Friday, September 24, 2010

Verizon to Change Mobile-Data Plans


Verizon Communications Inc.'s chief said he expects to soon start charging wireless customers based on their Internet data usage and introduce new plans with limits.

Verizon's move would follow rival carrier AT&T Inc.'s decision in June to stop selling an unlimited data plan to new customers and begin selling two service plans with monthly caps.

Verizon Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg said Verizon Wireless's new data plans, which will likely roll out over the next four to six months, would be different from AT&T's plans, but he didn't provide details.

"We're not sure we agree yet with how they valued the data," he said at an investor conference Thursday.

Verizon, the No. 1 U.S. carrier with 92.1 million customers, currently charges $29.99 a month for unlimited data. A Verizon spokesman declined to provide more detail on the new plans.

AT&T offers two options for data service. It has a basic plan for $15 a month with a limit of 200 megabytes of data, and a $25 plan with a cap of 2 gigabytes of data. Customers who go over their limits are charged an additional fee.

The wireless industry has struggled to balance the increasing demand for data capacity with unlimited plans that limit how much revenue carriers can generate from their subscribers. The dynamic has pressured the carriers, who need to pour billions of dollars into their networks to ensure that the traffic flows smoothly.

Mr. Seidenberg said the introduction of new products and services—likely in conjunction with the launch of fourth-generation wireless services—would allow Verizon Wireless to introduce a tiered pricing structure.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone Group PLC, is also hoping its move to 4G will spur suppliers—including Apple Inc. —to build products for the carrier, Mr. Seidenberg said.

"At some point, Apple will get with the program," he said Thursday. He declined to comment on speculation that Verizon Wireless would get the iPhone some time next year. "I can't speak for Apple," he said.

Verizon Wireless has long sought the iPhone, which has an exclusive deal with AT&T. The lack of the iPhone has forced Verizon Wireless to develop a stronger lineup of smartphones on its own, and Mr. Seidenberg expects the move to a 4G technology called Long-Term Evolution will attract more suppliers and mobile devices.

"We don't feel like we have an iPhone deficit," Mr. Seidenberg said. "We would love to carry it, but we have to earn it."

Election Fraud Testimony

Postcards from the "Pledge"--Daily Show


The Middle Class is Being Wiped Out

As wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor.
By Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse
Posted on September 22, 2010

The "America" that so many of us have taken for granted for so many decades is literally disintegrating right in front of our eyes. Most Americans are still operating under the delusion that the United States will always be "the wealthiest nation" in the world and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs and that the U.S. will always have a very large middle class. But that is not what is happening. The very foundations of the U.S. economy have rotted away and we now find ourselves on the verge of an economic collapse. Already, millions upon millions of Americans are slipping out of the middle class and into the devastating grip of poverty. Statistic after statistic proves that the middle class in the United States is shrinking month after month after month. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are starting to wake up and are beginning to realize that we have very serious problems on our hands, but they have no idea what is causing our economic distress and they are unaware that most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we have created.

On the mainstream news, the American people are treated to endless footage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the other political party has done.

Republicans proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Democrats.

Democrats proclaim that we are experiencing all of this economic chaos because of the Republicans.

Even many readers of this column (who are generally more educated and more informed than most average Americans) leave comment after comment blaming either the Democrats of the Republicans for our current economic mess.

But do you really want to know who is to blame for our economic problems?

Both of them.

This economic nightmare has taken literally decades to develop, and both Democrats and Republicans have contributed greatly to this disaster.

Both parties have absolutely refused to stand up to the Federal Reserve and the horrific economic policies that they have been shoving down our throats for decades.

Both parties have stood idly by as the U.S. trade deficit has absolutely exploded in size and the United States has become significantly poorer month after month after month.

Both parties have refused to do anything as month after month after month large numbers of factories and good paying jobs leave the United States.

Both parties have shoved the spending accelerator to the floor when they have been in power and now we have the largest national debt in the history of the world.

