Our government hands poultry inspection over to the plant owners!

458473

The Agriculture Department has released long-awaited poultry-inspection rules that will give plant operators the option of conducting their own inspections for bird defects and feces on the processing lines and allow government inspectors to concentrate on other food-safety issues in the plant.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the new rules were the most significant change in food-safety inspections in nearly 60 years. They “will increase the chances of us detecting problems by placing the burden of finding contaminates such as salmonella on the plants,” he said…

How gullible does that sound to you?

The department also announced that it would limit speeds on poultry plant lines to 140 birds per minute to protect workers from repetitive-stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. The current average is about 130 birds a minute, officials said, but food-safety groups were worried because earlier proposals indicated the limit would be significantly raised.

The increase is ruled OK because the plant owners wanted to make it even worse.

“The one U.S.D.A. inspector left on the slaughter line under this new rule will still have to inspect 2.33 birds every second — an impossible task that leaves consumers at risk,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

“This is not a meaningful victory because there are not accompanying worker-safety regulations to deal with the musculoskeletal disorders and other work-related injuries that both the plant workers and U.S.D.A. inspectors suffer every day working in the poultry slaughter plants,” she added.

Just in case you thought there was some interest in our government to protect the public and meatpacking workers from crappy working conditions, crap-laced food and crap-filled food products – our Department of Agriculture provides a public service announcement letting us know we’re on our own more than ever.

My family stopped buying chicken from the brands that raise and kill poultry as part of a grubby, unsafe packing process that treats consumers with as little care as the birds they’re harvesting. Years ago. These new rules ain’t about to change that.

CIA admits hacking Senate computers – a criminal violation of Constitution

An internal CIA investigation confirmed allegations that agency personnel improperly intruded into a protected database used by Senate Intelligence Committee staff to compile a scathing report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program, prompting bipartisan outrage and at least two calls for spy chief John Brennan to resign…

The rare display of bipartisan fury followed a three-hour private briefing by Inspector General David Buckley. His investigation revealed that five CIA employees, two lawyers and three information technology specialists improperly accessed or “caused access” to a database that only committee staff were permitted to use…

In other conclusions, Buckley found that CIA security officers conducted keyword searches of the emails of staffers of the committee’s Democratic majority _ and reviewed some of them _ and that the three CIA information technology specialists showed “a lack of candor” in interviews with Buckley’s office.

The inspector general’s summary did not say who may have ordered the intrusion or when senior CIA officials learned of it.

He didn’t confirm or deny White House knowledge of the crime.

Following the briefing, some senators struggled to maintain their composure over what they saw as a violation of the constitutional separation of powers between an executive branch agency and its congressional overseers…

The findings confirmed charges by the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the database that by agreement was to be used by her staffers compiling the report on the harsh interrogation methods used by the agency on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons under the George W. Bush administration.

The findings also contradicted Brennan’s denials of Feinstein’s allegations, prompting two panel members, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to demand that the spy chief resign

Otherwise – Just fire the bum!!

RTFA for beaucoup details. Lots of anger expressed by members of Congress who normally haven’t the backbone to challenge any example of intelligence community corruption. It’s amazing how upset government creeps can become when they’re treated like the rest of us ordinary citizens.

Like many of his peers, like the present and former residents of the White House, Brennan lied to Congress and to the American people. Will Congress or Obama have the integrity to demand criminal charges be forthcoming from the DOJ and Attorney-General Holder? Hmmm. How likely does that seem to you?

Our pollution reached Antarctica before the great explorers


Lead pollution from Oz got there first

Lead pollution from Australia reached Antarctica in 1889 – long before the frozen continent’s golden age of exploration – and has remained there ever since, new research shows.

In our study, published in Nature Scientific Reports, my colleagues and I used ice core samples from West and East Antarctica to reveal the continent’s long and persistent history of heavy metal pollution.

The Antarctic remains the most remote and pristine place on Earth. Yet despite its isolation, our findings show that it has not escaped contamination from traces of industrial lead, a serious pollutant and neurotoxin. The levels of lead pollution found in the ice cores is too low to impact Antarctic ecosystems, but higher levels would be expected closer to sources…

The new study, led by Dr Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada, used an array of Antarctic ice cores to reveal a detailed record of where and when pollution can be found.

