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KNOWING WHAT YOU EAT

Posted in News Brief on October 6th, 2010

With summer barbecue season in most parts of this country drawing to a close, this seems as good as time as any to take a few minutes and talk a little about what the labels found on commercially available meat products actually mean. For example, what exactly is organic? How does it differ from natural? Can meat really be organic or natural? And does free range really have any legal meaning, or is it just a clever term invented by marketers to separate those of us who actually care what we put in our bodies from more of our hard-earned money than we would normally be willing to spend?

As you will see from the information featured below, only three of the eight most common classifications of meat actually require USDA oversight. The rest, I guess you could say, really don’t mean all that much. So it’s anyone’s guess if the products sold under these labels are actually what they purport to be.

Now that you feel sufficiently violated, we can begin.

The first on our list, NATURAL is a particular favorite of mine as it means that the USDA has verified that the meat contains no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. Of course, the possibility exists that after years of deregulation fever in Washington DC, there are just not enough USDA inspectors to go around and insure that this is actually taking place. So, as in all things, be forewarned and act accordingly, which in this case means purchasing all meat products, regardless of classification, from a reputable source, and by this I do not mean the friendly, local, mass-market supermarket, but rather the Whole Foods, Sprouts or other natural food markets that have sprung up in virtually every part of the country.

From here, we move onto CERTIFIED ORGANIC. In this instance, the label means that the USDA has verified that the animal was fed only pesticide and chemical fertilizer-free food, and NEVER, repeat never in its lifetime given hormones or antibiotics.

In addition, the USDA requires that meat labeled Certified Organic be processed, a benign way of saying slaughtered and butchered, in a Certified Organic facility, which should virtually insure that meat from downer cows has not made its way into the “processing” line. Note, however, the operative word in this sentence is should.

From here the line gets a little hazy with products labeled FREE RANGE. By definition, this means that the animals, during their lifetime, must have had access to the outdoors for at least part of the day. However, there is no legally binding requirement that this actually occurs, which, as I see it, can and probably does make the Free Range label highly suspect as anything more than a shameless attempt to mislead consumers into paying too damn much for pen raised meat.

Well, with HORMONE FREE, things are starting to look up again, as this is the official USDA label for beef grown without synthetic hormones, those nasty, nasty substances commonly used by the beef industry, and many professional athletes, to promote growth and fleshiness and to score proportionately more cash for each animal slaughtered.

Now here’s where things get a little bit dicey: Federal law prohibits treating pork and poultry with hormones, so any attempts by meat processors and distributors to charge more for chicken or pork labeled as being HORMONE FREE is an out and out rip off, and you should report the bastards.

In the case of NO ANTIBIOTICS ADDED, this means, or at least it’s supposed to mean, that the USDA has verified that the meat has not been treated with antibiotics, a common industry practice to prevent illness and promote rapid growth when animals are raised in crowded conditions. Once again, we can only hope that the overworked and understaffed USDA actually had a chance to get around to this verification. The alternative is downright scary.

Moving on, we find ourselves getting back into the gray area again with GRASS FED, the classification which means that the animals, during their lifetime, were fed grass and forage plants, such as hay, exclusively, and not given grain or grain byproducts.

In addition, to use the “Grass Fed” label, the animals must have had access to pasture during “the growing season”. Here too, without any real legal definition and regulatory oversight, we can only hope that this is what is taking place.

I always get a perverse kick out of the next one, GRASS FINISHED. Now what the he’ll does this mean? Some meat processors interpret it as meaning that the cattle are fed exclusively on grass, while others define it as the cattle having been raised on corn and then fed grass for the last couple of weeks prior to slaughter. Since no one really knows what to make of this one, I wouldn’t put a he’ll of a lot of trust in it, whatever it means.

Last but not least, there is always PASTURE RAISED, another legally meaningless term, which is typically interpreted by the meat industry to mean that the animal has spent most of its life feeding in an open pasture and not in a feedlot. But here too, we have to take someone else’s word for it, and they have nothing to loose by taking liberties with the truth.

