President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out water during a visit to areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Lynn Haven, Fla. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is right.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out water during a visit to areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Lynn Haven, Fla. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., right, looks on as President Donald Trump talks with reporters after arriving at Eglin Air Force Base to visit areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)


President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Florida to tour areas the devastation left behind from Hurricane Michael last week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)


Trump marvels at hurricane damage, hears stories of struggle

By DEB RIECHMANN and DARLENE SUPERVILLE

Associated Press

Tuesday, October 16

LYNN HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Michael Rollins shook President Donald Trump’s hand Monday at the front door of his hurricane-ravaged home in the Florida Panhandle, saying he decided to ride out the storm because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.

“I knew I had made my commitment to stay with my animals,” Rollins told the president, standing by a massive pine tree down on the front lawn.

The president, along with first lady Melania Trump, listened to stories of survival and struggle as he surveyed the wreckage of Hurricane Michael. As Trump toured, the death toll stood at 17, with thousands of buildings gutted and tens of thousands of homes and businesses without electricity. Trump paused his election-season campaign blitz for the visit, largely — but not completely — putting politics on the backburner for the day.

Trump visited an aid distribution center, set up in a parking lot filled with boxes of diapers, piles of clothes and bottled water. He and the first lady handed out bottles of water to residents who came to see him and tell him their stories about the storm.

“Somebody said it was like a very wide — extremely wide — tornado. … Beyond any winds that they’ve seen,” Trump said. “Look behind you. I mean, these massive trees are just ripped out of the earth. This is really incredible. This road — five hours ago, you couldn’t ride on it.”

Trump was joined by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Before visiting the city of Lynn Haven, Trump took a 55-minute helicopter tour of the region to see how the local and state rescue efforts were progressing. He saw houses stripped of their roofs, a water tower that had toppled to the ground and 18-wheel trucks scattered in a parking lot.

Trump also saw the heavy damage inflicted on Tyndall Air Force Base.

The president landed at an airport near Panama City, where power poles bowed toward the ground, pieces of metal roofing were scattered about and pine trees had been uprooted or were snapped in half. The view during the drive included houses smashed by trees, bent billboards and a demolished trailer park.

Power crews were working to restore power to thousands.

“Everything I’ve asked the president for, he’s come through,” said Scott, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. “We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still getting water out, getting food out.”

Rollins was among many people in the Panhandle who rode out the storm. Kayla Runyon, 22, said she evacuated to a hotel in Callaway with some relatives.

“We watched out the window and we just watched buildings be demolished,” Runyon said. “Steel beams started coming through the hotel windows and through the walls. There were windows busting. We were scared. It was scary.”

Trump also surveyed storm damage in Georgia, where the focus was on farmers whose crops were wiped out by the hurricane.

At a farm in Macon, Kevin Rentz, a fourth-generation cotton and peanut farmer, told Trump he lost his entire cotton crop. Rentz said he’s still digging up peanuts, but the problem is storing them without electricity.

Trump tried to reassure the farmers, asking whether they had insurance and promising that electricity would be restored soon.

“You’ll get it back,” Trump told Rentz.

Trump still had politics on his mind, despite the devastation he was about to see. Before leaving the White House, he tweeted about his rally crowds, claiming they are bigger than ever before, including during the 2016 election. “Never an empty seat in these large venues,” he said.

The president refused to cancel a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, last Wednesday — the day Michael struck the Panhandle — saying he couldn’t disappoint the thousands of people who had been lining up for hours to see him. Trump also held rallies in Ohio and Kentucky before the Florida-Georgia visit.

In Florida, the mood at the FEMA aid distribution center seemed lighthearted despite the surrounding devastation, as Trump bantered with a crowd that seemed more interested in selfies with him than in the bottled water he was offering in the heat and humidity.

A woman carrying a toddler posed for a photo and then told Trump he should come back for barbecue. Another woman thanked the first lady for her anti-bullying campaign.

Superville reported from Washington.

EarthTalk Q&A

Avoiding BPA Exposure: Not So Easy Anymore

Roddy Scheer

Dear EarthTalk: Why on earth would cans and other food storage containers contain toxic BPA that can make us sick? Is there any way to avoid it?

– Melinda Billings, Hixson, TN

If you like the occasional can of tomato soup or diced pears, chances are you’re walking around with trace amounts of bisphenol A (BPA) in your bloodstream. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of us are walking around with trace amounts of this toxic synthetic chemical—commonly used as a constituent component in the epoxy resins lining the inside of cans, boxes and other food storage containers to prevent corrosion and breakages—in our bloodstreams.

