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Methyl Iodide Approved under Industry Pressure

Methyl Iodide was approved almost a year ago by the State of California to be used in the production in many different crops but most widely known in the growing of Strawberries.  It's been a controversial decision ever since and many State and National organizations have been pushing for not only the State to reconsider this approval but has sued the State and California has also asked the EPA to ban the toxic pesticide all together because of it is a known carcinogen and often used in the laboratory to create cancer.

California Watch has uncovered more evidence that the State's approval was due to influence by the pesticide's manufacturer Arysta LifeScience and they went to great lengths to influence the scientific evidence on whether to ban their pesticide due to safety concerns.  And there are many safety concerns.

The Feb. 16, 2010, memo by an executive of methyl iodide manufacturer Arysta LifeScience said maximum exposure levels that the state's scientists had recommended for workers and people who live near agricultural fields were unacceptable to the company because they were too low.

"It is essential to revisit the toxicology assessment to come up with less conservative assumptions," wrote John Street, the company's global head of development and registration.

The memo was addressed to Jim Wells of Environmental Solutions Group, a Sacramento-based consulting firm that Arysta hired to help win regulatory approval for methyl iodide in California. Wells served as director of the Department of Pesticide Regulation in the 1990s.

Street recommended a range of exposure levels Arysta would support and laid out the calculations state pesticide regulation managers could make to arrive at those levels.

Eight months later, DPR managers overruled their own toxicologists - and a panel of expert scientists the department had commissioned to review the toxicologists' work - and approved the use of methyl iodide at so-called regulatory target levels nearly identical to the lowest levels Street said would be acceptable to Arysta.

Arysta got to dictate what levels of Methyl Iodide are safe for human exposure even though in reality the Department of Pesticide Regulation set those standard much lower.  Why would they do that?  I mean, why would DPR set such low levels?  Oh that's right, we have such regulations set forth in order to protect human health and environmental resources like water and soil but hey, if the manufacturer of the product, who is set to make a hefty profit by the sale of the pesticide says it's safe, it must be safe!

Over and over again we are seeing the regulating arms of our Government, that are there to protect consumers, workers and those who live near agriculture (because in the case of methyl iodide, it's not just about the people who eat the food its treated with, it's a great health risk to those who work with it and live near it) being bought and sold by lobbyists of the Corporations set to profit dearly.

Ultimately this is not just about a broken system of who gets to say what is done where, but a broken food system that is far too dependent on artificial fertilizers and pesticides that not only puts our health at risk but our very precious resources as well.  We often think of water in California since it's such a highly demanded commodity but soil should also be seen as a nonrenewable resource.  Healthy, untainted soil is also important to growing food and we are taking that resource for granted.


Visualized: Apple’s celebration of Steve Jobs’ life in Cupertino

The state of California made October 16th "Steve Jobs Day," and on October 19th, the company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak celebrated his life on campus in Cupertino. The photo here, provided by Apple, shows CEO Tim Cook addressing throngs of people who came to the memorial.

Visualized: Apple's celebration of Steve Jobs' life in Cupertino originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 19 Oct 2011 22:46:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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There are only 1400 of these magnificent creatures alive. They killed 18 of them in Ohio today.

I cannot understand why anyone should be allowed to keep endangered species in a private zoo. But even assuming that property worshiping Americans won't stand for such a ban, no one should be able to do this after having been cited over and over again for animal cruelty and abuse. What a horrible story.


Burning garbage

Get ready for a big boo for another active duty soldier:

U.S. forces stationed in a remote area of Afghanistan recently received about 20 copies of Bill O’Reilly’s book “Pinheads and Patriots.” Their orders upon receiving the tomes: Burn them, according to a tumblr account maintained anonymously by a soldier.

Some jerk sent us two boxes of this awful book (SPOILER ALERT: George Washington - Patriot; George Soros - Pinhead) instead of anything soldiers at a remote outpost in Afghanistan might need, like, say, food or soap. Just burned the whole lot of them on my Commander’s orders.

