Tiffany Finck-Haynes, Friends of the Earth,
Roger Williams, Central Maryland Beekeepers Association, (802) 355-9933 , email@example.com
Boyce Thorne Miller, The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, (301) 706-9295 , firstname.lastname@example.org
Lori Ann Burd, Center for Biological Diversity, (847) 567-4052 , email@example.com
USDA Urged to Launch Thorough Investigation Into Scientist Censorship
Federal Scientists’ Research on Bee-killing Pesticides Compromised
Environmentalists, beekeepers, farmworkers, farmers, fisheries and food-safety organizations sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General and the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health today urging an investigation into recent reports that USDA scientists are being harassed and their research is being censored or suppressed, especially research related to neonicotinoid insecticides -- a leading driver of bee declines globally. The White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, co-chaired by USDA, is expected to release a plan for bee protection in the near future. More than 25 citizens' groups are concerned that the plan will lack meaningful protections for pollinators if USDA's research has been compromised.
In March Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a citizen petition requesting that the USDA adopt new policies that would provide stronger protections for government scientists who question the health and safety of agricultural chemicals.
"It is unconscionable for USDA to cover up or politicize any research. The science needs to speak for itself. Beekeepers in Maryland and across the country need a comprehensive plan to address pesticide use, habitat loss, and the other issues facing bees and other pollinators. Otherwise, they won't survive in this toxic environment, and that will put us all in a food desert. It is critical that USDA serve beekeepers and the American public, not just the pesticide industry," said Roger Williams, president of the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association.
"How can the American public expect USDA to develop a federal strategy that will protect bees instead of pesticide industry profits if it is harassing and suppressing its own scientists for conducting research that runs counter to industry claims?" said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth . "If USDA wants to employ a kill-the-messenger approach, it will only delay critical action to address the bee crisis that threatens our nation's food supply."
"If we cannot trust the scientific integrity of our scientists to protect bees, how can farmworkers be assured that their health and safety are not in jeopardy from a scientific community that is beholden to the interests of corporations and not to the protection of their own health and safety?" said Jeannie Economos, pesticide safety and environmental health project coordinator with Farmworker Association of Florida. "The issue goes beyond only protecting bees, but to protecting the public health, especially the most vulnerable, as well."
"The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance cares deeply that USDA science be untainted, because poorly studied and regulated pesticides ultimately end up in the ocean where they continue their toxic journey damaging marine food chains and habitat that support our wild fisheries, fishing communities and seafood production," said Boyce Thorne Miller, science and policy advisor with The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.
"Censorship and harassment poison good science and good policy," said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity . "There's no question that neonicotinoids are killing bees, and it's long past time for our government to take action. The European Union has already banned neonicotinoids. The reports that USDA is harassing and suppressing its scientists for doing their jobs instead of using their findings to protect our pollinators are extremely disturbing."
The White House Task Force on Pollinator Health was established as part of a Presidential Memorandum , issued by President Obama in June 2014, which called for a federal strategy to protect pollinators and called on the EPA to assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bees and other pollinators within 180 days.
Last April Friends of the Earth released a report , "Follow the Honey: 7 ways pesticide companies are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits," which documents the deceptive tactics used by agrochemical companies, including Germany-based Bayer (DE: BAYN), Switzerland-based Syngenta (NYSE: SYT) and U.S.-based Monsanto (NYSE: MON), to deflect blame from their products' contributions to bee declines and delay regulatory action on neonicotinoid pesticides.
The letter sent by environmentalists, beekeepers, farmworkers, farmer and food-safety advocates to USDA Inspector General and the co-chairs of the White House Task Force on Pollinator Health, along with a complete list of signatories, can be found here .
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.(520) 623-5252
"The last thing Americans need is a Bezos-backed investment company further consolidating single-family homes and putting homeownership out of reach for more and more people. Housing should be a right, not a speculative commodity."
Among the three richest people on the planet, mega-billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos received some praise last week for announcing approximately $120 million in donations to a number of groups fighting the scourge of homelessness in the United States.
"It's a privilege to support these orgs in their inspiring mission to help families regain stability," Bezos wrote in an Instagram post touting the multiple grants to 38 individual nonprofits in 22 states.
But hold your applause.
Just days after word of the charitable gifts—a minuscule drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $170 billion fortune he possesses—a Bezos-controlled company called Arrived dropped $500 million of new investment in single-family homes with a venture fund that critics warn will make the nation's housing crisis even worse.
According to GV Wire :
Since its inception in 2021, Arrived has attracted nearly a half a million customers, operating as a fractional real estate investing platform. The company’s model is similar to buying a slice of the American pie, allowing investors to purchase shares of single-family rentals for as little as $100.
The fund itself—called the Single Family Residential Fund—allows investors to purchase portions of various homes and later trade, hold, or redeem their "chips" on a rolling basis like players at a casino.
