Author Archive | majestic

Inside Monsanto, America’s Third-Most-Hated Company

BBW_cover_070714Well no surprise that the spinmeisters at America’s third-most-hated company, Monsanto, chose Bloomberg Businessweek to depict them as unjustly and unreasonably reviled, but nonetheless it’s interesting to review their take on just why we shouldn’t hate the corporate bad guys du jour:

…In a Harris Poll this year measuring the “reputation quotient” of major companies, Monsanto ranked third-lowest, above BP  and Bank of America and just behind Halliburton. For much of its history it was a chemical company, producing compounds used in electrical equipment, adhesives, plastics, and paint. Some of those chemicals—DDT, Agent Orange, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—have had long and controversial afterlifes. The company is best known, however, as the face of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

On May 24, cities worldwide saw the second annual “March Against Monsanto.” In New York City, a couple thousand protesters gathered in Union Square, next to a farmers’ market, to hear speakers charge that the company was fighting efforts in states all over the country to mandate the labeling of GM foods; that organic crops were being polluted by GM pollen blown in on the wind, only for Monsanto to sue the organic farmers for intellectual-property theft; that Monsanto had developed a “Terminator” gene that made crops sterile.

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The Persecution of Witches, 21st-Century Style

HorowitzThe erudite Mitch Horowitz, a stalwart of intellectual New York book publishing, has been given op-ed space in today’s New York Times to highlight a new worldwide wave of violence against witches — and how to end it:

Most people believe that the persecution of “witches” reached its height in the early 1690s with the trials in Salem, Mass., but it is a grim paradox of 21st-century life that violence against people accused of sorcery is very much still with us. Far from fading away, thanks to digital interconnectedness and economic development, witch hunting has become a growing, global problem.

In recent years, there has been a spate of attacks against people accused of witchcraft in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, and even among immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe. Researchers with United Nations refugee and human rights agencies have estimated the murders of supposed witches as numbering in the thousands each year, while beatings and banishments could run into the millions.

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It’s Official: McDonald’s Burgers Are The Worst In The USA

(C) Consumer Reports. Click for graphic showing Sandwiches/Subs, Burritos and Chicken.

(C) Consumer Reports. Click for graphic showing Sandwiches/Subs, Burritos and Chicken.

Well, if you consider Consumer Reports‘ verdict to be official, then McDonald’s, probably to no one’s surprise, serves the worst of the worst mass market burgers:

We asked subscribers this direct question: On a scale of  1 to 10, from least delicious to most delicious you’ve ever eaten, how would you rate the taste? We heard about 53,745 burger chains’ burgers, chicken chains’ fried or roasted chicken, Mexican chains’ burritos, and sandwich chains’ sub—or heroes, hoagies, grinders, or wedges, depending on where you call home. (Click on the image above to see an expanded view of the the taste tables.)

The tables reveal that some signature dishes came close to our readers’ benchmarks for excellence. But many of the biggest names earned significantly lower scores for the foods that made them famous, notably McDonald’s. The chain, which serves flash-frozen patties made with 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, touts them as free from  “preservatives, fillers, extenders, and so-called pink slime.” Such a pledge might be comforting, but it’s hardly a rousing endorsement.

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Quantum State: It’s A Thang!

Quantum bouncerPhysicists are finally plucking up the courage to think that quantum mechanics might actually represent reality, and is not just a useful theory, suggests Chris Lee at Ars Technica:

At the very heart of quantum mechanics lies a monster waiting to consume unwary minds. This monster goes by the name The Nature of Reality™. The greatest of physicists have taken one look into its mouth, saw the size of its teeth, and were consumed. Niels Bohr denied the existence of the monster after he nonchalantly (and very quietly) exited the monster’s lair muttering “shut up and calculate.” Einstein caught a glimpse of the teeth and fainted. He was reportedly rescued by Erwin Schrödinger at great personal risk, but neither really recovered from their encounter with the beast.