Posted on Monday along with photos of the burning manuscripts, the post quickly went viral, prompting the blogger to clarify the reason for the book blaze:

The motivation behind the order to burn them was not political. As mentioned in the original post, we are in an extraordinarily remote location. We don’t have a post office here, so sending them back wasn’t an option. Extra space is scarce and alternatives that a few mentioned, like recycling, are nonexistent.

Evidently quite a few people objected on the grounds that burning books is a bad thing to do, which I generally agree is true.(I do have to wonder how many of them stomped on those Dixie Chicks CDs back in 2003 ...) But I believe the guy when he says that they couldn't do much with te things except burn considering where they are. It's not like they're Bibles --- or even as valuable as old, out of date Afghan newspapers. These are Bill O'Reilly books. Why in God's name are people sending garbage to a war zone?


Some genuinely good news by David Atkins

Some genuinely good news
by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

It looks like scientists may be on their way to a vaccine for malaria:

The first vaccine against malaria has proved partially effective at protecting children, according to results published Tuesday, providing hope against a killer that is a scourge in the developing world.

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, who helped fund the research, called it a "huge milestone" and said the vaccine could be ready by 2015 if further study results are positive.

Three doses of the vaccine cut roughly in half the risk of developing malaria in children five months to 17 months old, according to interim results of a clinical trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine and highlighted by Mr. Gates at a gathering here of malaria scientists and policy makers.

The researchers said additional data from the study are needed to declare the vaccine effective.

Malaria, which is spread by mosquitoes, killed an estimated 781,000 people world-wide in 2009, down from 985,000 deaths in 2000, according to the World Health Organization. Yet the disease—a killer for centuries—remains endemic in many poor nations, particularly in Africa, where it is blamed in part for holding down economic growth.

Four years ago, Mr. Gates and his wife, Melinda, stunned the health-care community by setting malaria eradication as their ultimate goal, a target many thought unobtainable. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation so far has invested $1.75 billion in combating the disease.

The potential vaccine would only cut the number of infections in half, which is a less successful rate than any other major vaccine. But this isn't a regular vaccine: it's the first ever vaccine against a human parasite. If it were easy to do, it would have been done by now.

On a side note, one has to give credit where credit is due. This is an example conservatives will be able to crow about: a billionaire uses the charity model to fund development of a vaccine, with the help of a major corporation (GlaxoSmithKline) that will produce it without making a profit. Of course, government money was also involved in the research and production of the vaccine, and this one example doesn't negate the thousands of others in which the charity/corporate model is wholly inadequate (to say nothing of undemocratic.) But nonetheless, kudos to both Gates and Glaxo for doing the right thing to make the world a better place in this instance.

On a further side note, the recent passing of Steve Jobs marked an interesting counterpoint to Bill Gates. Many progressives worshipped Mr. Jobs and took his death very personally. But the reality is that Apple Computer takes a 42% profit margin on its products, considerably higher than Microsoft's 33% margin (note: these figures are wrong; see my update below.) Jobs, meanwhile, didn't seem to have given to charity much at all at least publicly, even as he quashed Apple's charitable corporate programs.

I personally don't believe that electronic gadgets would look all that different today than they would have had Gates and Jobs chosen other lines of work. Mr. Jobs certainly helped personalize the computer, the portable music player and mobile phone, advancing by several years the personalization of technology that would otherwise have remained staid and business-oriented for a longer period of time. I believe it's hyperbole, but there's a case to be made that Gates revolutionized the world of business productivity, while Jobs revolutionized the world of entertainment and personal communication.

But 50 years from now, it may well be that comparisons between Gates and Jobs will not be made between their respective influence on the early evolution of electronic gadgets, but by their respective roles in the possible elimination of the biggest killer disease in all of human history.