Both parties have done essentially nothing as the health care industry, which was once the envy of the world, has degenerated into a cesspool of corruption and greed and now seems designed to do little more than to provide pharmaceutical companies and health insurance crooks with obscene profits.

If factories keep leaving the United States and jobs keep leaving the United States and the federal government keeps going into more debt and state governments keep going into more debt and local governments keep going into more debt, then things are going to keep getting worse.

It does not take a genius to figure that out.

The United States is continually getting poorer and is continually going into more debt.

Can anyone out there explain how that is a formula for economic prosperity?


Can anyone explain how that would work?

Please leave a comment and explain that to all of us if you can.

The truth is that as wealth continues to leave the United States and as the U.S. gets even deeper into debt, more Americans are going to become poor.

It really is that simple.

The following are 15 shocking poverty statistics that are skyrocketing as the American middle class continues to be slowly wiped out....
#1 Approximately 45 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009.
#2 According to the Associated Press, experts believe that 2009 saw the largest single year increase in the U.S. poverty rate since the U.S. government began calculating poverty figures back in 1959.
#3 The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
#4 According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on a year-over-year basis, household participation in the food stamp program has increased 20.28%.
#5 The number of Americans on food stamps surpassed 41 million for the first time ever in June.
#6 As of June, the number of Americans on food stamps had set a new all-time record for 19 consecutive months.
#7 One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program.
#8 More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.
#9 One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.
#10 Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as were receiving it in 2007.
#11 The number of Americans receiving long-term unemployment benefits has risen over 60 percent in just the past year.
#12 According to one recent survey, 28% of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job.
#13 Nationwide, bankruptcy filings rose 20 percent in the 12 month period ending June 30th.
#14 More than 25 percent of all Americans now have a credit score below 599.
#15 One out of every five children in the United States is now living in poverty.
As millions more Americans continue to climb on to the "safety net", how long is it going to be before it breaks?

The reality is that the system can only support so many people. We are now at a point where our anti-poverty programs are clearly unsustainable in the long-term, but nobody has a solution for how we are going to get all of these people off of these programs or how we are going to provide good jobs for all of them.

The cost of every U.S. government anti-poverty program is absolutely soaring. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is already running a budget deficit that is approaching 1.5 trillion dollars every year. If you cannot understand that we have a very serious problem on our hands then you are probably not awake.

The U.S. economic system is dying. Blaming the other political party is not a solution. Running around the country offering "hope" and "change" and giving people a vague sense that things will get "better" soon is not going to cut it either.

The American people need very real economic solutions to very real economic problems.

But nearly all of our politicians are way too busy either trying to get elected or trying to stay in office to tackle the very serious problems which are destroying our economy.

Unfortunately, the American people love to watch our politicians play politics. They love to watch the little ping-pong ball of blame go back and forth. They love to pick sides and to cheer for their "team".

None of that is doing any good. Right now millions of Americans are getting sucked into poverty each year and neither major political party is doing anything real to address the very real economic problems that are causing that to happen.

But most Americans have become so "dumbed down" that they don't even understand what the real problems are anymore.

All most Americans seem to want these days is to watch a good show.

So send in the clowns.

There are certainly enough of them in Washington D.C. to keep Americans entertained for quite a long time.

From Boehner’s Lips, Fodder for Democrats

By MICHAEL SHEAR - September 23, 2010, 6:56 PM

The idea behind Thursday morning’s news conference by House Republican leaders was not to provide ammunition for Democrats.

But that may be what happened.

Even as Representative John Boehner, the Republican leader, was trumpeting the “Pledge for America,” he may have inadvertently played right into the hands of the White House and Democratic candidates.

In answer to a question from a reporter about the party’s position on social issues, and with the cameras running, Mr. Boehner said: “We are not going to be any different than what we’ve been.”

Those are the words President Obama and his allies have been trying to put in the Republicans’ mouths throughout the summer. The president is especially fond of saying that the Republicans running for Congress want “the next two years to look like the eight years before I took office.”