The first trace of lead pollution arrived in Antarctica around 1889, 22 years before the Amundsen and Scott expeditions to the South Pole.

We also discovered that lead pollution in the Antarctic peaked twice, and that in both cases Australia was the primary source.

After an initial peak in the late 1920s, lead levels dropped in sync with the Great Depression and Second World War. The pollution peaked again in about 1975.

Today, although levels are lower than at the 1975 peak, they remain at roughly three times the pre-industrial level…

More analysis will help us unlock more of Antarctica’s secrets. If you’ll excuse the pun, our latest results are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to information stored in the Antarctic ice sheet.

For example, fires in the Southern Hemisphere have left traces in the ice and a history of climate. The history of persistent organic pollutants and mercury in the remote south are still poorly known. Colleagues at CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science Technology Organisation are using ice cores to understand the past variability of greenhouse gases and the Sun. Combined with records from tree rings, sediments and caves, ice cores help to recreate a large-scale reconstruction of past sea level pressure.

Meanwhile, Antarctica continues to serve as a sentinel for unintended consequences of human activities – in this case, the pollution of a pristine frozen wasteland by an Australian mining product.

Today’s abusers of the word “conservative” will continue on their plastic primrose path to the destruction of Earth’s biosphere given any opportunity at all. Unlike their predecessors – for whom conservative also meant conservator of the Earth – prattle about denial is all they have to offer their children and grandchildren when they grow old enough to accuse them of rejecting human responsibility for polluting limited resources. Including the transformation of our climate at a radical pace.

When science points out the corruption of our planet, the response of these cowards is simply to deny science.

Square getting ready for chipped credit cards

Square announced it was developing a new credit card reader that would allow businesses to begin accepting a more secure type of credit card being rolled out in the U.S. over the next 15 months.

The announcement comes as credit cards embedded with microchips finally begin to reach American consumers. The cards, which have been common for a decade in many other parts of the world, are believed to be harder to clone than traditional stripe cards.

Hustlers in Europe will agree.

Beginning in October 2015, liability for credit card fraud will sit with whichever entity — the issuer or the merchant — is using the less secure equipment. So a merchant would be penalized if it doesn’t have the equipment to accept chip cards and suffers an unauthorized purchase with a card that had a chip in it. On the other hand, the bank would be liable if it doesn’t issue chip cards and one of its customers makes an unauthorized transaction with a traditional card at a store that accepts chip cards…

Square makes the point this will enable expansion into other markets.

I’m not certain how that statement fits into Square’s growth plans. Are they taking advantage of opportunities opening up because they have to make this change, anyway – or is this around the time when they planned on moving into Europe.

Either way, I admit to liking the usability and design of their hardware/software packages.

Impressive construction projects — 2014


Click to enlarge

The Dutch have a complex relationship with water – living in a country that floods a lot will do that to you. So one of the most unique new residential buildings in the Netherlands takes a particularly interesting approach to the problem. The Citadel is the world’s first floating apartment complex, consisting of 60 units atop a floating platform on a lake in the “New Water” development in Naaldwijk. Each apartment has a unique floor plan created from modular elements, and when completed the complex will float in water that’s 12 feet deep. It will be connected to the mainland by a floating bridge.

And here’s a link to the site showing all ten of the construction projects.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Court rules against meat producers whining about detailed labels

I’m getting really tired of corporations trying to avoid regulatory responsibility to the public by going the Citizens United route – trying the “corporations are people” crap out on every issue.

North American meat producers lost another court ruling in their bid to defeat mandated labels showing where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered, a decision that may crimp corporations’ efforts to fend off regulation on free-speech grounds.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington…rejected the arguments by trade groups representing meat producers including Tyson Foods and JBS USA Holdings that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s labeling rule violated their First Amendment rights by forcing them to issue statements against their will.

The government’s interest in providing consumers with information overcomes any speech claims raised by the meat companies, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephen Williams wrote for a divided panel of 11 judges…

A three-judge panel of the court, which upheld a trial judge who reached the same conclusion as today’s decision, made a rare request for a full-court review of the First Amendment claims, reflecting the stakes and the unsettled nature of the law on the subject…

The majority today said that giving First Amendment protection to commercial speech, such as the contents of a product label, is justified mainly by its value to consumers. The meat producers’ free speech claims would be stronger if the government was seeking to bar them from putting out information rather than withholding it, the court ruled.