In closing, more is wrong with our system of raising animals for slaughter than whether or not we feed them grain, keep them in tight spaces and pump them up with massive doses of antibiotics, a process that many scientists now believe alters the balance of fats in the meat so much so that it is contributing to the rise of health problems, including heart disease. These are the measures that meat producers are taking, after slaughter, to try and stem the rise in e-coli and salmonella poisoning, measures including irradiation, chlorination, tenderization, treating meat with ammonia and blasting meat with carbon monoxide. The fear, according to some scientists, is that these stopgap measures might be making the meat even more dangerous than it already is.

All good arguments, as I see it, to consider becoming a vegetarian.

Denis Donovan

Source of the data on the meat classifications: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

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FDA CLASSIFIES POPULAR DIET DRUGS AS “TAINTED”

Posted in Alternative Health, Health Watch, Healthy Food on March 29th, 2009

BUT IS FDA’S WORD ENOUGH ON THIS MATTER?

As one who has battled long and hard for many years with my weight and who has tried virtually every diet plan to come on the market, no matter how half baked, I have found to my great disappointment that the only way to lose weight and to keep it off is to reduce the volume of calories that I consume daily. None of the other stuff, no matter how scientific it sounds, seems to work for me. Granted, there may be initial benefits experienced from many of the so-called “fad diets”, but sad to say, there is rarely ever any significant long-term weight loss.

Now I must admit that the news that there was not a magic pill for weight loss was very upsetting. More upsetting, however, was the amount of money That I had over the years squandered on these diets when all I really needed to do was learn some basic facts about the food I put in my body and cut down on the volume accordingly. Sounds simple, right? Well it is not. Learning about food is work, boring, tedious work, so much more difficult that popping a pill, eating a piece of diet candy or drinking a glass of some so-called magic elixir. Also, truth be told, I rather enjoyed the amphetamine and Phen-Fen eras of dieting, not only for the impressive weight loss, but also for the mild spring that those, now off the market diet aids, put in my step. I can’t say the same, however, for the myriad of other products, or for artery clogging theories promoted with such vigor by the late Dr. Atkins.

So here I am in the twenty first century with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with my good friend food. But discussing the ins and outs of my tawdry ongoing battle with food is not the purpose of this posting. Rather it is to share with you a recent missive from the FDA that purports to name so-called toxic diet drugs. The list is extensive containing over 70 products.

But before going into it, I must tell you, and this is at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but in my lifetime, particularly from the Reagan era onward, the FDA, and for that matter pretty much all of the watchdog groups set up to protect the American people, have done little other than to rubber stamp the wishes of Corporate America and their blindly subservient tools in the US Congress.

Think about it, if the FDA was doing the job it was designed to do, which is protecting you and I from snake oil salesmen masquerading as miracle workers, would we have all the recent instances of drugs being pulled from the market because they were proven to be harming, and in many instances killing, the people they were designed to help?

Drugs such as the popular painkiller Vioxx, the constipation drug Zelnorn, or the nighttime heartburn drug, Propulsid, all pulled from distribution after they were shown to be causing higher instances of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes among regular users.

If the FDA were doing its job, wouldn’t it have taken note when popular antidepressant, Serzone was taken off the market in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada after “adverse events including liver failure.” were discovered among regular users of the product? But no, it would take a lawsuit from advocacy group, Public Citizen to get action out of the FDA over Serzone after first ignoring the advocacy group’s petition asking for a ban. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. Many many more products have suffered similar fates as the ones listed above.

So you see, I really don’t put much faith in the FDA and for that matter in this list. Which isn’t to say that it might not be completely accurate. No one is disputing that there are potentially a lot of bad products out there, and I don’t doubt more than a few that can harm or even kill you.

So what I suggest is that you use this list as a guide and when you see a product on it that you are considering trying, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. TAKE NOTHING FOR GRANTED. Aand above all, DO NOT BELIEVE ANYONE’S SPIN. The internets is loaded with data about virtually every product ever made. Use it and become an informed consumer, responsible for what you put in your body. Lastly remember, corporations and federal bureaucracies cannot be counted on to tell the truth.

