Conservative Creeps try once again to ban end-to-end encryption


Most overused tent-peg mallet in Congress

A group of Republican senators are making yet another attempt to ban end-to-end encryption in messaging services, which would make illegal Apple’s Messages and FaceTime services, as well as a wide range of other message apps like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.

No surprise, either, that they are again demonstrating that they don’t understand how end-to-end encryption works…

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham…and U.S. Senators Tom Cotton…and Marsha Blackburn…introduced the Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act, a bill to bolster national security interests and better protect communities across the country by ending the use of “warrant-proof” encrypted technology by terrorists and other bad actors to conceal illicit behavior…”

Service providers – don’t provide access to end-to-end encrypted messages because they can’t. That is, literally, the whole point of end-to-end encryption: it protects privacy by ensuring that only the parties involved in the communication can decrypt the contents…

I wonder sometimes why these idjits haven’t gotten round to attempting to ban, say, flashlights or even more new-fangled tech, like cameras. They can all be used by someone, somehow, to break laws.

Arkansas Regulators Vote To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage


Dicamba leaf-cupping

❝ Arkansas’s pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical…

The tension — which even led to a farmer’s murder — is over a weedkiller called dicamba. The chemical moved into the weed-control spotlight a few years ago, when Monsanto created soybean and cotton plants that were genetically modified to survive it. Farmers who planted these new seeds could use dicamba to kill weeds without harming those crops…

❝ The problem is, dicamba is a menace to other crops nearby. It drifts easily in the wind, and traditional soybeans are incredibly sensitive to it. “Nobody was quite prepared, despite extensive training, for just how sensitive beans were to dicamba,” says Bob Scott, a specialist on weeds with the University of Arkansas’s agricultural extension service.

❝ As soon as spraying started this spring, the complaints began arriving. By June 23, state regulators had received 242 complaints from farmers who say their crops have been damaged…

On June 20, the Arkansas Plant Board met to consider an emergency ban on further spraying of dicamba, and farmers crowded into the meeting to argue both sides…

At that first meeting, a procedural mix-up prevented the board from holding a valid vote. On June 23, it reconvened and voted, 9-5, to ban any spraying of dicamba on any crops except for pasture land for 120 days. The ban will take effect immediately if the governor of Arkansas signs it.

More and more this sort of solution to weed and pest control appears to be a long-term failure. I don’t know if Monsanto is up for a re-think; but, more and more farmers suffering the “surprises” they keep receiving from Monsanto need to look for alternatives. Not just for dicamba; but, the whole concept of growing crops engineered to be protected from common ills by the saving grace of specific chemicals designed into their genes. I doubt this can ever be a long-term solution.

Drone-mounted cannon fires irradiated moths at crops

And if they’re using this on GM cotton, we should be able to give palpitations to every Luddite in the country!

Keeping moths away from cotton is typically seen as a good thing. But the United States Department of Agriculture has other ideas. In a pilot program, they’re using drones to drop thousands of lab-grown pink bollworm moths directly onto the cotton fields.

Drones are a cheaper delivery method than the manual throw-moths-out-of-a-small airplane method that has been used in the past, so if the tests continue to go well, you might be seeing more moths flying out of drones in the future.

But why bomb cotton fields with moths? Pink bollworms are a notorious cotton pest. Once they start eating their way through the seeds and fibers, they reduce the quality of the cotton dramatically. So the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service came up with a plan. If they raised pink bollworms in a lab, dyed them red to make them identifiable, and then irradiated them to make them sterile they’d have a population that could safely be released into cotton fields. The idea is that if the wild pink bollworms mate with the sterile pink bollworm moths, instead of each other, the sterile moths won’t be able to reproduce, effectively stopping an infestation in its tracks.

If you click through to the article, there’s a wee video at the bottom from the USDA at the bottom.

Truly, I wasn’t kidding about GM cotton. Actually, I’m wearing a pair of sweat pants, right now, that probably are 100% GM cotton. Hasn’t turned my butt glow-in-the-dark purple, yet.