In speech after speech, Mr. Obama has tried to link the Republican party of today with the policies of the past. At a New York fundraiser at the Roosevelt Hotel this week, Mr. Obama said it again.

“It’d be one thing if the Republican candidates looked back at the last decade and they said, “You know what? Our policies didn’t work. We ended up in a terrible recession. Let’s try something new’,” he said. “If they were championing your issues. Right? And you said, well, you know, maybe — maybe we’ve got an option here.”

Mr. Boehner’s quote may have been about social issues, not the economy, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone to find it showing up in the president’s stump speeches anyway, or in a television ad for a Democratic candidate or two.

As Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, wrote shortly after Mr. Boehner’s comment: “Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our "Bust" tops 300,000 views on YouTube

I swear I didn't post this and I have no idea who did, but it just topped 300,000 views, which seems like a lot to me...

Sep 02, 2009First view from a mobile device13,409
Sep 20, 2008First referral from related video - Cheaters - Sister gets caught up with her "White Boyfriend"5,356
Jun 16, 2008First referral from related video - Best Cheaters clip ever13,327
Feb 21, 2008First referral from related video - Best of Cheaters19,328
Jan 07, 2008First referral from related video - cheaters get even18,934
Jan 07, 2008First referral from related video - Rose Harden on Cheaters "Give this to your mother"8,292
Dec 22, 2007First referral from related video - Fight at Cheaters9,057
Unavailable*First referral from YouTube search - cheaters tv show17,667
Unavailable*First referral from YouTube search - cheaters24,886

*Exact date is not available. The count of views from this link only includes views since 30 November 2007.

This video is most popular with:

This video is most popular in: 

Obama's Forgotten Base

Christopher Hayes | The Nation | September 23, 2010

There are precious few certainties in politics, but this fall we are faced with one of them: the Democrats will lose seats in the midterm elections. When the economy sucks, people vote against the incumbent party. And this economy sucks not in a run-of-the-mill business-cycle way but in a once-in-a-generation way (well, we hope it's once in a generation). Whatever positive trends there may be in the private-sector, they are negated by record levels of foreclosure, personal bankruptcy and unemployment, all of which are going to make election day pretty bleak for Democrats.

But a neat single cause doesn't give commentators much to work with, so observers have offered an alternate or, in some cases, supplemental explanation of Democrats' fortunes, which might be called the Great Backlash.

The story of the Great Backlash goes like this: the president was elected on a promise to transcend red and blue, heal the wounds of the forty-year culture war and, as he said in his speech on the night of the Iowa caucuses, inspire the country to "come together around a common purpose." But instead, Barack Obama pursued an ambitious agenda, a classic case of overreach (and compromise w/corporate-industry lobbyists--jef) that alienated finicky independents and awakened the sleeping giant of don't-tread-on-me Tea Party patriots.

What's insidious about this narrative is that it takes a small, ideological subcomponent of the electorate and projects its views onto the electorate as a whole. It also ignores the young, the low-income and the black voters who gave Obama his margin of victory. We've all spent so much time dwelling on the slights and accusations of the Fox News crowd, there's been shockingly little attention paid to the views, frustrations and convictions of what we might call the forgotten electorate, otherwise known as Obama's base.

Which is why a new poll from Project Vote of 2008 voters is such a refreshing corrective. According to the poll, Tea Party sympathizers constitute 29 percent of 2008 voters, while black voters, those under 30 and those making less than $30,000 a year together make up 32 percent.

Project Vote positions this cohort as the anti–Tea Party, and leafing through the poll you can see why. On nearly every issue, particularly on the economy, young, black and low-income voters' views are the inverse of the Tea Party's: strong majorities of these groups believe the government should provide jobs for unemployed people who want to work; just 15 percent of Tea Partyers agree. Strong majorities also believe the government should help homeowners facing foreclosure, while just 13 percent of Tea Partyers do.

