry on potential appointees to the Texas Supreme Court, and Steve Smith, a former GOP Texas Supreme Court justice.
In court testimony, a former University of Texas student Garrett Mize said lobbyist Mike Toomey, former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Perry who is active in efforts to boost Republicans legislative majorities, personally paid him $2,000 a month for six months to gather signatures to get the Greens on the ballot. Mize said he was approached by Stuart Moss, who was working for GOP consultant Eric Bearse, former communications director for Gov. Perry, and Mize quit when he realized the money was coming from interests that did not want Democrats to do well, and not, as he had been led to believe, from advocates of wind energy.
After that, the Missouri corporation paid $532,000 to gather the signatures and presented them to the Green Party as an in-kind contribution, but it has refused to disclose the source of that money. Perrys campaign has denied any link to the petition drive, but the Dallas Morning News reported that Take Initiative America has ties to Perrys New Hampshire-based political strategist, Dave Carney.
Democrats suspect that Republicans are putting up the Greens to divert votes from Bill White, who was tied with Perry at 43% each in a recent poll.
Kat Swift, the Green Partys Texas coordinator, told the Statesman that Take Initiative America misled the party. We would not have taken it had they said, We are a corporation, she said. But the Greens have not slowed their effort to get on the ballot since learning that the organization is, in fact a corporation. That would be taking those 92,000 peoples voices away, Swift said, referring to those who signed the petition.
The Green Partys association with Republicans has drawn criticism from some of their usual allies. David Weinberg, executive director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters, wrote a letter to Green leaders asking them not to field candidates. Candidates for office who owe their place on the ballot to funders who do not support cracking down on polluters and a clean environment cannot be trusted by the public to adhere to a pro-environment agenda, Weinberg wrote.
Green Party of Texas Co-Chairwoman Christine Morshedi said she is unconcerned about who paid to get the partys candidate on the ballot. If somebody helps us, they help us, the American-Statesman reported.
Green candidates include Deb Shafto for governor, Herb Gonzales Jr. for lieutenant governor, Ed Lindsay for comptroller, Art Browning for railroad commissioner and two state House candidates.
The Libertarian Party already has qualified for the ballot, getting at least 5% in a statewide race in the last election, in addition to the Dems and Repubs. In the last election that Greens were on the ballot, in 2002, their best showing was 1.75% for a Supreme Court seat, longtime political observer Dave McNeely noted.
S.C. GREEN SENATE CANDIDATE. South Carolina Democrats might wonder if their candidate for the US Senate will end up as a spoiler for Tom Clements, the Green Party candidate who is challenging US Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Clements, a graduate of Emory University with a masters degree in forest resources from the University of Georgia, works on nuclear issues for the environmental organization Friends of the Earth. Clements is considered the public-interest watchdog over the Department of Energys Savannah River nuclear complex near Aiken, S.C.
I intend to run a campaign that will represent the concerns of South Carolina and that will challenge Mr. DeMint for his policies which support his form of big government to the detriment of working folks, Clements said in a news release. As DeMint rails against big government and government spending, he endorses policies that impoverish all of us and weaken our country. Its time for South Carolinians to throw out the entrenched incumbent DeMint. I will work to bring a balanced budget to the US while forcefully protecting the environment and curbing military adventurism which has brought our country to its knees. I am the only truly Green candidate in this race and am proud of it. See clementsforsenate.com.
The Democratic nominee, Alvin Greene, is a political unknown who won 59% of the vote against a former circuit judge in the primary. Greene is unemployed and apparently had no organized campaign. He also is facing felony obscenity charges arising last year from a University of South Carolina students allegation that he harassed her with computer pornography. Greene was assigned a public defender last November after he said he was unable to afford a lawyer, but then, in March, he somehow came up with $10,400 in cash to pay the filing fee for the Senate race. State authorities are investigating whether he misrepresented his finances to the state court system, The State newspaper in Columbia reported (6/28). In the meantime, the public defender told The State he no longer represents Greene, since a private attorney informed him he is now representing Greene on the pornography charges.