DRONE is a scary word for my friends who already have problems with me taking sides in civil wars – while advocating that Uncle Sugar keep our military and political noses out of other nation’s civil wars. Even though we’re talking about a device a half-step above a hobbyist’s RC airplane kit.

And, of course, irradiation is a word that gives night sweats to folks who don’t know a damned thing about half-life. We could end almost all foodborne illness with gamma radiation as part of food processing; but, that’s way too scary for lots of folks. Even though there is absolutely zero scientific evidence of danger. Only an end to spoilage and food poisoning.

Brazil cattle ranching changes slow Amazon deforestation

Cassio Carvalho do Val is about to invest nearly $2 million to add 10,000 cattle to his ranch on the edge of the Amazon. But instead of burning down forest for his growing herd to graze freely he will break with tradition, reducing his pastureland and adding grain to their diet.

Val is one of a growing number of farmers betting on so-called integrated farming by diversifying production and revenue. His move epitomizes a quiet and fragile revolution that marks a departure from Brazil’s slash-and-burn past.

It is a trend that may also help ease the felling of the world’s largest rain forest.

Soy growers are rotating fields with more corn and cotton, planting forest and raising cattle. Ranchers are planting corn to supplement their herd’s traditional diet of grasses.

This tends toward greater and more efficient output while easing pressure for expanding area, and bodes well for the consumers struggling worldwide with higher food prices, as well as conservationists who see Brazil as a crucial battlefield…

Val, a Sao Paulo University-educated sociologist, is one of a growing number of farmers taking a more scientific view of production. He has hired consultants to help acquire a whole new set of skills in grain farming…

The keystone to large-scale integrated farming in Brazil is cattle, especially as far as preservation of the Amazon and other tropical biomes are concerned…

Inevitably, leaders in Brazilian agriculture and ranching will throw out numbers about the 137,000 square miles of pasture in Brazil that can be easily converted into farmland “without having to cut a single tree.” Brazil currently plants 66,875 square miles to crops and commercial forest.

But converting pasture into planted area is not simple. It raises the question of where the cattle will graze.

Brazil’s beef production is grass-fed, unlike in the United States and Europe where grain on feedlots is used mostly. Brazil could double or triple the cattle per hectare from the present average of nearly 1 head/ha simply by introducing grain to their diet, better breeding practices and fertilizing and replanting grasses in pastures, beef analysts say.

Then, there is the question of which sort of beef actually is healthiest for consumers? Grain-fed or grass-fed? The healthiest meat-eating cultures are France and Italy – where grass-fed is preferred.

After all, the choice for grass-fed vs. grain-fed around the world is an economic one, e.g., the cost of getting final product to market. Health hasn’t a damned thing to do with it.

Now, the trends in Brazil introduce a completely different accomplishment. Slowing the destruction of forest. Contradictions abound.

How genes jump from crop to crop – a new model

Bees do it, humans do it – move genes among crop plants, that is. But until now, researchers and growers had a hard time getting a grip on the factors that determine how much of this gene flow happens in an agricultural landscape.

A new data-driven statistical model that incorporates the surrounding landscape in unprecedented detail describes the transfer of an inserted bacterial gene via pollen and seed dispersal in cotton plants more accurately than previously available methods…

The transfer of genes from genetically modified crop plants is a hotly debated issue. Many consumers are concerned about the possibility of genetic material from transgenic plants mixing with non-transgenic plants on nearby fields. Producers, on the other side, have a strong interest in knowing whether the varieties they are growing are free from unwanted genetic traits.

Up until now, realistic models were lacking that could help growers and legislators assess and predict gene flow between genetically modified and non-genetically modified crops with satisfactory detail.

This study is the first to analyze gene flow of a genetically modified trait at such a comprehensive level. The new approach is likely to improve assessment of the transfer of genes between plants other than cotton as well.

“The most important finding was that gene flow in an agricultural landscape is complex and influenced by many factors that previous field studies have not measured,” said Heuberger. “Our goal was to put a tool in the hands of growers, managers and legislators that allows them to realistically assess the factors that affect gene flow rates and then be able to extrapolate from that and decide how they can manage gene flow.”

