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The Bonvie Blog: A Toxic Topic’s Return

A Lesson from the Past Reminds Us How the Facts Are What Really Matter

By LINDA and BILL BONVIE

It was a bit like a case of déjà vu, only with a new dimension.

That was our reaction upon hearing the news that a Terminix employee had been indicted for illegally applying the highly toxic fumigation gas methyl bromide inside various residences in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the St. John condominium resort complex where a Delaware family of four nearly died as a result back in March 2015.

As it happens, the use of methyl bromide in residential, structural and agricultural pest control, and its often deadly consequences, was the topic on which we began our writing collaboration (culminating last year in the publication of our book, Badditives!).methyl bromide molecule

Only back when we first broached this particular subject in print, all those uses were still quite legal – and there being no Internet at the time, much of our information came from trade publications and old-fashioned journalistic leg-work.

(At one point, one of us had occasion to meet the late farmworkers-rights crusader Cesar Chavez asking him what he could tell us about methyl bromide, which was being used to fumigate soil. He replied, “What can you tell us about methyl bromide?”)

We subsequently wrote a number of magazine articles on the widespread application of this invisible and odorless killer, which in the early ‘90s had begun to gain notoriety not so much for its lethality but as an ozone depleter. And, yes, they included horror stories, some even worse than the one in the Virgin Islands, such as the case of the little girl who died following a “tent fumigation” of her Savannah, Georgia home, after some of the gas got trapped in her mattress.

But the piece we wrote 25 years ago was the one that proved most memorable — and all on account of its post-script, which can be taken as a kind of object lesson in today’s fractured political climate.

It was done for a slick, glossy, 440-page monthly publication called The World & I, which described itself as “A chronicle of our changing era” — one that was quite comprehensive in its range of subject matter, as well as highly informative. It was also put out by The Washington Times, a paper with a distinctly conservative political slant owned by the Unification Church and founded by its head, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

That’s right — a magazine published by the “Moonies.”

That fact, however, had no bearing whatsoever on the content of our article, “Fallout from a Pending Phaseout,” which was based on some rather time-consuming and scrupulous research.

And one aspect of it had to do with the way methyl bromide was being used in certain large food-storage facilities, including (at the time) the Hershey chocolate plant, which in 1990 alone vented more than 40,000 pounds into the immediate environment, much of it on weekends during the summer when crowds of visitors were enjoying the attractions at nearby Hershey Park.

So were we sure that these were accurate claims, and did we have any proof? Yes, and yes. The figures and dates we cited came directly from the Environmental Protection Agency’s own “toxic release inventory,” and had been provided to the EPA by the industries themselves — statistics that could easily be obtained by a reporter or anyone else who knew of their existence.

But after the article appeared in The World & I (along with a photo of the Hershey plant), it struck us that this was the sort of information that should be of considerable interest to print and broadcast media in the Harrisburg, PA vicinity, where the Hershey Corporation and its famous amusement park are situated. And we got to wondering whether they might pick up on our “scoop.”

That was when Linda got the idea of calling them while posing as a concerned parent about to take her family to Hershey Park and inquiring if they planned to do anything with the story.

And the reactions were somewhat surprising in their skepticism. One of the editors we contacted, for example, asked, “If this is such a big issue, why don’t we already know about it?”

But the really mind-blowing response came from the head of a TV news operation, who asked, “And just where did you read this, ma’am?”

“In a magazine called The World & I.”

“I see. And can you tell me who puts out this magazine?”

“It says it’s a publication of The Washington Times.”

“Oh, really? And do you know who it is that owns The Washington Times?”

When asked who that was, he responded, “Never mind. Just take your kids to Hershey Park and have a good time, and don’t worry about it.”

So, our extra-curricular discovery — that the veracity of a totally accurate article could be automatically dismissed, even by people in the news business who should have known better, due to distrust of the motives of the proprietor of the publication where it appeared — is one that continues to resonate a quarter-century later, perhaps more so than ever.

What our little experiment revealed was an apparent assumption back then that any disclosure contained in a journal whose owner had conservative leanings (and was the founder of a foreign religious cult, no less) was highly suspect, and probably deliberate disinformation. Today, what we keep hearing from a resurgent right, with encouragement from the current occupant of the Oval Office, is a mirror-image message: that the reporting you might read in papers like The Washington Post and The New York Times is not only biased, but actual “fake news” reflecting the supposed political agendas of their owners.

But the truth is that professional journalists, with few exceptions, are simply trying to do their jobs — which means doing their best to uncover facts, not twist them or engage in misleading fabrications in order to further an employer’s perspective.

By that, of course, we mean the kinds of skilled hunter-gatherers of genuine information that reputable news operations usually depend on to stay in business, no matter who owns them.

In our current internet era, however, many people have a regrettable tendency assume that legitimate media whose political leanings they don’t like are trafficking in trickery and deliberate deception, even while they give credibility to websites that make outlandish claims and promote preposterous conspiracy theories for example, school massacres were staged by people trying to turn the public against gun ownership.

And that’s where the business of being able to discern between real and fake news becomes especially tricky. Because often, the ones that are engaging in such unfounded and ridiculous rumor-mongering — an example being Alex Jones’s lunatic-fringe Infowars — will make assertions that are perfectly valid; e.g., mandatory vaccinations and fluoridation may be hazardous to your health.  And when they do so, they tend to actually give ammunition to people whose aim is to shoot down any legitimate doubts about the safety or advisability of such policies.

The point is that, no matter what your political persuasion, when you automatically assume that anything that appears to come from the opposing camp — even if it’s based on totally independent and nonpartisan research — is simply intended to fool you, you could well end up depriving yourself of essential information.