CAL PUTS MINOR PARTIES IN ELECTION SQUEEZE. California voters 53.7% to 46.3% approved a referendum (6/8) making the general election in November a runoff for the two top finishers in the June open primary election. In effect, it will remove minor candidates from the general election campaign, Ballot Access News noted (7/1). The states Democratic and Republican parties opposed the change, as did the Libertarian, Green and Peace & Freedom parties, but all of the states large newspapers, except the Orange County Register, endorsed Proposition 14. Editorials suggested that the measure would not injure minor parties, which can run candidates in the open primary, but BAN noted that even in San Francisco, where the Green Party presumably would be strongest, Green candidates never placed first or second. In Louisiana, which has used the top-two system for state office since 1975, no minor party candidate has ever qualified for the second round. Washington state started using the top-two system in 2008 and resulted in a Democratic-Republican matchups in the general election for all congressional and statewide offices.
ANGLE THREATENS REID FOR REPOSTING HER VIEWS. After Sharron Angle won the Republican nomination for US Senate against Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Angles campaign took down most of its website and later relaunched with a version that toned down her right-wing rhetoric, Eric Kleefeld noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (7/5). But Internet pages are rarely forgotten, and Reids campaign saved the old version and put up a website called TheRealSharronAngle.com with the old content. Angles lawyers responded with a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that Reid no longer republish Angles previous campaign website, claiming that it violated copyrights. Although the use of a candidates materials to ridicule that candidate generally is legal, the Reid campaign replaced the site with another website that summarizes Angles proposals to eliminate Social Security, the departments of Energy and Education, her resistance to health care reform and Wall Street reform and her proposal to allow nuclear waste to be shipped to Nevada, among other things. Weve always heard that Sharron Angle is an unapologetic conservative, Reid campaign spokesman Joe Summers said in a press release. It has to be embarrassing for her to have her handlers trying to hide who she really is.
CONGRESSMAN BLAMES FIREFIGHTERS FOR FIRE DAMAGE. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) believes in small government and low taxes except when it comes to protecting his real estate. He and his wife have filed a lawsuit against the city of Billings and the Billings Fire Department claiming that the fire department breached its duty in failing to protect property he planned to develop from a wildfire that burned more than 1,100 acres in July 2008, including trees and ground cover on land intended for development. the Associated Press reported (7/4). In the general election, Rehberg faces Democrat Dennis McDonald, a former Forest Service firefighter, lawyer, rancher and self-styled populist who has been a critic of free trade deals.
TV NEWS RATINGS DOWN. Network news ratings hit a record low for a second quarter for ABC and CBS and the lowest second quarter for NBC since 2007, Bill Carter noted at the *New York Times* (7/2). NBC led with 7.6 mln total viewers and 2.3 mln in the highly-prized 25-54 age group, down about 5%. ABC reached 7 mln total viewer and 2 mln in the 25-54 group, down 4%. CBS pulled in 5.5 mln viewers, down 6%, and 1.6 mln in the 25-54 group, down 1.87%.
The highest-rated cable news channel, Fox News, has about 2.1 mln prime-time viewers, Nielsen ratings show. Thats down 10% from the second quarter of 2009, and 532,000 Fox News viewers in the 25-54 group were down 9%. MSNBC, with its liberal lineup in prime time, dropped 4% to about 825,000 prime-time viewers, and 217,000 in the 25-54 group, down 10%, but it has overtaken CNN, which dropped 31%, to 623,000 prime-time viewers, and 173,000 in 25-54, down 28%. HLN had 652,000 total, down 12%, and 200,000 in 25-54, down 23%.
SENATE GOP OBSTRUCTS BP PROBE. Republicans are anxious to deflect the blame away from BP and its drilling contractors and onto the Obama administration for failing to prevent the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and now theyre blaming Obama for failing to plug the blowout. Now Senate Republicans are objecting to a proposal to give subpoena power to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the panel that was created by the White House to investigate the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. After the House voted 420 to 1 to grant the panel subpoena power, Senate Democrats asked unanimous consent to resolve the issue (6/30). But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), objected on behalf of members of the Republican caucus that he would not name. I have to conclude by the objections that there are colleagues on the other side that either dont want to get to the bottom of this or are standing on the side of the oil companies and not of the victims and their families, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) told reporters. Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (7/1), Ive long since run out of adjectives to describe these folks. The commission cant get answers without subpoena power, and Congress has routinely extended subpoena power to related commissions including panels investigating the JFK assassination, the Three Mile Island disaster, and the 9/11 attacks. And yet, Senate Republicans yesterday blocked the authority for the BP commission, and wouldnt say why.
