Today’s News: October 18, 2019

World News

European Union announces new Brexit deal with UK

Al Jazeera – UK parliament set for Saturday vote on revised withdrawal agreement brokered ahead of October 31 Brexit deadline.

Shells fall in northeast Syria despite five-day ceasefire agreement

Reuters – Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.

Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.

The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.

Mexico Elite Tremble From Threat of Tax Crackdown Under New Law..

Bloomberg – Mexico’s elite are quaking after leftist lawmakers passed a new law that makes tax evasion a type of organized crime that could justify the seizure of assets even before judges rule on the validity of charges.

Lawmakers in the country’s lower house Tuesday passed the bill that would make tax fraud of more than 7.8 million pesos ($400,000) a national security threat and a type of organized crime that could be punished with prison without parole during trial and with as much as nine years behind bars.

The bid by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to crack down on tax evasion may become the latest threat to growth in Latin America’s No. 2 economy, Mexico’s largest business lobby said.

”Investment confidence is already quite low in Mexico,” said Ernesto Revilla, an economist at Citigroup Inc. This law could “make it less probable that investment increases in coming months.”

Mexican govt captures El Chapo son — cartel forces release

LA Times – Mexican security forces captured and then released one of country’s most powerful drug lords Thursday after apparently being overpowered by heavily armed combatants who laid siege to the northern Mexican city of Culiacan.

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo told Reuters that officials were trying to protect lives when they decided to free Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and the son of notorious drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Others speculated, however, that authorities may have colluded with gang members in Guzman’s release.

China growth slows to 27-year low

Sky News – The world’s second-largest economy grows at its weakest pace in decades, blaming “complicated and severe economic conditions”.

U.S. News, Politics & Government

Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President

MSN – Last week I attended two memorable events that reminded me why we care so very much about this nation and also why our future may be in peril.

The first was a change of command ceremony for a storied Army unit in which one general officer passed authority to another. The second event was an annual gala for the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) Society that recognizes past and present members of the intelligence and Special Operations community for their heroism and sacrifice to the nation. What struck me was the stark contrast between the words and deeds heralded at those events — and the words and deeds emanating from the White House.

City declares racism public health crisis

Channel 3000 – The city of Madison signed on to a statewide resolution declaring racism as a public health crisis Tuesday.

The move brings no additional programming or funding, but community leaders who run programs for youth of color and people of color in Madison say this is a good step for the city to take.

“I’m glad that someone is recognizing it as a health issue, because then maybe now we’ll take greater measures in addressing the issues.” said Alexander Gee Jr., the president and founder of the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership and Development.

Gee said this is important not just for systemic issues and policy, but for the effects the culture the predominantly white city can have as well.

“It’s now been proven that the stress caused by the pressures of racism is a leading indicator of health disparities for African Americans,” he said. “We now know that because of stress, we, African Americans, are contracting diseases faster than our white counterparts and then dying sooner.”

The city of Madison joins 32 other organizations in Wisconsin that have signed on to the resolution and agree something more needs to be done.

Mysterious Gunman in Body Armor Arrested Outside Dallas Trump Rally

PJ Media – NBC in Dallas is reporting that a gunman wearing body armor, a helmet, and carrying pepper spray and a gas mask has been arrested outside President Trump’s rally in Dallas this evening.

Dallas police arrested the man while he was wearing a helmet, a vest and a backpack. Officers confiscated a gun, a breathing mask and an aerosol can.

The man, who has not been identified, was arrested near counter-protestors.

Dallas Police confirmed that the man had a license to carry the weapon. He was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital for an evaluation.

This comes on the heels of angry Democrats expressing death wishes on President Trump this week including CNN employee caught on camera and Tom Arnold hinting at assassination on Twitter.

California adopts curriculum requiring all public schools to teach LGBTQ history (video)

Fox – LGBTQ civil rights to be added to Maryland curriculum; Kristin Fisher reports.

