Category Archives: Drugs

I went from prison to professor – here’s why criminal records should not be used to keep people out of college

By Stanley Andrisse, Howard University

Beginning next year, the Common Application – an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it – will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

As a formerly incarcerated person who now is now an endocrinologist and professor at two world-renowned medical institutions – Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine – I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

File 20180815 2915 1l5lr0z.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The U.S. leads the world in the rate of incarceration. kittirat roekburi/www.shutterstock.com

While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead – From Prison Cells to PhD – helped push for the change on the Common Application.

My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did not deserve a chance. With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. My prosecuting attorney once stated that I had no hope for change.

Today, I am Dr. Stanley Andrisse. As a professor at Johns Hopkins and Howard University, I now help train students who want to be doctors. I’d say that I have changed. Education was transformative.

US incarceration rates the highest

The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education. The country incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.

Roughly 2.2 million people in the United States are essentially locked away in cages. About 1 in 5 of those people are locked up for drug offenses.

“‘How I Learned to Read – and Trade Stocks – in Prison,’ by Curtis ‘Wall Street’ Carroll.

I was one of those people in prison not so long ago.

Early life of crime

Growing up in the Ferguson, North St. Louis area, I started selling drugs and getting involved with other crimes at a very young age. I was arrested for the first time at age 14. By age 17, I was moving substantial amounts of drugs across the state of Missouri and the country. By my early 20s, I found myself sitting in front of a judge and facing 20 years to life for drug trafficking charges. The judge sentenced me to 10 years in state prison.

When I stood in front of that judge, school was not really my thing.

Although I was a successful student athlete and received a near full scholarship to play football for Lindenwood University, a Division II college football program, I found it difficult to get out of the drug business. Suffice it to say, there were people in the drug world who wanted me to keep moving drugs. And they made it clear that they would be extremely disappointed if I were to suddenly stop. So I continued. For this reason, I didn’t view my undergraduate college experience the way I view education now.

The transformative power of education

Education provides opportunities for people with criminal records to move beyond their experience with the penal system and reach their full potential. The more education a person has, the higher their income. Similarly, the more education a person has, the less likely they are to return to prison.

A 2013 analysis of several studies found that obtaining higher education reduced recidivism – the rate of returning to prison – by 43 percent and was four to five times less costly than re-incarcerating that person. The bottom line is education increases personal income and reduces crime.

Despite these facts, education is woefully lacking among those being held in America’s jails and prisons. Nearly 30 percent of America’s incarcerated – about 690,000 people – are released each year and only 60 percent of those individuals have a GED or high school diploma, compared to 90 percent of the overall of U.S. population over age 25. And less than 3 percent of the people released from incarceration each year have a college degree, compared to 40 percent of the U.S. population.

Rejected by colleges

I had a bachelor’s degree by the time I went to prison but never got the chance to put it to use. Then something tragic happened while I was serving time that prompted me to see the need to further my education. Due to complications of diabetes, my father had his legs amputated. He fell into a coma and lost his battle with Type 2 diabetes. I was devastated. This experience made me want to learn more about how to fight this disease.

While incarcerated, I applied to six biomedical graduate programs. I was rejected from all but one – Saint Louis University. Notably, I had a mentor from Saint Louis University who served on the admission committee. Without that personal connection, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten a second chance.

I finished near the top of my graduate school class, suggesting that I was likely qualified for the programs that rejected me.

Restore Pell grants to incarcerated people 

Based on the difficulty I experienced in going from prison to becoming a college professor, I believe there are things that should be done to remove barriers for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people who wish to pursue higher education.

One of those barriers is cost. When the government removed Pell funding from prisons by issuing the "tough on crime” Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the vast majority of colleges offering courses in prison stopped. Due to the federal ban on receiving Pell grants while incarcerated, most of those serving time are not able to afford to take college courses while in prison. The Obama administration took a step toward trying to restore Pell grants for those in prison with the Second Chance Pell pilot. The program has given over 12,000 incarcerated individuals across the nation the chance to use Pell grants toward college courses in prison.

Inmate Terrell Johnson, a participant in the Goucher College Prison Education Partnership at Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup, speaks with then-Education Secretary Arne Duncan in 2015. Patrick Semansky/AP

Through the program, 67 colleges and universities are working with over 100 prisons to provide college courses to the incarcerated.

Under the Trump administration, this program is at-risk of being discontinued at the end of 2018. Historically, some have argued that allowing Pell dollars to be used by those in prison takes precious Pell dollars from people who did not violate the law. However, the current Second Chance Pell pilot funding being directed to prisons, $30 million, accounts for 0.1 percent of the total $28 billion of Pell funding. Even if the program were expanded, based on historical levels, it would still amount to one-half of 1 percent of all Pell funding. This is justified by the impact that Pell dollars would have in prison in terms of reducing recidivism.

Remove questions about drug crimes from federal aid forms

Federal policymakers could increase opportunities by removing Question 23 on the federal student aid form that asks if applicants have been convicted of drug crimes. A 2015 study found that nearly 66 percent of would-be undergraduates who disclosed a conviction on their college application did not finish their application.

