News That Matters
Good Tuesday Morning,
I want you all to go outside at some time today with a pair of gardening clippers. Find your forsythia bush and select several long, thin branches for clipping. Snip them cleanly, bring them inside and place them in a vase of warmish water. Why? Give it a week... you'll be happy you did.
I've been getting these phone calls from an agency that tells me my automobile warranty is about to expire and if I just stay on the line someone will help me extend the original warranty. So, I press "1" and wait and when the guy/gal comes on I tell them about the Do Not Call list and to not ever call me again. I usually get as far as, "Do not...." before they hang up. I've done this about a dozen times over the past few months. The company claims to be called the "Warranty Direct Service Center" and even AT&T Mobile has tried to sue them. From the news report:
"Because spoofing is inherently integral to this kind of telemarketing, figuring out who is behind the enterprise is itself a challenge. AT&T Mobility said one number alone — 800-219-7425 — made more than 13 million calls to wireless numbers through telecom carriers Paetec Communications, Global Crossing and MCI Inc./Verizon Communications Inc. AT&T said it will need to subpoena those companies and others to determine the owner and operator of various spoofed phone numbers."
Police say there are 50,000 "sexual predators" online at any one time and that they're after your child. But here's a question: everyone in law enforcement and the media is using that number but no one can say where it comes from or what it's based on. "It's extrapolated," they will say, but extrapolated from what? The next thing they'll say is that the pornography industry generates $20 billion a year in sales and so there must be 50,000 dangerous predators online. According to police and the media, porn and predatory behavior are inextricably linked. They've no proof, of course, but it sounds just scary enough for people who want to be afraid to believe them.
Congress is about to take up a national sex offender bill which would give states the ability to define every 'sex offense', even an elementary school-aged child showing his woo woo to a classmate, as a "violent" crime and force that child to bear the Scarlett letter for the rest of his life. I don't see how this protects us from truly violent and awful people but, like I wrote above, it scares people, keeps funding levels high and makes the politicians happy.
How the Goat Churns:
Talk on the street this morning says that the goat found at GB's house last week was found in the middle of the road and not on his front lawn, as implied in press releases. Moreover, police allowed the goat to be removed from the property before retrieving it for evidence. Because of that, important evidence may have been destroyed in the process.
In today's Journal News, reporter Mike Risinit picked up on the report made here the other day that the hand-painted sign left on the goat referred to GB as either an American or gay prostitute. But we still haven't seen a police report nor a copy of the sign and so far all the news we're hearing is coming from GB himself and not from the police. And I have to wonder, who is running the investigation? If there is genuine foul-play involved here and a state assemblyman has been the target, why have the police remained silent?
And Now, The News:
A couple years back, in a wheat field outside the town of Reardan, Washington, Fred Fleming spent an afternoon showing me just how hard it's gotten to save the world. After decades as an unrepentant industrial farmer, the tall 59-year-old realized that his standard practices were promoting erosion so severe that it was robbing him of several tons of soil per acre per year—his most important asset. So in 2000, he began to experiment with a gentler planting method known as no-till. While traditional farmers plow their fields after each harvest, exposing the soil for easy replanting, Fleming leaves his soil and crop residue intact and uses a special machine to poke the seeds through the residue and into the soil.
The results aren't pretty: In winter, when his neighbors' fields are neat brown squares, Fleming's looks like a bedraggled lawn. But by leaving the stalks and chaff on the field, Fleming has dramatically reduced erosion without hurting his wheat yields. He has, in other words, figured out how to cut one of the more egregious external costs of farming while maintaining the high output necessary to feed a growing world—thus providing a glimpse of what a new, more sustainable food system might look like.
But there's a catch. Because Fleming doesn't till his soil, his fields are gradually invaded by weeds, which he controls with "judicious" amounts of Roundup, the Monsanto herbicide that has become an icon of unsustainable agribusiness. Fleming defends his approach: Because his herbicide dosages are small, and because he controls erosion, the total volume of "farm chemistry," as he calls it, that leaches from his fields each year is far less than that from a conventional wheat operation. Nonetheless, even judicious chemical use means Fleming can't charge the organic price premium or appeal to many of the conscientious shoppers who are supposed to be leading the food revolution. At a recent conference on alternative farming, Fleming says, the organic farmers he met were "polite—but they definitely gave me the cold shoulder."Read More
Does anything taste better than a spring flower added to your salad, desserts or as a savoury garnish to vegetable dishes? Flowers are not just intended to look lovely in a vase, many are delicious to eat and add an extra depth of flavour to food.
ScienceDaily (Mar. 10, 2009) — New research by U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) scientists and partners suggests the hemlock woolly adelgid is killing hemlock trees faster than expected in the southern Appalachians and rapidly altering the carbon cycle of these forests. SRS researchers and cooperators from the University of Georgia published the findings in the most recent issue of the journal Ecosystems.
Eastern hemlock, a keystone species in the streamside forests of the southern Appalachian region, is already experiencing widespread decline and mortality because of hemlock woolly adelgid (a tiny nonnative insect) infestation. The pest has the potential to kill most of the region's hemlock trees within the next decade. As a native evergreen capable of maintaining year-round transpiration rates, hemlock plays an important role in the ecology and hydrology of mountain ecosystems. Hemlock forests provide critical habitat for birds and other animals; their shade helps maintain the cool water temperatures required by trout and other aquatic organisms in mountain streams.
Sunday 08 March 2009
Paul Murnane Reporting