One of a class of so-called “hormone disrupting” or “endocrine mimicking” chemicals, BPA fools the body into thinking it’s the naturally occurring hormone estrogen. The result can be negative effects on brain development, metabolism and the reproductive system. BPA exposure has also been linked to cancer, heart disease and other serious health disorders.

“Evidence suggests the developing fetus and young child are most at risk, but adolescents also appear uniquely vulnerable,” reports the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a leading non-profit research and advocacy group. Of course, the harm isn’t limited to children and teens; adults can suffer the ill effects of a lifetime of bio-accumulated BPA coursing through their veins as well.

According to EWG, we can cut down on the amount of BPA we ingest by steering clear of canned and processed foods and replacing them with fresh, frozen and dried options. Get your tomato soup from the hot prepared foods section of your local natural foods market or, better yet, make it yourself from scratch from organic ingredients. And instead of buying diced pears in a can, buy a real pear and dice it up yourself.

“For those who cannot avoid foods in BPA-lined cans, rinsing the food in water may help lower the level of BPA in the food,” reports EWG, adding that rinsing cuts back on other unhealthy additives—such as sodium on beans or sweet syrup on fruit—as well. EWG also warns never to heat up food directly in a can: “Transfer it to a stainless-steel pot or pan for stovetop cooking, or microwave in glass – not plastic.”

If you’re not sure whether your favorite foods are at risk of containing BPA, you can search EWG’s Food Scores database to find out, and also to look for safer alternatives that don’t contain hormone disruptors.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula packaging, but the vast majority of us are still at risk. Environmental and health advocates are calling on the agency to ban BPA outright from any packaging materials that come into contact with foods, drinks or water, but so far officials don’t seem inclined to take the now ubiquitous chemical off the market completely. In 2014 and again in 2016, Democrats in Congress floated legislation that would have banned BPA and other potentially dangerous food additives in all food storage containers, but neither bill ever made it out of committee.

Without any help from the government, then, it’s up to us to wean ourselves off of BPA by making smart choices about what we buy and what we eat.

About EarthTalk

EarthTalk is a 501(c)3 non-profit which leverages the power of the media to “preach beyond the choir” on green living, sustainability and the need to protect the environment. Our syndicated EarthTalk Q&A column reaches tens of millions of readers every week through our network of 800+ syndication partners, many of which are small-town weekly newspapers across America’s heartland. Our EarthTalk.org and Emagazine.com websites reach millions more online.

EarthTalk Q&A

Can Light Pollution Really Cause Breast Cancer?

Doug Moss and Roddy Scheer

Dear EarthTalk: What is “light pollution?” Is it really a factor in breast cancer?

—Gudrun Smythe, Madison, Wisconsin

The glow of city lights blotting out stars in the night sky has frustrated many a stargazer, but recent studies have shown that “light pollution”—defined as excess or obtrusive light at night—can actually have serious health effects. Researchers have found that exposure to bright nocturnal light can decrease the human body’s production of melatonin, a hormone secreted at night that regulates our sleep-wake cycles. And decreased melatonin production has in turn been linked to higher rates of breast cancer in women.

“Light at night is now clearly a risk factor for breast cancer,” says David Blask, a researcher at the Cooperstown, New York-based Mary Imogene Bassett Research Institute. “Breast tumors are awake during the day, and melatonin puts them to sleep at night,” he adds.

Epidemiologist Richard Stevens of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory first discovered the link between breast cancer and light pollution in the late 1980s. Stevens found that breast cancer rates were significantly higher in industrialized countries, where nighttime lighting is prevalent, than in developing regions.

Lending credence to Stevens’ research are the findings of another researcher, William Hrushesky of the South Carolina-based Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who discovered that female night shift workers have a 50% greater risk of developing breast cancer than other working women. He also found that blind women have high melatonin concentrations and unusually low rates of breast cancer.

To reduce breast cancer risks from light pollution, Prevention magazine recommends nine hours of sleep nightly in a dark room devoid of both interior (computer screens) and exterior (street lamps) light sources. A study of 12,000 Finnish women found that those who slept nine hours nightly had less than one-third the risk of developing a breast tumor than those who slept only seven or eight hours. Even bright light from a trip to the bathroom can have an affect, so dim nightlights are recommended for night lighting.