With that my friends, we are adjourned.

Denis

Here is the FDA’s full list of all 72 tainted weight loss products:
2 Day Diet
2 Day Diet Slim Advance
2x Powerful Slimming
3 Day Diet
3 Days Fit
3x Slimming Power
5x Imelda Perfect Slimming
7 Day Herbal Slim
7 Days Diet
7 Diet
7 Diet Day/Night Formula
8 Factor Diet
Eight Factor Diet
21 Double Slim
24 Hours Diet
999 Fitness Essence
BioEmagrecim
Body Creator
Body Shaping
Body Slimming
Cosmo Slim
Extrim Plus
Extrim Plus 24 Hour Reburn
Fasting Diet
Fatloss Slimming
GMP
Herbal Xenicol
Imelda Fat Reducer
Imelda Perfect Slim
JM Fat Reducer
Lida DaiDaihua
Meili
Meizitang
Miaozi MeiMiaoQianZiJiaoNang
Miaozi Slim Capsules
Natural Model
Perfect Slim
Perfect Slim 5x
Perfect Slim Up
Phyto Shape
Powerful Slim
ProSlim Plus
Reduce Weihgt
Royal Slimming Formula
Sana Plus
Slim 3 in 1
Slim 3 in 1 Extra Slim Formula
Slim 3 in 1 Extra Slim Waist Formula
Slim 3 in 1 M18 Royal Diet
Slim 3 in 1 Slim Formula
Slim Burn
Slim Express 4 in 1
Slim Express 360
Slim Fast (This product isn’t related to the Slim-Fast line of meal replacement and related products.)
Slim Tech
Slim Up
Slim Waist Formula
Slim Waistline
Slimbionic
Sliminate
Slimming Formula
Somotrim
Starcaps
Super Fat Burner
Superslim
Super Slimming
Trim 2 Plus
Triple Slim
Venom Hyperdrive 3.0
Waist Strength Formula
Xsvelten
Zhen de Shou

List source: Web MD

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OBAMA’S STIMULUS PACKAGE REWARDS LONG SUFFERING GREENS

Posted in Alternative Energy, Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Clean Energy, Eco -Chic, Global Warming, News Brief, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Energy, Sustainable Living, Will Wonders Never Cease Department on February 16th, 2009

PACKAGE CONTAINS OVER 60 BILLION IN DIRECT SPENDING ON GREEN INITIATIVES AND ANOTHER 20 BILLION EARMARKED FOR GREEN TAX INCENTIVES

The final stimulus package which President Obama is expected to sign into law today, President’s Day, contains many victories for environmentalists with over $6o billion in direct spending on green initiatives and another $20 billion earmarked for green tax incentives.

While this package is by no means a cure-all, it is a vital he first step into a new green age and is necessary to combat the ever-worsening effects of Global Warming.

That being said, here in no particular order is the breakdown:

$11 billion for the construction of an advanced Digital Smart Grid and $7.5 billion for renewable energy and transmission-line construction, which will enable the renewable energy to be moved from the rural areas that best lend themselves to wind, solar and thermal installations, to the cities where the power is needed;

$2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable-energy research;

$6.3 billion for local government energy-efficiency grants;

$400 million for the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy for the development of alternative energy sources;

$500 million for green jobs programs through the Workforce Investment Act;

$5 billion to weatherize old buildings;

$4.5 billion to boost the energy efficiency of federal buildings;

$2.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partners Program to fund energy-efficiency retrofits for low-income housing;

$5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program to fund the retrofits of 1 million modest-income homes, saving the families living there an average $350 a year;

$6.3 billion to improve federally backed and public housing projects with new insulation, windows and furnaces. For every dollar spent, such programs are expected to produce about $3 in electricity savings. The legislation also provides tax breaks for higher-income households making similar improvements;

$1.2 billion to fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental cleanup programs, including the long neglected Superfund;

