Aletho News


Selective Sympathy in Israel/Palestine

By Lawrence Davidson | Consortium News | June 28, 2014

The display of anxiety and aggressive agitation in Israel, triggered by the kidnapping of three young men from an illegal settlement on the West Bank, seems to be accompanied by a near total denial of any legitimate relationship between government actions (the occupation) and Palestinian reactions (the kidnapping).

No matter what the Israelis do to the Palestinians, the Israelis insist that those actions are justified, and no matter how the Palestinians react, the Israelis insist those actions are never justified. By objective standards this Israeli attitude borders on the pathological.

There are multiple tragedies that result from this disconnect. The tragedy of the three Jewish kidnap victims is the one that is foremost in both Israeli consciousness and also in the Western media, accompanied by speculation that the young men were taken as hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners.

As if to put out the message that the government of Benjamin Netanyahu will not play that game, the Israeli military is arresting hundreds of Palestinians, including some who had been released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. The military is also destroying Palestinian property in a wholesale manner, wounding scores and even murdering a steady number of Palestinians in the search for the kidnap victims.

But all this mayhem, which only deepens Palestinian hatred, may be based on an Israeli false assumption. Quite likely this kidnapping was not carried out to set up some future exchange. Quite likely it was an opportunistic act of revenge, striking back against exactly the kind of repression that the Netanyahu government is again carrying out.

Many Zionists cannot fathom the fact that there are literally millions of Palestinians desiring vengeance for Israeli acts of abuse. That blindness is part of their denial that their own actions define much of the Palestinian reaction. This denial is reinforced by the gambit of labeling nearly all Palestinians as “terrorists.”

Another tragedy, which gets much less media attention, is the tragedy of the collectively kidnapped people of Palestine. That is the phrase used by Avraham Burg, a disillusioned Zionist who, apparently, is slowly but surely replacing his old ideology with contemporary disgust.

As Burg puts it, “All of Palestinian society is a kidnapped society … many of the Israelis who performed ‘significant service’ in the army … entered the home of a Palestinian family in the middle of the night by surprise, with violence, and simply took away the father, brother or uncle .… That is kidnapping and happens every day.”

No doubt some Israelis deeply resent the fact that much of the world has come to agree with Burg. More and more, those on the outside know that the Israelis have created the context for this latest kidnapping. These people across the globe no longer believe Zionist justifications for Israeli behavior. The result is that the Israelis are increasingly isolated in a misshapen world of their own.

For instance, an editorial in the Jerusalem Post dismisses the world’s principal human rights organizations as hypocrites because they did not express “immediate outrage, demand action, and even demonstrate at the United Nations demanding the immediate release” of the “three Israeli teens.”

Alas, the major human rights organizations, which have in fact expressed disapproval at the kidnapping, cannot do as the Jerusalem Post editorial wishes because they understand the degree to which Israeli policies have contributed to these tragedies. This fact makes very difficult, for many people, the otherwise natural sympathy that they feel for the personal plight of the three teens, the sentiment that the Israelis insist upon.

This may help explain the frustration of M.J. Rosenberg, a liberal American Zionist commentator who now takes to task American supporters of the Palestinian cause for what he calls their lack of humanity when it comes to the fate of the kidnapped Israelis. Rosenberg tries to lay out his objection in absolute moral terms:

“There is no justification for harming kids [the ages of the victims are 19, 16 and 16] no matter what the cause. Never. …. The test of your humanity is whether you condemn the harming of children without caveats and quasi-justifications. If not, just shut up.”

Idealism Destroyed by Reality

Perhaps Rosenberg’s rather harsh demand brings to the surface yet another tragedy inherent in the present situation – the tragedy of insisting on moral ideals which, while admirable, are just not realizable under the present circumstances.

To be succinct: There is the world as we say it should be (the ideal) and there is the world as it actually is (shaped in large part by state practice). The rule of law and most principles of morality seek to move the world in the direction of the ideal. However, if a state demands the sympathies of those who take seriously the ideal, it must at least demonstrate national behavior that does not purposely contradict the ideal.

Thus, in the hypothetical case of an Israel moving in the direction of an inclusive society based on genuine democratic behavior, we would condemn out of hand not only this kidnapping but all the prior instances where Israelis – men, women and children – had suffered and died due to communal violence. However, there is no such Israel. If anything, we have the real Israel moving away from genuine democratic practice and toward the status of an exclusive apartheid state.

But what about the children? After all, children “have no agency” and therefore should not be held responsible for the conditions created by their elders. But again, the Zionists cannot demand such an exception while agents of the Israeli state regularly arrest and incarcerate Palestinian children. This is a sad truth of the world as it actually is: double standards make ideals impossible.

This moral predicament may be tragic but it is quite consistent with how ordinary people act and react all of the time. People usually do not act with sympathy toward bullies, overtly egocentric individuals, or those who threaten their neighbors. By extension, whole groups of people who support such behavior, either because of a distorted perception of history, the improper teachings of religious ideology, or simply because they are conditioned to “follow orders” cannot be readily sympathized with either.

