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3 Medical Conditions That Bacon Can Cure

| Wed Jan. 14, 2015 6:00 AM EST

As we all know, the internet is obsessed with bacon. Physicians, however, are usually less bullish about the delicious yet notoriously artery-clogging treat. Until now: Over at the medical blog KevinMD, Dr. Jennifer Gunter combs the scientific literature and turns up three actual medical conditions that bacon can help treat: 

  1. Nosebleeds. Last October, Stanford otolaryngologist Ian Humphreys developed a nasal tampon made out of bacon that cured a young girl's bloody nose, an accomplishment for which he was awarded a 2014 IgNobel Prize in medicine. "Apparently the high salt content of bacon is believed to induce swelling which causes the blood vessels to constrict slowing the flow of blood and helping clotting," writes Gunter. When Humphreys won the IgNobel, Robert Jackler, chair of Stanford's otolaryngology department, told Stanford's Scope medical blog, "We are squealing with pride."
     
  2. An incredibly disgusting-sounding infection called furuncular myiasis in which the larvae of an insect called Dermatobia hominis nest in the human soft tissue or skin, resulting in boils and sometimes tissue destruction. Shudder. "The treatment largely consists of manually picking out the larvae with tweezers," writes Gunter. "Apparently bacon fat can be used as bait to lure the larvae to the skin surface for faster and more effective removal."
     
  3. Scabies. Apparently, bacon fat was once used in topical sulfur and salicylic acid creams used to treat this itchy and highly contagious skin infection. A 1991 study compared the bacon fat formulation to the more modern cold cream version and finds, Gunter writes, that "while the cold cream combination was 100% effective versus 88 percent for the bacon fat base the authors noted that the bacon fat concoction was 238 times less expensive than the cheapest scabicidal medication in the U.S."

So there you have it: bacon as medicine. Something to keep in mind if you have any left over after you make that gross bacon lattice thing for your Super Bowl party.

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What Does "Cage-Free" Even Mean?

| Wed Jan. 14, 2015 6:00 AM EST

What kind of farm do you imagine when you think of organic or cage-free eggs? Images of hens frolicking in lush meadows?

That kind of farming exists, but such conditions aren't mandated by organic code—not explicitly anyway. According to the USDA regulations, animals raised organically must have "year-round access ... to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate, and the environment." Those rules are open to a wide variety of interpretations.,

Ten times over the course of a year and a half, under cover of night, a group of radical animal-rights activists snuck into the facilities of a large operation called Petaluma Farms, a major west-coast supplier to Whole Foods and Organic Valley, according to The New York Times. The Petaluma egg complex produces both certified-organic and non-organic "cage free" eggs, the main difference between the two standards being that organic eggs must come from hens fed only organic feed.

The video shows birds with blisters, missing feathers, one clearly caked with shit.

The group, Direct Action Everywhere, seems to find all animal farming abhorrent—a point driven home in the video's first third, wherein several group members denounce the killing of animals. Later, footage taken from within the Petaluma facilities shows lots of birds wallowing tightly together, often amidst what looks like significant buildup of their own waste. The narrators use words like "stench, " "filth," and "misery" to describe the scene; and show several birds in obvious bad health—birds with blisters, missing feathers, one clearly caked with shit—along with birds that appear to be in decent shape. The crew dramatically rescues one pathetically injured bird, handing her over the fence, one activist to another, and whisking her to a vet in Berkeley, who declares her in dismal shape.

In a media statement, Petaluma owners Judy and Steve Mahrt wrote that "The video in no way reflects our practices or the overall health of our flocks." As for outside access, the statement adds the company maintains "sun porches for outdoor access while protecting from predators and disease." All the filming in the video takes place at night, when most domesticated chickens go inside, anyway. So the video doesn't tell us anything about the birds' outdoor access.

