Big Sugar hiding in plain sight: who owns Sunshine State News?

July 10, 2015

(Counterpunch) In Florida the Fox News copycat commentariat is an online web source called Sunshine State News. Nancy Smith, a retired newspaper reporter, leads the operation. With Fox, company ownership is public record. Not Sunshine State.

During the session of the 2015 Florida legislature, the web based source led the counter attack against an outpouring of public support for land acquisition via a major funding source approved by Florida voters in a November 2014 state referendum. So, who is Sunshine State News? Read the rest of this entry »

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Mr. President, use Everglades backdrop on Earth Day to shun Big Sugar money

April 21, 2015

(This OPED is available on the web through ContextFlorida.)  It makes sense for President Barack Obama to be in the Everglades on Earth Day. According to the White House, he will draw attention to both the Everglades and the massive economic consequences of global warming and climate change.

Obama is likely to echo what a former Friends of the Everglades director said over a decade ago: “The Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to save the planet.”

The difference between the time the phrase was first spoken and today is significant. Read the rest of this entry »


Yale, Hunter S. Thompson and the Social Contract: the Good Doctor in Drag

April 5, 2015

Part One

(Printed in Counterpunch) In December 1972, I was a college freshman at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. Christmas break, one of my best friends invited a group of us to share his uncle’s condominium near the ski lifts in Aspen after New Year’s. We had grown up skiing together in New Hampshire. I flew into Denver, a cow town small enough you could roll a basketball down Broadway at four PM and it would roll to the other end of the city. The next day I took a bus to Aspen.

That night when we were fast asleep in the duplex, there was a loud banging on the door. My friend, the responsible party, went downstairs to see about the commotion. I gradually focused on a heated exchange between my friend and an interloper. It was late. We had smoked a little reefer. Who knew. The long and the short of it: the raised voice on the other side of the door was the manager of the US Women’s Ski Team. In the van behind him was the US Women’s Ski Team. They had flown in from Europe and driven straight to Aspen from Denver. Their race began the next morning, and they intended to take possession of said, same condominium they had rented.

After a frantic phone — rotary dial — call, my friend established that his uncle had sold his condominium a few months earlier. Although we had a key that let us in and his promise we that could use the condo, he had forgotten. We were on our own. We offered to share the condo for that night only. The manager of the US Women’s Ski Team gave us an hour to clear out. Read the rest of this entry »


The GOP’s Ten Commandments on Climate Change

March 24, 2015

(printed in Counterpunch and Context Florida)  In public, GOP leaders are climate change deniers. In private, they understand climate change perfectly well. The difference is that disclosure doesn’t serve the party’s purposes. Climate change denial – against the backdrop of accumulating science and fact – is like an electrical charge stimulating the Republican base. Here are the GOP’s Ten Commandments of climate change.

1) Climate change is like the weather: there is nothing we can do about it.

2) We are top predator. Others must adapt to us or die.

3) It doesn’t matter if climate change is man-made: whatever happens is God’s will.

4) Since our God in the only God, we know what is best for you.

5) As the party of limited government, any effort to strengthen environmental regulations is cutting our own throats.

6) As the party of capitalism, we are against any climate-driven protectionism unless it serves our interests.

7) If climate change requires subsidies, existing subsidies will be protected, first. Any additional subsidies will have to adapt to ours.

8) Dissenters on climate change within the party are psychological deviants, to be dealt with and isolated from decision-making.

9) If there is a dispute on climate change between constituencies the GOP represents, the leadership will side with that person who concentrates our political power.

10) We will adapt our behavior to impacts of climate change as they happen, not before.

Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at alanfarago.wordpress.com Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Travels in India conjure memories of priceless Everglades

February 18, 2015

(Published at ContextFlorida) Although I am at the end of my third visit to India, this is still a nation that feels more remote from my experiences than any other. In the far south, it took nine hours to drive the hill country from Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India to the edge of Kerala on the west. The roads wind through villages, tea and rubber plantations, groves of spices – pepper, cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg – once worth their weight in gold in European capitals.

The wealth that slipped through India was once so vast that only 100 years ago young princes and princesses played in chests loaded with sapphires, rubies, emeralds and precious metals. Today, the suffering of the disadvantaged is dire. The dirt and pollution are ubiquitous. None of the deficits can obscure the fact that the nation is moving, propelled by two cylinder engines, nuclear power plants and the global economy.