The Zionists can complain about the unfairness of this situation, but the only thing that will make a difference is a change in their own behavior.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | Leave a comment

Students protest Clinton’s speaking fee


Press TV – June 28, 2014

Students at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas are asking former secretary of state Hillary Clinton to return the hefty speaking fee she is set to collect when she appears at the university in October.

Many Americans have criticized Clinton for her recent interview gaffes, including her defense of her six-figure speaking fees. Angered over her $225,000 speaking fee, UNLV students are now protesting her upcoming appearance at the university.

The students say if Clinton receives six figures for her speech, then she could at least donate the paycheck.

“You could give scholarships to thousands of students, benefit research on campus, give more students grants for research and studying,” Daniel Waqar, Student Relations Director for the UNLV Student Government told Ralston Reports.

Tuition is expected to increase by 17 percent at the school, so students could really use the extra financial support, he added.

“We would hope that Hillary Clinton commits to higher education … and returns part or whole of the amount she receives for speaking,” Elias Benjelloun, the UNLV student body president said.

Clinton is set to appear at the UNLV Foundation Annual Dinner in October. The event already comes with a pretty hefty price tag: individual tickets cost $200 each, while tables cost between $3,000 and $20,000.

Clinton’s office said the fee will be used to develop global initiatives ranging from climate change to women’s rights, according to The Washington Post.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | 2 Comments

Israeli forces invade Awarta, ransacking teacher’s home

International Solidarity Movement | June 28, 2014

000Awarta, Occupied Palestine – During the early morning hours of June 26, the Israeli army invaded the village of Awarta, 8 km south of Nablus in the northern part of the West Bank. According to witnesses, between 150 and 200 soldiers entered Awarta just after midnight and raided approximately 300 houses before leaving several hours later.

Some residents mentioned that the soldiers knocked on their doors and asked for identification, however this was not the case for Mahmud Awad, a local schoolteacher, and his family.

At midnight approximately 15 soldiers entered Awad’s home and demanded that Awad show them the location of his guns. Were he not to obey, he could be confident that the house would be destroyed. Awad replied that Israeli soldiers had already been to his house many times and had never found anything. He had no guns, he assured them.

The soldiers blindfolded and handcuffed Awad’s 20-year-old son and took him outside for an interrogation that lasted three hours. They herded the rest of the family, which included an eight-month old baby and several other children, into the living room. Again they asked Awad about his guns.

“Watch what we will do if you don’t give them to us!” An Israeli soldier yelled.

The children listened in terror as the soldiers proceeded to ransack the house. They ripped apart sofas and chairs, threw the contents of shelves on the floor, knocked over electrical appliances, destroyed two computers, and slashed the family’s water tank on the roof. Awad begged the soldiers to allow the baby a drink, but this request was denied.

Sometime during the night, Awad’s 13-year-old son was taken outside the living room and interrogated for half an hour. A soldier held his rifle to the boy’s face and demanded the location of the guns. He held a piece of cloth (chloroform, a family member assumed) to the boy’s mouth until he became dizzy.

The soldiers finished searching the house, having found no weapons. They released both of Awad’s sons and left the house at approximately 4 a.m.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel has killed 104 Palestinian prisoners in last two decades

MEMO | June 28, 2014

sad-poster-290x400Prisoner support and human rights organisation, Addameer, has said that the Israeli occupation has killed 104 Palestinian prisoners since 1991, when it joined the UN convention against torture.

The organisation said that 54 of them died after being arrested, 27 died because of poor medical treatment and 23 were tortured to death. The last was Arafat Jaradat, who died in February 2013 under torture after a week of his arrest.

Addameer also said that it documented eight extra judicial killings against Palestinians while Israeli occupation forces were combing Palestinian villages and refugee camps in 2013. It also said that five were killed in the on-going campaign, which started on 12 June to find three missing settlers.

In addition, it said that the prisoners are exposed to different kinds of physical and psychological torture, including sexual violence, solitary confinement, ban of sleeping and food for long periods and preventing them meeting with lawyers for 60 days.

Israeli occupation authorities, Addameer said, are violating the fourth Geneva Convention as they are practicing “collective vengeful” punishment against Palestinian civilians under the pretext of searching for the three missing settlers.

Regarding violations of the right for prisoners to go on hunger strike, the organisation said that the Israeli ratification of the force-feeding bill violates international law and international humanitarian law. It also said that Israeli administrative detention is a violation of article 78 of the Geneva Convention.

The organisation said that Israel had ignored the demands to release 130 administrative prisoners, who went on hunger strike for 63 consecutive days. “It has even increased the numbers to 340 as it is carrying out a search mission for the settlers,” the organisation said.

“This is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and mounts to a war crime and war against humanity as it is used widely and systematically,” it said. “It is a kind of torture.”