Pressed for details, the company referred me to the below video. At about the 2:38 mark, there's a depiction of one such sun porch—it's a raised, triangular space jutting off the side of the building, made of chicken wire. By the company's own admission, then, the birds never touch the ground outside—their "outdoor access" seems to conform to the letter of organic code, if not the spirit of organic farming conjured in the heads of consumers.

This is not Petaluma's first PR problem. Michael Pollan famously used it as an example of industrial-organic farming in Omnivore's Dilemma, observing that its meat-poultry buildings "don't resemble a farm so much as a barracks," and that the birds were conditioned to never make use of their access to outdoors. As for the company's egg operation, Judy's Family Farm, Pollan never got a look: "The company was too concerned about biosecurity to let a visitor get past the office."

Last year, Petaluma settled a lawsuit brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund over the depiction of the lives of its hens on its packaging. As part of the agreement, in which Petaluma did not admit to wrongdoing, the company agreed to modify its egg cartons "by removing the illustration of hens on a green field and removing the language that Plaintiff alleged could lead consumers to mistakenly believe the eggs come from hens with significant outdoor access." Previously, the inside of the cartons claimed that "these hens are raised in wide-open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to roam, scratch, and play."

A "sun porch" at a Petaluma Farms facility—the "access to outdoors" required by organic code. Screenshot from the video, above, provided by Petaluma Farms

So what's to be taken away from the Direct Action Everywhere video? I see it as an important but problematic look behind the veil of what Pollan has deemed "supermarket pastoral"—the gauze of marketing that cloaks the often-harsh realities of large-scale organic farming.

Yet compared to the vast Iowa facilities that triggered a half-billion-egg salmonella recall in 2010 (the Food and Drug Administration's stomach-turning post-outbreak inspection report can be found here), the Petaluma houses captured on tape by Direct Action Everywhere actually look pretty good. When you confine thousands of birds into a building and manage several buildings, problems like the ones caught on tape by DAE are going to arise. I'd feel better about Petaluma if it represented standard practice for industrial egg production, and not the rarefied status implied by organic certification.

Charlie Hebdo Unveils First Cover Since Paris Massacre Featuring Image of Muhammad

| Tue Jan. 13, 2015 3:15 PM EST

Warning: An image of the controversial cover appears below.

Charlie Hebdo unveiled the cover illustration for its first issue following last week's deadly attack on the magazine. The cover, for what is being dubbed the "survivors' issue," features an image of the Prophet Muhammad holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign. The words "Tous Est Pardonné"—"All Is Forgiven"—hang above. A tear is falling from his eye.

"We don't feel any hate to them," cartoonist Zineb El Rhazoui, who survived the attack and worked on the new edition, told the BBC, referring to the terrorists. "We know that the struggle is not with them as people, but the struggle is with an ideology." Asked if the cover might alienate Muslims who have spoken out against the violence and in support of the satirical magazine—after all, Islam prohibits the portrayal of Muhammad—she said that Islam ought to be treated like any other religion and that anyone who is offended need not buy the issue.

Charlie Hebdo's decision to print an image of the prophet appears to be in direct defiance of the two terrorists who executed 12 of the magazine's staff members last week. Past covers in which the prophet was illustrated, many times in crude or offensive light, have drawn the ire of Muslims throughout the world, prompting repeated threats of violence against the controversial publication. Since the attack in Paris, various news outlets, including the New York Times and the Associated Press, said they would not be publishing Charlie Hebdo images depicting the prophet because of its "deliberately provocative" intent. Other publications, including the Washington Post and the Guardian, have gone ahead and published the latest cover, citing freedom of speech, the covers' newsworthy element, and the special role that scorching satire has in French political and cultural life. For the Post, it is the first time a depiction of the prophet has appeared. Executive Editor Martin Baron said that although the paper prohibits material that is "deliberately" offensive, Charlie Hebdo's newest cover did not meet that measure; the Guardian explained it would be publishing this cover because of its "news value."

