Category Archives: Europe

BPA replacement damages women’s eggs


We’ve posted extensively about bisphenols, chemicals used in a wide range of consumer products and linked to disorders including breast cancer, endometriosis, ADHD, asthma, behaviorial problems in girls, birth defects, prostate cancer and lowered sperm counts, and more.

And now comes more bad news: The chemicals can damage a woman’s eggs.

The latest bad news comes in the form of a Research Alert from the University of California, Los Angeles:

FINDINGS

Bisphenol S, a chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate water bottles and many other products such as epoxy glues and cash receipts [and children’s toys — esnl], is an increasingly common replacement for bisphenol A, the use of which was discontinued because of concerns about its harmful effects on the reproductive system. In a new study, UCLA researchers have found that BPS is just as harmful to the reproductive system as the chemical it replaced. BPS damages a woman’s eggs and at lower doses than BPA.

BACKGROUND

While looking for replacements to toxic chemicals, manufacturers tend to choose substitute chemicals that, while technically different, often share similar physical properties. Due to increasing consumer pressure, companies have replaced BPA with other related compounds now found in many “BPA-free” products. However we do not know how safe these substitutes are. These uncertainties led the researchers to ask whether BPS could impart detrimental effects on reproduction similar to BPA’s.

METHOD

The researchers exposed a common laboratory model, the roundworm, to several concentrations of BPA and/or BPS that approximate the levels of BPA and/or BPS found in humans. They followed the worms through the duration of their reproductive periods and measured their fertility.

The researchers observed that compared to the controls, worms exposed to either BPA or BPS, or combination of the two, had decreased fertility. Surprisingly, these effects were seen at lower internal BPS doses than those of BPA suggesting that BPS may be more damaging to the reproductive system. This was especially significant when they examined the viability of young embryos.

IMPACT

These findings are also a cause for concern in humans as the same reproductive processes that are disrupted by BPS in roundworms are found in mammals. Furthermore, as noted above BPS products are already found in a plethora of consumer products.

“This study clearly illustrates the issue with the ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to chemical replacement in consumer products,” said Patrick Allard, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and the study’s senior author. “There is a great need for the coordinated safety assessment of multiple substitutes and mixtures of chemicals before their use in product replacement. But the good news is that a number of governmental programs and academic labs are now moving in that direction”.

AUTHORS

The authors of the study are Yichang Chen, Le Shu, Zhiqun Qiu, Dong Yeon Lee, Sara Settle, Shane Que Hee, Donatello Telesca, Xia Yang and Patrick Allard, all of UCLA.

JOURNAL

The study [open access] was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Spanish long-term unemployed hits new high


While Spain’s overall jobless numbers are improving, beneath the good news is a very troubling number.

The “recovery” is, in fact, skipping a generation, as experienced workers are bypassed in favor of less experienced younger workers who will labor for lower pay.

The rate for long-term joblessness in Spain has, in faqct, increased eleven-fold since the start of the Bush collapse.

The numbers point to a Potemkin recovery, in which there is improvement for some, but those hardest hit by the Great Recession are left to contemplate very bleak futures.

From El País:

The gradual reduction in Spain’s unemployment figures is not translating into any improvement for the country’s long-term unemployed, growing numbers of whom are being left behind: one in four jobless have been out of work for at least four years, says a report by the Fedea economic think tank based on official figures.

Between April and June of this year, 1,127,879 of Spain’s 4.5 million unemployed had not worked for at least four years, says Fedea’s Florentino Felgueros, adding that the figure has increased eleven-fold since the current recession began in 2008.

He points out that with unemployment at 20%, employers can pick and choose, and usually prefer to hire younger people who have been out of work for shorter periods of time.

One of the characteristics of the Spanish labor market is the large number of people with short-term contracts (25%)

For Spain’s long-term unemployed, the job creation of the last two years has had little impact. While joblessness hit its peak at the end of 2013, the number of people who haven’t worked in four years or more continued to grow until a year ago, reaching 1.18 million, says Felgueroso.

