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by Danny Cross 02.16.2012
monsanto lede

Monsanto Is Pissing a Lot of People Off

You poison one little French farmer and all hell breaks loose. Giant chemical-maker Monsanto yesterday announced it plans to appeal a Monday ruling that one of its herbicides in 2004 poisoned French farmer Paul Francois, who says inhaling a Monsanto weedkiller led to “memory loss, headaches and stammering”(coincidentally, these are the same symptoms of the accidental hangover™).

In addition to the French farmer being pissed enough at the company for giving him a hangover when he was trying to work his farmland, there are about a million other people officially declaring themselves as against Monsanto via “Millions Against Monsanto,” an organic consumers association that campaigns for “health, justice, sustainability, peace and democracy.” If you accept the possibility of Monsanto obstructing even a majority of these five concepts, it’s easy to believe the company has enemies from a lot of different backgrounds.

That’s why Monday’s ruling by a French court finding Monsanto legally responsible for poisoning Francois and ordering it to compensate him has enlivened a bunch of angry activists.

Millions Against Monsanto offers a wealth of content documenting the agricultural biotechnology corporation’s government ties, tendencies to take small dairies to court, refusal to compensate veterans for Agent Orange and getting their nasty chemicals in normal people’s water supplies. (Wikipedia is hilariously filled with references to things like dumping toxic waste in the UK, Indonesian bribing convictions and fines for false advertising.) Even 'ol boy Obama has gotten caught up in the mix with charts like this one circulating on Facebook:

The latest news out of Millions Against Monsanto is the moving forward of a California ballot initiative to require mandatory GMO labeling that polls show has 80 percent support. According to the site:

"A win for the California Initiative would be a huge blow to biotech and a huge victory for food activists. Monsanto and their minions have billions invested in GMOs and they are willing to spend millions to defeat this initiative. California is the 8th largest economy in the world. Labeling laws in CA will affect packaging and ingredient decisions nation-wide. The bill has been carefully written to ensure that it will not increase costs to consumers or producers."

Back in France, our friendly farmer will have to wait a while for whatever compensation poisoning amounts to, as Monsanto says it will appeal the ruling. According to The Washington Post: Monsanto spokesman Tom Helscher says the company does not think there is “sufficient data” to demonstrate a link between the use of Lasso herbicide and the symptoms Francois reported.

"We do not agree any injury was accidentally caused nor did the company intentionally permit injury," Helscher said. "Lasso herbicide was ... successfully used by farmers on millions of hectares around the world."
by Hannah McCartney 02.24.2012
Posted In: Science, Public Policy, Environment at 12:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Carp Attack!

Obama administration gives $50 million to protect Great Lakes from invasive Asian Carp

Coming soon to a Great Lake near you: giant, evil fish out for blood. OK, hopefully not, but it's possible, wildlife experts say, if the new plan to control Asian carp, a pesky freshwater fish with a penchant for destroying some of the U.S.'s greatest natural water habitats, doesn't end successfully. 

The fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes is nothing to be tampered with, and the Obama administration is taking steps to make sure it's not. On Thursday, officials announced that $51.5 million would be invested this year to protect the Great Lakes from the destructive Asian carp.

In case you're wondering, these aren't the same gentle giants that are swimming around in your local pond
these babies grow up to as large as 110 pounds and are capable of eating up to 20 percent of their body weight each day. To put that in perspective, for a 150-pound human, that's 30 pounds of food a day. That's not even Takeru Kobayashi material. There are three species of Asian carp that are considered invasive and a severe threat to the Great Lakes: the bighead, silver and black carp. These species eat plankton, algae, mollusks, mussel and sturgeon in large quantities, which strips the ecosystem of food sources for other types of fish. Think Lake Placid of the carp world.

Say they're just fish, but beware: Asian carp have caused whiplash, broken jaws and noses. Concussions and severe boat damage are some of the "charges" alleged by boaters caught off guard. The fish literally "jump" as high as 10 feet in the air, causing swarms of volatile flying fish. Not kidding.

The money will implement strategies to control the fish, including DNA testing, underwater cameras, trapping and netting, scent testing to "lure" the carp to a capture area, development of an acoustic water gun to scare carp from endangered areas and poisons to directly target Asian carp without harming native species.