I'm sure I will take a lot of heat for saying this, because it's an unpopular view in progressive circles and the corporation known as Apple Computer is something of a sacred cow. But today's mobile gadgets will become tomorrow's garbage. Eliminating malaria, on the other hand, is forever.

Update: A few commenters have informed me that my profit margin numbers for Apple and Microsoft are in error. They're right. I was comparing apples and oranges in terms of margin percentages. It appears that Microsoft does make a higher profit margin than Apple: Microsoft's margin is indeed 33% as I said above, but Apple's margin is only actually 23.5%. Apologies for the error.


9-9-9 by David Atkins

by David Atkins ("thereisnospoon")

There have been a few graphs out there showing just how atrocious is Hermann Cain's 9-9-9 plan to tax the poor and middle class while delivering a gigantic cut for the rich. Jed Lewison at DailyKos has a good one. Matt Yglesias has another good one here:

But far and away the best one is Jared Bernstein's, which is much too long to repost here. Go check it out.

If Hermann Cain wins the GOP primary as current polling suggests he may, then Republicans should forever have lost their credibility even as the Party of low taxes. And if they lose that, I'm no longer sure what beyond culture war they have left.


Chippin’ away at it—- yet another assault on women’s rights

I'm told that even talking about this constitutes a hissy fit by dumb women playing useful idiots for Barack Obama (or in my case a hack trying to misdirect liberals away from their real enemies in the Democratic Party --- or something.) But I think I'll mention it anyway:

Anti-choice Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) just filed an anti-choice amendment to a bill related to agriculture, transportation, housing, and other programs. The DeMint amendment could bar discussion of abortion over the Internet and through videoconferencing, even if a woman’s health is at risk and if this kind of communication with her doctor is her best option to receive care.

Under this amendment, women would need a separate, segregated Internet just for talking about abortion care with their doctors.

I looked around and couldn't figure out from the various blog posts and articles about this what was really going on. Banning using the internet to talk about abortion? And then I searched the "pro-life" sites:

Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, is offering an amendment to legislation in the U.S. Senate that could receive a vote as early as today or tomorrow to ensure taxpayer funds are not used to pay for the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug under a telemedicine grant section.

The amendment is similar to the one Congressman Steve King, an Iowa Republican, introduced in the House this summer that the lower chamber approved on a bipartisan 240-176 vote. The amendment prevents any funds within the legislation from being spent on the abortion drug RU-486 “for any purpose,” including use in “telemed abortions.”

Telemed, or webcam, abortions are those in which a woman gets the abortion drug only after a webcam conversation with the abortion practitioner, who may be out of state. The woman is denied the in-person consultation with a physician that the Food and Drug Administration recommends, especially due to the dangerous nature of the drug as it has killed dozens of women worldwide and injured 2,200 alone as of April 2011 FDA figures. The consultation helps determine whether or not the woman may suffer from an ectopic pregnancy — as usage of the abortion drug RU 486 in such instances is life-threatening.

Abortion providers like Planned Parenthood are the frequent recipient of federal telemedicine grants, and King’s amendment makes it clear that telemedicine grants contained within the agriculture bill cannot be used to facilitate the use of RU-486 in “telemed abortions.” King and DeMint tell LifeNews the issue is of particular importance as the practice spreads to other states from Iowa, where 1,900 such telemed abortions have been done.

“Doctors at Planned Parenthood have been using telemedicine conferencing to prescribe RU 486, commonly known as the abortion drug,” King’s office said in comments on the bill. “These doctors are not present when the woman takes the drug and have never had any personal contact with the woman. The presence of this drug has led to more taking of human life. It was even more disheartening to learn that doctors at Planned Parenthood had found a way to make it even easier for a woman to get this drug.”

“Not only do telemedicine consultations make it easier for a woman to have an abortion, it makes it much more dangerous. Pregnant women should not be making the decision to terminate a life without a doctor present and should not be enduring this gruesome, invasive and harmful procedure without the presence of a doctor,” King’s office added. “It’s a multi-day treatment that is dangerous at every step. The FDA guidelines say that the woman must be in the presence of a doctor and must return after 14 days. Planned Parenthood has been using telemedicine to circumvent the intent of this guideline which was the safety of the woman.”

