Monday, April 26, 2010

Regulate sodium? Not so fast

Two University of California-Davis scientists are questioning the idea of having the Food and Drug Administration curb the amount of salt in packaged foods.

A news release from the university's Web site:

Salt Shakeup: No Need to Regulate What Our Bodies Already Control

Today (April 21, 2010) the Institute of Medicine issued an official report claiming that Americans consume too much salt and urging that new government standards be established for “acceptable sodium content” in foods. Two UC Davis nutrition experts disagree. In November, Judith Stern, a professor of nutrition and internal medicine, and David McCarron, an adjunct nutrition professor, both at UC Davis, published a study in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology that questioned the scientific logic and feasibility of broadly limiting salt intake in humans. (See journal article online at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/cgi/content/full/4/11/1878 .) After examining data from sodium intake studies worldwide and a critical body of neuroscience research on sodium appetite (innate behaviors that drive us to consume salt), Stern and McCarron found compelling evidence indicating that humans naturally regulate their salt intake within a narrowly defined physiologic range. They found that Americans’ average salt intake falls well within this range. They suggest that government-led attempts to nationally control salt intake are simplistic, misguided and not based in science and, instead, advise that individuals who are at special risk for high blood pressure and related diseases consult their physicians for nutritional advice, including appropriate levels of salt consumption.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NCBA: Thank a rancher

From the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's "Capital Concerns" online newsletter:

Celebrate Earth Day by Thanking a U.S. Beef Producer!

U.S. farmers and ranchers are everyday environmentalists--serving as good stewards of the land, while producing a safe, affordable and abundant food supply to feed the word's growing population. Did you know that today's American farmer feeds about 144 people worldwide? Modern beef production practices have allowed increased productivity while using fewer resources than ever before.

In fact, grazing animals on land not suitable for producing crops more than doubles the land area that can be used to produce food. If 1955 technology were used to produce the amount of beef raised today, 165 million more acres of land would be needed--that's about the size of Texas! Cattle also serve a valuable role in the ecosystem by converting plants humans cannot consume into a nutrient-dense food. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide, and beef provides the most readily available and easily absorbed source of iron. Just one 3-ounce serving of beef supplies 51 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for protein, 38 percent of the DV for zinc and 14 percent of the DV for iron.

Farmers and ranchers work each and every day to preserve, conserve and restore our country's natural resources such as open space, grasslands, wetlands, clean air and wildlife habitat.

'Smile, don't shudder'

Bjorn Lomborg writes in USA Today:

Given all the talk of impending catastrophe, this may come as a surprise, but as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, people who care about the environment actually have a lot to celebrate. Of course, that's not how the organizers of Earth Day 2010 see it. In their view (to quote a recent online call to arms), "The world is in greater peril than ever." But consider this: In virtually every developed country, the air is more breathable and the water is more drinkable than it was in 1970. In most of the First World, deforestation has turned to reforestation. Moreover, the percentage of malnutrition has been reduced, and ever-more people have access to clean water and sanitation.

Another snippet:

If anything, this gulf between perception and reality has gotten wider over the years. For example, one of the "core issues" that the organizers of this year's Earth Day say we should be worrying about is the use of fertilizers and pesticides. It may be unfashionable to point this out, but without the high-yield agricultural practices developed over the past 60 years, virtually all the forests of the world would have to have been cleared to make way for food production. And starvation would be much, much more prevalent.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The pot calling the kettle white?

There seems to be a lot of media consternation -- on both a local and national level -- at the racial makeup of those who have participated in tea party demonstrations across the country.

The insinuation is that tea parties are racists, or at least racially insensitive, if they don't have a certain number of nonwhite participants. (I don't remember that concern being raised with regard to the mostly white peace protests during the Bush administration, but that's another topic altogether.)

Whatever the merits of this criticism are, it's interesting to note who's hurling the accusations.