What's most interesting about the investment is that we're the ones who brought these fish foes to U.S. waters in the first place; they were imported from Southeast Asian in the '70's to control algae in water treatment facilities and farm ponds. Not surprisingly, the species escaped confinement and found their way into the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers. The Illinois River is also connected to the Great Lakes system. Should the carp invade the Great Lakes system (it's possible some already have), scientists say it could cause up to $7 million in damages to the fishing industry, not to mention adversely impacting the Great Lakes' tourism industry by detracting from the safety of recreational lake activities.
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee advises people who come across Asian carp to freeze the fish in sealed plastic bags and immediately contact their state's Department of Natural Resources or Environmental Conservation.  

 When Asian Carp Attack:

by Danny Cross 12.05.2011

Morning News and Stuff

Occupy D.C. protesters built some type of structure in a park Saturday night, and police on Sunday notified them that they didn't have a permit and took it down, arresting dozens in the process. It was a pretty nice structure, though.

Read More

by Andy Brownfield 07.31.2012
Posted In: News, Environment, Development, Science at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

City Council Moves to Ban Fracking Injection Wells

Wording tries to skirt ODNR oversight

Nobody stood up for fracking in today's City Council committee meeting that saw dozens of people urge council to pass an ordinance banning injection wells within Cincinnati.

All members of the Strategic Growth Committee voted in favor of the proposed ordinance, with the exception of Councilman Chris Seelbach, who was recovering after allegedly being assaulted in downtown Monday  night.

If approved, the ordinance would prohibit injections wells — which inject wastewater underground — from being allowed within city limits. It now goes before the full council.

The practice is commonly associated with hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” — which uses chemical-laced water to drill for oil and gas. Fracking fluid injected underground has been tied to a dozen earthquakes in northeastern Ohio.

A 2004 Ohio law puts regulation of oil and gas drilling under the state’s purview, preventing municipalities from regulating the drilling.

The wording of the proposed Cincinnati ordinance doesn’t mention oil or gas drilling, which proponents say they hope will keep it from clashing with the state law if it passes.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heidi Hetzel-Evans tells CityBeat that injection wells also fall under ODNR’s purview.

She says she isn’t sure if the proposed Cincinnati ordinance would conflict with the state law.

“It’s very hard for ODNR to speculate on what might happen,” she says, adding that there aren’t any injection wells or applications for them in the Cincinnati area. “This may not be an issue that’s ever tested.”

That didn’t stop the dozens of people who spoke in favor of the ordinance at the committee meeting from erupting into applause once the ordinance was approved.

Barbara Wolf, a documentarian who has made a video about Cincinnati’s Water Works, said that the city has some of the cleanest water in the world, and chemicals from hydraulic fracturing could jeopardize that.

“We are studied by other countries,” Wolf said. “If it (fracking fluid) goes into the Ohio River, we don’t know what the chemicals are. It’s very hard to clean up chemicals if you don’t know what they are. And that’s one of the things we do really well: clean up chemicals.” 

by Danny Cross 07.10.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Local subscribers to Time Warner and Insight cable woke up today without access to WLWT-TV (Channel 5) after the station and companies failed to reach a new retransmission agreement. Instead, the cable companies offered Channel 2 from NBC affiliate Terre Haute, Ind. The Enquirer is all over the story, reporting that Todd Dykes and Lisa Cooney in the morning were replaced by someone named Dada Winklepleck in Wabash Valley, Ind. Don’t worry: 30 Rock will still be on your new local Indiana station. Visit mywabashvalley.com for further details about additional programming. Or you can just hook up an antennae and get WLWT in hi-def for free. 

Anyone in the market for a school building? Cincinnati Public Schools is adding four closed buildings to a for-sale list in an attempt to raise the capital necessary to complete an overhaul of its in-use buildings as part of its Facilities Master Plan. The new buildings on the list are Central Fairmount, Kirby Road, North Fairmount and Old Shroder schools. 

Ohio brought in $23.5 million during the first seven weeks of legalized gambling in the state. 

Mitt Romney says he’s not hiding anything in his offshore accounts. The proof: He doesn’t even know where they are, so they’re technically hidden from him, too.