This is what you would expect. But the most striking result is the strange, confounding relationship between people's economic situation and their perception of the health of the national economy. Tea Partyers are the most pessimistic, with only 10 percent saying the economy is getting better and 63 percent rating it "very bad"—and yet their personal finances are better than the national average, with 75 percent rating them "fairly good" or better. For the anti–Tea Party, it's the opposite: a whopping 37 percent of black voters say there were times this year when they didn't have enough money to buy food for their family (compared with just 5 percent of Tea Partyers), and yet black voters are the most optimistic when it comes to the economy. More than 26 percent of black voters rated it as fairly good, against just 6.5 percent of Tea Party sympathizers.

That is the tragic and perilous irony of this political moment: the people with the most faith in the president and the Democratic Party are the hardest hit by the continuing economic disaster; it's this brute fact that's driving the so-called enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives. More than frustration with the lack of a public option or anger at a White House that seems to relish insulting the "professional left," the flagging enthusiasm among Obama's '08 base is the product of a kind of cognitive dissonance between hope and reality. "Like a lot of people in my generation, I was really inspired by you and by your campaign and message that you brought," a 30-year-old law school graduate told the president during a live town hall on CNBC recently. "And that inspiration is dying away. It feels like the American Dream is not attainable to a lot of us.... I really want to know, is the American Dream dead for me?"

And here's where we get to the perilous part. Even if most of the midterm outcome is already determined, the margins matter tremendously: just a few seats, possibly decided by just a few thousand votes, could make the difference between a Speaker Pelosi and a Speaker Boehner. Which brings us to another certainty: as bad as things are right now for Obama's base, a world in which Republicans control one or both houses of Congress is going to be far, far worse.


(We've seen both. over the past 6 years. I think they both suck, but the Dems suck a little less, I guess.--jef)

Another Crisis Over, Thanks to the Government

By Anthony Gregory on Sep 20, 2010
It’s all over the news. “The recession is over.” The mainstream economists say so. This was the longest recession since World War II, I heard on the news (say, I thought the economy was just dandy throughout that war—oh, never mind).

The end of this terrible recession into which the free market plunged us is all thanks to the federal government, of course. In particular, we owe the Obama administration our gratitude for its stimulus program. But we should also tip our hats—hats we can presumably now afford to buy— toward the Bush administration for its TARP bailouts, without which the banking system would have completely collapsed, credit would have dried up and we would have all starved to death.

This is another wonderful crisis brought to an end by government. All within about a month of the end of the Iraq war! That, too, was a crisis, incalculably costly in American blood and treasure. The Iraqis, too, were suffering, or so we heard some time several years ago. But thank goodness that horror is now over. Sure, there are still U.S. soldiers there, shooting, killing and dying—but this does not mean the war is not over, just as the high unemployment figures and inconsistent private investment do not mean that our economic troubles are somehow still persisting.

Speaking of which, the economy sure has been perfected by government’s responses to all the various crises, hasn’t it? Not just currently, but going back many years. In 1913, Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act, which not only allowed for the financing of the Great War that succeeded in securing democracy throughout the world and precluding any wars from ever again being necessary, but also ensured that our monetary system has been completely solid ever since—no banking panics, no trouble keeping the U.S. dollar strong and stable. Well, there was the Great Depression, but FDR sure acted quickly to make sure we’d never have another big boom and bust. The sharp increase in regulation, federal spending, taxes, stimulus and government control over money in the 1930s sure put an end to any economic problems. The early 1970s might have looked bad, but that was just an illusion, as Nixon fixed that for good by closing the gold window and giving us price controls. The dotcom recession? Bush remedied that once and for all with an engineered housing bubble that was egged on by the most respected of America’s Keynesian economists. All that government intervention from 1913 and the New Deal through the 1970s and onward sure kept the economy from ever falling off the tracks again. And yet, when it did fall off the tracks again in 2007 and 2008—when it was called the greatest financial collapse, at least since 1929—government sure came to the rescue, fixing the disaster caused by the free market, for we all know that the century worth of cascading interventions into the financial markets, the real estate industry, money, banking and the overall economy, could not possibly have had anything to do with this last recession; only the remaining sphere of American economic freedom could be the culprit.