Federal student aid applicants likely feel the same discouragement. I felt discouraged myself when I was applying to graduate programs when I came across the question about whether I had ever been convicted of a crime. It made me feel like I was nothing more than a criminal in the eyes of the college gatekeepers.

This question also disproportionately effects people of color, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, the question runs the risk of making formerly incarcerated people feel isolated and less valuable than those who’ve never gotten in trouble with the law.

When people who have been incarcerated begin to feel like they don’t belong and higher education is not for them, our nation will likely not be able to realize their potential and hidden talents.

It will be as if we have locked them up and thrown away the key.


Republished with permission under license from The Conversation

War on Black People

The "War on Black People" which was disguised as a "War on Drugs" has resulted in unintended mass casualties of white people. A report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January revealed that drug-overdose deaths reached a new high in 2014, totaling 47,055 people. Opioids were involved in 60% of those deaths, 90% of heroin users are white.

John Ehrlichman, President Richard Nixon's domestic policy advisor, admitted to a conspiracy when he made the following comments during a 1994 Harper's Magazine inteview concerning the "War on Drugs".

"You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies, the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

Until the late 19th century drugs were used legally in the United States with much public indifference and very little government interference. Taxes on psychoactive substances provided a significant part of government revenue for most modern nations prior to the advent of income taxation.

Prior to 1800, opium was widely available in the United States, and throughout the world, as an ingredient in numerous products and “multidrug prescriptions. Morphine, a derivative of opium, was first discovered in 1804. Heroin, an opiate derived from morphine, was “discovered” in 1874 and marketed in 1898 by Bayer Pharmaceuticals as “The Sedative for Coughs.”

States were the first to enact drug prohibition laws. In 1875 San Francisco passed an antiopium law that is widely considered the first of its kind, targeting only the smoking of opium, which was common among Chinese immigrants, and not affecting the myriad other forms of opium use favored by most Americans. The states of California and Nevada passed similar laws and the federal government soon followed. In 1883 Congress raised the import tariff on smoking opium, leaving opium imported for other purposes unaffected

There’s Never Been a Drug Law That Wasn’t Tied to Race

Concern about drug use in America began with associating opium with the Chinese, cocaine with “Negroes,” alcohol with urban Catholic immigrants, heroin with urban immigrants, and marijuana with Mexicans. 

Associating Chinese opium use with corruption of American values and female chastity was an easily alluring explanation for social problems. Smoking opium, like the "Chinamen" who introduced the habit, became a despicable practice.

Changing perceptions of cocaine at the turn of the 20th century were also linked to race. Plantation owners and other employers soon found great value in cocaine as a means of improving productivity and controlling workers, and some even began supplying it to their black crews. 

In the late 1800s poor black laborers in the South developed the habit of snorting cocaine to help them endure strenuous conditions. Sniffing was the quickest and cheapest way to ingest cocaine. Although, cocaine sniffing was more popular with whites and was especially associated with the criminal cultures of prostitutes, pimps, gamblers and other white “urban hoodlums,” poor blacks and cocaine became firmly linked in the public mind. People from the upper and professional class preferred injecting cocaine with a needle. 

Racial tensions in the South soon transformed the image of black cocaine use into a source of white fear. Propaganda about “cocainized” blacks leaving plantations and construction sites on sexual rampages having their way with white women stirred panic. Medical publications supported this myth with stories of how cocaine could transform law-abiding Negroes into menacing predators with increased and perverted sexual desire. Newspapers reported that there was "little doubt that every Jew peddler in the South carries the stuff." 

Other popular legends attributed cocaine giving blacks superhuman strength and that southern police departments switched from .32 caliber to .38 caliber revolvers because cocaine made crazed blacks impervious to the smaller rounds.

In the 1920s the Du Pont Company had developed and patented numerous petroleum-based products, including fuel additives, chemical processes for the manufacture of paper from wood pulp and numerous synthetic products such as nylon, cellophane and other plastics.  

By 1935 raw cellulose from hemp (cannabis) had become a viable option for fuel, fabric and plastics and paper – a cheaper, cleaner and renewable raw material compared to petroleum. Faced with this competition, Lammont DuPont lobbied the U.S. Treasury Department to seek the prohibition of hemp

Business interests of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, were also threatened by hemp, as his timber holdings and his joint enterprises with DuPont for wood-based pulp papermaking would have been rendered uncompetitive. Hearst used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions, portraying Mexicans in particular as lazy, degenerate and violent and as job stealers and smokers of “marihuana” – a word brought into the common parlance due in part to frequent mentions in Hearst’s publications. The aggressive efforts to demonize cannabis were effective, as the sheer number of newspapers, tabloids, magazines and film reels under Hearst’s control enabled him to inundate American media with propaganda. Americans readily accepted the stories of crazed crimes incited by marijuana use, and official accounts of the “evils” of marijuana continue to color popular opinion of the drug today. 