Barack Obama is in Iowa apparently setting up an issue on which to debate Romney later this fall. Obama is pitching an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning less than $250,000, while Romney wants to extend them for rich people, too. 

The FDA went against the advice of an expert panel, deciding not to require mandatory training for doctors prescribing long-acting narcotic painkillers that can lead to addiction. 

Three-hundred-square-foot apartments in New York City? Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked developers yesterday to try to make them work.

City planners envision a future in which the young, the cash-poor and empty nesters flock to such small dwellings — each not much bigger than a dorm room. In a pricey real estate market where about one-third of renter households spend more than half their income on rent, it could make housing more affordable.

Droughts in 18 states have made the price of corn go up, and the soybeans are hurting a little bit, too.

Sitting less adds two years to U.S. life expectancy. 

A new study found that babies are healthier when there are dogs in their homes.

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place tonight in Kansas City. The Reds’ Joey Votto is a starter, while Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman are also likely to play. 

by Danny Cross 05.14.2012
bike month

Morning News and Stuff

Bike to Work Week today kicked off its series of morning commuter stations offering free coffee and treats all week long in an effort to encourage residents to try cycling to work, meet fellow cyclists and learn about bike advocacy. The city was scheduled to announce an award for its Bike Program this morning at the Coffee Emporium bike commuter station on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine.

Find a schedule of Bike to Work Week morning and afternoon commuter stations here.

The Enquirer over the weekend checked in with another of its “in-depth” pieces, this one detailing the huge amounts of money energy companies will make once they're allowed to treat northeastern Ohio's land like they do Texas. The story accurately described the fracking process as “controversial,” though it took the liberty of describing Carroll County as an “early winner” because 75 to 95 percent of its land is under lease to an oil or gas company. Here's a link to the weird slideshow-style presentation. And here's a sidebar on the issues surrounding fracking, which includes the following regarding the industry's oversight:

Fracking was exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act under the Bush Administration, so it now falls under state jurisdiction. In Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources issues permits for all oil and gas wells, including fracking wells. The department also inspects the drilling of all wells in the state.

The New York Times came to Ohio to see how the good, working class folks feel about the president who has spent three-and-a-half years trying to help people like them during a recession he didn't start. Turns out many still won't vote for him because he's still black.

Madiera is a really nice suburb, and some residents plan to keep it that way by blocking developers from building luxury condos so “renters” can't move in and “alter the landscape of their charming suburb.”

Ohio State University has released a plan to combat hate crimes in response to several incidents on its campus this spring. The "No Place to Hate" plan includes 24 recommendations including a public safety division “hate crime alert” line staffed by operators. The OSU campus reportedly had a mural of President Obama defaced and found spray-painted messages supporting the death of Trayvon Martin.

Good news from the AP's strangulation beat: “States cracking down on strangulation attempts.”

Newsweek's May 21 cover shows Barack Obama with a rainbow-colored halo over his head and the headline, “The First Gay President.”

National media are talking about HBO's Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary detailing America's obesity epidemic. CityBeat's Jac Kern told y'all about it last week.

John Edwards' defense attorneys are reportedly basing a lot of their case on the definition of the word “The.” That should go well.

Joey Votto hit a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam to win yesterday's game for the Reds, 9-6 over the Washington Nationals. It was his third home run of the day.

A Russian satellite has taken an awesome 121-megapixel photo of Earth.

by Danny Cross 07.06.2012

Morning News and Stuff

Steve Chabot’s self-righteous attempt to block federal streetcar funding found new criticism yesterday, as The Enquirer spoke to several credible sources who say his amendment is broad enough to affect federal funding for transportation projects beyond the streetcar, including bus lanes or ferries.

Mayor Mark Mallory and 3CDC representatives were scheduled to kick off a grand opening celebration of Washington Park at 10 a.m. this morning. The $48 million renovation includes an underground parking garage, concession building, dog park and concert space. A rally against the renovation and displacement of residents was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. CityBeat’s Mike Breen blogged away yesterday about the park’s scheduled weekly music series. 

It’s going to be another sucky hot weekend in Cincinnati.

U.S. hiring is being weak again.

Walgreens is buying mass drug store chains, preparing to cash in on that ObamaCare money. 