Speaking of the economy, remember how America used to have a crisis with poverty? Lyndon Johnson sure put an end to that. I don’t actually know if the war on poverty ever ended as decisively as the Iraq war has—probably sometime in the 1990s, with welfare reform. Now the government doesn’t need to wage war on poverty any more. It has won. Poverty is vanquished from America.

Although, in the 1980s and 1990s, there sure was a homelessness crisis. It was all over the news. It must have been a very big deal. But no more. The war on homelessness stopped that, thank goodness. Now even left-liberals don’t ever talk about any sort of homelessness problem, so there must not be one.

Speaking of domestic crusades from the last couple generations, remember when our public schools were failing? Thank goodness for the ramping up of public school spending in the last 40 years. Where would we be without it? If not for the war on illiteracy, Carter’s Department of Education, Bush’s No Child Left Behind and the rest of the government’s constant intervention into educational life, we’d probably have such an illiterate, uneducated populace that we’d elect to the presidency men who brag that they don’t read newspapers, or come close to electing Vice Presidents who can’t name two important Supreme Court decisions.

And to think that all this progress has happened alongside the many other problems the government has solved. Back in the 1960s, Americans used to do illegal drugs. Thanks to Nixon, Reagan and all the presidents since, practically no one does illegal drugs, the war on drugs is over, according to the current administration, our streets are safe and we didn’t have to sacrifice any precious liberties to get here. Meanwhile, Americans consume only the safest of pharmaceuticals, and everything that is effective comes quickly to market. We can also be certain, thanks to agricultural subsidies, that healthy food is easily accessible and unhealthy food is more expensive. If the market handled farming completely, you’d probably be able to get a box of corn-syrup-drenched snack cakes for less than a bag of carrots. And if you did overeat and needed medical attention, health care would be massively expensive. Thank goodness for more than fifty years of increasing federal involvement in health care. But it’s too bad that this federal involvement did not prevent the unregulated free market from causing a health care crisis that Obama had to repair with his gigantic health care plan. We can take solace, at least, that the health care crisis is finally over.

The environment is also totally clean, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, which ensures that there will never be, say, a huge oil leak off the Gulf Coast that lasts for a couple of months before being plugged. And as for oil, it sure is affordable, thanks to the numerous price regulations and America’s active energy policy, which the last eight presidents have assured us would stabilize prices and produce “energy independence” within a few years. And we need plenty of oil in this country to power our wonderful automobiles, which are built by the kind of companies that are the fulcrum of the American economy, a fulcrum we can thank Uncle Sam for propping up. Now that we know the auto industry is secure, we can drive those American cars with pride on our wonderful government roads—roads you know are safe, with practically no deaths on them. Could you imagine private industry handling the roads? Not only would they be congested and littered with potholes, we’d have thousands of deaths per year, probably more than ten times as many as died on 9/11.

Which brings us to terrorism, the great crisis of the last decade. Solved, thanks to government. Indeed, the “war on terrorism,” just like the “war in Iraq” and the “war on drugs,” has been officially over for a more than a year. Another great government success, and at minimal cost, too.

Americans used to think that government itself could be a serious problem, as it was prone to corruption. Another crisis solved. Thanks to our trustworthy Congress passing campaign finance laws, we know that Congress will never be corrupted.