Working at five different daily newspapers in ethnically diverse California over a 20-year period (not to mention free-lancing for a bunch more), I can count on one hand the number of nonwhite coworkers I had in newsrooms during that period. Two of those coworkers were at the Merced Sun-Star, where I toiled in the mid-1990s. But even there, in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, I could count on one hand the number of Latinos who worked in our building. We certainly didn't come close to matching the percentage level of Hispanics who lived in our coverage area.

I'm not one who believes newspapers shouldn't cover issues relating to race or ethnicity. But if a local newspaper is going to run articles or snarky columns implying that individuals or groups within the community have a race problem, I think it's fair to ask them the following question: How many nonwhite employees do you have on your staff?

What a coincidence

Last night we watched the 1959 film, "The Diary of Anne Frank," and I learned (or remembered) what those in hiding called the Nazi Secret Police. They were the "Green Police."

Hmmm.

Maybe none of the high-priced suits who develop the (Germany-based) Audi car manufacturer's TV commercials are into literary classics.

But apparently I'm not alone in drawing comparisons (warning: adult language). One has to wonder if a "Green Police" ad campaign would have seen the light of day even a decade or two ago.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Only in New York ...

... would doormen be unionized -- and would the world practically crumble if they went out on strike.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The EPA vs. the Clean Air Act

Is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violating the Clean Air Act in the way it is trying to implement its December ruling that so-called greenhouse gases pose a human health risk? The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is one of a handful of organizations that think so.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must adopt a National Ambient Air Quality Standard for a pollutant before regulating it, Tamara Thiers, the NCBA’s chief environmental council, told me this morning. Such a process typically involves an in-depth scientific assessment and public comment period, she said.

“It’s quite a complicated process, and it’s designed to be that way,” Thies said. “The purpose in going through this process is to ensure that you really evaluate the science and that the public has an extensive opportunity to comment … so you avoid the problem with regulating emissions that really shouldn’t be regulated in the first place because the science does not support it.”

To read about their latest court petition against the EPA, check www.capitalpress.com later in the week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interesting

Why would Newt Gingrich sign the tea partiers' Contract From America unless he were running for something, or planning to run?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Are weeds becoming Roundup Ready?

From a New York Times story on genetically modified crops, via Bruce Ross:

But Dr. [David E.] Ervin, a professor of environmental management and economics at Portland State University in Oregon, warned that farmers were jeopardizing the benefits by planting too many so-called Roundup Ready crops. These crops are genetically engineered to be impervious to the herbicide Roundup, allowing farmers to spray the chemical to kill weeds while leaving the crops unscathed.

Overuse of this seductively simple approach to weed control is starting to backfire. Use of Roundup, or its generic equivalent, glyphosate, has skyrocketed to the point that weeds are rapidly becoming resistant to the chemical. That is rendering the technology less useful, requiring farmers to start using additional herbicides, some of them more toxic than glyphosate.


UPDATE: From Ned Coe of California Farm Bureau Federation, via my Facebook page:

NO! Planting of Roundup Ready crops does not make weeks resistant. The use of only one method and weed control product can lead to any plant developing a resistance. Therefore a simple rotation of weed control programs is all thay is needed to prevent resistances.

Was it all about the money, Sarah?



Matthew Mosk blogs on ABC News' The Blotter:

Pundits can debate the political costs and benefits of Sarah Palin's decision to step down as Alaska governor, but the monetary advantages of leaving her $125,000-a-year public service post are beyond dispute.

Since leaving office at the end of July 2009, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has brought in at least 100 times her old salary – a haul now estimated at more than $12 million -- through television and book deals and a heavy schedule of speaking appearances worth five and six figures.

That conservative estimate is based on publicly available records and news accounts. The actual number is probably much higher, but is hard to quantify because Palin does not publicize her earnings. She reputedly got a $7 million deal for her first book, with the bulk of that money due after her resignation as governor, and will earn about $250,000 per episode, according to the web site The Daily Beast, for each of eight episodes of a reality show about Alaska for the The Learning Channel. She has managed to keep a lid on reliable figures for her earnings from a multi-year contract with Fox News and a second book deal with HarperCollins.