Brad Pitt’s mom wrote a pro-Mitt Romney, anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage letter to the editor of a Missouri newspaper. Brad, for the record, is pro-gay marriage and donated to the 2008 anti-Proposition 8 campaign in California. 

I have given much thought to Richard Stoecker’s letter (“Vote for Mormon against beliefs,” June 15). I am also a Christian and differ with the Mormon religion.

But I think any Christian should spend much time in prayer before refusing to vote for a family man with high morals, business experience, who is against abortion, and shares Christian conviction concerning homosexuality just because he is a Mormon.

Any Christian who does not vote or writes in a name is casting a vote for Romney’s opponent, Barack Hussein Obama — a man who sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for years, did not hold a public ceremony to mark the National Day of Prayer, and is a liberal who supports the killing of unborn babies and same-sex marriage.

I hope all Christians give their vote prayerful consideration because voting is a sacred privilege and a serious responsibility.

First they were telling us that the Higgs boson is the building block of the universe. How Professor Peter Higgs says he has no idea what the discovery will mean in practical terms. Come on, Higgs!

Apparently 250,000 people are going to wake up without the Internet on Monday. 

Scientists believe they’ve created the most realistic robot legs ever. 

by Danny Cross 06.22.2012

Morning News and Stuff

The Kentucky Speedway and state of Kentucky will find out soon whether the $10 million they spent on highway infrastructure improvements in response to last year’s traffic mess at a NASCAR race was worth it. The Speedway and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will hold a news conference today to outline plans to actually get all of the race attendees into the venue to watch the race rather than sit in traffic all day and get super mad.

A Cincinnati police officer with a long record of wrecking police vehicles was arrested on Monday and charged with assaulting a woman who he’s already been charged with assaulting once before. The Enquirer detailed the disciplinary history of officer Kevin Jones, who was also charged with two counts of assault from an incident that occurred May 19. 

Politico says President Obama’s recent announcement of a new immigration policy that allows many young immigrants who have never been in trouble with the law to stay in the country, and even travel across its borders, was a really smart move. The policy is not permanent, which leaves Mitt Romney to answer the question of whether or not he would repeal it if elected. The idea is reportedly similar to legislation that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a potential Romney running mate, has been considering introducing. 

“This is a stroke of political genius,” Bruce Morrison told me. A former Democratic congressman from Connecticut, Morrison was chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee, a member of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and House author of the Immigration Act of 1990. He’s now an immigration attorney and lobbies on a wide variety of immigration issues.

“Obama has taken Rubio’s idea and put it into action,” Morrison said. “He has given these people a work permit, the ability to remain in this country, but no permanent status.” Their legal status can be terminated at any time. “But it won’t be terminated by Obama,” Morrison said.

A breast cancer survivor who has undergone a double mastectomy has been allowed to swim topless by the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation after stating that wearing a bathing suit over her chest causes pain. 

(Jodi) Jaecks opted against reconstructive surgery. "I don't see a need to fake having breasts," she said.

"My ultimate goal is to change policy at beaches and pools, to increase people's awareness of cancer and the realities of the human condition," Jaecks told Reuters.

LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA title last night, completing a 4 games to 1 series victory over the Oklahoma Thunder. It is the first title for James, who has been widely mocked for stating that he’d like to win more titles than Michael Jordan’s six. James, who is 27, won his first a year younger than Jordan did, thought Jordan then won the title in six of eight years. 

Two alien plants planets around the same star apparently rise in the night sky of each other, looking like a giant full moon. The planets, Kepler-36b and Kepler-36c, are 1,200 light-years from Earth and 1.2 million miles apart, the closes two planets known. 

by German Lopez 02.04.2014
Posted In: News, Science at 12:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)
nye vs ham

Four Things the Anti-Science Crowd Denies

Bill Nye the Science Guy to “debate” Creation Museum founder Ken Ham

Bill Nye the Science Guy and Creation Museum founder Ken Ham will engage in a so-called “debate” tonight over evolution and biblical creationism, even though the scientific evidence rules out any possibility of Nye losing on the facts of evolution.

Although the scientific evidence is clear, evolution remains a contentious conflict in the United States as religious fundamentalists struggle to reconcile their literal interpretations of religious texts with scientific facts.

The conflict between science and religion is nothing new. In the late 19th century, John William Draper, an American scientist and historian, brought the conflict to the mainstream with his book, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science.