Yes, the deep state is real… and it’s watching you: FBI caught running 3.1 million covert searches of U.S. citizens in latest abuse of power

NaturalNews – We were hoping that President Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” would involve the firing (or indictment and conviction) of rogue members of the deep state who couldn’t care less about the Constitution and run their agencies like their own unaccountable fiefdoms.

So far, the president has managed to cut back on a lot of regulations and reign in otherwise benign agencies from implementing willy-nilly all sorts of onerous new regulations that cost businesses and consumers lots of money but don’t really accomplish much other than to make government bigger.

But the real deep state power lies in the intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and they continue to run roughshod over statutory law and our basic rights as Americans.

As reported by CPO Magazine, that includes the FBI — yes, the same one Barack Obama politicized and James Comey ran:

According to a new declassified ruling from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), FBI personnel systematically abused National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance data in both 2017 and 2018. The 138-page ruling, which dates back to October 2018, was only unsealed 12 months later in October 2019. It offers a rare look at how the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been abusing the constitutional privacy rights of U.S. citizens with alarming regularity. The court ruling is also a stinging rebuke to the FBI’s overreach of its ability to search surveillance intelligence databases.

This could be the FISA court’s ‘revenge,’ so to speak, for being taken advantage of by the Comey-run FBI in which judges on the court were allegedly intentionally mislead by FBI agents seeking surveillance warrants for 2016 Trump campaign officials — over bogus “Russian collusion” charges.

CPO Magazine noted the key elements of the FISA court ruling:

— Judges found that FBI employees improperly searched data that had been collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

— Those abuses amounted to accessing NSA surveillance data so FBI  analysts and employees could examine the online communications of Americans, to include family members and fellow FBI employees.

— In all, the FISA court suspects there were thousands of improper queries made, which were done without any reasonable suspicion or expectation of a crime or risk to national security.

— The improper searches also did not delineate between foreign intelligence targets and U.S. citizens.

Economy & Business

QE4 Officially Begins: Fed’s First T-Bill Purchase Is 4x Oversubscribed Amid Massive Liquidity Demand

ZeroHedge – QE4 has officially arrived.

As previewed yesterday, moments ago the Fed concluded the first POMO – as in Permanent Open Market Operation, not to be confused with Temporary – from previously announced T-Bill purchases ($60 billion per month, $7.5 billion per operation), and what it showed is a confirmation of message sent by today’s repo operation: there is an unprecedented demand for liquidity.

Specifically, the Fed purchased $7.501 billion in Treasury Bills out of $32.569 billion in T-Bills submitted. In other words, the operation was 4.3x oversubscribed, and when combined with the oversubscribed repo operation announced earlier today, confirms that there is a dramatic need for liquidity among the Primary Dealer community.

Also worth noting, the scramble to sell Bills to the Fed directly refutes what the FT reported earlier today that “money market funds that are among the largest holders of U.S. Treasury bills say they are reluctant to sell them to the Federal Reserve.”

“We are not going to sell them,” said Pia McCusker, global head of cash management at State Street Global Advisors, which holds more than $22bn of T-bills in its $350bn of money market funds. “It’s a short-term gain and then I would have to replace it with something else at a much lower rate.”

Clearly someone was more than happy to sell them today in a furious scramble to convert Bills to cold, hard cash.

Separately, as previewed yesterday, the Fed did not purchase securities with less than 4 weeks to maturity or cash  management bills, and sure enough, the “nearest” maturity purchased today was Bills maturing on Nov 26, for some $20 million. The most aggressive purchases were for CUSIPs TB5 and TN9, for the amount $3.37BN and $1.465BN, respectively, and which mature on Jan 16, 2020 and Oct 8, 2020. The sub-1 month Bills were all excluded from today’s operation.