Redding, Calif. blogger Gary Andresen takes notice of Palin's success. He writes:

Many people knock Sarah Palin, along with her decision to leave office mid-term. Actually I don't believe she should have left early myself.

However, from a financial standpoint, she has already increased her income one-hundred fold. I'll bet that's more than Tina Fey, who mocks her on Saturday Night Live, makes.

Good point.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lars Larsen questions the big boys

Oregon's own Lars Larsen said on his national radio show Monday night he'd like to question Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck about their stances on illegal immigration. Specifically, he said he'd ask the hosts whether a personal reliance on undocumented workers made them reluctant to speak out about the issue.

I think Larsen makes a good point when he asks whether big-name media stars' use of illegals to do their laundry and housework affects their opinions of the issue. But it's odd that he would single out Hannity and O'Reilly, whose bellicose hollering helped kill proposed immigration reforms under the Bush administration.

After all, wasn't it Hannity who went to the border to illustrate how easy it is for illegals to get in? And as for Glenn Beck, hasn't he been saying that immigration reform is the Obama administration's next big jam-down?

One has to wonder what Mr. Larsen wants from his three fellow talk shows, or if he was talking about different people when he said "the Bill O'Reilly's, the Seans and the Glenns." It's not as if Fox's big three have been silent about the issue.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What does HSUS consider an 'anti-animal' politician?

Interesting observations from David Mastio of the Washington Times (hat tip: Advocates for Agriculture):

The Humane Society of the United States sparked quite the controversy last week, beginning with accusing the Iowa egg industry of animal abuse and ending with sniping between the group and Rep. Steve King. King charged the group is run by vegetarians who want to take meat off American tables. The Humane Society claimed King is among America's most anti-animal politicians.

So who is right?

The Humane Society defines anti-animal politicians based on a scorecard. In the latest annual report on its Web site, no Iowa representative or senator gets a passing grade, though King gets a big fat zero. Of course, plenty of the grade has little to do with animals. Expecting Republicans to sign on to global warming, gun control and expanded federal spending guarantees GOPers won't do very well.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Even San Franciscans shrug off 'Meatless Mondays'

Even people who reside and dine out in San Francisco are scoffing at the city's latest little diss of animal agriculture industries.

From the AP:

"It seems the supervisors would have better things to do—like deal with the budget," said resident Buzz Bense, 61, as he enjoyed a pork sandwich at Memphis Minnie's, a lower Haight barbecue joint.

San Francisco is struggling with a $483 million budget hole, according to a recent report by budget analysts.

Glen Pritchard, about to dive into Minnie's pastrami special, said he cares about larger issues—the environment, animal welfare—but thinks the city's do-gooders can go too far.

"We just don't need more regulation on what people can do," he said.

Most just shrugged it off as another one of those "only in San Francisco" initiatives.

"People will talk about it for a month, then it'll go away," said Kegan Riley, 28, as she flipped hot dogs at the Rosamunde Sausage Grill.

Could the Washington Times join the Murdoch empire?

It's been rumored -- and denied -- that the struggling Washington Times has been put up for sale after making major cutbacks and seeing its circulation slide dramatically last year.

If it is sold, could Rupert Murdoch add the paper to his empire of news services?

Murdoch's Fox News and the Times already have a relationship of sorts, with the Times posting Fox headlines on its Web site and sending some of its reporters to appear on the network as analysts over the years.

Think of the possibilities. A Murdoch acquisition of the Times could potentially give the paper's morning news radio program access to the vast Fox radio network. Murdoch has been spending his time of late trying to give the New York Times fits. Might he enjoy giving some of that same treatment to the Washington Post?