President Nixon embarked on a new era of drug control. Shortly after assuming office in 1969, Nixon announced a global campaign to stamp out drugs and drug traffickers. He launched “Operation Intercept” and ordered the closure of 2,500 miles of the Mexican border and searches of hundreds of thousands of people and vehicles. In 1970 Nixon created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse and in 1971 he declared drugs to be “public enemy number one.” These actions marked the initiation of the national and international “War on Drugs.” Thanks to Erlickman, we now know the real motivation behind the "War on Drugs" was to target blacks and other political enemies. However, African-Americans have now become the primary targets. See related post, "40 Reasons Our Jails and Prisons Are Full of Black and Poor People".

There was no wave of compassion when addicts were hooked on crack

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Overdose deaths in white communities have reached epidemic proportions because society in general was so indifferent to drug addiction when it was a consider a black problem. As was stated in "First They Came", It’s just a matter of time before the injustices people remain silent about, visits them.

It's time to stop denying racism exist and is a major problem.

"The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything." –  Scott Woods

Bayer and Monsanto: A Marriage Made in Hell

Today, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that, "Bayer, Monsanto said to be moving closer to a merger deal". Considering the history of Black people being victimized by medical experimentation and the history of Bayer's participation in the Holocaust while part of IG Farben, the merger is not welcome news to me.

On December 25, 1925 six companies Bayer, BASF, Hoechst including Cassella and Chemische Fabrik Kalle, Agfa, Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron, and Chemische Fabrik vorm merged to form IG Farben. 

The IG Farben Trial concluded that IG Farben had committed war crimes including active participation in the Holocaust. IG Farben had constructed a plant next to the concentration camp  Auschwitz, with the clear intent to use inmates as slave workers. The indictment against IG Farben included:

  • Planning, preparation, initiation, and waging of wars of aggression and invasions of other countries.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through the plundering and spoliation of occupied territories, and the seizure of plants in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Norway, France, and Russia.
  • War crimes and crimes against humanity through participation in the enslavement and deportation to slave labor on a gigantic scale of concentration camp inmates and civilians in occupied countries, and of prisoners of war, and the mistreatment, terrorization, torture, and murder of enslaved persons.

The Soviet Union seized most of IG Farben's assets located in the Soviet occupation zone. However, because of the company's large investment of American companies, the idea of destroying IG Farben was quickly abandoned in the western occupation zone. In 1951, the company was split into its original companies and the four largest including Bayer quickly bought the smaller ones. IG Farben was officially put into liquidation in 1952, however, as of 2012, it still existed as a corporation in liquidation.

It's important to consider a company's past history and consider what it may be capable of in the future. The article below provides information concerning the history of both Bayer and Monsanto.


By Martha Rosenberg, Ronnie Cummins

The two multinationals that teamed up during the Vietnam War to poison millions of people with its Agent Orange herbicide—St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer AG—are looking to become one. 

Bayer has announced a bid  to buy Monsanto in a deal that would expand Bayer's GMO and pesticide holdings and add drugs to Monsanto’s global portfolio. Monsanto has rejected the latest bid, but the two are still in talks.

If Monsanto, perhaps the most hated GMO company in the world, joins hands with Bayer, one of the most hated Big Pharma corporations on Earth (whose evil deeds date back to World War I and the Nazi era), the newly formed seed-pesticide-drug behemoth would have combined annual sales of $67 billion.

That’s a staggering figure. But here’s another, even more alarming: Combined, the new mega-chemical/seed company would control 29 percent of the world’s seed market and 24 percent of the pesticide market. 

The Bayer-Monsanto merger is the third recent proposed consolidation in the agriculture markets in just months, following on the heels of proposed mergers between chemical and agritoxics titans Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina and Syngenta.  

"All of a sudden we have three major transactions at the same time," Matt Arnold, an Edward Jones analyst, told the News Journal. "One would think that would prompt regulators to really dial up the scrutiny and think long and hard about whether that much consolidation is in the best interest of farmers and consumers."

Indeed, reports the Journal, all three proposed mergers face antitrust reviews by agencies in the U.S., Europe and China, reports the Journal, including by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, the European Commission and stockholders of the publicly traded companies.

Already shareholders have spoken out, terming the move "arrogant empire-building," reported Reuters. Shareholders also worry that the takeover would dilute Bayer’s core drug business currently flush with sales of its blood-thinner Xarelto and Eylea, a drug to treat blindness.

As noted, this is not the first time Bayer and Monsanto will have teamed up, if the deal goes through. “During the Vietnam war, Bayer was involved in the development of Agent Orange production….carried out at the firm Mobay, founded jointly by Bayer and Monsanto,”says Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. The defoliant herbicide Agent Orange was sprayed over millions of acres in Vietnam for over a decade in “Operation Ranch Hand,” despite numerous scientific studies and thousands, later millions of medical cases linking the toxic chemical to birth defects and stillbirths in animals and humans.

Bayer, a history of unsafe drugs

Bayer and Monsanto both sell controversial toxic agricultural chemicals and GMO seeds. But if Bayer’s bid to take over Monsanto goes through, it would mark Monsanto’s first entry into Big Pharma. 