The upshot is that we had a group of physicists and philosophers who didn’t believe that quantum mechanics represents reality but that it was all we could see of some deeper, more fundamental theory.

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Facebook’s Secret Emotional Psychology Test on YOU

dislikeYes, that’s right, Facebook is conducting psychological tests on its users. Or at least it was until details of the experiment leaked and they decided it was bad publicity. From the Telegraph:

Over 600,000 Facebook users have taken part in a psychological experiment organised by the social media company, without their knowledge.

Facebook altered the tone of the users’ news feed to highlight either positive or negative posts from their friends, which were seen on their news feed.

They then monitored the users’ response, to see whether their friends’ attitude had an impact on their own.

“The results show emotional contagion,” wrote a team of Facebook scientists, in a paper published by the PNAS journal - Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists of the United States.

“When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.

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Hobby Lobby Ruling: Employers Don’t Have to Cover Birth Control

HobbyLobbyStowOhioIt’s a kick in the teeth to the promoters of “ObamaCare,” but this narrow limitation of the Affordable Care Act is really just a minor hiccup compared to the large number of people now enrolled. NBC News reports on the US Supreme Court ruling in the so called Hobby Lobby case:

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a limited decision, ruled Monday that closely held, for-profit companies can claim a religious exemption to the Obamacare requirement that they provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

For-profit corporations — including Conestoga Wood of Pennsylvania, owned by a family of Mennonite Christians, and Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts stores founded on Biblical principles — had challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

It requires companies with more than 50 employees to cover preventive care services, which include such contraceptives as morning-after pills, diaphragms and IUDs.

The court’s ruling Monday was 5-4, written by Justice Samuel Alito, and the decision appeared to be extremely limited.

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How To Impeach A President

Pro-Impeachment anti-war protester 2007We haven’t had a good old fashioned presidential impeachment since the 20th century, so just in case y’all forgot, here’s how courtesy of Vox:

Last weekend, the South Dakota Republican Party voted to call for the impeachment of President Obama. It seems to be the first official adoption of impeachment as policy by a state GOP organization, but it’s the latest example that parts of the conservative base are yearning for it. Since Republican leaders aren’t on board, impeachment seems unlikely to actually happen unless some major new scandal emerges. But — just in case — here’s how the process actually works.

The Constitution says that the president can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But many have argued that the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” is really up to the House to decide. When Gerald Ford was House Minority Leader, he said, “An impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history.” And as a practical matter, he’s absolutely right.

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Blackwater Threatened To Kill U.S. Government Overseer In Iraq

Blackwater report

State Department Documents on Blackwater Episode

It’s no secret that the mercenaries at Blackwater (since rebranded first as Xe, now Academi) were out of control and effectively above the law in Iraq, but today’s revelation in the New York Times that they went so far as to threaten to kill the US Government’s appointed overseer of their activities still comes as something of a shock:

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show.

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Ann Coulter: Soccer is Destroying America

Ann who? Remember the attention-grabbing woman who was always saying moronically outrageous things on Fox News to tweak liberals? Apparently she’s found an editor who will let her rant again (the Clarion Ledger, not exactly a major newspaper). As USA Today reports, her attack on football (a/k/a soccer) in the midst of the USA’s successful World Cup run is being greeted by the jeers she deserves:

Soccer is destroying the USA. So says conservative syndicated columnist Ann Coulter.

Coulter went on a rant about the sport, calling it un-American in a column Wednesday headlined, “America’s Favorite National Pastime: Hating Soccer.”

Readers called the column “contemptible,” “uneducated” and “moronic” in comments posted on The Clarion Ledger‘s website. The Ledger is owned by Gannett, which also owns USA TODAY. Coulter’s column is distributed by Universal Press.

Photo: Mobilus In Mobili (CC)

USA Soccer fans in Richmond, VA. Photo: Mobilus In Mobili (CC)

“Hahaha this is the biggest lot of nonsense I have ever read,” one commenter wrote.

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