IRS Admits Targeting The Poor Because It’s “Easier And Cheaper” Than Auditing The Wealthy

The Organic Prepper Blog – The IRS has announced that it’s “too expensive” to audit the rich. Affluent taxpayers, the 1%, are too well protected from government intrusion. Their tax returns are complex and take more time and more experienced auditors to review them. The IRS then has to pay these more experienced auditors a higher price to audit those larger accounts. It’s become an expensive hassle for them. They encounter resistance from the teams that the affluent have behind them to defend them from the IRS. So, what is their solution?

Target the poor.

It is easier and cheaper for the IRS to go after the working class.

As if the struggling working class in this country doesn’t have enough to deal with, watch out for Big Brother! Because lower-income families have fewer resources to guard their finances, the IRS finds it a “better use of their resources” to target the poor instead of the wealthy. Because the wealthy have the means to fight back against government intrusion aka well-paid attorneys and accountants, the IRS has decided that any effort to monitor the “haves” is not worth their time. They will instead focus on the “have nots,” or the poor working and middle class.

It’s easier and cheaper to go after the poor and audit them. Those who make less money have fewer defenses to combat the IRS and their returns are simpler. It requires less expense and effort from the IRS to go after a much more fragile portion of our economy – the working poor.

It’s no surprise that the middle class in this country is disappearing at a rapid rate. One contributor is the mountainous debt that many Americans have saddled themselves with, especially when it comes to predatory student loan lenders. Some people are paying exorbitant interest on student loans when they didn’t even achieve a degree. This compounds the problem for the lower-income American that already exists: a country bordering on financial collapse.

What this doesn’t address is a hidden target in the sights of the IRS. Whom this really means the IRS is targeting: The Shadow Economy.

SALESFORCE CEO: Time to break up FACEBOOK

CNN – Salesforce (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff hasn’t been sparing with his criticism of Facebook. But in an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow Wednesday he went one significant step further and added his name to the list of those who support breaking up the social media giant.

“It’s addictive, it’s not good for you, they’re after your kids, they’re running political ads that aren’t true … and they’re also acquiring other companies and co-mingling [data those companies have on their users] into theirs,” Benioff said, referencing Facebook (FB)’s acquisitions of Instagram, WhatsApp and other tech platforms. “And I think at that point, because they’re now doing that, that they probably should be broken up. Because they’re having an undue influence as the largest social media platform on the planet,” he said.

Despite being the head of a massive Silicon Valley company himself, Benioff is known for his sharp critiques of leadership styles in the technology industry and has not shied away from calling out his peers, especially at Facebook. In his interview with Harlow, he also went after a bit of US law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that has enabled the internet to become what it is today by protecting platforms from certain liabilities.

Benioff is on a media tour for his new book “Trailblazer,” published Tuesday, which centers on what he says is the need for today’s CEOs to consider returns not just for shareholders, but for all stakeholders in their companies, including customers and employees.

The question of whether Facebook is a monopoly that should be broken up has become an increasingly frequent topic of conversation, especially on the 2020 campaign trail. Facebook and fellow tech giants Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) have been at the center of a recent effort by regulators to evaluate whether big tech companies are violating antitrust rules.

For its part, Facebook has said that breaking it and other tech companies up would only make it harder for those companies to tackle pressing issues on their platforms such as election interference. Facebook declined to comment on Benioff’s remarks.

TROUBLES: USA TODAY phasing out print edition

Poynter – After a nearly 40-year run, USA Today and its digital sites are about to undergo a major restructuring that will include building up digital marketing while phasing out the print edition.

The deal for GateHouse’s parent, New Media Investment Group, to acquire Gannett, which owns USA Today, will not close for at least another month. Nothing much will happen — or legally can happen — until then, and don’t look for this to be the new company’s first order of business. Winding print down could take several years.

But two knowledgeable sources, talking on background, said a move away from USA Today in print is part of the calculations for the new enterprise. It makes a lot of sense, given the print edition’s deteriorating paid circulation and minimal advertising.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA Today publisher, commented via email:

“Gannett has no plans to discontinue the print edition of USA TODAY, which remains an important part of our business. Gannett remains committed to high-quality journalism for the communities we serve and our ongoing digital transformation, and we are pleased to have found a like-minded partner in New Media. We believe the combination of our two companies will transform the landscape in the print and digital news business and, following the close of the transaction, we look forward to delivering on the compelling benefits for audiences, customers, employees and shareholders.”