Last year, Bayer was named the ninth largest drug company in the world on the basis of its yearly revenue of $25.47 billion. The drug giant, though, has been beset with drug safety scandals, including deaths, for at least three decades. Here are just a few of the scandals that made the news,

•    Blood clotting drug spread AIDS

In the 1980s, Bayer sold Factor VIII concentrate, a blood-clotting medicine acquired from Cutter Laboratories in 1978. Though Factor VIII carried a high risk of transmitting AIDS and Bayer knew, Bayer continued to sell the drug in Asia and Latin America while selling a new, safer product in the West. 

In Hong Kong and Taiwan alone, more than 100 hemophiliacs got H.I.V. and "many have since died, "reported the New York Times. Cutter's "financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory," said William Heisel of the Center for Health Reporting. "Cutter continued to sell the contaminated AHF to markets willing to accept it, including overseas markets in Asia and Latin America, without the recommended precaution of heat treating the product to eliminate the risk."

•    Statin Baycol recalled

In 2001, Bayer withdrew its lucrative new statin drug Baycol because more than 50 people had died and more than six million patients were at risk from the deadly side effects of rapidly dissolving of muscle tissue. Bayer removed the drug from pharmacy shelves in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and U.S. and German lawyers announced that they are planning an amended class-action lawsuit in the U.S. that would allow European victims to seek damages.

As deaths grew, Bayer stuck to its story "that there is currently no proof that the drug is the cause of the deaths" and assured shareholders that "Our sales this year will increase even though Baycol will now be absent." Recently, Bayer was sentenced to pay damages to Baycol victims in in Argentina and Italy. "Internal documents show that Bayer’s management was aware of the serious health risk for patients and even ignored warnings from within the company," . 

•    Yaz birth control pill causes deaths

Bayer's Yaz birth control pills promised to clear up acne and treat severe PMS in addition to preventing pregnancy. But soon after the Yaz launch in 2006, there were reports of associated blood clots, gall bladder disease, heart attacks and even strokes. The Bayer birth control pills contained drospirenone, a drug that was never before marketed in the U.S. and likely caused the heart problems through elevated potassium, and a change in acid balance of the blood.

TV ads for Yaz in 2008 were so misleading, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in a rare move, ordered Bayer to run correction ads. Thousands of injuries and approximately 100 deaths were linked to Yaz in law filings that followed. 

•    Xarelto, shady approval of a dangerous drug

In 2012, the New York Times reported on a class of new anti-clotting drugs which have no antidote and can cause alarming bleeding deaths. Xarelto is one of them. Even as 379 deaths have been linked to Xarelto, there are reports of hidden and falsified data and faulty technology that helped win the controversial drug FDA approval. Trials were conducted by Duke's Robert Califf, who later became the new FDA Commissioner. No conflict of interest there. 

•    Baytril, animal antibiotic blocked by FDA

2015 Bayer brochure, coinciding with public awareness of antibiotic abuse in livestock, says Bayer Animal Health "objects" to "routine prophylactic use in healthy animals" of fluoroquinolones, a type of antibiotic. 

Yet it was just such "prophylactic use" that got Bayer's fluoroquinolone Baytril blocked by the FDA a decade ago.  The FDA said  the routine use of Baytril in chickens "has made it difficult for doctors to treat human patients who have food poisoning." Union of Concerned Scientists called the decision a "big victory for public health." The FDA Commissioner at the time, Lester Crawford, remarked that Baytril "has not been shown to be safe for use in poultry." The FDA continues to struggle against the powerful lobbying of drug companies selling livestock antibiotics, often by the ton.

The devil’s chemist

Many people have heard rumors about Bayer’s roles in WWI and WWII. Sadly, they are true and sometimes worse than have been reported. “Carl Duisberg, the Bayer General Director for decades, was personally involved in the development of poison gas such as ‘Mustard Gas’ in World War I and pushed for its use on the front–contrary to international law,”reports Coalition against Bayer Dangers. Duisberg demanded the deportation of tens of thousands of Belgian forced laborers, according to the Coalition, and “strongly supported the merging of the German chemical industry to create the Ig Farben” implicated in Nazi atrocities.

“The Ig Farben cartel was crucial to the Nazi war effort by supplying synthetic fuel, rubber, and other chemicals,” reports Natural News. The cartel also manufactured Zyklon-B, the nerve gas used to kill millions at the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Birkenau and elsewhere. Later known as the Devil's Chemists, Ig Farben used unwilling inmates of the concentration camps as slave laborers and guinea pigs to test chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and vaccines. Tens of thousands died, and those who became too ill to be of any use were murdered in the gas chambers, according to a Natural News report. 