While Charlie Hebdo has historically skewered all religions and various government figures, in the past few years, its editors have specifically targeted Islam. Given France's fraught relations with its Muslim population, many have questioned whether Charlie Hebdo went too far, or as one French politician once put it, chose to "pour oil on the fire." Following last week's attack, Adam Shatz wrote in the London Book of Review:

Charlie Hebdo had an equal opportunity policy when it came to giving offense, but in recent years it had come to lean heavily on jokes about Muslims, who are among the most vulnerable citizens in France. Assia [a pseudonym Shatz refers to in his piece] does not believe in censorship, but wonders: "Is this really the time for cartoons lampooning the Prophet, given the situation of North Africans in France?"…If France continues to treat French men of North African origin as if they were a threat to "our" civilisation, more of them are likely to declare themselves a threat, and follow the example of the Kouachi brothers. This would be a gift both to Marine Le Pen and the jihadists, who operate from the same premise: that there is an apocalyptic war between Europe and Islam. We are far from that war, but the events of 7 January have brought us a little closer.

The issue is set for release January 14, with an estimated 3 million copies being printed. The normal circulation for the magazine has been 60,000.

 

Update, January 14, 2015, 8:50 a.m. EST: After copies sell out in France, Charlie Hebdo raised its print run to 5 million. 

Watch David Corn on Mitt Romney's Likely 2016 Run

Tue Jan. 13, 2015 12:08 PM EST

Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn stopped by MSNBC's Hardball Monday night to discuss Mitt Romney's possible presidential bid.
 

Jon Stewart Explains What's Wrong With World Leaders Who Censor the Press Claiming #JeSuisCharlie

| Tue Jan. 13, 2015 11:58 AM EST

Citing the importance of political optics, many have vocalized anger over President Obama's notable absence during Sunday's march in Paris showing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo victims. The massive demonstration drew over 1.3 million people, with world leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also in attendance.

Jon Stewart is among those unhappy with the president's decision. But unlike most of Obama's critics this week, The Daily Show host got to the real reason Obama should have joined his fellow heads of state in "the most powerful game of Red Rover ever." 

"How could the U.S. not be there when representatives of such beacons of freedom and lack of censorship as journalist-punishing Russia was there?" Stewart asked. "Journalist-jailing Turkey was there! Egypt, nuff' said! Palestinian-jailing cartoonist Israel was there!"

 

Housekeeping Note

| Tue Jan. 13, 2015 10:44 AM EST

I'm fighting off a nasty cold, and later today I have an extended doctor's appointment up in Los Angeles. So no blogging today. With any luck, I'll be back tomorrow.

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Former Pepsi Lobbyist Will Help Overhaul School Lunch Program

| Tue Jan. 13, 2015 6:00 AM EST

Some political functionaries creep sheepishly through the revolving door that separates government from the industries it regulates—you know, maybe wait a few years between switches.

Not Joel Leftwich. Since 2010, he's held the following posts, in order: legislative assistant to longtime Senate agriculture committee stalwart and agribusiness-cash magnet Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas); program manager in the federal lobbying department for agrichemical giant DuPont; deputy staff director for the Senate Agriculture Committee; and director of lobbying for PepsiCo. Now, after the Republican takeover of the Senate and Robert's ascension to the chair of the Agriculture Committee, Leftwich is switching sides again: He's going to be the ag committee's chief of staff.

Leftwich's most recent former employer, PepsiCo, touts Cheetos as a wholesome snackfood for kids.

And all just in time for the Congress to perform its once-every-five-years overhaul of federal nutrition programs, including school lunches and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food-aid initiative. Back in 2010, President Obama signed a school lunch bill, generated by a Democratic-controlled Congress, that banished junk-food snacks from schools and stipulated more fruits and vegetables in lunches. Leftwich's once-and-current boss, Sen. Roberts, has been a persistent and virulent critic of those reforms.