This is all mere speculation on my part. But as a long-time reader of the Washington Times, I wouldn't mind seeing one of the nation's few successful mega-media owners rescue the paper. And Murdoch would give the Times a little more credibility than does the Rev. Moon, who's driven some people away from the paper with some of his outlandish statements (not to mention beliefs).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Call it the War on Society

So I'm reading that Paul Volcker is floating a national value-added tax (in other words, a sales tax) to pay for the government's massive spending spree. He also said Congress may also have to consider new taxes on energy and carbon (in other words, a global warming tax).

Add to this the fact that the Bush tax cuts are set to expire this year, and everyone could have one heck of a tax bill coming down the pike. We're already starting to see this in California, where my recent tax bill was a rather rude awakening.

The VAT tax is particularly damaging to a national economy, as writers Geoff Earle and Tony Davenport explain:

A VAT can also be imposed down the line on manufacturers, producers and any other business that adds value -- as well as retailers. [...]

Also, since the government would be collecting at each step of the manufacturing process, if a retailer cheated, the taxman wouldn't be left completely in the cold, because levies would have been collected at earlier steps leading up to the sale.

Heck, it wasn't so long ago that Steve Forbes was proposing a flat sales tax as an alternative to the income tax, not in addition to it.

The bottom line is, if you're a hard-working average American farmer, processor, manufacturer or other type of hard worker, many in the political class in this country think you're guilty and deserve to be punished.

President Lyndon Johnson had his War on Poverty and Great Society, so if we were to give the current government juggernaut a name, what would we call it? I have an idea -- how 'bout the War on Society.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A former sparring partner, perhaps?

Longtime environmental activist Felice Pace, who's known me since I covered issues surrounding the 2001 Klamath Basin uprising for the Redding Record Searchlight, e-mailed to ask for what he thought were some missing details from my March 12 article on the growing use of social media in agriculture.

Specifically, he wanted to know whether ag activist Jeff Fowle's presentation had a sponsor and whether there was a charge for admission.

For the record, and as the article mentioned, the workshop was one of the offerings at a logging conference in Redding -- specifically the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. There was no charge for admission.

Interestingly, Fowle is from the tiny town of Etna, Calif., where Pace lived for many years before moving in 2002 to the coastal community of Klamath Glen. Don't know this for sure, but I imagine these two have debated environmental policy more than once.

California rainfall: where we stand

It dumped like crazy in the northern Sacramento Valley at times this weekend. Though the California Department of Water Resources refuses to declare an end to the drought, many cities remain at or above their normal seasonal rainfall totals, and many reservoirs are above their average storage levels for this time of year.

Here's a rundown:

Rainfall totals
Here are the National Weather Service’s seasonal rainfall totals for selected California cities. Totals are as of Monday, April 5:
Redding: 25.93 inches (normal 29.33 inches)
Sacramento: 18.35 inches (normal 16.45 inches)
Stockton: 12.47 inches (normal 12.53 inches)
Modesto: 12.35 inches (normal 11.77 inches)
Salinas: 14.96 inches (normal 11.91 inches)
Fresno: 10.28 inches (normal 10.07 inches)

Reservoir levels
Here are the percentages of capacity for California reservoirs as of midnight Monday, April 5, according to the Department of Water Resources California Data Exchange Center:
Trinity Lake: 54 percent
Shasta Lake: 87 percent
Lake Oroville: 49 percent
New Bullards Bar Reservoir: 73 percent
Folsom Lake: 61 percent
New Melones Reservor: 52 percent
Lake McClure: 56 percent
Millerton Lake: 80 percent
Pine Flat Reservoir: 59 percent
Lake Isabella: 31 percent
San Luis Reservoir: 84 percent

Monday, April 5, 2010

Group wants grazing lands protected -- from the government

From the most recent National Cattlemen's Beef Association legislative update:

During its spring legislative conference held earlier this week in Washington, DC, the Public Lands Council (PLC) passed new policy calling for modifications to the Antiquities Act. The Act allows the President of the United States--without any input from the public or Congress--to expedite the designation of lands as "national monuments," thereby severely restricting the ability of the land to be used for multiple purposes, including ranching, forestry, mining, and other forms of economic development.