It is hard to believe a company linked to the Holocaust, including grisly human experiments conducted on concentration camp victims, would be thriving in the pharmaceutical, agrochemical and GMO sectors. But it’s true, as evidenced by this correspondence between an Auschwitz camp commander and Bayer Leverkusen, which cites the “sale” of 150 female prisoners for experiments:

With a view to the planned experiments with a new sleep-inducing drug we would appreciate it if you could place a number of prisoners at our disposal (…)" – "We confirm your response, but consider the price of 200 RM per woman to be too high. We propose to pay no more than 170 RM per woman. If this is acceptable to you, the women will be placed in our possession. We need some 150 women (…)" – "We confirm your approval of the agreement. Please prepare for us 150 women in the best health possible (…)" – "Received the order for 150 women. Despite their macerated condition they were considered satisfactory. We will keep you informed of the developments regarding the experiments (…)" – "The experiments were performed. All test persons died. We will contact you shortly about a new shipment (…)"

From chemical warfare to “crop science”

Bayer is in agrochemicals and GMOs as deeply as Monsanto, the company it seeks to buy. In 2008, the German Coalition against Bayer brought a charge against the Bayer Board of Management with the Public Prosecutor in Freiburg (south-western Germany) accusing Bayer of contributing to the mass death of bees all over the world through its aggressive pesticide marketing. Since then, the bee debacle has only grown worse, with thousands of hives collapsing after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin, producing a worldwide crisis.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, one of the world’s best-selling insecticides. Imidacloprid is used to pre-treat genetically engineered corn, sunflower and rapeseed (canola) seeds, despite evidence seeds with insecticides is ineffective. Imidacloprid was one of Bayer´s top pesticides, exported to more than 120 countries. When its patent expired, Bayer brought a similarly functioning successor product, Clothianidin, onto the market in 2003. Both substances are systemic chemicals that work their way from the seed through the plant. The substances also get into the pollen and the nectar and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

In 2006, the Washington Post reported that Bayer’s GMO rice, LLRICE 601 rice, endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weed killer made by the agricultural giant Aventis, was spreading out of control. U.S. commercial supplies of long-grain rice had become inadvertently contaminated with the rice not approved for human consumption, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. 

The following year, Bayer admitted it was unable to control the spread of its genetically-engineered organisms despite “the best practices [to stop contamination],” demonstrating once again that all outdoors field trials or commercial growing of GMO crops must be stopped

Europe has been way ahead of the U.S. in acknowledging the dangers and banning GMOs and dangerous pesticides.

Is merger a sign of decline?

While a Bayer-Monsanto deal (like a DuPont-Dow deal or ChemChina-Syngenta deal) certainly threatens the world food supply with domination by GMOs and destructive agrochemicals, there may be an underreported bright side: Industries that are doing well generally spin off; industries that are performing poorly generally merge and consolidate.

Recent reports suggest the stock of large agricultural, biotech and seed companies, including Monsanto, is foundering, –a likely reflection of the growing, world-wide rejection of their products.  Moreover, even though the long-awaited, industry-friendly National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report did not find human “dangers” in eating GMOs, it also definitively did not find they produced greater crop yields. Wait—wasn’t that the justification given for creating GMO crops? 

Thanks in large part to the global anti-GMO and Millions Against Monsanto movement, the Biotech Tech Bully from St. Louis is on the ropes. By changing its name, Monsanto hopes we’ll forget its evil deeds.

Not a chance, On October 14-16, merged or not with Bayer, the OCA and the global grassroots will expose Monsanto’s crimes against humanity and the environment at the Monsanto Tribunal, a citizens’ tribunal which will take place in The Hague, Netherlands. 

Perhaps it’s time to put Bayer and Big Pharma on trial as well and build an even larger global united front: Billions Against Bayer-Monsanto.


Republished with permission under license by CommonDreams

When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose

Political leaders, police and news media always seem to be perplexed about violent crime, especially when it happens in unexpected areas. The recent incidents of criminal activity in downtown St. Louis prompted people to ask why some seem to have so little regard for others.

Mayor Slay pledged a crackdown on downtown St. Louis crime, but didn't promise a similar crackdown on crime in other areas. It's as if crime happening in other areas was unimportant or as if suddenly people are now committing illegal acts, but only in areas that matter. Evidently, murders and other crime that occur in some neighborhoods are less urgent than others.

Poverty and crime are related. The United Nations and the World Bank acknowledge poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse. People who have nothing, often feel they have nothing to lose and they aren't that concerned about what others have to lose. 

Before heroin addiction became an epidemic in white middle-class communities, drug addicts, especially black ones were treated as criminals which increased the vicious nature of some crimes. Factor in poverty and drug addiction and increased criminal activity is easy to understand. Common sense tells me that since drug addiction has increased in white communities, crime has already increased or will soon. Those white drug addicts consider their drug of choice a necessity and will do anything to get them. Drug distribution networks that government and law enforcement allowed to flourish during the black crack epidemic are now fully entrenched to supply the white heroin epidemic. Ironically, most of the black heroin addicts that I have learned about recently lived in predominately white communities.

The FBI ranks St. Louis as the top US city for violent crime. St. Louis was ranked as one of the most segregated and the third poorest city with a population over 200,000 in the United States. The City of St. Louis has a legacy of racism and corruption that has contributed to poverty and current crime problems. Ferguson should have been a wake-up call for the region, instead the St. Louis City Police Chief coined the phrase "Ferguson Effect", to indicated increased crime was caused by those complaining about oppression.