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Cotton burr bests commonly-used erosion control mulches

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) agricultural engineer Greg Holt helped develop the erosion control industry’s first cotton hydromulch “spray-on blanket.” Holt is at the ARS Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit in Lubbock, Texas.

Hydromulch is the bright-green mulch used in spray-on slurries that cover bare lands at construction sites and roadside projects, to prevent erosion until vegetation can be established. In the past, hydromulches were made mostly from wood and paper byproducts.

GeoSkin® Cotton Hydromulch is made from cotton gin byproducts. It is a combination hydromulch/spray-on erosion-control blanket that performs better than conventional roll-on blankets and requires significantly less labor. Holt and colleagues tested the prototype against commercial erosion control blankets made of straw, wood and coconut.

The total runoff from these four mulches, including soil and mulch ingredients, was: cotton, 222 pounds per acre; straw, 7,832 pounds per acre; wood, 7,474 pounds per acre; and coconut, 3,719 pounds per acre.

One of Holt’s studies showed that cotton-based hydromulches established a good stand of grass, compared to other hydromulches and a straw blanket which didn’t do as well.

No doubt you won’t find this the most exciting post ever at my site. Or any other. But, hydromulch is one of those topics fascinating to anyone ever involved with large-scale construction projects. I’m retired, now – but, this stuff still trips my trigger.

If there’s anything the Lubbock area can research, of course, it’s cotton. They have too damned much of it, now – virtually all produced to the detriment to the overall ecology and environment. Still, it’s nice to see some of the leftover crap – I presume they’re mostly dealing with what is called cotton burr – take another step forward for complete use of agricultural byproducts.

We use cotton burr mulch BTW around just about every garden plant and tree on our property. Good stuff.

Genetically-modified crops protect neighboring fields from pests

A study in northern China indicates that genetically modified cotton, altered to express the insecticide, Bt, not only reduces pest populations among those crops, but also reduces pests among other nearby crops that have not been modified with Bt. These findings could offer promising new ideas for controlling pests and maximizing crop yields in the future…

The researchers’ results show that populations of the cotton bollworm were dramatically reduced with the introduction of Bt cotton, especially during the period from 2002 to 2006. They considered the contribution of temperature and rainfall along with the introduction of the genetically modified cotton, and confirmed that Bt cotton was responsible for the long-term suppression of the pests in the cotton and a host of other un-modified crops after 10 years. Dr. Wu and colleagues suggest that this may be because cotton is the main host for bollworm eggs, and reducing larval populations in the cotton consequently reduces the entire population and protects other crops.

That answered the first question that popped into my mind. What if the adjacent crop was organic? I thought there may have been transmission of the pesticide from crop to crop. Instead – what is happening is control of the pest and the pest is no longer spreading to adjacent crops.
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Darling River in Australia gets partial respite from slow death

An irrigation farm larger than Singapore and sucking up billions of liters of water each year has been bought by Australia’s government to help save one of the country’s most vital rivers from a slow death and climate change.

Toorale Station, a cotton farm covering 910 sq km (351 sq miles) in the west of New South Wales state, was sold to the national and state governments for almost US$19 million, one day before it was set to go to auction.

The purchase will allow 20 gigaliters — equivalent to 20,000 Olympic swimming pools — to be returned each year to the ailing Darling River, which is one of two streams flowing through the Murray-Darling basin, home to almost half the nation’s farms…

Large irrigation farms, some capable of using more water than contained in Sydney Harbor, are accused of exacerbating a long-running drought that has already wiped more than A$20 billion ($16 billion) from the A$1 trillion economy since 2002.

The property, previously owned by the Clyde Agriculture conglomerate, is primarily used for cotton growing, although Clyde also grows wheat, barley, chickpeas, canola, cottonseed, beef, lamb and mutton in the Bourke area.

Surely sounds like Lubbock and West Texas to me. The Ogalala aquifer is being sucked drier and deeper, year by year, to satisfy the demands of taxpayer-subsidized cotton growers.