As for Leftwich's most recent ex-employer, Pepsi—whose junk-food empire spans from its namesake soda to Lays and Doritos snacks—its take on the issue of school food is embodied in this flyer, uncovered by my colleague Alex Park. It touts Cheetos as a wholesome snack for school kids. PepsiCo showers Washington in lobbying cash—note how its expenditures jumped in 2009 and 2010, when the last school lunch reauthorization was being negotiated in Congress.

In other revolving-door news: Mike Johanns of Nebraska recently retired from the Senate, where, from his perch on the ag committee, he joined Sen. Roberts in pushing the agribusiness agenda and sopping up industry campaign donations. Before that, he served as USDA chief for President George W. Bush. Now? Days after his retirement comes news he will serve on the board of directors of agribusiness giant John Deere—a position that pays at least $240,000 per year in compensation and stock, Omaha.Com reports. But don't worry: "Johanns stressed that he won’t be doing any direct lobbying of his former Capitol Hill colleagues or their aides on behalf of the company."

Mitt vs. Jeb: Battle of the GOP Establishment Candidates

Mon Jan. 12, 2015 8:41 PM EST

David Corn and Robert Costa joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the recent news that Mitt Romney is probably running for president, again. LOL. You'll recall what happened when David Corn reported on the most recent failed Romney campaign. Anyways, we've got a deep archive of great reporting on Mitt and we'll have lots more to come. Stay tuned.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

8 Romney GIFs That Will Make You LOL

| Mon Jan. 12, 2015 6:42 PM EST

1. Mitt

New York

2. Mitt Romney

Huffington Post

3. Mitt Romney is

Giphy

4. Mitt Romney is running

Giphy

5. Mitt Romney is running for

Giphy

6. Mitt Romney is running for Spiderman

Buzzfeed

7. Mitt Romney is running for Spiderman president

Giphy

8. Mitt Romney is running for Spiderman president (probably)

Giphy

Mitt Romney Is Probably Running for President. Here Are All the Times He Said He Wouldn't.

| Mon Jan. 12, 2015 4:51 PM EST

Last Friday, Mitt Romney confirmed that he's considering running for president once more in 2016. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Romney is quickly rebuilding his campaign network for an "almost certain" run. Here's a look at the evolution of Romney's statements regarding a possible third presidential run:

November 7, 2012: Romney concedes the election to President Obama. "I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction," he said to those gathered in his Boston headquarters.  He was reportedly so shocked by the loss that he had not prepared a concession speech.

March 3, 2013: In his first interview since losing the election, Romney says, "It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done." On running in 2016: "I'm not doing it again," he declares.

January 18, 2014: In an interview with the New York Times, Romney was emphatic: "Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no. People are always gracious and say, 'Oh, you should run again.' I'm not running again."

March 23, 2014: On CBS's Face the Nation, he again indicates he has no interest in another run: "We have a very strong field of leaders who could become our nominee…I wholly anticipate that I'll be supporting one of them very vigorously."

June 15, 2014: On Meet the Press, David Gregory asks Romney about speculation within political circles of a "Draft Romney" movement. "I'm not running and talk of the draft is kind of silly," he says.

August 26, 2014: In a radio interview, Romney is slightly less certain about not running, suggesting there might be a shift in his thinking. "You know, circumstances can change, but I'm just not going to let my head go there," he remarks.

September 30, 2014: The New York Times Magazine runs a profile of Romney that is heavy on 2016 talk. "We've got a lot of people looking at the race," he says. "We'll see what happens." A lot of people? He did not specify what that meant.

October 7, 2014: With rumors flying that he would run if Jeb Bush, another establishment moderate, declines to enter the race, Romney doubles down in a Bloomberg Politics interview on his previous ain't-gonna-do-it remarks: "I'm not running, I'm not planning on running, and I've got nothing new on that story."

January 9: At a private meeting with former donors in Manhattan, Romney shows more leg. "Everybody in here can go tell your friends that I'm considering a run," he says. And that one statement was enough to trigger a frenzy among the politerati.

In case you forgot, here's the secretly recorded video that was the most talked-about news of Romney's 2012 campaign: