Curtain Raiser

Regulations Went Up in Smoke, Colltalers

As the attempt coup in Venezuela has all but fizzled, its main instigator, the U.S., is scaring the world with disturbing threats of military action if things don’t go its way. Ironic how America went so quickly, from ‘world’s police’ to deranged wounded beast.
A couple of troubling decisions by U.S. agencies will also have a global impact: the approval for Bayer-Monsanto’s herb killer Roundup, banned by the European Union, and Phillip Morris’ iQOS dry tobacco vaporizer, both proven carcinogenic products.
A presidential election in Panama, even with the Venezuelan crisis on the background, is unlikely to move the needle either way; climate change and start of Ramadan usher us into the new week. Plus the return of Halley’s Comet, and we’re off to the races.
Which, in the case of Venezuela, most Latinos hope to be aborted. Despite support to the coup against Maduro, from Brazil, Colombia, even Panama itself, and others, – happy to oblige to war delusions of U.S. V.P. Mike Pence, State Sec. Mike Pompeo, Security Adviser John Bolton, and special envoy Elliott Abrahams – Venezuelan democracy will see the light of another day.
As the foursome have all been accused of xenophobia, corruption, torture, solely or combined, and profess the ‘my-way-or-the-highway,-or-at-least-the-Trump’s-way’ brand of diplomacy, they’ll get some of what they want, or may be oust by their sponsor. Either way, Venezuelans, in particular, Latino Americans em general, or world citizens as a whole may brace for a possible hit.
The biggest news, though, is and will remain being, climate change, or lack of action to counter its catastrophic effects there-of.
Mozambique, which haven’t even recovered from Cyclone Idaí, six weeks ago, was battered again, by an even bigger storm, Kenneth, the most powerful to ever hit the country. It exponentially boost Mozambican misery, while showing us why there’s no coming back from such disasters, no matter where you live,

and even if world leaders were actually doing anything about it.
Climate change is also related to the Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of Roundup’s glyphosate, which is linked to cancer in humans. As the Trump administration filled top positions at the EPA with members of the industry it is supposed to regulate, creating a private ‘beach head’ inside the government, it expected nothing but unwavering toe the line by everyone.
Bayer-Monsanto is currently fighting some 8,000 lawsuits, and not only in Europe. Last month, a court in San Francisco, CA, ordered it to pay $11.4 billion to a Kenyan farmer, who got cancer while using Roundup. Despite of that, the giant concern still denies, to courts, consumers, media, and even to the World Health Organization, that its best-selling weed killer causes cancer.
Its strategy is to appeal and fight charges and fines, while investing heavily in biased studies and favorable press, which all but buries negative coverage. It’s a tactics that always serves well the powerful, and they surely can afford to loose a few instances.
The Trump administration’s M.O., that is, to destroy the credibility and undermine the regulatory powers of watchdog agencies, has been applied to the Food and Drug Administration too. In a stunning decision, the FDA ignored years of scientific research and cleared Phillip Morris’ ‘heat not burn’ iQOS, an addictive tobacco product, that it’s been clearly marketed to adolescents.
By going back on 1990s decisions that helped declare cigarettes harmful, and a direct cause of lung and other cancers, the FDA also single-handedly rescued Phillip Morris from the verge of oblivion, and back to the game of profiting from smokers. Now as once, they’re also free from accountability; if people get sick and die from consuming the product, they’d likely answer: ‘tough’.
The issue won’t be brought up in speeches by the president, presidential candidates, or victims, whose pleas are traditionally ignored anyway. According to the Center for Disease Control, every year, nearly half a million Americans still die of smoking or second-hand smoke, besides those undergoing expensive but often ineffective cancer therapies. Costs to public health? Don’t ask.
Decisions like that have set the tone of the administration, to which, government agencies, created to protect consumers, are now supposed to favor corporate profits over public interests, never mind regulatory successes. Are you sure you’ve got questions?
It’d be better to have plenty of answers, coming Nov. 2020. Given the unconditional support to this president, even if many don’t see the cruel differences between what he says and what he does, to end this era of shame will require a record number of votes.
In the meantime, there’s no relenting on the pressure for climate change action. It may sound delirious, but there’s another reason all citizens need to get this memo: pulling together and working towards a common, worldwide, goal leaves no time, or stomach, to put with the carnage of war, or the assortment of lame excuses we hear for not to act. It’s literally now or never for mankind.
Just as two billion devouts will be fasting and praying during daylight hours, for month-long Ramadan, Israel and Gaza resumed hostilities. Over 20 Palestinians and four Israelis had already been killed Sunday, but the count, unfortunately, is bound to rise.
This year, the start of Ramadan is marked by an astronomical phenomenon: the Eta Aquarids meteor showers, from fragments of the Halley’s Comet (which is also linked to the Orionids, in October). Happy sightings to everyone and Ramadan Kareem. Peace. WC



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