Gannett and USA Today leaders have called a staff meeting for 11:30 a.m. Thursday to dispute the findings of this article and answer questions. (The text of that announcement is at the end of this story.)

Already set in motion are moves to try membership opportunities and marketing add-ons to boost revenue.

Nashville Million-Dollar Homes Shrinking Fastest in USA.

Bloomberg – Million-dollar homes in the U.S. are shrinking fast.

Germany, Italy & France set to block Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra in Europe – report

RT – Paris, Rome, and Berlin are getting ready to block Facebook’s new digital currency Libra in Europe, a French minister said, as cited by AFP.

Last month, France’s Finance Ministry said that the technology developed by the social media giant causes serious concerns and therefore its operation cannot be authorized for use on European soil. French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said the project could pose financial risks for the EU, including to the sovereignty of other nations’ currencies, and has the potential for abuse of market dominance.

Energy & Environment

New seismic phenomenon ‘stormquakes’ discovered…

National Geographic – Below the rumble of passing cars, chirping birds, and rustling leaves, the Earth is constantly humming. This geologic symphony is driven by the ever-sloshing oceans that blanket nearly three-quarters of our planet, but tracing individual refrains from this watery orchestra has long posed a challenge.

Now, researchers have done just that, picking out a previously unknown seismic phenomenon that they have dubbed stormquakes. These events, described this week in Geophysical Research Letters, are pulses of seismic waves birthed from the ferocious energy in massive storms, and they can radiate thousands of miles across continents. (Learn about a different kind of strange seismic wave that rippled around the world.)

“I was surprised by what they saw,” says Göran Ekström, a seismologist at Columbia University who specializes in unusual earthquakes. Big storms are thought to produce a lengthy jumble of rumbles that radiate from coastlines. But in the new study, the team identified a discrete “burst of wiggles” from each stormquake that they can trace back to its origin off shore.

The find joins a number of recent studies that are applying new methods to sort through the noise recorded on the world’s growing network of seismometers. These signals can help scientists better understand the world around us, from deciphering our planet’s inner structure to tracking ocean or ice dynamics and even monitoring climate change. (Read about how a groundbreaking earthquake catalog may have solved a seismic mystery.)

A lot of this information has previously been discarded as noise in our seismic readings, but scientists are now seeing how that “noise” may be providing useful records of environmental happenings, says study leader Wenyuan Fan, a seismologist at Florida State University.

“We just didn’t know where to look and what to look for,” he says.

Unprecedented movement detected on California earthquake fault capable of 8.0 temblor

Stripes – A major California fault capable of producing a magnitude 8 earthquake has begun moving for the first time on record, a result of this year’s Ridgecrest earthquake sequence destabilizing nearby faults, Caltech scientists say in a new study released in the journal Science on Thursday.

In the modern historical record, the 160-mile-long Garlock fault on the northern edge of the Mojave Desert has never been observed to produce either a strong earthquake or even to creep — the slow movement between earthquakes that causes a visible scar on the ground surface. But new satellite radar images now show that the fault has started to move, causing a bulging of land that can be viewed from space.

“This is surprising, because we’ve never seen the Garlock fault do anything. Here, all of a sudden, it changed its behavior,” said the lead author of the study, Zachary Ross, assistant professor of geophysics at Caltech. “We don’t know what it means.”

The observations reported are another piece of evidence that illustrates a widely persistent myth that circulates in California and beyond — that quakes like the Ridgecrest temblors are somehow a good thing that makes future quakes less likely. In fact, generally speaking, earthquakes make future earthquakes more likely. Most of the time, the follow-up quakes are smaller. But occasionally, they’re bigger.