But with so many unique languages and 29 strong and independent states ruled by their own congresses, to an outsider India can seem more a state of mind than a sovereign state. When President Barack Obama on his visit to New Delhi stated that there is no fixing climate change without success in India, I wondered: “How? Who? Where?” Read the rest of this entry »


Drowning in Information: On Memory, the Internet, and Reading Comprehension

July 24, 2014

(Counterpunch) Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about memory. I’m sensitized by family members in their 90s. Each are in flagging health and suffering memory deficits; from dementia, Alzheimers, to simple cognitive decline.

It’s sad and I do worry about the road ahead, but I’m also troubled by the road I’m on.

On the way to writing this post, I went online for a New York Times OPED that had interested me; how reliance on the internet has diminished the ability of consumers to fully process what we are reading. I’ve noticed that when I read a newspaper online, my retention of information is qualitatively different from when I read a printed newspaper in my hands. It’s an unscientific result reached after many years of reading and writing to earn readers’ attention.

Before I could find what I was looking for in the Times, my attention was diverted by an interesting story on a public hearing about fish eggs and nuclear permitting on the Hudson River. When I couldn’t find on my laptop the OPED I meant to bring to your attention, I reached into my backpack for my iPad and logged on to see if the OPED was in the history bar.

There, open in my browser I had a yoga schedule, a Sun Sentinel article on Jeb Bush’s legacy (taking a huge hit!), a weather site (to rain or not to rain), a Miami Herald report (even now can’t remember what it was about), an article from the UK Guardian on climate change in Miami (drowning!), a coffee vendor website (have to order now), a friend’s blog (have to read now), another NY Times OPED (not the one I was looking for), an article on restaurants in Paris, 40 Genius Travel Tips That Will Change Your Life Forever, and Trouble Shooting Your Cable TV Connection.

I never did find what I was looking for — my memory was hazy, which doesn’t help when using search words — , but when I find it I will share the news: comprehension skills have declined with our reliance on the internet.

That we are drowning in information is hardly news. We are all in a turbulent current where brains don’t multi-task so much as substitute breadth of capacity for depth of understanding. Then, too, some evolutionary part of us believes that attention to lots of different pieces of information, as many as we can hold, will make life safer; the digital equivalent of sniffing the wind for signs of danger.

Take the daily blog I write (eyeonmiami.blogspot.com) and reader comments, for example. We get the most comments from short posts. We know (as paid newspaper editors do, too) that readers’ attention spans are foreshortened by so much freely available information. Blogs that cost nothing but a glance. It doesn’t mean our readers aren’t interested or don’t fully appreciate our longer reports, or for that matter longer investigative pieces in newspapers or magazines.

Who can absorb it all? And if we are not using the information we receive from the internet to become more educated, better humans, improving our condition, our health and welfare, and that of our family, friends, and communities; what in the world are we doing?


The Killer Politics of Big Sugar: It Is What It Is

January 10, 2014

COUNTERPUNCH WEEKEND EDITION JANUARY 10-12, 2014

A recent report by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) underscores the health care crisis in the world’s most exceptional democracy. The U.S. spends two and a half times per capita more on health care than any other developed country. How does this happen? Take a look at a key player in the paradox: sugar growers. In Florida it is called, Big Sugar. In other states it is beets, maple syrup and most ubiquitous of all: high-fructose corn syrup extracted from an unlimited corn crop heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

“30%-40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” (Credit Suisse Report: “Sugar: Consumption At A Crossroads”, Sept. 2013) In Forbes Magazine, contributor Dan Monroe summarized, “Basically, the U.S. healthcare system spends about $1 trillion per year (and possibly more) fighting the effects of excess sugar consumption.”

“Higher health spending per capita tends to be associated with lower mortality rates and higher life expectancy, but this is not the case for the United States.” (“OECD: Switzerland tops 34 nations for life expectancy at 82.8″, UPI, Jan. 7, 2014) American politics are organized to protect corporate interests that make voters and taxpayers sick, and there is no better example: in a candy bar or a bowl of healthy granola, sugar is the big stake in the heart of American health.

According to a recent United Health Foundation study, “Nine of the 10 least healthy states in the nation had among the 10 worst obesity rates in the country.” The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. Its ”America’s Health Rankings” rates the most healthy and least health states by evaluating factors such as healthy behaviors, quality of health care, health policy, the presence of diseases and deaths from illnesses.

The study is a good gateway to explore the politics of sugar. Nutrition advocates and environmentalists who have every reason to despair at the corrupting political influence of sugar have never connected the dots for the American public: sugar is not just another crop that receives federal benefits. It is a crop whose profits deform democracy and public health, no matter whose political party is in charge or at what level of government. Read the rest of this entry »