Some might say this post is sardonic—even cynical. Can we afford to be sarcastic in the current climate? We can afford practically anything, I say, thanks to the end of the recession—another total victory for the government. And we all know that, thanks to our four-trillion dollar central government in DC, our military-industrial complex, our millions of pages of federal edicts, our millions of federal employees, our national police forces unbound by traditional legal constraints, our thousands of regulators, our dozens of welfare programs, our public school system, our government infrastructure, our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, our numerous international quasi-governmental organizations from the WTO to the UN, not to mention the massive state and local bureaucracies that most Americans are blessed to live under—we know that thanks to all this government, we will never see another crisis comparable to this ghastly recession. And if we do, we can always blame it on the free market and the lack of government involvement.

Netflix Staged Fake Event & Hired Fake Customers To Gush To Press

Henry Blodget | Sep. 23, 2010

Netflix, a company that has done just about everything right, has been busted for staging a fake event to celebrate its move into Canada--and, worse, hiring actors to pose as customers to extol the service to the press.

The fake event was staged in Toronto. The actors were given written instructions about what to say to reporters.

Netflix explained the gaffe to the AP this way--without actually owning up to it:
A Netflix Inc. spokesman says the company didn't intend to mislead reporters. He apologized.
The spokesman says Netflix couldn't get permission to close an entire street for the event. It dodged the problem by getting a film permit, hiring actors and pretending to shoot a company documentary.
Didn't intend to mislead reporters? What did it intend to do, then?


US Senate Republicans block campaign disclosure bill

By Thomas Ferraro - Thu Sep 23, 2010

WASHINGTON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Senate Republicans dealt a blow to President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats on Thursday by again blocking a bill to require public disclosure of who pays for political campaign advertising.

On a party-line vote of 59-39, short of the needed 60, Democrats failed to end a procedural roadblock against the measure, likely killing it for the year.

Drafted with the support of Obama, the bill was designed to blunt the impact of a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruling in January that overturned state and federal limits on independent expenditures by corporations to support or oppose candidates.

The bill would require corporate -- as well as union and advocacy group -- leaders to disclose their names in campaign ads rather than allow front groups to take responsibility.

Most of those funding campaign ads before the Nov. 2 elections are expected to be members of pro-Republican business interests that would like to end control of Congress by Obama's Democrats.

Obama, who denounced the Supreme Court ruling in January, saying it would open the floodgates to special interest money in American politics, blasted Republicans for stopping the bill.

"Wall Street, the insurance lobby, oil companies and other special interests are now one step closer to taking Congress back and returning to the days when lobbyists wrote the laws," Obama said in a statement. ( mean the same special interest lobbies you caved to in your two reform bills--the financial and healthcare reform bills which lobbyists wrote and congress passed earlier this year?-jef)

"But despite today's setback, I will continue fighting to ensure that our democracy stays where it belongs -- in the hands of the American people," the president said.  (Really? Because it really doesn't appear that you do want that.-jef)

It was the second time Republicans stopped the bill,
"The Disclose Act." It was also blocked in July.

With voters most concerned about the
weak economy, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell ripped into Democrats for having returned to the campaign finance measure.

"We're now on day two of debate regarding the
Disclose Act -- two more days Senate Democrats have chosen to ignore the jobs of the American people in an effort to save their own," McConnell said.

To win passage of the bill earlier this year by the
House of Representatives, two groups were exempted from some reporting requirements, the conservative National Rifle Association and liberal Sierra Club.

Republicans denounced the exemptions as favoring the free speech of some over others. Public interest groups said the exemptions were a small price to pay for meaningful reform

Senate Democrats Punt Tax Cuts To Lame-Duck

In case there was any doubt at all, well, now it’s official – Senate Democrats have decided to punt an extension of Bush tax cuts until the lame-duck session in November.

“Democrats believe we must permanently extend tax cuts for the middle-class before they expire at the end of the year, and we will. Unfortunately, to this point we have received no cooperation from Republicans to do so,” Reid spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement. “Democrats will not allow families in Nevada and across the country to suffer or be held hostage by Republicans who would rather give tax giveaways to millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. We will come back in November and stay in session as long as it takes to get this done.”

