Fresh PepperOne side-effect of the digital information age is that much clandestine information— formerly inaccessible to the average American— has become readily available, making the outrageous misbehavior of big business seriously apparent to anyone who bothers to look. These days, the Emperor has no clothes.

Example: Charles and David Koch, billionaire oil-baron brothers who routinely pour millions into climate denial and laissez-faire business legislation, may be planning to enter the media business. Koch Industries now considers buying a newspaper group that includes The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. The cost of those papers— roughly $623 million— doesn’t make a divot in the Kansas-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate’s annual revenue of about $115 billion. You know… Kansas. A state that— at this very moment— has a bill all queued-up for ratification that specifically makes it illegal for the government— state or federal— to spend ANYTHING there to support pesky “sustainable energy technologies.”

The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest newspaper in the country, and The Tribune is the ninth-largest. If the purchase happens, I predict Hearst-style media racketeering all over again, except on a formerly unimaginable scale. Or in other words: more hyper-sensationalist crap from yet ANOTHER big money news monopoly. Apparently when mega-rich guys sick of looking bad in the press are offered the choice to Cease being irascible douche bags, or Buy the damn newspaper and control the news media, they choose number 2.

Because money solves everything. Did you know Aspartame was banned by the FDA twice? The argument over whether Aspartame is safe or not is ongoing (billions of dollars ride on the outcome), though despite medical evidence suggesting it may be unsafe, the FDA still approved it, and they know everything, right? As usual, there’s more to the story than that.

In 1965 a chemist working for the company G.D. Searle accidentally created Aspartame while searching for a drug to cure stomach ulcers. Searle ran Aspartame through an extremely shady testing process, resulting (briefly) in approval by the FDA. But then Searle got busted for shoddy practices, leading to a full-out criminal investigation for illegally fudging its tests. That investigation was impeded when a whole bunch of FDA lawyers and scientists working on the case suddenly quit and took enormous new salaries working for G.D. Searle. Also, researchers who helped whitewash the testing scandal got paid big bonuses from G.D. Searle while those who refused to cooperate got the boot (at least one of them conveniently died before his study was finished). While these shenanigans were going on, three independent scientists determined Aspartame might cause brain tumors, so Aspartame stayed banned. But! Not for long.

In 1981, Searle company President Donald Rumsfeld (Yep. THAT Donald Rumsfield. The US Secretary of Defense during Viet Nam who later got the job again and almost single-handedly invented the War in Iraq) swore to get Aspartame approved. Searle re-applied Aspartame for FDA approval and the new FDA commissioner Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the previous ban on Aspartame: the new commission decided 3-2 in favor of maintaining the ban. So Hull appointed a 6th member to the board, which retroactively tied the vote at 3-3. Hull then PERSONALLY BROKE THE TIE and approved Aspartame for use. (Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, eventually taking a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for… G.D. Searle).

In 1985, Monsanto purchased the incredibly-lucrative Aspartame patent from G.D. Searle. Because fucking of course they did.

Good old Nutrasweet: made by accident, condemned by science, rescued by Donald Rumsfeld, green-lit by the FDA, and inserted into our food supply exclusively by Monsanto.