California launching first ever earthquake early warning app for state

NPR – Scientists cannot yet predict when the next deadly earthquake will strike, but emergency response authorities in California plan to unveil the first statewide quake warning system Thursday, which marks the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The warnings will be issued in two ways: a cellphone app called MyShake and the more traditional wireless notification system that sends out Amber Alerts.

“The California Earthquake Early Warning System will marry a new smartphone application with traditional alert and warning delivery methods such as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). The system uses ground motion sensors from across the state to detect earthquakes before humans can feel them and will notify Californians so that they can “Drop, cover and hold on” in advance of an earthquake,” the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said in a press release announcing system launch on Thursday.

The California Earthquake Early Warning System is a joint project of the Office of Emergency Service, the U.S. Geological Service, UC Berkeley, CalTech, and others.

California finds widespread water contamination of ‘forever chemicals’

LA Times – Nearly 300 drinking water wells and other water sources in California have traces of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, new state testing has found.

Testing conducted this year of more than 600 wells across the state revealed pockets of contamination, where chemicals widely used for decades in manufacturing and household goods have seeped into the public’s water supply. An analysis by the Los Angeles Times found that within this class of chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, the two most common compounds were detected in 86 water systems that serve up to 9 million Californians.

State officials released the water quality results on Monday, the first step in what’s likely to be a years-long effort to track the scale of the contamination and pinpoint its sources. Only a small fraction of California’s thousands of drinking water wells were tested in this initial study. Officials said they planned to examine many more, but have not committed to future statewide testing.

The results offered the clearest picture yet of California’s exposure to a public health crisis that is playing out nationally.

Science & Technology

Scientists discover “electric” bacteria – can it lead to next-gen batteries and miniature pacemakers?

NaturalNews – Experts know that a strange species of bacteria found in oxygen-deprived sediment and soil can generate electricity. But they only recently learned that the microorganism achieves this through a method that differs from that used by other electric bacteria.

Called Geobacter sulfurreducens, the anaerobic bacteria possess a unique biological structure. This previously unidentified feature makes it possible for the microbe to conduct electricity.

Researchers believe it is possible to replicate the bacteria’s natural structure and improve its ability to generate electricity. A refined synthetic version of the formation may power miniature electronics and make it possible to design tiny batteries with high capacity.

Medical technology stands to benefit from the bacteria-derived structure. The electricity-generating shape may make it possible to dispense with potentially harmful wires when designing pacemakers for the heart.

The discovery came from researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA). Their findings were published in the science journal Cell. (Related: Purple phototrophic bacteria being studied as a potential means to convert sewage to clean energy.)

Health

Another reason to get off your phone: The blue light might be making you age faster

Fast Company – We already know that staring at the blue light beaming from a smartphone or computer screen can make it harder to sleep and might even damage eyesight (at least in mice; possibly not in humans). But a new study from Oregon State University suggests that long exposure to blue light could be doing some more fundamental damage: making you age faster.

In the study, researchers looked at what happened to fruit flies that were exposed to 12-hour stretches of blue LED light each day. The light damaged both eye cells and brain cells in the flies and impaired the flies’ ability to move around their enclosures—and it also shortened their lives compared to other flies that lived in complete darkness or those that were exposed to light with blue filtered out. Even flies that were born without eyes were affected by the blue light, suggesting that it isn’t necessary to see the light to be harmed by it.

The research started serendipitously, says Jaga Giebultowicz, a professor of integrated biology at Oregon State who studies biological clocks. “We thought that cycles of light and darkness were good for flies,” she says. “And then we found that they live longer in constant darkness. So we got very interested in this, and then by looking at different light wavelengths, different colors, we found that blue was most detrimental.” The blue light used in the lab is similar to the blue light that emanates from phones, computers, and other electronics.