$510 million for energy-efficiency retrofits for Native American housing programs;

$420 million for energy-efficiency improvements at the Department of Defense;

$300 million for Department of Defense research on energy efficiency at military installations;

$6 billion for cleaning up toxins on former military sites;

$6 billion for new loan guarantees for wind and solar;

The package also extends tax credits for wind-energy production for three years where previously they had to be renewed year to year. But more importantly, the legislation allows renewable-energy developers to get cash grants in exchange for the tax credits, which is crucial in light of the current economic downturn and the fact that many companies engaged in renewable-energy haven’t had the profits against which to take a tax credit;

Over $17 billion for public transportation;

$8.4 billion for transit capital assistance programs;

$9.3 billion for high-speed rail, intercity rail and Amtrak;

$27.5 billion for highways though some of that highway money could be redirected to fund public transit, if states and municipalities decide it should;

$300 million in grants and loans for technologies that reduce highly toxic diesel emissions;

$6 billion for improvements to drinking-water systems;

A tax credit of up to $7,500 for families that buy plug-in hybrids;

The new bill also allocates $300 million for a federal fleet of hybrid vehicles.

But perhaps the best of all is what was left out of the final draft of the stimulus package: the $50 billion in federal loan guarantees to the nuclear industry, as well as all money for coal and for the farce that is clean coal.

Denis

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A BRIGHT SPOT IN A NASTY DARK CLOUD

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, Sustainable Living on January 11th, 2009

FEDERAL BAILOUT PROGRAM CONTAINS BENEFITS FOR GREENS

Editors Note! I realize I am a little bit late getting around to the following posting, but for the last month or so – - basically since the Presidential Election – - I just haven’t have the urge to come to this place and spew down logic, sanity, or in some instances. vitriol for public consumption, no matter how loyal that public is. Blogger burnout, I hear the malady is known as! And to be honest my friends, it has been a long time in coming – seven long years here and over ten at the Recoveringliberal.com. Millions of words, most of which I’m proud of, though I do wish that I had spent more time on occasion getting the grammar and sentence construction better. But no matter, what’s passed is passed. I am now back and as critical and caffeine deprived as ever.

So here goes…

In the time I have been regrouping, much has happened. One of the major events worthy of comment is George Bush’s $700 billion dollar parting gift to the financial industry, know in financial circles and among those trying to sound smart as the TARP, which is short for the Troubled Assets Relief Program.

Talk about Christmas for adults, this bold and blatant giveaway to administration cronies on Wall Street and in the banking industry is just the latest clusterfuck in a presidential administration known for its clusterfucks. (Think Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Afghanistan, tax breaks for the wealthy, etc.)

The sad fact is with over 50% of the cash disbursed, no one, not Congress, not the White House, no one knows what the hell the money went for. It was supposed to bolster the sagging financial industry with enough ready cash so they could start making loans again, and refinance the ones already issued that were troubled. But to date it appears that neither of these things has occurred, nor does it seem that they will be done any time in the future.

In essence friends, once again the American People (us) have been screwed!

But all is not gloom and doom, I am happy to report. First off, Congress could have, but did not release all $700 billion dollars requested to the Bush administration. Whether this was due to an inherent distrust of the Texas Mob Family – which I would like to think (and would probably be wrong thinking) was the reason, or the more likely reality that Congress just couldn’t get its shit together quick enough to hand out all the cash before Bush left office – is a matter for discussion. What needs no discussing is the good news that only half of the Tarp money – $350 billion dollars – is missing. But best of all – and the reason that this clusterfuck is even being discussed in an environmental blog – are that while Congress had the administration and the boys and girls on Wall Street over a barrel, someone or ones in congress had the good sense to tack some well deserved gifts for environmentalists onto this shit worthless piece of legislation.

These include:

A $3,000.00 credit for the purchase of plug-in hybrids;

The extension of the 30% tax credit for new solar power facilities through 2016; and

The replacement of the $2,000.00 tax credit limit for those who install solar panels on their homes with a more generous 30% federal tax deduction. The best part is that this deduction is in addition to any state incentives, which may be available.

