Friday, December 21, 2007

MRSA - honey bees - and a new riddle

"Our Decrepit Food Factories" is the title of the New York Times article by Michael Pollan published Dec. 16/2007 which highlights how dangerously far we have wandered from the sustainability path.

He compares two important news stories that have cropped up this past decade which may have profoundly serious impact on our future. He begins with the first, discussing an urgent subject that really hasn't received the attention it deserves -- namely community-acquired MRSA:
...the very scary antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that is now killing more Americans each year than AIDS — 100,000 infections leading to 19,000 deaths in 2005, according to estimates in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Back in June of this year I wrote a draft copy of a very detailed article on the subject of MRSA, complete with links, but never had time to complete it. I'll bring it to you early in the new year.

What does MRSA have to do with food factories (aka CAFOs)?

According to the article:
No one is yet sure how or where this strain evolved, but it is sufficiently different from the hospital-bred strains to have some researchers looking elsewhere for its origin, to another environment where the heavy use of antibiotics is selecting for the evolution of a lethal new microbe: the concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.
More specifically, pig operations are receiving the closest scrutinity after a recent "European study found that 60 percent of pig farms that routinely used antibiotics had MRSA-positive pigs (compared with 5 percent of farms that did not feed pigs antibiotics)."

On December 13/2007, the CDC also published a study showing that a strain of “MRSA from an animal reservoir has recently entered the human population and is now responsible for [more than] 20 percent of all MRSA in the Netherlands.” The study stated:
The density of NT-MRSA isolates corresponds to the density of pig farming, whereas the density of typable strains corresponds to the density of the human population. The density of cattle farms is more or less identical to the density of pig farms.
Further study is underway.

For the record, Michael Pollan admits:
Scientists have not established that any of the strains of MRSA presently killing Americans originated on factory farms. But given the rising public alarm about MRSA and the widespread use on these farms of precisely the class of antibiotics to which these microbes have acquired resistance, you would think our public-health authorities would be all over it. Apparently not.
Meanwhile, what about the honey bees?

I had another post about the colony collapse disorder affecting honey bee populations around the world but never had a chance to publish it. However, I did mention the subject here.

Michael's article focusses more on how we're treating bee populations rather than the full background story on CCD.

It is the second news item that Michael Pollan draws our attention to with respect to the unsustainable methods growing within Big AG practices today.
We're asking a lot of our bees. We're asking a lot of our pigs too. That seems to be a hallmark of industrial agriculture: to maximize production and keep food as cheap as possible, it pushes natural systems and organisms to their limit, asking them to function as efficiently as machines. When the inevitable problems crop up — when bees or pigs remind us they are not machines — the system can be ingenious in finding "solutions," whether in the form of antibiotics to keep pigs healthy or foreign bees to help pollinate the almonds. But this year's solutions have a way of becoming next year's problems. That is to say, they aren't "sustainable."
I'm just the messenger, bringing attention to the story. How you choose to take the message is entirely up to you.

And now... the new riddle.

QUESTION: What are scientists watching closely as we near January 30/2008 that is: big (about 50 meters in diameter), flies at a speed of 1.2 km per second (8 miles/second) and carries the potential to unleash energy equivalent to a 15-megaton nuclear bomb?

ANSWER: coming tomorrow.

Until then, stay safe and be healthy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lakota Indians set new borders?

A delegation for the Lakota Indians are unilaterally withdrawing from treaties they signed with the federal government of the U.S., declaring their independence from the USA. Here are a few articles relating to the news:

Descendants of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse break away from US

Lakota Indians Withdraw Treaties Signed With U.S. 150 Years Ago

Some might wonder if this is what the CIA might call "blowback" ...following a long trail of events surrounding the mining of resources (among other treaty violations) from Black Hills and other areas of what was supposed to be Sioux/Lakota land.

The Black Hills (originally part of the Pine Ridge Reservation) in South Dakota contain the largest gold mine in the country. Back in 1868, a treaty conferred ownership of the Black Hills to the Sioux, but in the 1870s when gold was discovered (supposedly when General Custer found gold in a river in the area), the great gold rush that followed sparked off what was called the Black Hills War. Remember the Battle of the Little Big Horn?

After defeating the Indians in the late 1870s, the US govt. took control of the area but in 1980 the USA Supreme Court ruled the Black Hills had been taken illegally. Restitution was ordered in the form of nearly $106 million but the Lakota refused the monetary compensation, insisting instead on the return of the land.

The money, held in trust, is now worth approximately $757 million.

Incidentally, the Black Hills also include the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, with its famous giant sculptures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

The Pine Ridge Reservation ("the eighth-largest reservation in the United States"), which was originally part of the Great Sioux Reservation established in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, is also rich in uranium currently being mined today... something which the native Americans tried to stop without success.