If you don’t feel like you have much in common with a fly, previous studies in humans have looked at short-term effects of blue light exposure. A Harvard study, for example, found that when people were exposed to several hours of blue light, it suppressed the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, and shifted their circadian rhythms. A similar study at the University of Toronto found that when people wore glasses that blocked blue light, it had an impact on their melatonin levels. But no long-term, lifelong studies in humans have been conducted, in part because our attachment to gadgets that emit blue light is a relatively new phenomenon.

It would also be challenging to study the effects over a human lifespan, but the study of flies can give clues about potential long-term effects. “Flies are not humans, but the cells work the same,” says Giebultowicz. After long-term exposure, the flies’ cells started to show damage. “The genes that protect cells from stress are upregulated or very active in blue light,” she says. “That means after 12 hours of blue light, they have high activity, which is telling us that the cells are under stress.” If the flies are given a choice, they avoid blue light. The researchers are now continuing to study why the damage happens.

While there isn’t proof yet that long exposure to blue light could shorten human lives, it might be worth adjusting your gadgets to turn down the brightness or physically blocking blue light with amber glasses or screen protectors, just in case. And it’s one more reason to remind yourself to spend less time staring at screens.

Supplementing with vitamin D found to prevent colorectal cancer growth

NaturalNews – Researchers from the U.S. have found that vitamin D can potentially be used in cancer treatment. In their findings, which they published in the journal JAMA, revealed that supplementing vitamin D can inhibit the progression of advanced colorectal cancer.

A recent estimate by the American Cancer Society reports that over 140,000 new colorectal cancer cases are reported every year, with over 51,000 deaths.

Vitamin D and cancer progression

Vitamin D is well-regarded in its ability to maintain a healthy immune system: Some rich sources of it include egg yolks, shiitake mushrooms, and seafood.

In their study, the researchers wanted to explore how supplementing vitamin D to standard chemotherapy can influence the progression of cancer among people who have metastatic colorectal cancer.

For their randomized controlled trial, the team gathered 139 participants who had untreated metastatic colorectal cancer. Before the trial began, the researchers noted that only nine percent of the participants had the needed amount of vitamin D in their bodies. The researchers then grouped the participants into a high-dose group and a low-dose group: The former was given vitamin D during treatment, while the latter took standard chemotherapy sessions.

The high-dose group received 8,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily for two weeks. Afterward, the researchers lowered the dose to 4,000 IU per day. Meanwhile, the low-dose group only took 400 IU every day throughout the study.

Their findings showed that disease progression decreased among the participants. In the high-dose group, the progression stopped for an average of 13 months. In the low-dose group, the participants experienced a delay in progression that lasted for almost 11 months. Moreover, the researchers discovered that the participants in the high-dose group were less likely to experience disease progression or death in the follow-up sessions later afterward. These follow-ups lasted for almost two years (22.9 months).

The researchers concluded that among patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, the addition of high-dose vitamin D or standard dose vitamin D to standard chemotherapy has positive results on colorectal cancer patients. It resulted in a significantly improved hazard ratio, decreasing the risk of progression or death.

These findings were promising for the future of cancer treatment. However, the researchers warned that the intake of high doses of vitamin D should only happen in the context of clinical research. For the average individual, it is best to keep within the recommended intake of vitamin D, which is around 400 to 800 IU per day.

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Washing Machines Spreading Deadly Superbugs

Mercola – Thirteen newborns in Germany were colonized with a dangerous bacterium after the washing machine used for their personal items began growing Klebsiella oxytoca, a bacterium normally found in the intestines, which may trigger life-threatening lung infections and damage.

The authors caution those doing laundry for people who are prone to infection, such as those who are immune compromised or the elderly, should take precautions with their machines at home. There are pros and cons to high efficiency top- and front-loaders and to standard top-loading machines.

Although front-loading washing machines are more prone to the development of toxic mold growth along the rubber gasket seal, even top-loading machines should be cleaned and sanitized routinely to reduce the growth of bacteria and mold, and to prolong the life of the machine.

