(or, I’m back!)
So the last couple months have been a real wringer for me. As many of you know, my mother lost her ability to walk and started to weaken due to progressive spinal deformation caused by arthritis. In early March she had a spinal operation which opened the holes which were pressing on her nerves and reconstructed her spine. 2 days after the operation she went into a ‘code’, the one just up from ‘code red’, and had to be rescued by a bunch of nurses and doctors. She told me that she can’t remember much about it except for one thing; she saw my sister standing at the end of a long tunnel, reaching towards her. And she said when she saw that she knew she couldn’t leave; my sister still needed her, we all still needed her.
After over a month in rehab and a month in a hospital bed at home, Mom’s walking again. She’s really weak and has turned over my sister’s strenuous care to me and my father. It’s been very interesting. My sister adores having me care for her, and once I got over the squick factor, I really like caring for her. We sing and giggle and have fun, and I feel like a kid again, sneaking my sister into my room after we were meant to be in bed so we could listen to music together. So there have been some good side effects to my Mom’s long wasting illness.
Recently the PBS News Hour ran a special series on Autism, which is what my sister ‘has’. The series was really good and went into the impact autism has on parents and siblings. I cried when the little girl talks about the future with her brother. She’s 8 and already sees it (Episode 1). And I cried when the older woman, in episode 5, wonders what is going to happen to her and her brother when her parents die. I so know those fears and feelings and I’m so angry at society for just abandoning us after the autistic (and retarded, and physically disabled, and downs syndrome and… you get the drift) kids leave school. Their lives do not end then!
Anyway if you are interested, you can watch the special on the ‘net, here. Each episode is only 10 to 15 minutes long. The links to each episode are along the right hand side of that page.
My interest in animal welfare came a bit closer to home in the last few months, as 4 of my does gave birth in April and early May. Or I should say, 3 of them. The 4th has a false pregnancy, but she’s making milk and I’m not gonna complain! One of the does gave birth to 5 kids, all does. That’s pretty rare. Two of the kids were runts and needed 24/7 care. Unfortunately one of the kids passed on. She was simply too little and premature for me to keep alive, although I managed it for a month. The other little darling is doing great, and I offer a picture as a cute antidote to whatever is bothering you currently. It’s hard to tell from the pic, but she can basically fit in the palm of your hand. She’s a bit bigger now, but I can still hold her and support her completely in one hand.
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We’ve been following the Wikileaks saga here at Sky Dancing, and at the end of January/beginning of February, an interesting twist appeared in the story. As you might know, a ‘hacktivist’ group called Anonymous brought down commercial servers and did various other things on the ‘net in support of Wikileaks back when the story about Assange’s alleged rapes surfaced late last year. This was in response to giants like Visa and Mastercard refusing to process donations to Wikileaks. The damage Anonymous did was real, but fleeting and group sunk momentarily back into the dark regions of the ‘net.
Aaron Barr*, the CEO of a company called HBGary Federal (an offshoot of cyber security firm HBGary) had his company develop a plan to bring down Wikileaks, partly by leaning on its big name supporters such as Glenn Greenwald.
Barr’s company developed this plan after pitching another plan to the US Chamber of Commerce which was meant to provide cyber spying, data collection and other services to the Chamber. And they came up with a proposal for the US Air Force (in response to a call for submissions) to create software allowing massive astroturfing via ‘persona management software’.
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I was thinking about writing a gardening and food post, then Kat mentioned gardening in the Monday Reads and so I ran with it.
Up here in the northern-westernest part of the lower 48 La Nina has been mighty boring. I’m grateful for this, but sorry that her pattern of weather moved south and blasted the rest of the country with such misery. We’ve had normal temps and less rain that usual, although that is changing. This means my partner and I have been out working on the farm. He got the parts of the field we need later this month and next tilled and ready for planting. I’ve been working on conquering the weeds in the herb garden.
Weeds (northeastern, northwestern, california, midwest and south): the bane of life with organic gardening, little tiny buggers that grow from the very air it seems, seeds stored for 20 years or more in buried earth just waiting for a bit of sun and light, little bothersome indicators of both soil gone wrong and soil gone right, rotten, overpowering… bleh. Weeds. Since our farm started as a cow pasture and hay field, our worst weeds are grasses, particularly what we call ‘zip’ grass, because of the sound it makes when you rip it out by the roots and discover to your horror the roots run right under the 3 feet of weed matted and graveled pathway and out the other side. Ziiiipppp indeed. One little stem of that stuff and it’ll grow another 4 foot long run of root, little grasslets sprouting all along the way.
I recently commented that I thought GM crops had more to do with colony collapse disorder in the European Honey Bee than is normally suspected. I want to expand on that comment. But first, we need to go over colony collapse disorder.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) first appeared in North America in 2005/2006. It has also been reported from Europe and from Taiwan in 2007. It is characterized by the disappearance of the worker bees in a typical honey bee colony, leaving the baby bees to die a slow death. Once the workers are gone, the colony collapses. This could be a good lesson for conservatives, come to think of it.