That, after all, is the point of the regulation. Knowing where the meat offered to consumers came from doesn’t yet have sufficient detail – and these thugs worry about informing us as to which is country of origin. In itself useful, if the country is one with health and safety regulations less strict than our own.

Frankly, I like the practice already in place with some natural and organic meat product producers – of including labels which allow the end user, restaurant or consumer, to track the meat all the way back to the farm or ranch – and the critter’s name if it had one.

Reviving the recently dead

David Casarett is enthusiastic about the emerging technologies that are allowing doctors to save patients who would have been a lost cause in the very recent past. But these technologies come at a cost, he writes. They may restore life, but whether it’s a life worth living is another matter.

Casarett has…seen heartbreaking cases in which patients were revived with heroic efforts—only to languish, unresponsive, in an ICU for weeks while their families agonize over how long to maintain life support. Those cases caused Casarett to abandon his plans to become an ER doc. He now focuses on easing the suffering of patients near the end of life as a palliative care and hospice doctor

If you want to die and live to tell about it, go somewhere cold

Casarett recounts several remarkable tales of people who defied the odds by coming back to life after an hour or more without breathing and without a pulse. A young Swedish woman, for example, survived 80 minutes trapped under the ice in a frozen stream. In all these cases, the person was somewhere cold…

Otherwise, try Pittsburgh

Indeed, a clinical trial underway at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will put this idea to the test in trauma patients. Only in dire cases where massive blood loss has caused cardiac arrest, doctors will replace the patient’s blood with ice-cold saline solution in hopes of buying time to repair the wounds before cells and organs begin to break down. There’s been some ethical discussion about the trial because the patients will be unconscious and therefore unable to give informed consent (people can request a bracelet that would let doctors know they wish to opt out).

Casarett says he’s not familiar enough with the details of the trial to comment on the ethical issues, but he’s fascinated by the science behind it. In Shocked, he describes some of the experiments with dogs and pigs that laid the foundation for the trial. “This isn’t just a half-baked idea, it has a pretty strong basis in molecular biology,” he said.

“If you’re going to get in an accident anywhere in the U.S. in the next few years, I would try to have it happen in Pittsburgh,” Casarett said. “You’d have a chance of getting what may become the standard of care in the next five or ten years.”

RTFA for lots more information – including secrets from squirrels.

Too bad he didn’t include a section about folks who may already be near death since that is his primary area of work. I have a few elderly friends who had DO NOT RESUSCITATE! tattooed across their abdomen to stop enthusiastic ER staff from practicing every technique known to humankind – and the hospital’s accounting department – to bring them back from the dead.

Thanks, Mike

Microsoft confronts the DOJ and Congress over global privacy


Some folks think this is up-to-date

American law enforcement officials cannot get evidence located in other countries without the help of foreign governments. But can an American company be ordered by a court to turn over information stored on computer servers located in another country? The Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York will consider that question this week in a narcotics case in which federal prosecutors want access to a Microsoft email account stored in Ireland.

The case raises difficult questions about the reach of domestic law and the Internet’s global nature. It also points to significant gaps in American laws, which do not address how data stored abroad should be treated. Congress passed the Stored Communications Act, the law at issue in this case, in 1986, when few people could have foreseen cloud computing or imagined that businesses would operate data centers around the world that store messages and documents of Americans and foreigners alike.

I certainly hope you don’t think the lazy bastards we elected would keep up-to-date with changing technology and legal responsibility. Some of these clowns still haven’t figured out civil rights or having a commitment to the whole electorate.

Microsoft is asking the court to quash a warrant issued by a federal magistrate judge in December, contending that it cannot be compelled to turn over information located in its Irish data center because American law does not apply there. It argues that to obtain information stored in Ireland, the Justice Department needs to go through the legal-assistance treaty between that country and the United States. Other companies, including Verizon, AT&T and Apple, and public-interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s position.

The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, which is fighting Microsoft, argues that going through foreign governments would be far too cumbersome and would allow criminals to evade American law by storing information about illegal activities on foreign servers.

Not much more detail needed. The crux of the case is privacy protection which can affect all of us.