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Archive for November 18th, 2009

Americans fight for the right to dry their laundry in public

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Carin Froehlich pegs her laundry to three clotheslines strung between trees outside her 18th-century farmhouse, knowing that her actions annoy local officials who have asked her to stop.

Froehlich is among the growing number of people across America fighting for the right to dry their laundry outside against a rising tide of housing associations who oppose the practice despite its energy-saving green appeal.

Although there are no formal laws in this southeast Pennsylvania town against drying laundry outside, a town official called Froehlich to ask her to stop drying clothes in the sun. And she received two anonymous notes from neighbors saying they did not want to see her underwear flapping about…

The effervescent 54-year-old is one of a growing number of Americans demanding the right to dry laundry on clotheslines despite local rules and a culture that frowns on it.

Their interests are represented by Project Laundry List, a group that argues people can save money and reduce carbon emissions by not using their electric or gas dryers, according to the group’s executive director, Alexander Lee.

Widespread adoption of clotheslines could significantly reduce U.S. energy consumption, argued Lee, who said dryer use accounts for about 6 percent of U.S. residential electricity use…

His principal opponents are the housing associations such as condominiums and townhouse communities that are home to an estimated 60 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population. About half of those organizations have ‘no hanging’ rules, Lee said, and enforce them with fines.

The United States has become a nation of whiners. Our populace wants government to take care of every problem – without paying for it. Our nation wants everyone to be free – as long as you don’t disagree with the tenets of several antique religions.

And interfering with someone’s view is becoming almost as heinous a crime here as it often is, say, outside the holiday home of some wealthy Brit – in an otherwise low income rural Garden of Eden.

We seem to be acquiring the worst of 19th Century class society in combination with the foolishness of theocracy.

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Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Welcome to the Clone Farm

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To the untrained eye, Pollard Farms looks much like any other cattle ranch. Similar looking cows are huddled in similar looking pens. But some of the cattle here don’t just resemble each other. They are literally identical — clear down to their genes.

Of the 400-some cattle in Barry Pollard’s herd of mostly Black Angus cattle there are 22 clones, genetic copies of some of the most productive livestock the world has ever known.

Pollard, a neurosurgeon and owner of Pollard Farms, says such breeding technology is at the forefront of a new era in animal agriculture. “We’re trying to stay on the very top of the heap of quality, genetically, with animals that will gain well and fatten well, produce well and reproduce well,” Pollard told a reporter during a recent visit to his farm.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008 approved the sale of food from clones and their offspring, stating the products are indistinguishable from that of their non-clone counterparts. Japan, the European Union, and others have followed suit.

The moves have stirred controversy about whether tinkering with nature is safe, or even ethical, prompting major food companies to swear off food products from cloned animals. But consumers are likely already eating meat and drinking milk from the offspring of clones, which are technically not clones, without even knowing it…

“If you don’t need as much corn to feed your cattle, you might be able to cut back on the amount of fertilizer put out there on the countryside that might end up in a river. You can cut the amount of diesel that’s spent raising that corn,” Pollard said. “Just like they improve the genetics of corn, so they can produce more bushels per acre, we’re trying to do that same type of thing by using cloning and superior genetics to produce more meat with less input.”

Long detailed article. Read through it and understand what that scary word clone is all about.

Fact is – if you’re presented with a cut of meat from a cloned animal and the same from an animal who isn’t a clone – you will not be able to find a laboratory that can tell you which is which.

But, geneticists are well on their way to tailoring fat content, growth rate vs. consumption of whichever grain or grass is preferred, that in the long run can reduce consumption and production of products on both sides of the Green equation.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Economics, Health, Science

Tagged with , , , , ,

Republicans really think this man is Dr. Death?

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Before they were Palinized — and turned into those nasty death panels ready to pounce on Grandma (that “goofy stuff,” as he now calls it), Congressman Earl Blumenauer had a good idea: help people prepare for the end of life.

As he wrote in The New York Times last weekend, the proposition was simple: “I found it perverse that Medicare would pay for almost any medical procedure, yet not reimburse doctors for having a thoughtful conversation to prepare patients and families for the delicate, complex and emotionally demanding decisions surrounding the end of life.”

So, when he began work on health care reform, he included a provision that would allow Medicare to cover a voluntary doctor-patient discussion (only once every five years) about things like living wills, power of attorney and end-of-life treatment.

Oh, the horror.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Brother’s DNA cracks crime – what about privacy?

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Concerned about his privacy rights while breaking into cars?

Using DNA to catch criminals has become common, but police in Denver, Colorado, this year demonstrated how the practice can be taken to a new level: They tracked down a suspect not through his DNA, but through that of his brother…

In February 2008, two cars were broken into. Police found blood at both scenes and ran the samples through DNA databases but couldn’t find a match. Then, as part of a study being conducted by the district attorney’s office, investigators used new software to see whether the DNA in the blood was close enough to potentially be from a family member of someone in the criminal DNA database.

The software came up with six potential matches. Five didn’t pan out, but one led police to a convicted car thief and, ultimately, that man’s brother, Luis Jaimes-Tinajero.

Jaimes-Tinajero pleaded guilty in September to one count of criminal trespass and received a sentence of two years’ probation…

District Attorney Mitch Morrissey called it one of the first cases in the country to use software to find familial DNA matches. Morrissey’s office developed the software tool with the Denver police, he said. He hopes to use it to solve murders, rapes and cold cases…

Stephen Mercer has been fighting familial DNA searches since 2003. He was part of an effort that led to Maryland being the first state to outlaw familial DNA searches.