Both Clinton and Trump will give us more war


From The Real News Network, an interview with Larry Wilkerson, a retired army officer who served as chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell and now teaches national security courses at the College of William & Mary and George Washington University.

It’s yet more confirmation that both major party presidential candidates are likely to bring us yet more, which in turn will produce the rise of still more terrorism, which in turn will lead to more wars. . .ad infinitum.

From The Real News Network:

Wilkerson: The Danger of a Clinton or Trump Presidency

From the transcript:

PAUL JAY: And when I said Robert Kagan and others of his ilk are supporting Hillary, the thing they find most supportive in her, the thing they want to support, is her bellicose language about Russia, and that she’s not afraid to–she made a point of this in her own speech to the DNC, to take on, confront Russia. This kind of aggressive rhetoric about Russia, how serious are the neocons about this?

LARRY WILKERSON: She was present at the creation, as it were. She was there when her husband Bill Clinton decided to abrogate, completely abrogate, the promises of H.W. Bush to [inaud.], the Soviet foreign minister, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet premier at the time, that if they acceded to the reunification of Germany and its retention at NATO, a monumental diplomatic achievement, perhaps the greatest at the end of the 20th century, that they would not move NATO one inch further east. That’s Jim Baker’s actual words: not one inch further east.

But what Bill Clinton did was not just move it an inch further east, he began to incorporate the former Soviet satellite states in NATO, and even hinted at Georgia, Ukraine. And George W. Bush came along and actually gave a speech in Georgia, indicating Georgia would later be a member of NATO. This is what has caused Putin, a great power leader, to do what he’s done. Not any great desire to fight the United States. Certainly no desire to fight NATO. But a desire to keep his [near abroad], as they call it, think about these northern states of Mexico, the southern provinces of Canada, indeed, vis-a-vis us, intact and not a threat to him. That’s the way he looks at it.

So this is the first lady of those eight years. I’m not confident she’s going to handle the U.S.-Russia relationship as well as it should be.

>snip<

JAY: So just quickly, finally, given two terrible choices here, what scares you more?

WILKERSON: That also frightens me about, as you pointed out, Hillary Clinton’s position on Iran. Because I see it as being almost the opposite of President Obama’s. As you pointed out, he thinks it was a diplomatic achievement of the first order, as do I. And I think historians will, too. She thinks it came about because of massive U.S. power, at the top of which is military power. And so when it starts to unravel, which the Congress is working hard to make it do, she’s going to go to the military power.

JAY: So too horrible choices on foreign policy. Who scares you more?

WILKERSON: You won’t get me to answer that question. I have to say, I don’t know where Donald Trump stands. Some of the things he said, a re-examination of NATO, more equitable burden sharing, a re-examination, indeed, of all our security alliances, has been necessary since 1991. And we haven’t done it.

So those are cogent, reasonable, well-thought-out positions, though the playbook doesn’t agree with them. But I don’t know if he really believes in them. I don’t know if he just concocted them for the moment, or whether he really thought about them and he believes them. Other things he said make sense, too. But I don’t know, as I said, if he really believes in them or he’s just opportunistically throwing them out there as bait for what he considers to be those who might vote for him.

Coca-Cola: A proud sponsor of the Nazi Olympics


Corporations are, if nothing else, emphatically devoid of conscience, marketing their wares wherever the promise of profit glimmers.

By 1936, anyone who kept up with the news knew that Hitler’s Germany was the most transgressive the modern world had ever seen, openly breaching the limitations on its military mandated by the Treaty of Versailles and ruthlessly purging Jews and other ethnic minorities from the public sphere, with dark hints of things to come.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, planned the Nazi Olympics as a public spectacle to confirm the glorious nature of his regime, and luring corporations from across the Atlantic as corporate sponsors of his masterpiece.