While not implicated in the featured study, it bears noting that your dishwasher has the same type of rubber gasket to keep water in the machine and therefore the potential to grow mold and bacteria. Consider cleaning your dishwasher at least every two months to reduce your potential risk of exposure to mold spores

95% of tested baby foods in the US contain toxic metals, report says

CNN – Toxic heavy metals damaging to your baby’s brain development are likely in the baby food you are feeding your infant, according to a new investigation published Thursday.

Tests of 168 baby foods from major manufacturers in the US found 95% contained lead, 73% contained arsenic, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury. One fourth of the foods contained all four heavy metals.

One in five baby foods tested had over 10 times the 1-ppb limit of lead endorsed by public health advocates, although experts agree that no level of lead is safe.

The results mimicked a previous study by the Food and Drug Administration that found one or more of the same metals in 33 of 39 types of baby food tested.

Foods with the highest risk for neurotoxic harm were rice-based products, sweet potatoes and fruit juices, the analysis found.

“Even in the trace amounts found in food, these contaminants can alter the developing brain and erode a child’s IQ. The impacts add up with each meal or snack a baby eats,” the report said.

The tests were commissioned by Healthy Babies Bright Futures, which calls itself an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first months of life.

Rice-based foods

Infant rice cereal, rice dishes and rice-based snacks topped the list of most toxic foods for babies.

“These popular baby foods are not only high in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic, but also are nearly always contaminated with all four toxic metals,” the report said.

Because rice is grown in water, it is especially good at absorbing inorganic arsenic and, according to the Food and Drug Administration, has the highest concentration of any food.

And in this case, brown and wild rice are the worst offenders, because the milling process used to create white rice removes the outer layers, where much of the arsenic concentrates.

And you can’t rely on organic either. A 2012 study found that brown rice syrup, a frequent sweetener in organic foods, was also a source of significant levels of arsenic. One “organic” milk formula marketed to toddlers had levels of inorganic arsenic that were six times the levels currently considered safe by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In the Healthy Babies analysis, four of seven rice cereals contained the most toxic form of arsenic in levels higher than the FDA’s proposed action level of 100 parts per billion (ppb).

>>Related Article: DIY organic baby food on a budget – Make your own safe, natural baby food and save cash while you’re at it.

10 Superfoods for People Over 50

Newsmax – “Men and women alike are susceptible to bone loss, muscle loss, hormonal changes, and the dreaded middle age spread,” the Orlando-based dietitian tells Newsmax. “We see and feel these changes in our achy joints, vision impairment, heart complications, weight gain, decreased memory retention, and lack of energy –– all of which are tied directly to nutrition.”

These 10 superfoods boast a high nutrient-to-calorie ratio to keep your body performing optimally.