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Skeptical of skeptics: is Steve Goddard right?

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | June 28, 2014

Skeptics doing what skeptics do best . . . attack skeptics.Suyts

Last week, the mainstream media was abuzz with claims by skeptical blogger Steve Goddard that NOAA and NASA have dramatically altered the US temperature record.  For examples of MSM coverage, see:

Further, this story was carried as the lead story on Drudge for a day.

First off the block to challenge Goddard came Ronald Bailey at in an article Did NASA/NOAA Dramatically Alter U.S. Temperatures After 2000?  that cites communication with Anthony Watts, who is critical of Goddard’s analysis, as well as being critical of NASA/NOAA.

Politifact chimed in with an article that assessed Goddard’s claims, based on Watt’s statements and also an analysis by Zeke Hausfather. Politifact summarized with this statement:  We rate the claim Pants on Fire.

I didn’t pay much attention to this, until Politifact asked me for my opinion.  I said that I hadn’t looked at it myself, but referred them to Zeke and Watts.  I did tweet their Pants on Fire conclusion.

Skepticism in the technical climate blogosphere

Over at the Blackboard, Zeke Hausfather has a three-part series about Goddard’s analysis –  How not to calculate temperatures (Part I, Part II, Part III).  Without getting into the technical details here, the critiques relate to the topics of data dropout, data infilling/gridding, time of day adjustments, and the use of physical temperatures versus anomalies.  The comments thread on Part II is very good, well worth reading.

Anthony Watts has a two-part series On denying hockey sticks, USHCN data and all that (Part 1, Part 2).  The posts document Watts’ communications with Goddard, and make mostly the same technical points as Zeke.  There are some good technical comments in Part 2, and Watts makes a proposal regarding the use of US reference stations.

Nick Stokes has two technical posts that relate to Goddard’s analysis: USHCN adjustments, averages, getting it right  and TOBS nailed.

While I haven’t dug into all this myself, the above analyses seem robust, and it seems that Goddard has made some analysis errors.

The data

OK, acknowledging that Goddard made some analysis errors, I am still left with some uneasiness about the actual data, and why it keeps changing.  For example, Jennifer Marohasy has been writing about Corrupting Australian’s temperature record.

In the midst of preparing this blog post, I received an email from Anthony Watts, suggesting that I hold off on my post since there is some breaking news.  Watts pointed me to a post  by Paul Homewood entitled Massive Temperature Adjustments At Luling, Texas.  Excerpt:

So, I thought it might be worth looking in more detail at a few stations, to see what is going on. In Steve’s post, mentioned above, he links to the USHCN Final dataset for monthly temperatures, making the point that approx 40% of these monthly readings are “estimated”, as there is no raw data.

From this dataset, I picked the one at the top of the list, (which appears to be totally random), Station number 415429, which is Luling, Texas.

Taking last year as an example, we can see that ten of the twelve months are tagged as “E”, i.e estimated. It is understandable that a station might be a month, or even two, late in reporting, but it is not conceivable that readings from last year are late. (The other two months, Jan/Feb are marked “a”, indicating missing days).

But, the mystery thickens. Each state produces a monthly and annual State Climatological Report, which among other things includes a list of monthly mean temperatures by station. If we look at the 2013 annual report for Texas, we can see these monthly temperatures for Luling.

Where an “M” appears after the temperature, this indicates some days are missing, i.e Jan, Feb, Oct and Nov. (Detailed daily data shows just one missing day’s minimum temperature for each of these months).

Yet, according to the USHCN dataset, all ten months from March to December are “Estimated”. Why, when there is full data available?

But it gets worse. The table below compares the actual station data with what USHCN describe as “the bias-adjusted temperature”. The results are shocking.

In other words, the adjustments have added an astonishing 1.35C to the annual temperature for 2013. Note also that I have included the same figures for 1934, which show that the adjustment has reduced temperatures that year by 0.91C. So, the net effect of the adjustments between 1934 and 2013 has been to add 2.26C of warming.

Note as well, that the largest adjustments are for the estimated months of March – December. This is something that Steve Goddard has been emphasising.

It is plain that these adjustments made are not justifiable in any way. It is also clear that the number of “Estimated” measurements made are not justified either, as the real data is there, present and correct.

Watts appears in the comments, stating that he has contacted John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas State Climatologist) about this issue. Nick Stokes also appears in the comments, and one commenter finds a similar problem for another Texas station.

Homewood’s post sheds light on Goddard’s original claim regarding the data drop out (not just stations that are no longer reporting, but reporting stations that are ‘estimated’). I infer from this that there seems to be a real problem with the USHCN data set, or at least with some of the stations. Maybe it is a tempest in a teacup, but it looks like something that requires NOAA’s attention. As far as I can tell, NOAA has not responded to Goddard’s allegations. Now, with Homewood’s explanation/clarification, NOAA really needs to respond.

