Yes, our fearless leader spoke yesterday. Wasn’t that exciting?
But here’s some news you might have missed.
Protesters Arrested Outside Monsanto Shareholders’ Meeting
The video above, via St. Louis’ KSDK, claims 10 arrests. But both Democracy Now! and RT put the total number of Occupy Monsanto arrests at 11:
At least 11 protesters were arrested outside of Monsanto’s headquarters on Tuesday as they rallied in favor of shareholder resolutions that would require the company to alter its approach to genetically-modified organisms.
More than two-dozen protesters, one of which was a Monsanto shareholder himself, endured cold temperatures in Creve Coeur, Missouri as they pushed the biotech company to work with the federal government towards efforts to label food featuring genetically-modified organisms (GMO). Another resolution, meanwhile, would have required Monsanto to provide a contamination report on non-GMO crops.
Both measures failed with less than 10 percent support after Monsanto’s board recommended shooting down the proposals. When the results came in, the atmosphere surrounding the rally became much more aggressive, with protesters using five cars to block the entrance to Monsanto’s building. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, some locked and chained themselves to cars, while police spent about an hour clearing the area and making arrests.
UPDATE: KSDK reporter Farrah Fazal tweeted me to clarify the number of arrests:
— Farrah Fazal (@FarrahFazal) January 30, 2014
War On Women Everywhere
As the House demonstrated to their constituents how much they hate women by passing an anti-abortion bill with no hope of becoming law, the war on women’s rights continued to spread to other states. Andrea Grimes at RH Reality Check was one of just a few media sources sounding the alarm on secretive new regulations restricting abortion in Louisiana. A sudden burst of social media sunshine forced officials to back down:
Monday night, a spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals told RH Reality Check that it will ‘be rescinding the language regarding the 30-day period for blood tests,’ and that it intends to ‘clarify’ the building requirements for abortion facilities, saying that ‘the intent of the language on square footage in the rule is to cover prospective facilities or facilities undergoing renovations.’ Despite the department’s passage of the rules without input from providers and without a previous public hearing, DHH says it ‘has already received several public comments regarding the rule.’ A public hearing on the new rules has been moved to February 4 at DHH in Baton Rouge at 1 p.m.
But the attempt proves how determined the conservative right has become to roll-back abortion rights nationwide, and how unscientific and ill-intentioned these policies have become in the name of “protecting” women and children:
DHH requires patients to have certain blood tests run on hematocrit and hemoglobin levels 30 days before their procedures.
‘Not only is this unjust for the women, it is contraindicated from a medical standpoint, in that hematocrits should be as current as possible,’ Pittman explained.
In fact, the new DHH regulations could decrease patient safety, putting patients at a higher risk of complications. As pregnancy advances, procedures become more involved and more costly, said Ellie Schilling. And because Louisiana already bans abortion after 20 weeks, a patient who seeks a legal abortion at 16 weeks could be forced either to seek an illegal abortion or to forego the procedure altogether after waiting 30 days for a blood test.
Ohio lawmakers are already gearing up for the next round of attacks in a battle some of us once thought over, but now seems never ending.
Queer Navajos Demand Respect
The struggle for gay rights takes place on not just a national stage, but a tribal one as well. Activists in the Navajo Nation are pushing for a reversal of the tribe’s gay marriage ban, reported Al Jazeera America yesterday:
Gay marriage advocate Alray Nelson blasted Lady Gaga’s song ‘Born This Way’ in his battered Lexus several times on the long Arizona road to Tuba City, to give testimony at a hearing on violence and discrimination against gay Navajos. ‘You’re on the right track, baby. You were born this way,’ sang Nelson, adding that the pop lyrics are a kind of anthem for his movement to demand a reversal of a gay marriage ban he says is tantamount to respect from the tribal government.
… [D]iscussing the issue there is not easy. Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim said he would speak to Al Jazeera about economic issues but not gay rights. Still, the subject — partly due to Nelson — is unlikely to go away. Gay marriage, trumped only by issues like economic development and recent bids to bolster natural-resource development, could divide the Navajo electorate in upcoming tribal elections this November, particularly among social conservatives affiliated with many of the churches on the reservation.
Deswood Tome, an aide to Navajo President Ben Shelly, said the incumbent in the upcoming November 2014 elections will leave the decision up to legislators — at least 16 of 24 are needed to undo the ban — and local communities. Tome said Nelson was welcome to campaign for legalizing gay marriage but made it clear there would be no support from the top. “The president is not going to go out there and advocate for gay marriage in the Navajo Nation. There are bigger priorities at this time. And gay marriage is not a priority,” Tome said.
For Nelson, it is. If the nation issued marriage certificates to same-sex couples, not only would that aid them in filing to lease land in the tribe’s complicated land trust system and jointly adopt a Navajo child, but it would also help straight Navajos see their LGBT fellow tribe members as equals. That echoes arguments elsewhere in the United States, but there is another point in Navajo country not found off the reservation: the argument that the gay-marriage ban was adopted from outside the sovereign Navajo Nation.
West Virginia Spill Victims Breathing Formaldehyde
And finally, victims of the West Virginia chemical spill are now breathing formaldehyde. From RT:
A West Virginia state official told legislators on Wednesday that he ‘can guarantee’ some residents are breathing in a cancer-causing substance due to the chemical spill that occurred earlier in January. In a recent meeting with a state legislative committee on water resources, Scott Simonton of the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board said that his tests have detected formaldehyde in water samples contaminated by the recent Elk River chemical spill.
‘I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde,’ Simonton said, according to the Associated Press. ‘They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.’As Simonton noted, the chemical mixture that leaked into the Kanawha Valley’s water supply – a combination of seven substances used to wash coal that’s called ‘Crude MCHM’ – is partly composed of methanol. When this chemical breaks down, it turns into formaldehyde, a carcinogen linked to diseases such as respiratory cancer.
‘It’s frightening, it really is frightening,’ the Charleston Gazette quoted Simonton telling state lawmakers. ‘What we know scares us, and we know there’s a lot more we don’t know.’
More from Firedoglake on the West Virginia Spill: “The Toxic Chemical Crisis Will Happen Again (Video),” questions remain after chemical spill and, from Dissenter, “Life In a Human Sacrifice Zone.”
Feel free to share more overlooked news stories in the comments.
Photo by PetsAdviser released under a Creative Commons license.