  1. Wild salmon. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish two times a week, particularly fatty fish like salmon. Fatty fish are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation and remove triglycerides from the blood. Better yet, salmon is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Protein is what our bodies use for growth, maintenance, and repair.
  2. Chia. These tiny black seeds are one of the healthiest foods around. Of particular interest are its concentrations of fiber and healthy fat. One ounce contains 11 grams of fiber and 5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids! Fiber and omega-3s work together to keep your heart healthy. Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
  3. Black Beans. Black beans are an excellent source of soluble fiber, the type of fiber that is difficult to come by. Soluble fiber is a nutrient key to blood sugar regulation and cardiovascular health. It works to slow the rate at which food moves through the digestive tract, meaning you don’t experience blood sugar highs and low as easily. It also helps to pull cholesterol from the blood, lowering your LDL cholesterol level and reducing your risk of coronary heart disease.
  4. Kale. Kale is intensely rich in vitamins A, K, and C. In fact, one cup of this dark, leafy super food contains over 100% of the daily recommended value for each of these vitamins. As we age, each of these vitamins plays an important role in maintaining our health: Vitamin A in vision; vitamin K in blood clotting; and vitamin C in the growth and repair of tissues. Kale is rich in potassium, an electrolyte essential to heart health.
  5. Blackberries. Blackberries contain higher levels of fiber and antioxidants than most other berries. Fiber is wonderful for all of the aforementioned reasons, but it’s also beneficial for maintaining a healthy weight. As for its antioxidants, blackberries contain concentrated levels of flavonoids, a natural brain booster that helps reduce the age-related decline in motor skills and cognitive activity.
  6. Almonds. Almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut, ranking highest in protein, calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, and folate. Almonds are also high in manganese and copper. These two trace minerals are necessary to form collagen, the connective tissue found in our bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. When collagen breaks down, we show visible signs of aging, but eating the right food helps protect collagen from breaking down and keeps our bodies younger.
  7. Kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product that is similar to yogurt, but with a thinner consistency. The bacteria responsible for its fermentation are probiotics. Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that live in the gut and aid digestion. Keeping the digestive tract healthy helps the body eliminate toxins and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
  8. Russet Potatoes. Potatoes have earned a bad rap, but they’re actually a nutrient-rich superfood. Loaded with more potassium than a banana, a whole potato can help prevent high blood pressure and reduce your risk for stroke and heart disease. In addition to potassium, potatoes are packed with antioxidants.
  9. Butternut Squash. This winter squash’s orange hue means it’s high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps maintain vision and decreases the risk of macular degeneration. Butternut squash is also high in vitamin C. When eaten with iron-rich foods, vitamin C enhances the body’s absorption of iron, thereby reducing your risk of anemia.
  10. Ginger. Best known for its ability to eliminate gastrointestinal discomfort, ginger is a natural remedy for nausea and vomiting. Ginger also has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps relieve achy joints and stiff muscles.

Johnson & Johnson recalls single lot of Baby Powder after asbestos trace found

RT – US drug company Johnson & Johnson said on Friday it would recall a single lot of its Baby Powder in the US after the Food and Drug Administration found trace amounts of asbestos in samples taken from a bottle purchased online.

According to the firm, the recall is limited to one lot of its Baby Powder produced and shipped in the US last year. The watchdog’s test indicated the presence of no greater than 0.00002 percent of chrysotile asbestos in the tested sample.

Asbestos is a term for a group of minerals often found in talc, which is widely used in cosmetics. Exposure to it may increase risks of a number of diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Good News

In Rome, You Can Now Use Plastic Bottles As Bus Fare
MBG – Imagine walking into a metro station and instead of seeing people lined up at the ticket machine with their wallets out, they’re carrying bags of plastic water bottles. It may feel like a far-off image, but in Rome, it’s actually happening right this very moment.

The new program, called “Ricicli+Viaggi” (aka, Recycle+Travel), will allow commuters to bring plastic bottles to the metro station in exchange for digital credits that can be put toward transit fares.

Rome has a massive garbage problem.

In recent years, Rome—arguably one of the most romantic and historic cities in the world—has developed a not-so-sexy problem with waste disposal. In fact, according to an article in Phys.org, there are “landfills in flames” and “rats feasting on waste” as well as crowds of summer tourists “forced to navigate overflowing bins.” The issue even prompted Rome’s chief physician to issue a “hygiene alert” that could be upgraded to a health warning.

Ironically, Romans pay about €597 a year in waste collection fees per person, which makes them the highest in all of Italy. The root of the issue is multifaceted; as TreeHugger reported, one of the city’s landfills was forced to close in 2013, and in recent months, a couple of key biological treatment sites have been partially closed for maintenance.

A new program that exchanges plastic for transportation fares.

So how many bottles does it take to get one ticket on the subway or bus? About 30, as each one is worth about 5 cents, and the average fare is about 1.50 euros. And while that seems prohibitive for most—carrying a bag of 30 water bottles isn’t anyone’s idea of fun—a video published by BBC shows that people are lining up.

Similar programs have popped up in cities like Beijing, where they have similar machines take the bottles and calculate the credit right there on the spot. According to the company behind the machine there, they have already recycled 15,000 tons of bottles a year.