Sociology of the technical skeptical blogosphere

Apart from the astonishing scientific and political implications of what could be a major bug in the USHCN dataset, there are some interesting insights and lessons from this regarding the technical skeptical blogosphere.

Who do I include in the technical skeptical blogosphere?  Tamino, Moyhu, Blackboard, Watts, Goddard, ClimateAudit, Jeff Id, Roman M.  There are others, but the main discriminating factor is that they do data analysis, and audit the data analysis of others.  Are all of these ‘skeptics’ in the political sense?  No – Tamino and Moyhu definitely run warm, with Blackboard and a few others running lukewarm. Of these, Goddard is the most skeptical of AGW. There is most definitely no tribalism among this group.

In responding to Goddard’s post, Zeke, Nick Stokes (Moyhu) and Watts may have missed the real story. They focused on their previous criticism of Goddard and missed his main point. Further, I think there was an element of ‘boy who cried wolf’ – Goddard has been wrong before, and the comments at Goddard’s blog can be pretty crackpotty. However, the main point is that this group is rapidly self-correcting – the self-correcting function in the skeptical technical blogosphere seems to be more effective (and certainly faster) than for establishment climate science.

There’s another issue here and that is one of communication.  Why was Goddard’s original post unconvincing to this group, whereas Homewood’s post seems to be convincing?  Apart from ‘crying wolf’ issue, Goddard focused on the message that the real warming was much less than portrayed by the NOAA data set (caught the attention of the mainstream media), whereas Homewood more carefully documented the actual problem with the data set.

I’ve been in email communications with Watts through much of Friday, and he’s been pursuing the issue along with Zeke and help from Neilsen-Gammon to NCDC directly, who is reportedly taking it seriously. Not only does Watts plan to issue a statement on how he missed Goddard’s original issue, he says that additional problems have been discovered and that NOAA/NCDC will be issuing some sort of statement, possibly also a correction, next week. (Watts has approved me making this statement).

This incident is another one that challenges traditional notions of expertise. From a recent speech by President Obama:

“I mean, I’m not a scientist either, but I’ve got this guy, John Holdren, he’s a scientist,” Obama added to laughter. “I’ve got a bunch of scientists at NASA and I’ve got a bunch of scientists at EPA.”

Who all rely on the data prepared by his bunch of scientists at NOAA.

How to analyze the imperfect and heterogeneous surface temperature data is not straightforward – there are numerous ways to skin this cat, and the cat still seems to have some skin left.  I like the Berkeley Earth methods, but I am not convinced that their confidence interval/uncertainty estimates are adequate.

Stay tuned, I think this one bears watching.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , | Leave a comment

Conflicts of interests, confidentiality and censorship in health risk assessment: the example of an herbicide and a GMO

By Gilles-Eric Séralini | Environmental Sciences Europe | June 24, 2014


We have studied the long-term toxicity of a Roundup-tolerant GM maize (NK603) and a whole Roundup pesticide formulation at environmentally relevant levels from 0.1 ppb. Our study was first published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) on 19 September, 2012. The first wave of criticisms arrived within a week, mostly from plant biologists without experience in toxicology. We answered all these criticisms. The debate then encompassed scientific arguments and a wave of ad hominem and potentially libellous comments appeared in different journals by authors having serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interests. At the same time, FCT acquired as its new assistant editor for biotechnology a former employee of Monsanto after he sent a letter to FCT to complain about our study. This is in particular why FCT asked for a post-hoc analysis of our raw data. On 19 November, 2013, the editor-in-chief requested the retraction of our study while recognizing that the data were not incorrect and that there was no misconduct and no fraud or intentional misinterpretation in our complete raw data – an unusual or even unprecedented action in scientific publishing. The editor argued that no conclusions could be drawn because we studied 10 rats per group over 2 years, because they were Sprague Dawley rats, and because the data were inconclusive on cancer. Yet this was known at the time of submission of our study. Our study was however never attended to be a carcinogenicity study. We never used the word ‘cancer’ in our paper. The present opinion is a summary of the debate resulting in this retraction, as it is a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide. We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper.


There is an ongoing debate on the potential health risks of the consumption of genetically modified (GM) plants containing high levels of pesticide residues [1]. Currently, no regulatory authority requests mandatory chronic animal feeding studies to be performed for edible GMOs and formulated pesticides. This fact is at the origin of most of the controversies. Only studies consisting of 90-day rat feeding trials have been conducted by manufacturers for GMOs. Statistical differences in the biochemistry of treated rats versus controls may represent the initial signs of long-term pathologies [2], possibly explained at least in part by pesticide residues in the GM feed. This is why we studied the long-term toxicity of a Roundup-tolerant GM maize (NK603) and a whole Roundup pesticide formulation at environmentally relevant levels from 0.1 ppb.

