Overdue and halfway useful — F.D.A. will finally phase out some antibiotics in farmed animals

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it was beginning to phase out the use of some critical antibiotics in animals raised for meat, a major policy shift that could have far-reaching implications for industrial farming and human health.

The change, which will take effect over the next three years, is the first serious attempt by the federal government to curb the broad use of antibiotics in farm animals in decades. Pressure for action has mounted as the effectiveness of drugs important for human health has declined, and deaths from bugs resistant to antibiotics have soared. Food producers said they will abide by the new rules, but some public health advocates voiced concerns that loopholes could render the new policy toothless…

The agency has changed the rules so that food animal producers would no longer be able to use antibiotics to make animals grow faster. It will accomplish that by asking manufacturers of the drugs to change the labels in a way that would make it illegal for farmers to use the medicines for growth promotion.

The changes, which were originally proposed in 2012, are voluntary for drug companies. But F.D.A. officials said they believed the companies would comply, based on discussions during the public comment period. The two drug makers that represent a majority of such drug products have already stated their intent to participate…

Additionally, the agency is requiring that licensed veterinarians supervise the use of antibiotics, effectively requiring farmers and ranchers to obtain prescriptions in order to be able to use the drugs for their animals.

Consumer health advocates say it is an open question whether the new rules will change how much antibiotics are consumed by animals. They say that a loophole will allow animal producers to keep using the same low doses of antibiotics, by arguing that they were needed to keep animals from getting sick, and thereby avoiding the new ban on use for growth promotion…

A more meaningful move, Dr. Keeve Nachman said, would be to ban the use of antibiotics for the prevention of disease, a step the F.D.A. so far has not taken. That would limit antibiotic uses to treatment of sickness that was diagnosed by a veterinarian, a much narrower category, he said.

RTFA for a few more details. This should get rolling in the beginning of 2014 and we’ll see which Pharmas obey which regulations. Same goes for the agribusiness giants who consider consumers a fraction of a step more important than the commodity animals they slaughter.

$486 million spent on aircraft parked in the weeds in Afghanistan

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Sixteen broken-down transport planes that cost U.S. taxpayers at least $486 million are languishing among the weeds, wooden cargo boxes and old tires at Kabul International Airport, waiting to be destroyed without ever being delivered to the Afghan Air Force.

The special inspector general for Afghanistan is investigating why the refurbished G222 turboprop aircraft from Finmeccanica SpA’s Alenia Aermacchi North America unit no longer can be flown after logging only 200 of 4,500 hours of U.S.-led training flights and missions required…because of persistent maintenance issues.

The unused transport planes are in addition to the billions of dollars in wasted U.S. funds documented by the inspector general’s office since American troops entered Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. They also compound the doubts about the Afghan Air Force’s capability to operate independently after U.S. forces withdraw by the end of next year…

We need answers to this huge waste of U.S. taxpayer money,” John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said in an e-mailed statement. “Who made the decision to purchase these planes, and why? We need to get to the bottom of this, and that’s why we’re opening this inquiry…”

The G222 transports refurbished by the unit of Rome-based Finmeccanica were supposed to make up about 15 percent of the 105-aircraft Afghan Air Force, flying top Afghan civilian officials and combat troops and conducting medical evacuations.

Instead, six of the planes already have been cannibalized for spare parts, a separate audit by the Pentagon inspector general found. In addition to the 16 planes in Kabul, there are four in Germany.

Sopko’s investigation will review the decision to select the Alenia aircraft, determine the total spent to buy, sustain, and dispose of them and evaluate what procedures are in place to prevent similar failures with other purchases for the Afghan Air Force.

The inquiry was prompted by “the need to ensure that the U.S. government does not repeat the mistakes made throughout this nearly half-billion dollar program,” Sopko said in a Dec. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

RTFA. I imagine few of y’all will be surprised by Pentagon failures ranging from the decision to acquire these particular aircraft, deliver them to an Afghan Air Force [what?] – all the way back to the grand plans set in motion by the money-wasters who passed themselves off as political/military experts in the days of the Bush Administrations.