Also included in the legislation were incentives for bio-fuel and wind, which while they are less generous than those offered for solar and for plug-in hybrids are real all the same.

Now we just have to have the money to buy the plug-in hybrids and the solar panels, which in our country’s current economic tailspin is not that easily forthcoming.

What the incoming administration needs to do – - among the thousands of things already on its plate – - is to figure out a way to make cheap, affordable financing available to homeowners to finance their conversion to solar. I think a program, which would allow homeowners to pay for the installation over ten or twenty years would be in order. This way the money that they would normally pay to Edison could be redirected to finance the conversion.

What do you think?

LIB

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LAME DUCK BUSH DECLARES WAR ON WOLVES

Posted in Eco Thugs, Endangered Species, Presidential Crimes & Misdemeanors on November 18th, 2008

HELP THE NRDC ACTION FUND TO STOP THE SLAUGHTER

With just about two months left before he rides off into the Texas sunset (and hopefully into a pile of legal quicksand), President George Bush has declared war on the North American wolf with a new plan that would strip wolves in the Northern Rockies of their endangered species protection making them fair game for any asshole with a gun.

Should Mr. Bush be successful in making his plan a reality, it is estimated that as many as 1,000 wolves could face slaughter in just the fist 12 months. This animal genocide would be a disaster for Yellowstone’s wolf population, which is already headed for a crash, according to NRDC Action Fund, which is currently raining funds in the hope of blocking this cruel deed.

Become an NRDC Action Fund Monthly Partner now, and play a frontline role in protecting the greatest icon of the American West from this senseless slaughter.

- – Denis

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WIND ADVOCATE, T. BOONE PICKENS DELAYS BUILDING WORLD’S LARGEST WIND FARM

Posted in Alternative Energy, Clean Energy, News Brief, Sustainable Energy on November 12th, 2008

CITES LOWER COST FUEL ALTERNATIVES AS HIS REASON

The poster child of wind energy, Texas billionaire, T. Boone Pickens, has announced that he is delaying plans to build the world’s largest wind farm. Pickens, famous for his self financed multi-million dollar media campaign extolling the virtues of wind energy as a key part of a national strategy to break our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, cites the fall in natural gas prices as the reason for his decision. At current prices it is cheaper to generate electricity from natural gas than it is from wind power.

Apparently the carbon that this method of energy generation would produce is of little concern to Mr. Pickens. But then, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t he an oil man until reinventing himself as the guru of the wind turbine?

Pickens is expected to begin taking delivery on $2 billion in wind turbines, starting in 2010.

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EATING RIGHT: AMERICA’S TEN HEALTHIEST SUPERMARKET CHAINS

Posted in Health Watch, Healthy Food, News Brief, Sustainable Food on November 9th, 2008

HEALTH,COM RATES THE GROCERY STORES YOU SHOULD ADD TO YOUR SHOPPING LIST

1. Whole Foods (279 stores in 38 states and Washington, D.C.
2. Safeway (1,700-plus stores nationwide)
3. Harris Teeter (176 stores in the Southeast)
4. Trader Joe’s (300-plus stores in 23 states and Washington, D.C.)
5. Hannaford (165-plus stores in the Northeast)
6. Albertsons (529 stores in the West, owned by SuperValu)
7. Food Lion (1,300 stores in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic)
8. Publix Super Markets (952 stores in the Southeast)
9. Pathmark (141 stores in the Mid-Atlantic)
10. SuperTarget (239 stores in 21 states, primarily Texas and Florida)

Learn why these stores are considered America’s healthiest supermarkets

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IT’S CHRISTMAS IN NOVEMBER FOR BUSH LOYALISTS

Posted in Administrative Arrogance, Eco Thugs, Global Warming, News Brief on November 5th, 2008

ON THE WAY OUT THE DOOR, THE BUSH ADMINISTRTION LAUNCHES ANOTHER BROADSIDE AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENT

Not content to shuffle gently into retirement, the Bush administration has announced that it is putting the finishing touches on a series of environmental policy changes intended to reward Corporate America for their loyalty by relaxing numerous critical environmental restrictions that Bush loyalists have identified as standing in the way of their plundering what remains of our precious natural resources.