The entire St. Louis Region appears to be in denial about racial and economic injustice and oppression. St. Louis has the Delmar Divide, a street that divides communities by race which gained international attention a few years ago. St. Louis has a reputation of being a racist city. In the short documentary film, "Racism in St. Louis", one film creator explained that even a homeless man in New York mentioned how racist St. Louis was.

Many of the U.S. Supreme Court Decisions concerning St. Louis involved racial issues including the Dred Scott Case which was one of the major issues leading the country to Civil War. In fact, in 1847, William W. Brown stated, "no part of our slave-holding country, is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants, than St. Louis". Racial restrictive covenants were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the St. Louis case of Shelley vs Kraemer.

Even the standard test of racial employment discrimination by the U.S. Supreme Court was created in the St. Louis case of Green vs McDonnell Douglass. Until St. Louis takes steps to correct past injustices, this city and region will continue to decline. 

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student learns about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs; including violent crime.This doesn't mean that only poor people commit crimes, but the motivation for committing those crimes are different.  

People of means often commit crimes of greed, so-called "white-collar crime".

White collar crime is usually financially motivated, nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals such as bribery, kickbacks, corruption, fraud, embezzlement, insider trading and a variety of other crimes. These are not victimless crimes. A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars (or even all three). Today’s fraud schemes are more sophisticated than ever. 

Poor people often commit crimes of need, based on perceived necessity or survival. 

When a person can't feed himself or his family and can't find work what do you think they'll do? Starve? No, depending on their level of desperateness, they will do whatever is necessary. Some will borrow, some will seek public assistance if they qualify or beg, others will steal. Some time ago, the media was reporting how theft of Tide laundry detergent had dramatically increased and most recently, a shoplifter was shot trying to steal steaks and toilet paper. Those people were stealing food and other basic need items.

Many people facing hunger or homelessness believe they have nothing to lose, and nothing is more dangerous to society than a person who has nothing to lose. St. Louis needs to start addressing the causes of crime instead of just reacting to it. 

A Dose of Heroin Reality

A West Virginia television news station ran a segment, "WSAZ Investigates: A Dose of Reality," showing an EMS supervisor, Chad Ward, responding to a heroin overdose, while wearing a body cam depicting the devastating effect Heroin is having in West Virginia.

This same sort of tragedy is playing out all over the country, including Missouri. I saw many people, including classmates, friends and family members suffer from the effects of drug addiction. Criminalizing drug use and mass incarceration  of drug users and addicts compounded the negative effects.

Narcan (Naloxone) is a drug that reverses an overdose, it is creating more concern than comfort according to an EMS professional because "it gives drug users a false sense of security." They are concerned that people who are using or abusing these drugs are going to get into the mindset of "well somebody's going to have Norcan."

Rising Overdose Deaths

Deaths from overdoses of narcotic prescription painkillers more than tripled in the U.S. from 2000 to 2014. These drugs now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.

Years ago, many people believed that drugs was a black or brown problem and didn't care as long as their community was not negatively affected. The same was true when crime and murders seemly occurred only in certain areas. However, as mentioned in a previous post, the fastest growing demographic of drug addiction is in white communities. Within the last two years, there have been at least 767 overdose deaths in the St. Louis area. With increasing drug use comes increasing crime.

I was raised in North St. Louis during the seventies and literally saw the decline. During the early 70's, just about any service or product was available in the neighborhood. First there was white flight, then a reduction in city services, then businesses left, drug use increased (some government sanctioned), crime increased, and now the North Side is a shell of it's former self.

Just about all major manufacturing left North City and moved to predominately white communities, often rural areas, far removed from the city. For example, GM manufactured Corvettes at Union and Natural Bridge until 1981, two years later in 1983, GM opened a manufacturing plant in Wentzville, MO.

When manufacturers began leaving black urban areas, no one cared. Once that pattern was established, corporations realized they could "flight" the country and move manufacturing to China and Mexico with little or no repercussions. Now many of the same jobs that left urban areas are now moving out of predominately white areas to other countries. As Martin Luther King once stated, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Carrier Corporation is the latest example of this trend, earlier this week, Carrier announced the closure of manufacturing plants in Indiana. Those jobs will be moving to Mexico.

Trump and others have been proposing closing the border, so I guess corporations figure if those workers can not longer come here, they will go there. Remember, closing the borders can work both ways. If the best manufacturing jobs end up in Mexico in the next decade, Americans may not be able to cross the border to get those jobs. Just food for thought. It's easy to be insensitive to economic suffering, when that suffering is not your own.

Economic Predictions

It has been estimate that computerization and robotics will eliminate half of all jobs in the U.S. in less than ten years. That doesn't include the number of jobs lost to other countries.

As economic conditions worsen, drug use will most likely continue to skyrocket. If an ultra conservative candidate gets elected as president, many of the safety nets that currently exist could be reduced or eliminated completely.

West Virginia's coal economy has been devastated because of clean coal regulation and alternative energy. Like most other states, West Virginia, over time reduced social programs and now many people there, in mostly white communities, lack adequate food, housing and health care.  Some of these people who now need social services may have been among the very ones who argued for reductions. West Virginia is a window into the future.

Since World War II, the dominant or reserve currency of the world has been the U.S. dollar, but that is changing. Around the time I was born, GM, U.S. Steel, General Electric, Goodyear and AT&T were among the nation's largest employers. Those companies provided good paying jobs and firmly established the middle class. Today, Wal-Mart is the nation's largest private employer; Target, Kroger and Sears are among the top ten largest employers in the country and many of those jobs are part-time low wage positions.

In 1945, there were 41.9 workers supporting each social security retiree; by 2010 there were just 2.9 workers per retiree and as baby boomers continue to age, the numbers will only get worse. This is not a sustainable system. The private pension system is not much better off, that's why some union retirees will see their pensions reduced, some more than half starting in July 2016.

I suspect one of the reasons union organizers were trying so hard to unionize fast food workers and get them pay increases, was to have a fresh supply of dues paying members to shore up union pension funds for existing union retirees.

When the great recession hit, I had a managerial position and reported directly to the company president. I owned four homes and I was the last person worried about a job loss. Things changed! Hopefully you'll use the information presented on this website to prepare yourself in case things also change for you. If you're not prepared for change, the consequence could be devastating.

Crime Won’t Decrease, Until Oppression Decreases

St. Louis has the highest murder rate in the country. Unfortunately, it seemed as long as murders were only being committed within certain neighborhoods, no one outside the community really cared. Once murders and shootings began occurring in the Central West End, Downtown and other areas a crisis was declared. The speed in which suspects were found when the victim was white, was amazing and reflects an urgency disparity.

Greater concern, effort, and resources are expended when the victim is white. The media uses a different vocabulary to describe white victims and seldom are drugs or illegal activity mentioned. When a black shooting victim states they don't know why they were targeted, their integrity is questioned along with the possibility of the incident being drug or gang related. White victims appear to be instantly believed, even when their stories seem bazaar.

I am fifty years old, and during my lifetime, there have been 9,415 murders in St. Louis; an average of 188 per year. Among those victims were my brother-in-law and nephew. I don't know any black family that hasn't been touched directly or indirectly by murder. There was no crisis declared, no end violence initiatives by news channels until multiple white people became victims.

Ironically, some people seem to think that before channel 4's #EndViolenceSTL, that no one was concerned or addressing violence in our community. There have been multiple attempts to raise awareness and end violence, the most notable recent attempt was a Call to Oneness.

Unfortunately, a 16-year-old was killed just hours after the Call to Oneness event.  There was a "Clergy call for citywide prayer to end violence in St. Louis", months before Michael Brown. Until the  root causes of crime are addressed, various forms of oppression, it will continue and we are all at risk to falling victim to it.

War on drugs

The war on drugs was waged almost exclusively against black and brown people. After a new drug crisis was declared when methamphetamine and heroin began affecting white communities, no new drug war was declared. In fact, once large numbers of white kids became addicted to drugs, the country suddenly started to realize that the war on drugs was too harsh and unfair. Instead of calling for incarceration of these new white addicts, medical treatment was prescribed for their "illness".

American Drug War:The Last White Hope (a kevin booth film)

Visit Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or any other major city in the United States and you'll discover a statistical anomaly; each of these cities contains impoverished areas that are overwhelmingly black or brown. Unless you're prepared to say that black and brown people are less ambitious, less intelligent or inferior; you must come to the realization that those groups are artificially held back by institutionalized oppression and discrimination.

The sad reality is that many people  have been conditioned to believe that something is wrong with black and brown people. Unfortunately, some black people even believe this myth. Some have even convinced themselves that because they achieved some measure of success, they are somehow the exception to the rule. They don't seem to understand that when they move into an all-white community or attend white schools, that standard is applied to them and they are considered by those around them as less than. If you indict a group of people and you are a member of that group, you cannot escape the indictment.

Until systemic oppression and inequality ends, including; abusive policing, government policy, inferior education, business practices, media bias, resource distribution, unfair court practices, mass incarceration, and employment discrimination, crime will continue to rise and will spill over into communities that had previously been considered immune or safe.  Increasingly, criminals are beginning to realize it is more profitable to target people with more resources.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced,  where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe” – Frederick Douglass

Crime and Poverty

Both the United Nations and the World Bank indicate  poverty, oppression, inequality and lack of economic opportunities results in increased criminal activity. When inequalities are great, crime goes through the roof. When people see vast wealth differences, especially if the wealth disparity is based on injustice, crime becomes even worse.

According to the U.S. Census  Bureau, in the United States, there were 46.7 million people in poverty in 2014. The official poverty rate was 14.8 percent. Contrary to some common stereotypes about America’s poor, which included 25,659,922 Whites, 11,197,648 Hispanics, 9,472,583 Blacks, and 1,899,448 Asians; poverty affects all groups.

At least 4.2 million, one-third of the 13 million children living in poverty are white, 27% of Latino children (4 million), 33% of black children (3.6 million), 12% of Asian children (400,000) and 40% of American Indian (200,000). Source National Center for Children in Poverty.