Light pollution causes other problems besides increased cancer risks. According to the Sierra Club, birds and animals can be confused by artificial lighting, leading them away from familiar foraging areas and disrupting their breeding cycles. And the photosynthetic cycles of deciduous trees (those that shed their leaves in the fall) have been shown to be disrupted due to the preponderance of artificial nighttime lights.

Another environmental impact of excessive use of artificial light is, of course, energy waste. The International Dark-Sky Association computes that unnecessary nighttime lighting wastes upwards of $1.5 billion in electricity costs around the world each year while accounting for the release of more than 12 million tons of carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Individuals can do their part by keeping lights dim or off at home at night—and convincing their employers and local government offices to do the same.

About EarthTalk

EarthTalk is a 501(c)3 non-profit which leverages the power of the media to “preach beyond the choir” on green living, sustainability and the need to protect the environment. Our syndicated EarthTalk Q&A column reaches tens of millions of readers every week through our network of 800+ syndication partners, many of which are small-town weekly newspapers across America’s heartland. Our EarthTalk.org and Emagazine.com websites reach millions more online.

EarthTalk Q&A

Is Genetically Modified Food Really Safe For Us To Eat?

Doug Moss and Roddy Scheer

Dear EarthTalk: Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) really so bad for us and the environment, and given their prevalence in our food supply already, how can I avoid them?

—Dianne Mercurio, Richmond, VA

Unless you only buy foods that are certified organic or marked as “GMO-free,” odds are that a great deal of the food you eat contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But are you risking your health and damaging the environment by eating GMOs? Not according to Monsanto, the agricultural biotechnology company that is a leading producer of GM seed. Monsanto contends that GMOs are safe to eat and that seeds with GM traits have been tested more than any other crops in the history of agriculture—with no credible evidence of harm to humans or animals.

The company also points to studies that have positively assessed the safety of GMOs, including the 2010 European Commission report summarizing the results of 50 research projects addressing the safety of GMOs for the environment as well as for animal and human health. In announcing the report, the Commission stated that “there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants.”

But Are GMO Foods Safe?

Since the U.S. does not require food producers to label products containing genetically-modified organisms, the non-profit Non-GMO Project has taken matters into its own hands and released its own certification label for the industry.

Of course, not everyone agrees. According to the non-profit Non-GMO Project, genetically modified crops and food items can contaminate conventional crops and foods through cross-pollination and/or contamination. Also, since many GM crops are designed to be immune to herbicides and pesticides, farmers have increased their use of various weed and bug killing chemicals to keep competition for their cash crops at bay. The resulting overuse of these chemicals has led to a rapid evolution of “super weeds” and “super bugs” that can quickly take over unmaintained or wild lands.

Given the prevalence of GMOs in our food supply already, the non-profit Just Label It believes labeling everything that contains GMOs would be a start so at least consumers can choose on their own what they put in their bodies. Some 64 countries around the world—including China, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and 28 nations in the European Union—currently require labeling on foods created with GMOs. Just Label It is one of many activist voices calling on the United States to follow suit. The group has created an online petition so everyday Americans can let the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) know that they have the right to know what’s in their food, especially when it comes to GMOs.

But until we have federal rules in place requiring labeling, concerned consumers will have to take matters into their own hands when it comes to ferreting out the GMO content of what they eat. Luckily the Non-GMO Project is helping make it easier by offering verified products the opportunity to display its “Non-GMO” symbol on their labels. Currently the group has verified some 35,000 food products across 1,900 different brands commonly available on U.S. store shelves as GMO-free, representing annual sales topping $13.5 billion. Meanwhile, Whole Foods has stepped up its support of GMO labeling by instituting a new policy of “full GMO transparency” in all of its North American stores by 2018.

Beyond just labeling, though, Whole Foods is also working with many of its suppliers to transition to ingredients from non-GMO sources altogether. Activists hope that this leadership will trickle down to mainstream grocers as well.

About EarthTalk

EarthTalk is a 501(c)3 non-profit which leverages the power of the media to “preach beyond the choir” on green living, sustainability and the need to protect the environment. Our syndicated EarthTalk Q&A column reaches tens of millions of readers every week through our network of 800+ syndication partners, many of which are small-town weekly newspapers across America’s heartland. Our EarthTalk.org and Emagazine.com websites reach millions more online.

Idaho wildlife official resigns after killing baboon family

Tuesday, October 16

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A top Idaho wildlife official has resigned amid outrage over a photo of him posing with a baboon family he killed in Africa.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in a statement that he asked for and accepted Blake Fischer’s resignation on Monday, three days after the Idaho Statesman newspaper published the first report about a photo of Fischer smiling with four dead baboons propped in front of him.