We first published these results in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) on 19 September, 2012 [3] after a careful and thorough peer review. However, 1 year and 2 months later, in an unusual step, the editor-in-chief requested the retraction of our study, while conceding that the data were not incorrect and that there was no misconduct and no fraud or intentional misinterpretation. According to him, some data were inconclusive, but for reasons already known at the time of submission of the paper. The present paper is a summary of the debate resulting in this retraction, which in our view is a historic example of conflicts of interests in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide.

The long-term toxicity study of the NK603 maize and Roundup

An initial study on NK603 maize was submitted by Monsanto Company in support of commercial authorization of the maize. NK603 maize was fed to 4 groups of 20 Sprague Dawley rats (2 doses of 11% and 33% in the diet of both sexes) for 90 days [4]. The blood analyses were performed on 10 rats per group. The re-analysis of the raw data resulted in a debate on the biological relevance of admitted statistical differences versus controls as the first signs of hepatorenal toxicities [5]. To solve the problem, a 2-year-long study was carried out using two hundred Sprague Dawley rats to which the following treatments were administered: NK603 maize treated or not with Roundup at three different levels in their feed (11%, 22%, and 33% of the total diet) and Roundup alone, administered via drinking water at three different concentrations, from the admitted residual level in regular tap water (0.1 ppb), to the maximum level authorized in GMOs (400 ppm), up to half of the agricultural dose (0.5%). They were divided into ten groups, each containing ten males and ten females. No other long-term study has examined the effects of regular consumption of Roundup-tolerant GM maize and of a pesticide formulation, in any dilution, on blood parameters, sexual hormones, and multiple organs.

We found that these products provoked statistically discriminant disturbances in biochemical markers of livers and kidneys in females at the 15th month, when most of the rats were still alive. At the same time, testosterone and estradiol levels were also disturbed. At the end of the experiments, these disrupted biochemical markers corresponded to pathologies evidenced in a blinded manner: notably hepatorenal deficiencies, more severe in males, and female mammary tumors, which led to premature deaths. For instance, after around 700 days, there were up to 3.25 more mammary tumors (the highest rate was observed in females consuming 0.1 ppb of Roundup in water). This could be associated with a 2.4-time increase in pituitary dysfunctions noticed by the end of the experiment (2 years).

These findings were immediately dismissed by persons involved in the products’ authorizations, or in collaboration with biotech industries. A number of them wrote to FCT to nourish a controversy, including Richard Goodman, a former Monsanto employee in charge of the immunotoxicity files of GMOs, and Paul Christou, a patent holder of the methods used to create transgenic plants. This was rapidly followed by a coordination of national regulatory agencies organized by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), released on 4 October, 2012 [6]. The EFSA had previously assessed NK603, and glyphosate, the declared active principle of Roundup, as safe on the basis of regulatory data, which they never fully published. The EFSA has since published Monsanto’s safety data on NK603 maize [7], but not on glyphosate. The NK603 data are in a pdf format preventing an easy statistical re-analysis. However, there was no long-term toxicological assessment for NK603, or for Roundup. Moreover, we demonstrated in several studies [8-10] that Roundup is far more toxic than glyphosate because of non-inert adjuvants. On 10 October, 2012, the Monsanto Company also sent its criticisms to FCT [11] but did not release its safety data, claiming commercial confidentiality.

Overall, the first wave of criticisms arrived within a week, mostly from plant biologists. We answered all criticisms [12] in FCT on 9 November, 2012. The debate then encompassed scientific arguments. A second wave of ad hominem and potentially libelous comments appeared in different journals [13-16]. Regrettably, there were no invitations to respond to these exacerbated attacks, which we discovered only by our literature survey. Some of the authors of these articles had serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interest. The scientific remarks concentrated on the supposedly inadequate choice of the Sprague Dawley rat strain, which is, however, a classic model for toxicology [17]. The Sprague Dawley strain was also used by Monsanto in its 90-day test on the same maize [4]. In addition, Monsanto measured biochemically the same number of rats per group as in our experiment. Thus, with regard to blood and urine biochemistry, Monsanto gathered data from the same number of rats that we did.

Unsubstantiated allegations of fraud or errors

Paul Christou, the lead author of Arjo et al. [13], demanded that our paper be retracted and insulted us personally. He claimed first in a letter addressed to the editor-in-chief that the publication of our study ‘does not meet minimal acceptable standards of scientific rigor’ and ‘will damage an entire scientific discipline due to flawed conclusion’ (personal communication). Then, he attacked us in an article published in the journal Transgenic Research on 20 December 2012 [13]. The quantity of insults and defamations in this paper, authorized and co-authored by the editor-in-chief in a supposedly serious journal, is excessive. They include: ‘abject failure to treat the experimental animals in a humane manner’, ‘inability to formulate a valid hypothesis’, ‘media fanfare’, ‘fraudulent or knowingly inaccurate statements’, ‘unethical behavior’, ‘transparent attempt to discredit regulatory agencies’, ‘ammunition for extremists’, ‘flawed science’, ‘disingenuous or inept’, and ‘unjustified waste of animals’ (while at the same time asking for more animals in the groups). Christou and co-authors suggest that by practising ‘flawed science’, we are working against ‘progress towards a better quality of life’ and in fact are ‘actively working to make life worse’. We were not invited to reply. This behaviour can be explained, though not justified, by the undisclosed conflicts of interests.