Since then, the conflict has actually expanded to include anti-science pushback from political and business interests over a wide range of issues. Here are four leading examples of today’s conflicts as they pit science against everyone else:


Evolution is essentially the foundation of modern biology. It’s overwhelmingly supported by modern scientists. Evidence ranges from centuries of scientific observations to similarities in life’s genetic and physiological makeup to fossilized records.

“At the heart of evolutionary theory is the basic idea that life has existed for billions of years and has changed over time,” notes UC Berkeley’s evolution explainer. “Overwhelming evidence supports this fact. Scientists continue to argue about details of evolution, but the question of whether life has a long history or not was answered in the affirmative at least two centuries ago.”

In the scientific world, it’s silly to dispute the entire concept of evolution. Some, like Nye, question how the world can even make sense to someone without evolution.

“Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don’t believe in evolution,” Nye told Big Think.

Expect more arguments along those lines at Tuesday’s “debate,” which will be streamed live here.

Global warming

Scientists widely agree global warming is occurring and man-made. In the latest report from the the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, scientists said they are at least 95 percent certain that human actions contribute to global warming.

To understand global warming, it’s crucial to first differentiate weather and climate. Weather forecasts look at short-term trends in specific areas, like the current local temperature and whether stuff is falling out of the sky in Cincinnati. Climate science looks at huge, long-term trends that span the globe, such as global temperature trends over decades.

When climate science is viewed through the correct scientific lens, the results become practically impossible to reasonably question:

Vaccine safety

The anti-vaccine movement claims vaccines can lead to extreme complications like autism, asthma or diabetes, but the argument is backed by no notable scientific evidence.

In its broad analysis of vaccines and their adverse effects, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found “few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines.” Specifically, the study ruled out connections between vaccines and autism, asthma and diabetes.

That’s not to say vaccines are without side-effects. In some occasions, IOM found vaccines can cause allergic reactions, seizures and fainting. But the data did not indicate serious, widespread problems.

Fortunately, both liberals and conservatives mostly reject the idea that vaccines are dangerous. That’s good news for everyone’s health. If most people doubted the science, the fears could diminish the herd effect that’s so important for preventing and combating epidemics.

Safety of genetically modified foods

Despite the sweeping scientific consensus that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe, detractors continue rallying against any genetic manipulation in foods.

Major scientific groups have extensively studied GMOs during the decades the technology has been available. The consensus, from groups including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the Royal Society of Medicine, was clear: Genetically modified foods aren’t any more harmful than conventional foods.

Even in the extremely anti-GMO Europe, an independent European Commission report found, “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”

An even larger study from Italian scientists reached similar conclusions.

In its defense, the anti-GMO movement typically points to a study that initially claimed to find evidence of tumors in rats that consumed genetically modified foods. But the scientific journal that published the study, Food and Chemical Toxicology, actually retracted the findings after deciding they were “inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication.”

Given the lack of evidence, it’s easy to understand why scientific organizations around the world seem so aligned against the anti-GMO movement:

by German Lopez 07.24.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Science, Sports, News at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

The Ohio Board of Regents has recommended banning tobacco on all school campuses. The ruling is meant to curtail students picking up smoking during college. According to the Ohio Department of Health, 40 percent of college-aged smokers began smoking or became regular smokers after starting college.

Louise Nippert, Cincinnati philanthropist and art patron, died yesterday at the age of 100.

Secret groups have been pumping Ohio’s Senate race between incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel with out-of-state money in support of Mandel. Unsurprisingly, the Brown team is not happy about it.

More Ohio adults are on Medicaid and Medicare, a new study has found. Ohioans are also relying less on employer-provided insurance. The numbers apparently match a nationwide movement.

Yesterday, the world got its first glimpse at the suspect in the Colorado theater massacre. He had orange hair.

A coalition of labor groups is getting together to push for a higher minimum wage in Ohio. They want minimum wage raised to $9.80 per hour in 2014.

Penn State is getting a heavy-handed punishment from the NCAA. It seems like the occult hand of former coach Joe Paterno will continue having a heavy grip on the university’s football legacy.

Apparently, earth’s resources aren’t good enough for technology. Scientists want to use dwarf stars to improve computers in a big way.