The so-called “midnight regulations,” named for the way that they are enacted by an administration as it scurries out the door include: rolling back protections under the Endangered Species Act; allowing power plants to operate near national parks; loosening regulations for factory farm waste, and making it easier for mountaintop coal-mining operations to destroy mountains and pollute nearby lakes and streams.

What sucks about the new restrictions is that if the Bush administration passes them in a timely fashion – - and there is no indication that they will do otherwise – - it will be hard for President Obama to do anything about them without a major investment of time and political capitol.

Now you would think in light of the way things turned out on Election Day that George Bush would be too concerned about his own potential for criminal prosecution on a wide range of issues to fuck with the American people any further.

But this is not the case. Perhaps this is a suicidal wish? Or maybe the son of a bitch has such total disregard for the American people that he just doesn’t give a damn and by these actions is challenging the American people to go after his ass?

Either way the bad news is that we have not yet seen the end of George Bush.

Now if only I could blink my eyes and it be the afternoon of January 20th, 2009.

- Denis

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NATURAL RESOURCES DEFICIT THE BASIS OF NEW REPORT

Posted in Health Watch, News Brief, Sustainable Living on October 29th, 2008

FULLY THREE QUARTERS OF THE WORLD’S POPULATION LIVES IN COUNTRIES WHERE THE RESIDENTS CONSUME MORE NATURAL RESOURCES THAN THEIR NATION HAS THE CAPACITY TO PRODUCE.

From the too scary to contemplate file comes a new report from the World Wildlife Foundation, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, warning that fully three quarters of the world’s population lives in countries where the residents consume more natural resources than their nation has the capacity to produce.

To put it another way, what this means is that three quarters of us are only able to sustain our standard of living by drawing on the agricultural land, forests, seas and resources of other countries.

What’s more, the report tells us, the deficit has grown to such an extent that we now need 1/3 more natural resource capacity then the entire planet is capable of producing. Extrapolate these numbers twenty years in the future and it really gets frightening as by then the experts predict we will need a second planet of the size and capacity of earth just to sustain life.

The report concludes that this reckless consumption of “natural capital” is endangering the world’s future prosperity, with clear economic impacts including high costs for food, water and energy.

Just what we need, more good news.

- – Denis

This report is based on data from two indicators:

The Living Planet Index – assesses the health of the planet’s ecosystems;

Ecological Footprint – measures human demand on the natural world.

The Living Planet Index tracked the population of 1,313 vertebrate species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals from around the world.

It found that these species had declined by about 30% since 1970, suggesting that natural ecosystems were being degraded at an unprecedented rate.

The Ecological Footprint measured the amount of biologically productive land and water to meet the demand for food, timber, shelter, and absorb the pollution from human activity.

The report concluded that the global footprint exceeded the earth’s biocapacity by 25% in 2003, which meant that the Earth could no longer keep up with the demands being placed upon it.

Read More

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EU TO FORCE AIRLINES TO BUY EMISSIONS PERMITS

Posted in Conscious Actions, Global Warming, News Brief on October 27th, 2008

AIRLINES CRY POVERTY IN THE HOPE OF STALLING THE RULING

In one of the brighter recent strokes by a governing body, the European Union, on Friday, put in place legislation to force airlines flying into or out of member countries to join the emissions trading system. The measure, which is intended to cap the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, drew considerable criticism from airline industry executives for the timing of its passing, given the current global economic crisis. Estimates are that it will cost the airlines, which serve the European market, at least $4.4 billion per year to comply. The ruling is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

Many airlines have fought hard to avoid inclusion in the system, including American-based carriers who are maintaining that the ruling may violate international aviation agreements.

Clearly this is one that will end up in the courts.

Read on after the jump.

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