While many Americans, especially younger people and working-class families, have been steadily priced out of homeownership by soaring costs and, more recently, higher interest rates, Arrived prays on that reality by selling the idea that owning a piece of a home as an investment is an "American Dream" akin to owning the home one lives in.
Speculative investors, however, are likely not among those struggling to make ends meet but this kind of investment behavior, warn critics, is certain to drive home prices even higher.
(D-Calif.)—who has co-authored legislation to halt the rent-gouging and inflated home prices that result from such investment schemes—ripped Bezos' latest move.
"The last thing Americans need is a Bezos-backed investment company further consolidating single-family homes and putting homeownership out of reach for more and more people," Khanna tweeted on Friday. "Housing should be a right, not a speculative commodity."
As the author writing under the name Homeless Romantic on Medium noted last week, a primary concern "raised by critics is the monopolization of housing" that Arrived is pushing.
"By acquiring a large number of single-family homes," reads the post, "Bezos and other investors could consolidate control over the housing supply, giving them significant influence over rental prices and market dynamics. This could make it more difficult for ordinary individuals and families to find affordable housing, particularly in high-demand areas."
It wasn't lost on many that there was a disconnect between his relatively paltry gift to organizations valiantly standing on the frontlines to fight homelessness with the one hand, while simultaneously using his massive fortune to exacerbate the crisis with a for-profit venture on the other.
What else could he do? People had ideas.
According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it would cost a mere $20 billion annually to end homelessness in the United States.
In response to the latest revelations about his charitable giving, a few people said a person worth nearly $200 billion like Bezos "could literally end homelessness by himself if he wanted to."
'I Was Mostly In It for Her': New Details in Rape Probe Embroiling Top GOP Official, Moms for Liberty Co-Founder
Amid charges of gross hypocrisy and many celebrating the possible downfall of a powerful far-right couple following revelations about their private sexual activities, the severity of the accusations led one Florida Democrat to remark, "None of this is funny."
New details made public over the weekend via police documents of a rape investigation have added fresh fuel to the political firestorm surrounding the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Christian Ziegler, and his wife Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of the far-right Moms for Liberty, which engages in book-banning efforts, attacks on public education, religious moralizing, and the promotion of fascist ideology in chapters nationwide.
After an unnamed longtime associate accused Christian Ziegler of rape last week, the emergence of a police search warrant and associated affidavit showed that the alleged victim said she had engaged in consensual three-way sexual relations with the Zieglers in the past but on the day of the assault, on Oct 3., tried to call off the encounter because Bridget would not be there to participate.
"Sorry I was mostly in for her," the victim said, according to text messages quoted in the affadavit.
The high-profile political work of the Zieglers—who rail against the sexual identities and lifestyle choices of others and who have been openly hostile to the LGBTQ+ community, often suggesting queer people are somehow deviant or morally problematic—has resulted in my cries of hypocrisy and calls for Christian's resignation.
"Allegations of rape and sexual battery are severe and should be taken seriously," said Florida Democratic Party chair Nikki Fried in a statement on Thursday. "I applaud the accuser's bravery in coming forward against a political figure as powerful as Christian Ziegler, and I trust that the Sarasota Police Department will conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations of criminal behavior."
Given the severity of the allegations against him, Fried called on Christian Zeigler to resign from his post, a call echoed later by Gov. Ron DeSantis , a Republican currently running for the GOP presidential nomination.
Fried said that "what happens behind closed doors is Christian and Bridget's personal business," but added that she did "find it interesting that two people who are so obsessed with banning books about gay penguins might be engaged in a non-traditional sexual relationship," referring to a children's book about gay parents which has been targeted by Republicans for banning in schools in Florida and elsewhere.
"As leaders in the Florida GOP and Moms for Liberty," said Fried, "the Zieglers have made a habit out of attacking anything they perceive as going against 'family values'—be it reproductive rights or the existence of LGBTQ+ Floridians. The level of hypocrisy in this situation is stunning."
According to the Washington Post :
News reports emerged several days ago about the allegations of rape, but more records were obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request late Friday and reported by several Florida news outlets. They include details of recorded conversations via Instagram and phone calls between the woman and Christian Ziegler that detectives obtained. Police have filed search warrants for Ziegler’s phone, email and other devices. The Sarasota Police Department did not reply to several requests for comment.
Christian Ziegler's attorney, Derek Byrd, said in a statement Thursday that his client "will be completely exonerated." Byrd and Ziegler did not respond to requests for comment Saturday about the details in the affidavit.
"It's certainly deeply, deeply troubling," state Rep. Spencer Roach, a member of the Florida GOP executive committee, told the
in an interview. "I would describe this as just an absolute body blow to the Republican Party. Everyone that I've talked to about this is in an absolute tailspin."
Paulina Testerman, a co-founder of the nonprofit Support Our Schools, which defends public education, spoke to The Daily Beast about the allegations of rape in the context the Ziegler's political activities in Florida.