Fischer and his wife shot at least 14 animals in Namibia according to the photos and descriptions in an email he sent to more than 100 recipients.

The baboon family photo showed blood visible on the abdomen of the smallest baboon, its head lolling back to rest on the chest of one of the dead adult baboons. Fischer killed them using a bow and arrows, visible in the bottom of the picture.

Fischer was one of seven members on the Idaho Fish and Game Commission. Otter appoints commissioners and under Idaho law can also remove them. Otter initially appointed in 2014 and reappointed him in June.

“I have high expectations and standards for every appointee in state government,” Otter said. “Every member of my administration is expected to exercise good judgment. Commissioner Fischer did not.”

Fischer didn’t apologize for killing the baboons but said in his resignation to Otter that he “recently made some poor judgments that resulted in sharing photos of a hunt in which I did not display an appropriate level of sportsmanship and respect for the animals I harvested.”

Fischer and his wife also killed a giraffe, a leopard, an impala, a sable antelope, a waterbuck, a kudu, a warthog, a gemsbok (oryx) and an eland.

Most of the photos with the animals were posed, like the big game hunting photos from Idaho and other western U.S. states showing hunters with dead deer, elk and mountain lions.

The photo of the baboons caused at least two former Idaho Fish and Game Commission members to call for Fischer’s resignation.

“Sportsmanlike behavior is the center pin to maintaining hunting as a socially acceptable activity,” Fred Trevey wrote in an email forwarded to the governor’s office.

The commission Fischer served on makes policy decisions about Idaho’s wildlife, and it often manages game populations through hunting and fishing regulations.

Those regulations are intended promote ethical hunting of wildlife. Some of Idaho’s policies, such as on wolf and grizzly bear hunting, have been challenged in federal courts.

US employers post record number of open jobs in August

By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER

AP Economics Writer

Tuesday, October 16

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers posted the most jobs in two decades in August, and hiring also reached a record high, fresh evidence that companies are desperate to staff up amid solid economic growth.

Job openings rose a slight 0.8 percent to 7.14 million, the highest on records dating back to December 2000, the Labor Department said Tuesday. That is also far more than the 6.2 million of people who were unemployed that month.

The number of available jobs has swamped the number of unemployed for five straight months. Hiring has been solid, which has pushed down the unemployment rate to a nearly five-decade low of 3.7 percent. Strong demand for workers when so few are out of work may force more companies to raise pay in the coming months.

President Donald Trump celebrated the report on Twitter, tweeting: “Incredible number just out… Astonishing! It’s all working!” Trump added that the stock market was “up big” and referenced “Strong Profits.”

Yet so far, pay raises have been modest. Average hourly earnings rose 2.8 percent in September compared with a year earlier. That’s much higher than several years ago, but below the roughly 4 percent gain that is typical when unemployment is so low.

It’s a sharp turnaround from the Great Recession and its aftermath. In 2009, there were as many as six unemployed workers for each available job. Now, that number has fallen below one.

Employers hired roughly 5.8 million people in August, the report showed. That is also the most on record, but that increase partly reflects population growth. The percentage of the workforce that found jobs in August ticked up to 3.9 percent from 3.8 percent in July. That matched an 11-year high first reached in May.

Job openings rose in August in professional and business services, which include mostly higher-paying positions in engineering, accounting and architecture, as well as temporary help. Postings in that category have jumped 27 percent from a year ago.

Construction firms are also desperate for workers, posting 298,000 open jobs. That’s nearly 39 percent more than a year ago. Job openings also increased in finance and insurance and health care.

Openings fell in August from the previous month in manufacturing, retail, and slipped slightly in hotels and restaurants.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out water during a visit to areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Lynn Haven, Fla. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121577925-a657e5b995894fceb85ffbaf5a419df2.jpgPresident Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump hand out water during a visit to areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Lynn Haven, Fla. Florida Gov. Rick Scott is right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., right, looks on as President Donald Trump talks with reporters after arriving at Eglin Air Force Base to visit areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121577925-e46c308ddbde4567a0004a2d00f08bba.jpgGov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., right, looks on as President Donald Trump talks with reporters after arriving at Eglin Air Force Base to visit areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Florida to tour areas the devastation left behind from Hurricane Michael last week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/10/web1_121577925-7eccf05602b14fc89f7683040339c568.jpgPresident Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to board Marine One helicopter for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to Florida to tour areas the devastation left behind from Hurricane Michael last week. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)