"Visit the Olpmipc Games in Berlin. . .Drink CocaCola, always ice cold."

“Visit the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin. . .Drink CocaCola, always ice cold.”

One eager participant was that most iconic of brands, Coca-Cola, seeing the games as an opportunity to forge an identity with the regime.

Coke laid out the cash and flooded Germany with billboards and other forms of promotion.

One of the least controversial ads featured a German sprinter leading the pack, a reminder that a nice cold drink was the perfect antidote to the  summer heat in Berlin and enjoy the massive stadium built by Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer.

Playing up to the Nazis

How better to identify itself with the Hitler regime than to appropriate one of its most infamous slogans: Ein Volk. Ein Reich. Ein Fuhrer [One People, One Empire, One Fuhrer]. In Coca-Cola’s own version, it became One People, One Empire, One drink, adding the familiar international motto, “Coke is it.”

BLOG Nazi coke

 

A wartime embargo leads to a new brand

When the war began, German bottlers couldn’t import the coca and cola nuts needed to produce the brown beverage, so at Keith’s command, company chemists came up with a substitute, using, among other things, whey powder derived from the leavings of cheesemakers and the residue from apple cider presses.

BLOG FantaStuck for a name for his new beverage, Keith turned to his employees for suggestions, telling them to let their Fantasie [fantasy] run wild.

One salesman, knowing that the best way to please a boss is to feed him back his own idea, came up with the winner. The company came up with a bottle similar to the Coke original, but with out the characteristic profile.

And thus a brand was born.

Early last year, on Fanta’s 75th anniversary, German television featured a commemorative ad, celebrating those “good old times” when Germany’s innovators created such a marvelous beverage.

The ad didn’t sit too well with countless Germans and countless others who lost parents, grandparents, spouses, and siblings during those “good old times,” and the ad was pulled and the requisite apology issued.

Still, major American corporations [including GM and IBM] and banks [including the one which George H.W. Bush’s father helped set up and profited from] made lots of money off the Third Reich. Indeed, it was IBM’s mechanical computers that enabled to Nazis to keep track of Jews in Germany and lands the Nazis conquered and send them on their ways to death camps, where more records were compiled by IBM’s Hollerith machines.

A more detailed look at Coke’s Nazi connection

During his tenure as a lecturer at Harvard Law School, food and drug public interest attorney Peter Barton Hutt wrote a very perceptive essay about the relationship between Coke’s German subsidiary and the Hitler regime. [Though the essay is no longer on the Harvard server, the KillerCoke website has reposted it.]

As the time Coca-Cola GmbH was headed by a German national, Max Keith, who worked hard to develop strong ties to the Nazi regime.

Hutt writes:

It has been suggested that Coke’s success was directly related to the “striking parallels” between Coca-Cola GmbH and the nation at large. Hitler was a proponent of American mass-consumption and welcomed America’s efficient methods of production (although he was anti-American in all other respects). Interestingly enough, Keith’s looks and personality have been compared to those of Hitler, and Keith’s enthusiasm for Coke was seen by some of his employees, who were often overworked, as evidence of his fanatical tendencies. It seems that Company and government interests overlapped. The Nazis regarded mass-production and mass-consumption as crucial building blocks of their new society, and they must have been impressed by Coca-Cola’s modern means of producing a uniform product. Additionally, Coke’s advertising strategies reflected values central to the Nationalist-Socialist society.

Keith supplied Coca-Cola for the athletes and visitors at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where Hitler was the proud host to the nations of the world, and where Woodruff was a guest. An abundance of Coke’s advertising supported the Third Reich. Keith zeroed in on special events (as Woodruff had done in America) to further Coke’s image, not as an American drink this time, but as a German drink in Nazi Germany. For example, Coca-Cola appeared at Hitler youth rallies, as “Coca-Cola trucks accompanied the marchers, hoping to capture the next generation.” In 1937, at a “Working People” Exhibit displaying the accomplishments of the German worker during the first five years of Hitler’s rule, Coca-Cola set up a miniature bottling plant “with a miniature train carting Kinder beneath it…at the very center of the fair, adjacent to the Propaganda Office.” In March of 1938, when Hitler’s troops went into Austria, Keith convened the annual concessionaire convention, with 1,500 people in attendance. Keith sat at the main table (a large swastika draped in front of him), and encouraged his workers to continue their “march to success.” The ceremony ended with a “Sieg-Heil” to Hitler. In April of 1939, at the tenth anniversary of the German Coca-Cola business, Keith gloated that the past year had been historic because Hitler had annexed Austria and Sudentland; yet the spread of Coca-Cola during 1938 was a close second. This strategy of direct association with Nazi leaders and of lending support to events propagandized by Nazi ideology sent a powerful message to the German consumers and government by signaling that Coca-Cola was on Germany’s side.

This show of support for Nazis was perhaps an aggressive advertising technique designed to combat slander against the company. In 1936, Herr Flasch, who manufactured an imitation drink called Afri-Cola, began circulating flyers depicting Coca-Cola bottle caps from the U.S. with Hebrew inscriptions. Although the inscriptions were nothing but an indication that Coke was kosher, the flyers claimed to prove that Coca-Cola was a Jewish company. Sales plummeted, and Nazi party headquarters cancelled their orders. Keith denounced the accusations in The Stuermer, the official Nazi publication renowned for its vicious attacks against Jews. Coke was able to survive the fiasco, probably through the aggressive marketing techniques described above. Again, ironically, the Coke bottles in question pronounced that they were kosher to appeal to the American Jewish population at home; yet here was Keith, denying that Coca-Cola was a Jewish company, because to be a Jewish company would be a terrible thing.

Massive wave of Greek home foreclosures nears


The supposedly radical government of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras swept into power in January 2015 on a promise to end the austerity and debt slavery imposed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

But when push came to shove, Tsipras knuckled under, and yet more jobs were cut, more salaries lowered, more pensions slashed, health care reduced, and still more Greek national assets were sold off the sate the banksters of Northern Europe [read Germany].

And now, with austerity biting deeper, three-quarters of a million Greeks are about to lose their homes and businesses.

From To Vima:

About one and a half million tax payers may face foreclosures from tax authorities for debts over 500 euros. Half of them – 755,806 – are expected to face mandatory liquidation measures, namely property and bank accounts seized.

At the end of June the tax authorities announced that 4,003,372 have tax debts. The General Secretariat of Public Revenue may enforce mandatory liquidation measures on 1,492,088 of them, given that many debtors may either not have assets or may be bankrupt.

Tax debts amount to almost 90 billion euros, which is about half of the country’s gross domestic product. The new overdue debts generated in 2016 amount to 6.8 billion euros, with 5.956 billion euros being unpaid taxes. In June alone 1.2 billion euros worth of debts were generated, with 903 million euros being unpaid taxes.

Chart of the day II: European distribution of wages


European nations show sharp differences in income distribution, with Belgium, Luxembourg, and Ireland showing the most egalitarian distributions. The charts are derived from the most extensive data, primarily for the year 2000 and before the Great Recession.

From Evaluating Distributional Differences in Income Inequality by Tim Futing Liao of the University of Illinois, published in the open access journal Socious: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World:

Kernel Density Distributions of Net Wages in 10 European Countries, circa 2000. Note.  Each kernel density plot contains two curves, a solid red line for men and a dashed green line for women.

Kernel Density Distributions of Net Wages in 10 European Countries, circa 2000.
Each kernel density plot contains two curves, a solid red line for men and a dashed green line for women.

Chart economy Greek economic contraction


Despite [or more likely because of] the severe austerity imposed on Greece by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, there’s no sign of a recovery as both imports and exports continue to decline according to the latest data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority:

BLOG Greco