Over the years, Presidents have aggressively used the Act to designate hundreds of thousands of acres of land across the western United States as national monuments. Most recently, a memo uncovered at the Department of the Interior revealed plans by the Obama Administration to seize more than 10 million acres of land from Montana to New Mexico.

PLC's recently-passed policy supports: 1) Congressional review and modification of the Antiquities Act to include Congressional approval of Presidential Designations and a requirement that existing levels of grazing be maintained; 2) Congressional action to exempt the western states from the Antiquities Act; and 3) the reversal or repeal of past unnecessary National Monument designations. In the meantime, PLC will work with locally affected members and land management agencies to ensure that management plans for monuments incorporate livestock grazing and other uses.

Ranchers not only produce nutritious food to feed the world, they also serve as critical stewards of our nation's public lands, investing immeasurable amounts of time and millions of dollars in range improvement projects each year. Maintaining open spaces and keeping ranchers on public lands makes our Western landscapes vibrant, healthy, and productive.

I'll be talking with someone from the Public Lands Council this morning to find out more for an upcoming edition of Capital Press.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Farmers vs. CNN's resident HSUS darling

Some farmers have set up a Facebook page to run Jane Velez-Mitchell, a CNN anchor and commentator, out of town on a rail for some activism-disguised-as-reporting critical of agriculture. (An example of said reporting is here. Gosh, lady, lay off the caffeine, or something.)

Farming advocates complain:

Jane Valez-Mitchell (sic), a CNN reporter, recently featured a video of some pigs after they had been stunned in the harvesting process and then claimed that these were downer pigs that were sick. It all makes sense now that Trent found out she is a vegan animal rights activist show works with the HSUS and has even recieved awards from them for her animal rights activism.

The fact that CNN might employ agenda-driven reporters is hardly a surprise to those of us who remember the fine work of Peter Arnett. And Velez-Mitchell's views have hardly been a secret. It sounds like she needs to get out of the studio and spend a little quality time with real American farmers instead of with her documentary-producing friends in places like Beverly Hills.

But considering that CNN's ratings of late have slipped beneath those of wacky MSNBC, how many people outside of elite circles actually watch her or have even heard of her?

'Where would he work?'

Posted by the "Overheard in the Newsroom" group on Facebook:

During a conversation about demise of pay phones: Editor: “Where would Superman change nowadays?” Reporter: “Change? Where would he work?”

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Another constitutional argument against Obamacare?

From RedState:

If Congress can force us to do things outside of its powers, then it very clearly can force us to do things inside its powers. And if Congress can compel us to do things, why then do we have a thirteenth amendment prohibiting slavery?

Isn't the logical conclusion of all of this, however radical some might suggest it is, that we then become slaves to the government? If Congress can compel us to do things we do not want to do merely because Congress says we must in the name of the national interest regardless of those 18 clauses in Article 1, Section 8, then are not we slaves to Congress - or more simply put, slaves to a tyrannical majority?

And Congress is not compelling us to do things such as avoiding the commission of crimes or filing and paying taxes. Congress is ordering us to buy a product Congress says you must have if you want to live. There is very literally no opt out other than death. A Congressional majority says I must take an action - not just refrain from acting, but actually act in a way Congress demands. It is "you go buy insurance. You go buy this type of light bulb. You go buy this type of food. You go get this type of job, whether you want it or not. You work in a certain way. You don't get to choose." Congress makes a determination of what benefits interstate commerce and compels you to act accordingly. [...]

At some point the thirteenth amendment becomes meaningless because we do become slaves to government. Instead of government working for us, government becomes our master. And once the buck is passed to unelected bureaucrats who stay long after we have voted out the politicians who imposed this legal regime on us, even the basic right to control our destiny is removed from our hands.