HIGH-RISK INSURANCE PROGRAM BEGINS. The Obama administration and some state governments began accepting applications July 1 for new insurance programs designed to cover people who have been denied insurance because they have pre-existing conditions. The high-risk polls will provide relief for some of the most desperate uninsured Americans until 2014, when insurance companies will be required to cover everyone, regardless of medical history. The program is available for American citizens and legal residents who have been without insurance for at least six months and have been denied coverage because they have a pre-existing medical condition, the Los Angeles Times reported (7/1).
The federal government will run the high-risk pool in 21 states that decided not to run their own program: Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming. Residents of those states can apply starting 7/1. The remaining 29 states and D.C. will run their own programs and will begin accepting applications over the next several months.
Premiums, as well as benefits, are expected to vary greatly from state to state, with some plans charging as little as $140 a month and some as much as $900 a month, according to administration officials. Premiums could vary by age. And some states may offer a variety of benefit packages. For more information see healthcare.gov.
LABOR UNITES BEHIND IMMIGRATION REFORM. For most of their history, labor unions opposed attempts at loosening immigration laws and often threw their weight behind restrictionist measures. During the most recent overhaul effort in 2007, a schism among unions cracked an otherwise willing liberal coalition and helped defeat the reform bill. But now, in the wake of Arizonas strict and highly controversial new immigration law, labor has united to support immigration reform with unprecedented vigor, Sahil Kapur reported at WashingtonIndependent.com (6/28).
The 11.5-mln-member AFL-CIO has joined forces with the 2.2-mln-strong Service Employees International Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to pour resources into the fight, and the three have written a joint letter to Congress detailing labors unified position and unfailing commitment to sweeping reform. Labor leaders have come to view an immigration overhaul as an opportunity rather than a threat to their interests. A large population of unlawful immigrants undercuts both the working class and the influence of unions, while legalized immigrants could be tapped to expand union membership. Likewise, joining forces with the pro-reform and growing Hispanic community can help secure the movements future.
A sticking point for labor continues to be the expansion of the H-1B guest worker program, which grants skilled foreigners the temporary right to live and work in the United States. But because these short-term workers have limited job flexibility and are essentially unable to unionize, the provision has been a roadblock to labors goals of having a politically active workforce and protecting low-skilled domestic talent. Dems propose to beef up border security, create a pathway to citizenship and overhaul the systems for employment- and family-based immigration.
ITS OFFICIAL: BUSH WORST PREZ IN MODERN ERA. Since 1982, the Siena Research Institute has polled presidential scholars on whom they view to be best and worst presidents in American history. This years poll of 238 scholars found that President Franklin Roosevelt was once again ranked on top, followed by Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson to complete the top five. However, President George W. Bush did not fare well since the last poll was conducted in 2002. He dropped 16 places to 39th, making him the worst president since Warren Harding died in office in 1923, and one of the bottom five of all time, according to the experts. Rounding out the bottom five are four presidents who have held that dubious distinction each time the survey has been conducted: Andrew Johnson, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin Pierce. Bush was rated second from the bottom on intelligence, foreign policy accomplishments and handling of US economy. This despite promises from Bush supporters that history will be very kind to the former president, as his Attorney General John Ashcroft put it. Bushs fathers legacy held constant in this years poll, with George H.W. Bush coming in at 22nd. President Reagan dropped two places from 16th overall in 2002 to 18th today. President Obama was ranked 15th. (ThinkProgress.org, 7/1)
TOXINS IN WHALES BODE ILL FOR HUMANS. Sperm whales feeding even in the most remote reaches of Earths oceans have built up stunningly high levels of toxic and heavy metals, according to American scientists who say the findings spell danger not only for marine life but for the millions of humans who depend on seafood. A report released 6/24 at the International Whaling Commissions annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco, noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years, according to the Associated Press. From polar areas to equatorial waters, the whales ingested pollutants that may have been produced by humans thousands of miles away, the researchers said. These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean, said biologist Roger Payne, founder and president of Ocean Alliance, the research and conservation group that produced the report. (See oceanalliance.org.)
From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2010
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