“People have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their DNA,” he said. “It’s a basic violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution”

Morrissey disagrees. “I’ve yet to hear anyone explain how this is a violation of the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “The bad guy abandoned the DNA at the crime scene. They have no expectation of privacy.”

I’ve been an activist and dissident so long that I gave up on privacy decades ago. Whether we approve or not, all levels of government will keep an eye on anyone who may challenge the law – or conformity.

Saying that, doesn’t give up my responsibility to fight for privacy rights – and, more important, oversight of government agencies who choose to invade our privacy.

The question is inherently contradictory and public safety tends to overrule privacy. Just another imperative for real oversight.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Here is a guy who really needs a GPS

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An 81-year-old Australian man became lost on an early morning drive to the shops and ended up almost 600km (370 miles) away from his starting point…

Visiting friends in Yass, a country town south of Sydney in New South Wales state, Eric Steward left to buy a newspaper on Monday morning.

More than eight hours later, after taking a wrong turn on the highway, he asked Victoria state police for help. “I didn’t know where I was going but I knew it was somewhere, and with a bit of luck I would eventually find my wife again,” he said.

Australians think nothing of getting into a car to drive to a local shop to get a newspaper or milk. But most manage to get back home within minutes.

With Mr Steward, it took almost nine hours.

The local press threw a press conference for Eric and his long-suffering wife. They were late arriving. Yes, they got lost on the way to the press conference.

Eric tried to blame his wife.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 10:30 am

Hey, preacher – leave those kids alone!

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This week, the final phase of the atheist bus campaign will appear in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – not on buses, but on billboards. Due to the amazing sums donated to the campaign fund by many Cif readers at the end of last year, we raised enough for a second wave of adverts – and the above posters will launch today.

When…we asked how the extra funds should be spent, one of the issues which came up repeatedly in the comments concerned the growth of of faith schools in the UK and the segregation of children according to their parents’ beliefs.

The atheist campaign team shared this point of view. However, rather than using adverts to try and campaign politically, we thought it would be more beneficial to try and change the current public perception that it is acceptable to label children with a religion. As Richard Dawkins states, “Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a ‘Marxist child’ or an ‘Anarchist child’ or a ‘Post-modernist child’. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions, and our adverts will help to do that.”

Entirely too rational for the average American bible-thumper. Since their God speaks directly to them – even giving them tips on NASCAR racing and presidential elections – they feel mandated to inflict whatever fundamentalist crap they believe on any and every child at hand.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 9:00 am

Ferrero [Bros] Rocher in possible deal with Cadbury – UPDATED

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Italian brothers Pietro and Giovanni Ferrero, whose grandfather invented the chocolate hazelnut gloop inside every Rocher that sticks to your teeth, have been linked to a deal with Cadbury that could keep the British confectioner out of the clutches of the US group Kraft, the world’s second biggest food company.

Kraft, maker of Oreo cookies and Toblerone, has tabled an unwanted £9.7bn takeover bid for Cadbury which the Bournville-based group is determined to fight off. Now the Italian brothers, who are based in Belgium, could wade in to offer support in a link-up that would see Ferrero’s famous nut chocolates, together with its Tic Tac mints, lined up alongside Wispas, Dairy Milk and Bertie Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts on the ambassador’s table.

Anyone who invents treats like Nutella is OK by me.

An Italian newspaper said the Ferreros, backed by other financial investors, could form a “friendly” alliance with Cadbury to stop Kraft in its tracks…

Despite its kitsch reputation in the UK, Ferrero has grown to 18 factories with 22,000 employees and has annual sales of more than €6bn. The ambassador’s favourite chocolates, with their distinctive crispy shells, ostentatious gold wrappers and badly dubbed adverts, did not come along until 1980 but have helped turn the Ferrero family into one of Italy’s richest dynasties…

Cadbury also refused to comment but a source close to the company said: “…Cadbury is not up for sale, but the company would give proper consideration to any offer that valued it properly and would be of interest to shareholders.”

C’mon guys. Stop with the lawyerly answers!

You’re dealing with the guys who sponsored Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. That’s enough class for the whole world.

UPDATE: Cripes. Hershey is getting into the act, too. There must be a sexier way to sort this out.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 6:00 am

Feel like sharing a plane with 839 other passengers?

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The retail adage “stack ‘em high and pack ‘em tight” is to be introduced to airlines after plans were announced today for economy-only flights carrying a record-breaking 800 passengers in Airbus A380s.

The French company Air Austral said that it placed orders for two “high density” double-decker A380s with a capacity for 840 seats.

When full, the flights between Paris and the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean, where the company is based, will easily involve the most passengers ever to fly in a single aeroplane…

The A380 began commercial flights in 2007 carrying around 500 people. The planes included space-consuming business and first class seating areas complete with showers and bars. But it was safety tested for evacuating more than 800 people before it entered service. With a crew of 20 included, it has been approved to carry up to 873 people.

Air Austral’s plans for no-frills A380s flights will make it the easyJet or Ryanair of super-jumbo travel.

“We are convinced that airplanes with good-priced tickets will help explode traffic figures,” its founder and president Gerard Etheve told Reuters. It said the giant people carrier was aimed at tapping growth in China and India.

I just mentioned this to my wife.

Her response, “There aren’t 800 people I’d want to be on a plane with.”

Written by Ed Campbell

November 18, 2009 at 2:00 am

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