In fact, in the 1970s, the area saw a great deal of violence, culminating in the death of Anna Mae Aquash, a Mi'kmaq activist and member of American Indian Movement (AIM) on February 24, 1976. (If you're curious, and want to learn more about the murder of AIM member, Anna Mae Pictou Aquash originally from Canada, here's one side of the story.)

A WikiPedia article notes: "One of the murders during that period involved a civil rights activist, Ray Robinson, who worked with Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young in the 1960s. His body has not been found."

Interestingly, according to the USDA, "in 2002 there was nearly 33 million dollars in receipts from agricultural production on Pine Ridge, yet less than 1/3rd of that income went to members of the tribe."

When you look at all the resources being hauled out of there -- gold, uranium, water, agriculture -- why is it that it is the poorest reservation in the USA?

The Pine Ridge Reservation " probably easily comparable to the least developed countries of the Third World."

Based on the history of the region, things could get messy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

FutureGen Update

Within hours of the announcement that Mattoon won the FutureGen bid, the call to stall came out. Here's an excerpt from one news article on the reasoning behind the DOE's decision:
"The biggest concern this past week for FutureGen Texas was the bickering between the DOE and the FutureGen Alliance over the timing of the announcement," said Hoxie Smith, who served as coordinator of the Permian Basin FutureGen Task Force.

Following this morning's selection of Mattoon, the DOE -- which had requested a delay in the announcement to let the agency evaluate public comments on the environmental impact statements -- issued a statement warning that projected cost overruns involving the plant "require a reassessment of FutureGen's design."
What puzzled me most about this entire project was -- why even pursue coal? Why not solar? Why not wind power? Why not other sources for hydrogen? In this enlightened age, why are we not considering renewable sources of energy rather than continued focus on using fossil fuels?

So... I'm reading through the huge EIS, and I come across this little section titled, "Technology Options Eliminated from Further Consideration," and I find what I think is the answer:
Pursuant to the President's FutureGen Initiative, DOE determined that all project alternatives must use coal as fuel, produce electricity, produce H2, meet very low target emission rates, and capture and store emissions of GHGs.
Well, that explains why maybe this technology -- the algae farm solution by Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- was not even considered.
    His technology meets all but one of the criteria. It
  • does use coal (sort of)
  • does produce electricity
  • does meet very low target emission rates
  • does capture and store emissions of Green House Gases (sort of - actually it converts most of them rather than storing them)
but what it doesn't do is produce H2 (hydrogen). Instead, his technology produces bio-diesel and ethanol -- in abundance -- far more than either soy beans or corn, and with much greater efficiency from what I understand.

In addition, Dr. Berzin's technology also cleans existing coal plant emissions -- by up to 40% of CO2 emissions and up to 86% of nitrous oxide emissions. It can be added to almost any coal power plant and act like a powerful scrubber, sucking up a large portion of those GHGs already being belched into our air.

Now, if we reduced all our aging coal plant CO2 emissions by 40%, that gives us a far larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates ...putting us years ahead!

But what is the cost for such a technology?

Well, the algae needs to be harvested daily, so I'm guessing that would up maintenance costs for the power plants but considering the alternative fuels output (bio-diesel and ethanol), according to Dr. Berzin, the power plants can actually make a tidy profit.

And, unlike the almost $1.8 billion price tag for the FutureGen solution decided upon by our DOE, for the algae pilot project using a 1,000 megawatt power plant owned by one southwestern power company, the cost was $11 million in venture capital.

Now, you can imagine how many power plants could be modified if, say, the DOE's original budget agreed for FutureGen to the tune of $950 million were applied to Dr. Berzin's technology instead, right?

Hmmmm... affordable, ...sustainable, ...and profitable?

But for some bizarre reason, the DOE has its heart set on sequestering CO2. They have stricken from the list of consideration any renewable resource technologies, including wind power, wave power, geothermal energy, solar energy, and biomass combustion (which do not use coal and do not allow an opportunity to demonstrate the capture and storage of GHG emissions).

In fact, they're determined to use our tax dollars to sequester (meaning store) the green house gases. And equally determined that hydrogen be a product of the technology chosen, the way I read it in the EIS.

So, how many hundred, thousand, or million years into the future will it be when all that sequestered GHG starts bubbling to the surface?

Well, if you haven't already heard about all that methane bubbling up in the Pacific Ocean and from some of the newly thawing areas of permafrost, you might imagine like me that eventually, somewhere and at some time in the distant future, it's bound to find a way up.

When future generations look back in history at us -- what will they think?

Maybe that's too far into the future. So let's look to today's future generation. Here's a pretty good article that might tell you how they feel about how tax dollars are deployed in this country...

For a change of pace, and some insight for the coming 2008 election year, take a quick read through this insightful article: "10-round rumble: Generational 'fight of the century' looms as taxpayers revolt"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the FutureGen Winner is Mattoon

Mattoon, Illinois was officially chosen as the final designated site for the massive FutureGen power plant -- which is supposed to become "the World's Cleanest Coal Plant."