You could even be missing out on a revelation that might potentially spare you from exposure to a life-threatening poison gas on your next vacation.


Linda and Bill Bonvie, freelance writers based in Little Egg Harbor, NJ, are regular bloggers for Citizens for Health and the co-authors of Badditives: The 13 Most Harmful Food Additives in Your Diet – and How to Avoid Them.

The Bonvie Blog: Kratom

The good news is that there may well be a relatively simple way for many individuals now caught up in the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis to pull themselves out of it. And that’s no small thing, considering that that this man-made catastrophe has killed an estimated 20,000 Americans from overdoses in 2016 alone. The bad news is that the federal government is trying its best to make such apparent salvation illegal.

Stop 21st Century Cures Act

Although this is coveted as a wonderful bill that is needed in the US so that drugs and medical devices can be fast tracked, if you read the nearly 1000 pages it is clear this is dangerous bill that is has the best interests of the Pharmaceutical industry at heart, NOT its consumers.

The Transpartisan Review Blog Special Note #3

Walt Whitman’s “Election Day, November, 1884”

posted by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

If I should need to name, O Western World!

your powerfulest scene to-day,

‘Twould not be you, Niagara – nor you, ye

limitless prairies — nor your huge

rifts of canyons, Colorado,

Nor you, Yosemitie, with all your spasmic

geyser-loops ascending to the skies, ap-

pearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon’s white cones – nor Huron’s belt

of mighty lakes — nor Mississippie’s stream:

This seething hemisphere’s humanity, as now,

I’d name — the still small voice preparing —

America’s choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen — the act

itself the main, the quadrennial

choosing,)

The stretch of North and South arous’d –

seaboard and inland — Texas to Maine,

The Prairie States – Vermont, Virginia, Cali-

fornia ,

The final ballot-shower from East to West –

the paradox and conflict,

The countless snow-flakes falling — (a sword-

less conflict,

Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old,

or modern Napoleon’s:)

Or good or ill humanity — welcoming the

darker odds, the dross, the scene’s debris:

–Foams and ferments the wine? It serves to

purify — while the heart pants, life glows:

These stormy gusts and winds waft previous

ships,

Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s

sails.

(The is an original draft; for the final version Whitman published, click here).

The Transpartisan Review: Our Introductory Blog Post

By A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner

As we noted in our introduction, The Transpartisan Review will concentrate on promoting new political ideas, ideas that bring people together who are now in conflict. Since the current debate focuses entirely on conflict, the approaches we explore will be hard to find in the current debate. Yet they are often essential to solve problems that otherwise seem insoluble.

Our political conflict is not only between the parties, between progressives (left) and conservatives (right); it is also within them. Conflict within is between freedom and order. There are thus four positions rather than two in our political field—freedom and order themes in both left and right.

We refer to these four positions as the Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix—featuring social democratic and civil libertarian themes on the left and the traditional (especially religious) and libertarian themes on the right.

The conflict between freedom and order is at present more obvious in the Republican Party than the Democratic. Part of the reason (there may be others) is that the party in power (which holds The White House) can contain conflict more easily than the party out of power.

There is ‘truth’ in all four positions—partial truths. Ultimate truth, we believe, comes from integrating all four. Integrating all four will both bring people together and solve problems. The Matrix will be a recurring theme in the forthcoming posts and pages of the Review.

We will focus on key policy arenas such as education, criminal justice, and foreign policy, issues on which we are aware of transpartisan initiatives making headway.

Between now and the launch of the new online journal, we will post short Notes showing how the transpartisan impulse is in forms all around us. It will highlight report on real experiences where transpartisan approaches are solving real problems.

These examples often occur outside the formal political system. Since we hope the formal system will want to learn from them and incorporate them into formal government policy, we will also feature comments on how that might happen.

As contentions a matter as the Citizen United Supreme Court decision gives a taste of the opportunity. McCain-Feingold (aka the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002), the campaign finance law found partially unconstitutional by the court, represents order right (Republican McCain) and order left (Democrat Feingold), respectively. The immediate attacks on the law came from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)—free right and free left, respectively.

Drawing on all four impulses the country is staggering toward a full-blown disclosure of the source of all campaign contributions. The transpartisan lens of the developing journal provides a way to look at virtually all contentious matters (issues) and suggest a different angle from which to evaluate them. We invite all of you to join the discourse.

Your Passion Can Earn You a Free Education

What if recording a 60-second video earned you a chance to transform your life – and the lives of those around you?

Thanks to a partnership with The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), over the last few months we brought you opportunities to use your passion for wellness to have a positive impact on the health of others. IIN recognized the commitment Citizens for Health supporters have made to preserving and expanding our right to make our own decisions about health and wellness. So it was no surprise when they told us they wanted to offer CFH supporters a free class, flexible financing options and discounted tuition for their life-changing curriculum. We’ll share more opportunities like this very soon.

But you can win one of 10 full tuition scholarships right now!

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition® is running a contest through November 13 and will award 10 full tuition scholarships for 10 creative, passionate and thoughtful 60-second videos that answer the question: How will an IIN education empower you to live your best life?

Step back from the day-to-day grind and engage a different area of your brain. Get family and friends involved and have some fun with it! Tap into your passion for health freedom and share your vision!

The deadline for video entries is 11:59 PM EST on November 13, 2015. Act now for your chance to win,

Whether you want to pursue a new career, supplement an existing one, or raise your wellness IQ and enrich the lives of those around you – an IIN education is within reach.

Enter the contest now, and submit your video by November 13. Perhaps you will be one of the 10 creative people selected to receive a tuition-free IIN education – as well as a chance to transform your life.

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