Even Elvis' recognized this when he recorded, "The Ghetto" in 1969. This song is about poverty, describing a child who can't overcome his surroundings and turns to crime, which leads to his death. It was the first song Elvis recorded with a socially-conscious message. He was reluctant to do it for that reason.


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Just about every college student will learn about a motivational theory developed by Abraham Maslow in the 1940's. His theory is taught in a variety of subjects including education, psychology, business management and marketing.

Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory proposed that motivation is the result of a person's attempt at fulfilling five basic needs: physiological, safety, social, esteem and self-actualization.

Physiological needs are those needs required for human survival such as air, food, water, shelter, clothing and sleep. A person will do just about anything to meet these needs.

Safety needs include those needs that provide a person with a sense of security and well-being. Personal security, financial security, good health and protection from accidents, harm, and their adverse effects are all included in safety needs.

Social needs also called love and belonging, refer to the need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social needs are important to humans so that they do not feel alone, isolated and depressed. Friendships, family, and intimacy all work to fulfill social needs.

Esteem needs refer to the need for self-esteem and respect, with self-respect being slightly more important than gaining respect and admiration from others.

Self-actualization needs describe a person's need to reach his or her full potential. The need to become what one is capable of is something that is highly personal. While I might have the need to be a good parent, you might have the need to hold an executive-level position within your organization.

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina news coverage and wondering if the government was purposefully trying to create a Maslow situation to cause people to act on their survival instincts to show images of blacks behaving like animals. How else could the government's lack of aid to such an enormous disaster be described?

The opposite occurred and the people of New Orleans displayed exceptional amounts of humanity towards one another.


Food Stamps

In many countries that do not provide an adequate safety net, kidnapping and other crimes that target well-off citizens are common. What many people do not seem to understand is that social programs such as food stamps, section 8 and others that help people meet basic needs, prevents people from being forced to turn to crime to meet those needs.

Use a simple common sense approach. What would you do if after following all the rules, you could not afford to provide for the basic needs of your family and your children are hungry? If you do not have family or friends who can help; and if there is no outside assistance available, many people would do things they would not have considered doing previously.

The media has demonized the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as "food stamps" over the years, often portraying the recipients as lazy, dependent, or unwilling to work.

Most SNAP recipients don’t rely exclusively on the benefits for food – only 22 percent of the program’s 47 million beneficiaries in 2013 had zero gross income. Many recipients have recently lost their jobs, are low wage earners or employed part time. Among those 22 percent with zero gross income are children, elderly, people affected by disasters, injured or too ill to work.

As pointed out in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, when a person can't feed themselves or their family, they will do whatever is necessary to fulfill that need.  Oxford University and the Pew Research Center have estimated that half of all job that exists today will be gone within ten years. The irony is that as computerization and robotics displace large numbers of workers; the very people complaining about these benefits today, will be the same ones that the benefits will not available for tomorrow.

Recent profiles of successful individuals illustrate how SNAP helps disadvantaged people achieve success.

Famous People who were on Food Stamps

When Jan Koum sold his company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion on February 19, 2014, he signed the paperwork against the front door of the welfare office where his family used to collect food stamps. After the sale of WhatsApp, the Huffington Post profiled a number of prominent people who have had to rely on food stamps, including:

President Barack Obama and his mother Ann Dunham received food stamps when the future president was a baby.

Musician Bruce Springsteen received food stamps during the earlier parts of his career. I have always respected the fact that Springsteen recorded "American Skin (41 Shots)" is a song inspired by the police shooting death of Amadou Diallo.

For those not familiar with Amadou Diallo

Dr. Ben Carson, in his book "Gifted Hands", wrote, “By the time I reached ninth grade, mother had made such strides that she received nothing but food stamps," …"She couldn’t have provided for us and kept up the house without that subsidy.”

Craig T. Nelson who was once helped with food stamps seemed to be making an argument against government assistance for others.

Other notable food stamp recipients

Olympic speed skater Emily Scott was forced to apply for food stamps when her monthly Olympic stipend was cut to just $600.

Viola Davis, Actress – grew up in extreme poverty and stated, "I Have Stolen, Jumped in Garbage Bins With Maggots For Food"

Scarlett Johansson – She stated, “My family grew up relying on public assistance to help provide meals for our family”.

Taraji P. Henson,  – Was on welfare after the tragic death of her husband

Kelly Clarkson – grew up poor living on food stamps.

Oprah Winfrey, – her mother had to rely on welfare to feed her family.

J.K Rowland – “Harry Potter” author argues government assistance helped her survive in her early years.

Whoopi Goldberg – became a mother at 17 and relied on welfare until she was able to do better.

Iyanla Vanzantraised in a family that relied on welfare to get by.

Tobey Maguire "As a kid, I was very poor. I mean, it's all relative, but we would get groceries from neighbors. I always had a roof over my head, but I slept on couches of relatives, and some night we wandered into a shelter. My family had food stamps and government medical insurance.

I've often wondered if we as a society have failed to properly educate and support a child who would have cured cancer.


Five Hour Energy Billionaire Trying to Make a Difference in the lives of the poor