Christou is not only the editor-in-chief of Transgenic Research, the journal in which he published his article, but is also linked to Monsanto [18]. He is named as the inventor on several patents on GM crop technology, for most of which Monsanto owns the property rights. These include patents on the plant transformation process [19] used to make glyphosate-tolerant transgenic corn plants [20]. He worked as a researcher at Agracetus Inc. (later acquired by Monsanto) for 12 years. Then, from 1994 to 2001, Christou worked at the John Innes Centre in the UK [18], which is heavily invested in GM crop technology [21]. He thus has no mammalian toxicology background. However, in his published article, Christou only gave as his affiliation his publicly funded position at a research institute. Christou’s failure to declare his current interests – his inventor status on patents concerning the company that developed the products we tested – could be considered grounds for retraction of a paper in a scientific journal, according to ethical guidelines for scientific publishing [22].

The Arjo et al. article was co-authored by Wayne Parrott, an active member of the Biotechnology Committee at the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) [23]. ILSI is funded by multinational food, agribusiness, and biotechnology companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta [24]. ILSI has proved highly controversial in North America and Europe due to its influence on risk assessment methodologies for chemicals, pesticides, and GM foods [25-27]. Wayne Parrott also has an inventor status in patents on materials and methods for selecting transgenic organisms [28] and transformation vector systems [29].

In addition, Christou and his co-authors made numerous mistakes, false and unsubstantiated assertions, and misrepresentations of our data. The title of Arjo et al.’s paper includes defamation and a misrepresentation of our research, implying that it is ‘pseudoscience’ and alleging that it claimed Roundup Ready maize and Roundup herbicide caused ‘cancer’ in rats – a claim we never made. We did not even use the word ‘cancer’ in our paper although this argument was reiterated in the final letter of the editor-in-chief of FCT when explaining his decision to retract our paper [30]. Tumors do not always lead to cancer, even if they can be more deleterious in a shorter time because of their size or body position, by hurting internal functions.

Arjo et al.’s paper begins with a false assertion that is not evidenced in the paper or in the cited source: ‘It started with a press conference in which journalists agreed not to engage in fact-checking’. The authors made other false assertions about our study, for example, alleging that ‘the water consumption was not measured’. In fact, we measured both the water and food consumption, and the stability of the Roundup solution over time. This was indicated in the paper, in which we explained that all the data cannot be shown in one paper and that we concentrated on the most important data; these parameters were only part of a routine survey. They also falsified the reporting of the data, compiling the mortality data only at the end of the experiment and ignoring the originality and the major findings of the differential chronological effects between treated rats and controls, which we established by measuring tumor size twice a week over 2 years. Moreover, we respected legal requirements and ethical norms relating to animal experiments, and Arjo et al. present no evidence of the contrary, so their allegation of inhumane treatment of the rats is without substance.

Importantly, we had already answered many of the criticisms of our paper made by Arjo et al. in a paper that was published before that of Arjo et al. [12]. Their publication was received on 20 December 2012, when our paper was published on 9 November 2012. Our published answers were simply ignored.

Christou was not alone in failing to declare conflicts of interest in his criticism of our paper. Since we underlined that 75% of the comments addressed to FCT within a week after our study was published came from plant biologists, it was discovered that several had developed patents on GMOs. Some authors were employees of Monsanto Company, which owns NK603 GM maize and sells Roundup herbicide [4,11]. Other more recent papers, published by plant biologists and/or affiliates of the industry-funded group ILSI [15,16], repeated the arguments. The author of a separate article criticizing our study expressed concern that our results could damage public opinion about GM crops [14] – a sentiment that gives precedence to economic interests over public health. An article in Forbes magazine even alleged, without presenting any evidence, that we had committed fraud [31]. Surprisingly, even Monsanto authors [11] declared that they had ‘no conflicts of interest’ in their first draft published online on FCT website. Investigative reports [32,33] evidenced that many authors of these opinions had failed to disclose their conflicts of interest, including Henry Miller, Mark Tester, Chris Leaver, Bruce Chassy, Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Andrew Cockburn, L. Val Giddings, Sivramiah Shantharam, Lucia de Souza, Erio Barale-Thomas, and Marc Fellous. The undisclosed conflicts of interest included links with biotechnology companies that develop GMOs and with industry-backed lobbying organizations.