"Many of us have stood at the podium of countless school board meetings and listened to Mrs. Ziegler drag the LGBT+ community, so it's natural to want to celebrate when bullies get what's coming," Testerman said. "But we must remind ourselves that there are many victims in this story. An alleged rape victim is the obvious victim, but our LGBT children and all marginalized children have all been the victim of the Zieglers and their hate machine. We are hopeful that their reign is over, and our community can start healing."
Bridget Ziegler—who reportedly confirmed to detectives she and her husband did have a consensual sexual relationship in the past—is not named in the affadavit, but Moms for Liberty defended her in a post on X following the initial revelations last week.
"#StrongWomen scare those that seek to destroy our country," the group stated . "We stand with Bridget Ziegler and every other badass woman fighting for kids and America."
But critics like Anne-Marie Principe and others pushed back on that.
"The hypocrisy is real," Principe tweeted . "First, they engaged in the sexual freedoms they want to deny others. Second, the alleged sexual assault of their threesome partner is not only denigrating women, it's a crime. So, I guess you are only about YOUR liberties. #WrongWomen not strong ones."
"What Israel is doing in Gaza right now is one of the most cruel tactics of war I've ever seen," said one healthcare aid worker.
More than 700 people were killed in the Gaza Strip in just 24 hours, the Health Ministry in the besieged territory said Sunday, as Israeli bombings escalated following a brief pause and wider evacuation orders stoke fears of wider displacement and carnage.
According to an Al-Jazeera dispatch :
Overnight and into Sunday, intense bombing was reported in Khan Younis, Rafah, and some northern parts targeted by Israel's air and ground attacks.
"Everywhere you turn to, there are children with third-degree burns, shrapnel wounds, brain injuries and broken bones," James Elder, UNICEF's global spokesperson, told Al Jazeera from Gaza.
"Mothers crying over children who look like they are hours away from death. It seems like a death zone right now."
The Israel Defense Force (IDF) has been dropping evacuation leaflets across the south of Gaza in cities that include Khan Younis, Rafah, and others neighborhoods where many had been told to flee by Israel prior to the recent week-long pause.
The IDF is now using a wholly invented "grid system" to tell Palestinians in Gaza which sectors might be safe and which ones will not, leading to reports of widespread confusion on the ground for those trying to keep themselves and their families safe from the indiscriminate bombing.
"What Israel is doing in Gaza right now is one of the most cruel tactics of war I've ever seen," said Rohan Talbot, director of advocacy and campaigns for the U.K.-based Medical Aid Palestine, on Sunday. "This grid system effectively means people are being chased from square to square, in constant mortal fear. Bombing happens both inside and outside 'unsafe' areas. It's terrorism."
"And they say it's about protecting civilians! People in Gaza are saying they hope to die just to be free from the fear!" Talbot declared. "I use the word terrorism in its specific sense: using violence to intimidate civilians for political aims. Israeli leaders don't hide that this is what they are doing."
In a statement on Sunday, U.N. Human Rights Chief Volker Türk called for an end of the new wave of bombardents and a return to the talks that saw Israeli and Palestinian hostages freed and an increase in humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza.
"Silence the guns and return to dialogue—the suffering inflicted on civilians is too much to bear. More violence is not the answer. It will bring neither peace nor security," Türk said.
"As a result of Israel's conduct of hostilities and its orders for people to leave the north and parts of the south, hundreds of thousands are being confined into ever smaller areas in southern Gaza without proper sanitation, access to sufficient food, water and health supplies, even as bombs rain down around them,” he added "There is no safe place in Gaza."
Last week, it was
that the Israeli military is using artificial intelligence to help generate bombing targets, a situation described as "dystopian" and the "first AI-facilitated genocide in history."
Horrifying scenes were evident across Gaza over the weekend as witnesses shared footage of children killed by the bombings along with the heartbreak and cries of survivors:
In the north, the Jabilia refugee camp, the largest in the Gaza Strip, was bombed again on Saturday.
"More than 100 Palestinians were killed Saturday in a new massacre committed by Israeli occupation forces in the Jabalia refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip," the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.
The agency said an Israeli missile hit a residential building belonging to the "Obaid family in Jabalia camp" and that "dozens were injured, and many others are still missing under the rubble," in that strike alone.
Meanwhile, Medicin Sans Frontier/MSF doctors reported their rescue vehicles, despite being clearly marked, were targeted by Israeli tanks.
Jason Lee, the Palestine country director for Save the Children, who was in Rafah on Friday, told the Guardian newspaper that what's being witnessed is a fresh population transfer in a country where 1.7 million people—out of an approximate total of 2.3 million—have already been displaced, with most now frantically trying to find safety in the south.
"How is it possible for people to move again? For many, this is not their first evacuation. The scale and scope of this is unprecedented," he said.