The causes are unknown at this point. It seems that colonies collapse from a variety of reasons; diseases, pesticides, viruses, pathogens and parasites and cell phones have all been implicated.
The reason CCD is important is that honey bees pollinate a lot of our crops. Now, European honey bees are not native to North America, and there are native pollinators that do well here. But they don’t pollinate with the vigor and fecundity of the honey bee. Modern agricultural honey bees are managed something like livestock, and their colonies are moved around the agricultural areas of the country to provide pollination during the specific times that crops need their services. Almonds, for example, are entirely pollinated by bees. Oranges, peaches, cotton, blueberries, corn and other crops are also partly or almost completely pollinated by the sturdy little workers. The movement of the bee hives, of course, stresses the colony but normally the colonies survive such stress. The advent of CCD has changed this.
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I wrote about GM Alfalfa several days ago, and wanted to post a short followup.
First, do we really need GM Alfalfa? Probably not. It’s not like Alfalfa is riddled with a weed problem in this country. Michael Pollan points out that 93% of the alfalfa in this country is raised without any herbicides at all. This makes sense, alfalfa as fodder can benefit from the addition of other plants (although not poisonous ones, obviously). My goats thrive on weedy alfalfa. Anyway, GM Alfalfa says Pollan, ‘is a bad solution to a problem that doesn’t exist’.
The Center for Food Safety is going to continue bringing Monsanto to court over GM Alfalfa. ‘by tackling a new angle, Page Tomaselli, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety, explained Friday at the Eco-Farm Conference. Their strategy will hinge on the “gene flow” risk accepted by the Supreme Court last June as harmful and illegal under current environment protections.’ The Public Patent Foundation is also going to sue Monsanto (or continue suing Monsanto. The foundation has been fighting Monsanto’s patents for a while now). If the foundation succeeds (and it just won a court battle to declare patents concerning human genes invalid), most of Monsanto’s patents concerning living things will be rendered irrelevant. Yes!
The Center for Food Safety has issued a press release pointing out that Vilsack’s decision leaves many problems. Who’s liable if a farmer’s crop is destroyed by GM pollen? Who pays damages? WHo is going to monitor and control herbicide useage on a crop that doesn’t need it, unless it’s ‘Round-Up Ready’? Who is liable for the super-weeds that will result?
From the Department of ‘Of Course, We Should have Known!’ (via Kat) comes this news. Media reports suggest that the reason Vilsack disregarded the comments of 200,000+, the recommendations of Aphis and so on has to do with pressure from the White House. So I wonder, is Obama actually fake? I mean, is he, like, made by Monsanto and the others? Just a gas-bag filled with whatever, maybe Round-Up, and tuned to say certain things that get frat boys excited? I wonder what Michelle, organic gardening proponent that she is, thinks about this? I suppose it doesn’t really matter. Just more proof everyone up ‘high’ is bought and paid for by the time they are weaned.
The Center for Food Safety took the USDA’s decision to allow unregulated planting of Round-Up Ready Alfalfa to court in 2005, all the way to the Supreme Court, and managed to stop any planting of the bio-mutated forage crop until the USDA had a full environmental impact statement ready. No more sneaking GM crops in the back door by pretending not to notice they were being planted, and then when forced to notice saying, ‘Oh My, Imagine that, how did THAT get there?’, with a hand to a cheek and a distressed look on their pretty little faces.
(In which Sima works herself up into a frothing rant.)
Commodity futures prices, wheat, rice and corn, are rising again after a brief fall. In fact, they are supposed to top the records set in 2007/08 during the global food bubble.
Supposedly, Corn Rationing Needs to Begin:
“The corn market has one job and one job only—to go high enough to make people stop using the product,” says Ryan Turner, risk management consultant for FCStone, Kansas City. “We are past the point of encouraging more supply.” Turner predicts 2011 corn futures prices will exceed 2008 highs. “I don’t know if it will happen in January or June, but it will happen,” he says.
Soaring corn prices will slice into demand, with corn exports expected to fall first followed by feed usage. Analysts anticipate the cattle industry to begin rationing earlier than other livestock sectors due to poor margins, but rationing in poultry, hog, and dairy will be close behind. “It will be very painful,” Turner adds.
Those greedy so-and-sos! Imagine, eating corn and corn products? Making corn into feed to raise farm animals and then slaughtering those animals to feed humans. And furthermore, they feed the corn to dairy cows and produce milk and cheese and butter! Will the horror never end!
Obviously, everyone needs to suffer (UN: World Food Prices Hit a Record High in December). Especially the world’s poor. And those who produce the meat we Americans so love to eat are not to be excluded from the necessary pain. And those who produce the dairy we love to drink and nosh on with our imported European crackers. And those who make corn into tortillas, and those who make corn into corn syrup and those who make corn into ethanol… oh wait. Not those. In fact, those last ones may be part of what is driving the rise in corn prices. Nearly 1/3 of the 2010 US corn production was diverted to ethanol, after all.