The Senate is set to leave Capitol Hill at the end of next week for some last-ditch campaigning before the mid-terms, not to return until mid-November.

The Democrats’ decision to put off the debate on tax cuts comes as no surprise. Earlier today the Senate’s number-two Democrat Dick Durbin told reporters, “The reality is nothing’s going to happen before the elections.”

“The reality is we are not going to pass what needs to be passed to change this, either in the Senate or in the House before the election,” Durbin said after a caucus meeting in the Capitol.

Democrats want to extend the Bush tax cuts for individuals making under $200,000 a year and couples making under $250,000, while Republicans want to extend them for all Americans. The tax cuts are set to expire on January 1.


(Of course, if the Democrats lose the majority in congress, they'll be outvoted for sure. At least before the election, they had a better chance of winning the vote to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire.--jef)

Heavy metals go untested in Gulf seafood

By Brad Jacobson - Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

(Read Part I: Gulf seafood poses long-term health risks.)

Despite claims from President Barack Obama and federal officials that Gulf seafood is safe and poses no long-term health risks, no testing for heavy metals is occurring in fish or shellfish in areas that have been reopened to commercial and recreational fishing.

Both National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FDA officials told Raw Story that fish and shellfish being tested for the purpose of reopening waters to commercial and recreational fishing are not being tested for heavy metals.

Whenever Raw Story raised the lack of heavy metal testing, FDA and NOAA officials routinely referenced a “Mussel Watch” program. Yet neither agency seemed to have a clear grasp on how this program actually collected useful data related to the heavy metal levels in the seafood currently being fished and sold to market.

Raw Story examined the “Mussel Watch” page on NOAA’s website and found no clear additional protocol in place for protecting the public from these contaminants in their seafood due to the BP oil spill.

This is particularly troubling to scientists and public health experts.

Gina Solomon, a doctor and public health expert in the department of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, told Raw Story, “What we would expect is the heavy metal levels in Gulf seafood will be starting to creep up as a result of the spill.”

Solomon, a co-author on last month’s peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study on Gulf seafood safety and also a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), cautioned, “And so right now, we might not be seeing elevated levels, but right now is the time to collect baseline information and to develop a sampling plan for monitoring into the future to make sure that levels don’t continue to rise and cause trouble months or years from now.”

She said it’s important to remember that fish and shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico already contained certain levels of heavy metals prior to the BP oil spill, which, at its height, gushed oil at an estimated rate equivalent to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster – previously the largest in US history – every four days.

Solomon also noted that there is a precedent for these contaminants to linger for a decade or so in the food chain, as was the case during the aftermath to Exxon Valdez. Her JAMA report cites a 2002 study in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Environmental Research, which showed elevated levels of contaminants ten years after the spill.

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a staff scientist at the NRDC who contributed to the JAMA study, noted that testing for heavy metals in these areas is also critical in the near-term in case elevated levels make it necessary to revise warnings now, particularly for pregnant women and young children, who are the most vulnerable to the impact of contaminants like mercury, lead and cadmium.

If the levels change, she said, then a woman can reduce the amount of seafood she’s eating or eliminate it entirely and reduce her likelihood of any adverse impact.

“We know that heavy metals are linked to the development of cancer over the course of time,” said Edward Trapido, the Wendell Gauthier Chair of Cancer Epidemiology at the Louisiana State University School of Public Health. “So if there is no testing, then that’s a problem for sure.”

Trapido testified in June at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing on the spill and is heading a research group at LSU that will look at a range of health effects, including psychiatric and behavioral effects, chronic diseases and cancers.

He pointed out that heavy metals also have associations with Alzheimer’s disease and birth defects.

David Plunkett, senior staff attorney with the food safety program of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, confirmed another reason why baseline tests for heavy metals are critical: holding BP accountable if levels are shown to increase substantially over time.

“That’s probably your best example of what it means if we don’t have these baseline tests,” said Plunkett. “We don’t have something to hold them responsible for the problems they caused.”