I guess we should say American taxpayers get what we deserve. After all, it’s only been 52 years since President Eisenhower warned us about the crooks in the military-industrial complex taking over the political economy of the United States. Way too short a time for the average American voter to comprehend.

True, half of the 2-party karaoke fest we dance through every 4 years is composed of idiots and thieves still trying to convince themselves – and us – that Herbert Hoover and his policies really were the best thing that ever happened to the United States. The Great Depression was just a mild hiccup along the Yellow Brick Road of trickle-down economics. The other half spend their time trying to stay unnoticed while the revolving door of elected service in Congress morphed into the next logical step in employment as lobbyists for the profits-before-people mafia.

Still, a couple of dedicated bureaucrats are trying like hell to get us to understand how we’re being taken for a ride – and a few folks at Bloomberg News have taken the time to put it into print for folks who care to read.

Uruguay first country to legalize every aspect of marijuana

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Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana on Tuesday, a pioneering social experiment that will be closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

A government-sponsored bill approved by 16-13 votes in the Senate provides for regulation of the cultivation, distribution and consumption of marijuana and is aimed at wresting the business from criminals in the small South American nation…

Cannabis consumers will be able to buy a maximum of 40 grams each month from licensed pharmacies as long as they are Uruguayan residents over the age of 18 and registered on a government database that will monitor their monthly purchases.

When the law is implemented in 120 days, Uruguayans will be able to grow six marijuana plants in their homes a year, or as much as 480 grams and form smoking clubs of 15 to 45 members that can grow up to 99 plants per year.

Registered drug users should be able to start buying marijuana over the counter from licensed pharmacies in April…

Uruguay’s attempt to quell drug trafficking is being followed closely in Latin America where the legalization of some narcotics is being increasingly seen by regional leaders as a possible way to end the violence spawned by the cocaine trade.

Rich countries debating legalization of pot are also watching the bill, which philanthropist George Soros has supported as an “experiment” that could provide an alternative to the failed U.S.-led policies of the long “war on drugs…”

Other countries have decriminalized marijuana possession and the Netherlands allows its sale in coffee shops, but Uruguay will be the first nation to legalize the whole chain from growing the plant to buying and selling its leaves.

RTFA. All the pros and cons are trotted by – though, regular readers will know my only problem would be figuring out a decent muffin recipe if I wished to partake. I don’t smoke anything.

I don’t doubt American politicians will be watching and listening – and ignoring positive results as thoroughly as many have, for example, ignored a national non-profit health service. Our politicians are so accustomed to pimping for unproductive useless profiteers like insurance companies, it’s not likely many would learn anything about revoking the sillyass War on Drugs.

Same-sex weddings in the UK begin in March

The first same-sex weddings in England and Wales will be able to take place from 29 March 2014, Equalities Minister Maria Miller says.

Initially it was thought the first marriages would not take place until next summer…

The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backed the proposals. [Try that one in Congress]

MPs approved the principle of same-sex marriage despite opposition from many Conservatives, which caused tensions in the party. Most Lib Dem and Labour MPs supported the move…

Ms Miller said: “Marriage is one of our most important institutions, and from 29 March 2014 it will be open to everyone, irrespective of whether they fall in love with someone of the same sex or opposite sex.”

She said it was “just another step in the evolution of marriage“.

And she said she was “working hard” to ensure that couples who wanted to convert civil partnerships into marriages – and married people wanting to change their legal gender while remaining married – would be able to do so before the end of next year.

From June, people will also be able to take part in same-sex weddings in some British consulates and armed forces bases overseas or in military chapels.

Going to be lots of happy couples in the UK starting with the end of March. No, that doesn’t include the opposition who, of course, don’t believe in everyone having a right to fall in love and enjoy the rights of citizenship.

So what? On sum, I’m confident the increase in happy folks outweighs unhappy homophobes.