All of this has huge implications for public health. We observed an intense lobbying in parliaments, as well as proofs of conflicts of interests for persons involved in the regulatory decisions for the commercialization of these products [26]. A series of high-profile conflict-of-interest revelations (not restricted to GMOs and pesticides) led to the resignations of leading administrators involved in decisions affecting the assessment of these products, including the European Commissioner John Dalli [34] and the former chair of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) management board Diana Banati [35]. In February of 2013, a strange occurrence following the publication of our paper raised questions about the connections of industry to scientific publishing, described below.

Conflicts of interests in the editorial board

In February 2013, FCT acquired a new assistant editor for biotechnology, Richard E. Goodman. The editor-in-chief has admitted that Goodman was introduced into the editorial board after he sent a letter to FCT to complain about our study. In his letter, Goodman appears worried about economic consequences but not so much about potential public health consequences (personal communication). He wrote: ‘The implications and the impacts of this uncontrolled study is having HUGE impacts, in international trade, in consumer confidence in all aspects of food safety, and certainly in US state referendums on labelling’. Further in his letter, Goodman asked for ‘an evaluation by an independent set of toxicologists’. This is particularly why the Publishing Assistant for FCT asked for our raw data on 15 March 2013.

In fact, we can question the independence of this re-evaluation. After his appointment at FCT, Goodman was a member of the subcommittee that requested our raw data, until we complained to Elsevier publishing group. Goodman is far from being independent. He previously worked for Monsanto for 7 years [36]. He also has a long-standing affiliation with ILSI [37]. Goodman will now deal with all biotechnology papers submitted to FCT. Another scientific paper on GMO risks was withdrawn from FCT, without explanation shortly after it had been accepted and published by the journal [38]. The paper was immediately published by another journal [39] according to the authors’ initiative.

We received a letter from the editor-in-chief of FCT, A. Wallace Hayes, asking us to retract our paper on 19 November 2013, more than 1 year after its publication [40]. In his retraction notice, the editor-in-chief certifies that ‘no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data’ was found in the investigation, that the results are ‘not incorrect’, ‘there was no misconduct’, and that the sole reason for retraction is the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the paper. He argued that no conclusions could be drawn because we studied 10 rats per group over 2 years, because they were Sprague Dawley rats, and because we could not conclude on cancer. In fact, the Sprague Dawley is a standard choice for 2-year studies performed by industry and independent scientists alike [17,41]. We also measured 10 animals per sex per group according to OECD 452 guideline on chronic toxicity studies [42] because our study is a chronic toxicity study that was never intended to be a carcinogenicity study. We wish to point out that Dr Hayes’ decision is in violation of the retraction guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. ‘Inconclusiveness’ is not a valid reason for a journal to retract a paper. Lack of conclusiveness (which can be discussed) and error are not synonymous. COPE criteria for retraction included scientific misconduct/honest error, prior publication, plagiarism, or unethical research. None of these criteria applied to our study. On the contrary, numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings. It is for further studies to build on the reported findings and arrive at a more conclusive position. In contrast with our study measuring toxicity, the Monsanto study reporting safety with the same number and the same strain of rats, but limited to 90 days, [4] is not subject to the same controversy. The data in the Monsanto study show statistically significant differences in multiple-organ functions between the GM and non-GM feeding groups, which the authors dismissed as not ‘biologically meaningful’, using a set of questionable criteria [43]. The significant effects observed do not have to be linear to the dose to be taken into consideration; otherwise, endocrine effects will be dismissed. In addition, biochemical disturbances do not have to correlate simultaneously with organ lesions, in contrast to the claims of Doull et al. [44] in defence of Monsanto. These outdated concepts coming from the toxicology of poisons, and are not valid for endocrine disruption [43,45]. If 10 rats/sex/group are too few to demonstrate a toxic effect, then this number of rats is certainly too small to demonstrate safety. Overall, in the current system of assessment, any toxic effect is first suspected to be a false positive, arising by chance, rather than questioning whether no evidence of effect is a false negative result. The Monsanto data as presented are thus inconclusive and should also be retracted.

Following the retraction of our paper, many letters were sent to the editor-in-chief of FCT. On 10 December 2013, he published a defence of the retraction, which raised many doubts as to his understanding of our data [30]. He claimed that we concluded on cancer, although ours was a long-term toxicity study with a detailed statistical analysis of blood and urine parameters. He also defended the study done by Monsanto [4] claiming that they used 20 rats/sex/group while we only used 10 rats/sex/group. In fact, despite the fact that the Monsanto study used twice our sample size, the Monsanto authors only analyzed blood and urine from half of the animals (10), the same number of sampled animals as in our study.

According to an editorial in Environmental Health Perspectives [46], ‘the decision to retract a published scientific work by an editor, against the desires of the authors, because it is ‘inconclusive’ based on a post hoc analysis represents a dangerous erosion of the underpinnings of the peer-review process, and Elsevier should carefully reconsider this decision’.