“This amendment must be passed in order to ensure that no taxpayer dollars are going to build facilities or set up computer networks designed to facilitate these gruesome, and dangerous procedures over the Internet,” the lawmaker concluded.

What will they think of next?

Now, Steve King is one of the most embarrassing politicians in the world. You expect him to propose the most cockamamie nonsense the right wing can come up with. But Jim DeMint slipping his ridiculous nonsense into unrelated bills is an escalation of the crazy.

I have no idea if this will survive in the Senate. Perhaps it's just another one of those idle gestures to the "pro-life" constituency that never go anywhere. But one thing I've learned from the reactionary fanatics over the years is that their persistence often pays off. It's as if they just keep annoying everyone until they give in in exasperation. Don't bet on this one not passing at some point.

It's ridiculous on its face --- Ru486 is safe and this concern trolling about it being "dangerous" and "gruesome" is just typical dishonest forced-childbirth propaganda. But it's also exactly the kind of issue that lefties who call women useful idiots and liberals who say this sort of thing is unimportant compared to the issues they care about will refuse to defend. And little by little the anti-choicers win. Not that that's important or anything.


More useful idiocy
The people fighting for reproductive rights in Mississippi tell us they don't have much money. They're up against Issue 26, which would assign personhood to every fertilized egg. The measure would immediately outlaw abortion in Mississippi, along with common forms of birth control and likely IVF treatments.

If the national personhood movement can get this done in Mississippi next month, then they're on the table nationwide.

Without much for spending on billboards or commercials, the pro-choice side has been doing this one themselves, in their own way. Now the very grassroots Parents Against MS 26 has its own video, telling their own stories. Whatever happens in November, these folks are trying.


“A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every person leaves a mark.” [Dynamics of Cats]

The following is brutal, do not watch if sensitive

Read the rest of this post... |

Read the comments on this post...

Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


Reckless pandering

Romney's walking into a briar patch with this one:

ROMNEY: You have a program like Paul Ryan has proposed, which says we’re going to give people vouchers to let them choose among private plans. I would not at the same time would want to remove the option for people who have standard Medicare. But I would probably move to a more managed care approach even in Medicare itself.

This is one where he really should propose a blue ribbon commission to study the issue rather than offering any proposals. The only Republican voters in the country who understand what he's talking about are Seniors. And they do not want any tinkering with Medicare, even if it's only forcing them into managed care (which they can already choose, by the way.) They largely voted against Democrats in the last election because the GOP told them that the health care reforms were coming out of their hides and unless President Obama makes an equally stupid move ( a good possibility, by the way) and start talking about cutting Medicare again, this is likely to make seniors queasy.

I suppose the GOP might be able to win without a huge turnout among the white, conservative elderly but it's hard to see how. In fact, Mitt is being very reckless in saying anything except that he will repeal Obamacare on his first day in office (which is impossible, but whatever...)Getting into specifics on Medicare is not going to help him.


“Nice!”—- cheering for disenfranchisement

This is not a big surprise:

SC voter ID law hits black precincts

By Jim Davenport

The Associated Press

South Carolina’s new voter photo identification law appears to be hitting black precincts in the state the hardest, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

For instance, nearly half the voters who cast ballots at a historically black college in Columbia lack state-issued photo identification and could face problems voting in next year’s presidential election, according to the analysis of precinct-level data provided by the state Election Commission.

What is a surprise is to see Republican operatives openly rejoicing in public about it:

Who is this Wesley Donohue who cheers the disenfranchisement of black voters?

Wesley Donehue
@wesleydonehue Columbia, South Carolina
Political operative running a campaign or two online. Follower of Christ. Southern. Host of Pub Politics.

I'm sure Christ would be so pleased.


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