Confidentiality and censorship erode the value of science

Recent reviews of the GM food safety literature have found that research concluding that GM products were safe tended to come from industry and that research conducted by those with either financial or professional conflicts of interest was associated with outcomes favorable to the GM sector [47]. In fact, it appears in our case that consequences of conflicts of interests in science go beyond divergence in scientific interpretations and also rely on unscientific practices: confidentiality and censorship.

Transparency of, and access to, all the raw data obtained by companies and accepted by regulatory agencies (overall blood analyses of rats) as proof of safety for products, is an unavoidable first step to move forward in this debate. It is the only way in which the scientific community can enter the scientific discussion. This is why we republish our paper in an open access way, together with its raw data allowing debate about our results. This is not possible for the data used as a proof of safety for commercial authorizations. The Monsanto toxicological data on NK603 maize recently made public by EFSA is not in a statistically usable format and an agreement with Monsanto is requested before use. Moreover, the data examined for Roundup authorizations are clearly inadequate [48]. For instance, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety), confirmed to us in writing (January 2013) that there were no 2-year studies of Roundup in its whole formulation on animals, adding that there are a few studies of acute toxicity (a few days up to 3 weeks) without any blood tests. Instead, glyphosate, which is much less toxic than Roundup [10,49], is tested alone by Monsanto, in its reports to regulatory authorities [50]. We strongly emphasize that data with implications for public health are not related to manufacturing patents and should not be kept confidential. Removal of confidentiality claims on biosafety data is necessary to adhere to standard scientific procedures of quality assurance, to increase transparency, to minimize impacts of conflicts of interests, and ultimately to improve public confidence in GMOs [51]. Moreover, in the regulatory assessment of GMOs, chemicals, and medicines, confidential tests are conducted by the applicant companies themselves, often in their own laboratories or in those of subcontractors.

The second step must be the building of new experiments for new or the most important products, by laboratories independent of the companies. They will be recruited by public tender, with compulsory transparency of the results. This public research will be funded by companies, at a level corresponding to their previous budget for regulatory testing, but managed independently of the companies. The protocols and results will be submitted to open and contradictory assessments. Thus, there will be no additional financial cost or time delay to the current system. Such reforms will not only radically transform the understanding and knowledge of toxicology and science in general, but will radically reduce public health costs and promote trust in companies and science. This will move the world towards a sustainable development of products with low, if any, impacts on health and environment.

The reason given to retract our paper – ‘inconclusiveness’ – is unprecedented and violates the norms of scientific publishing. The decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific grounds. Censorship on research into the risks of a technology so critically entwined with global food safety undermines the value and the credibility of science.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

GES designed and coordinated the commentary. RM participated in the drafting of the manuscript and final version. ND and JsDV helped in the writing, compiling the literature, revising details, and proofreading the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


We acknowledge the Charles Leopold Mayer (FPH) and Denis Guichard Foundations, together with CRIIGEN, for fellowships and structural supports. We are equally thankful to Malongo, Lea Nature, and the JMG Foundation for their help.


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© 2014 Séralini et al.; licensee Springer

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rep. Grayson Asks If Keith Alexander Is Selling Classified Information To Get $1 Million Per Month

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | June 27, 2014

We recently noted that former NSA boss Keith Alexander is running around asking for $600k to $1 million per month for his new “cybersecurity” consulting firm. While some people thought that the number was “low” for banks, that doesn’t make any sense. You could hire a lot of really good actual security professionals for that kind of cash. So it made us wonder just what banks thought they were getting for that $1 million. Actual security professional Bruce Schneier wondered that as well, and wondered aloud if the one difference was that… Alexander could give them classified info — such as where he hid the backdoors in their routers.

That statement apparently caught the attention of Rep. Alan Grayson, who has been a vocal opponent of NSA overreach. He’s now sent a letter to the Financial Service Rountable to point out that selling classified info is a crime:

Security expert Bruce Schneier noted that this fee for Alexander’s services is on its face unreasonable. “Think of how much actual security they could buy with that $600k a month. Unless he’s giving them classified information.” Schneier also quoted, which headlined this news as: “For another million, I’ll show you the back door we put in your router.”

This arrangement with Mr. Alexander may also include additional work with the shadow regulatory firm The Promontory Group, with whom Alexander apparently will partner “on cybersecurity matters.” According to Promontory spokesman Chris Winans, Mr. Alexander “and a firm he’s forming will work on the technical aspects of these issues, and we on the risk-management compliance and governance elements.”

Disclosing or misusing classified information for profit is, as Mr. Alexander well knows, a felony. I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.

Grayson also demands “all information related to your negotiations with Mr. Alexander,” so that Congress can verify whether or not he is selling military or cybersecurity secrets to the financial services industry for personal gain. Sure, it’s a snarky move, but there is a point behind it. Alexander can’t command those sums because of his actual technical expertise. The reality, of course, is that he’s selling his connections to the government. But it certainly raises the question of appearances.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics | | Leave a comment