Mattoon is just a quick hop and a skip over the border East of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Never heard about FutureGen, you say?

Well, then, you might be interested in reading the DOE Environmental Impact Study on the subject which you can find here.

I have a few mixed feelings on this massive undertaking which is sure to suck quite a few tax dollars up over the next couple years... possibly beyond; a lot of tax dollars... for something that would only be in operation "for at least 20 to 30 years, and potentially up to 50 years."

Besides the enormous costs, of which DOE would provide 74% of the net (about $1,077,760,230), there are other details that make me nervous, particularly with respect to -- the transportation by pipeline and "sequestration" of -- 1.1 million tons of CO2 per year -- below ground.

This pic from the DOE Environmental Impact Study might give you an idea:

click for larger pic

Now, supposedly the facility will be constructed on 444 acres, 97% of which is farmland and 3% of which is public Right-of-Ways.

Okay... that's the -- above ground -- space, but looking at their sample image above, I'm thinking, hey, aren't they actually using quite a bit larger space below ground for all that CO2 "sequestration" as they call it? I wonder what the neighbors will think?

And, what happens when you keep pumping that kind of pressure 1.3 to 1.6 miles below ground, year after year, for a period of anywhere between 20 and 50 years? And how does the saline solution that far below ground help solve the CO2 issues?

And, ummmm, exactly how much water will this plant require per day that will be drawn indirectly from the aquifer(from the Mattoon public water system and possibly Chesterton)?

And what about the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which they're planning to convert to useable by-products such as fertilizers and soil enhancers.

Well, with a document that is 152 pages long, I'm guessing if I want my questions answered I'll be reading quite a bit over the next couple days. However, according to the ENS news article, even the Environmental Impact Study leaves a few questions unanswered.

Why am I so curious? Check out this quote from the Environment News Service article on the subject:
"The ability to effectively and economically capture CO2 emissions from existing power plants could spur the construction of new CO2 pipelines across the country to geologic formations suitable for CO2 sequestration," the EIS says.
For more on the four towns that were considered for the project, check out this AP article which lists the pros and cons for each site.

Notice the cons for Mattoon -- "Greatest population around potential site, potentially putting more people at risk if there is a chemical release."

And, considering many of our prevailing winds during summer come from the southwest, where does that leave us?

But check out on the map where Indianapolis is located in relation to the site.

Hmmmmm.... we live in interesting times, indeed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Indiana Road Conditions Today

With the huge snowfall that hit us last night, you would think the worst is over, right? Well, it's not the fallen snow that's causing trouble so much today as it is the blowing snow. Check out those winds whipping through the state. Br-r-r-r-rrr!

We were lucky to have that short 2-day drying spell after the rains hit us last week. So, with the exception of blowing snow and drifting in spots, the roads are looking pretty good in our area of Northwest Indiana, even if they are snow covered. But if you're travelling elsewhere in the State, you'd best check the Indiana State Police website for current road conditions first. I hear many of the State and secondary roads are in pretty rough shape in some areas.

Now for something totally off track...

I found this cool website a few weeks back. If you're wondering which presidential candidate best matches your views and ideals, take the quick survey at their site and after answering a few brief questions, the site will pop up the best matches based on your answers.

I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a whirl.

Surprise, surprise, the best matches for me were only in the 69% match range... and they were so low in the polls for either party (yes, both democrats and republicans matched me to the 69% range) that the chances of any of them even making it to the race were slim at best. In fact, I hadn't even heard of the one that the site said was my best match.

Until last night -- when I found out about the Tea Party going on today.

Wow. The guy I thought didn't stand a hope in h--- has come a long way since I took the survey. Imagine my surprise.

Who is he?

To learn more about his views, watch this YouTube video.

Or, here's another video that is a bit shorter.

To learn more about the Tea Party going on today, watch this YouTube video and visit the Tea Party site here.

Yeah, he probably won't win, at least not in his party, since his views are so far against what the Republican party has evolved into... but I gotta tell 'ya, he sure is resonating with a lot of folks out there. It will be interesting to watch him.

Here in Jasper County (and surrounding areas) at least one Union is backing Edwards on the Democratic side of things. My husband came home with the brochure last week.

Interesting... both Edwards and Paul are pushing for people's rights with respect to their property. You'd almost think they both are anti-CAFO -- and one of them is a doctor. Imagine that.

By the way, did you know that today is the Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Neighbors kept in the dark?

I was reading an interesting, and dare I say, revealing article about the State of Indiana tonight. One quote in the "Food security and public health" section of this very long article caught me:
And although Easterly has said that he wants timely resolution of enforcement actions, an investigation by Dan Stockman [see sidebar on pg. 17] published in July in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette found that IDEM's Voluntary Remediation Program is "marked by delays, years-long cleanups and neighbors kept in the dark about the polluted soil and water nearby." [Emphasis added.]
The article reminded me that this 'tis the season when people are very busy, the time of year when many (IMHO) less than savory characters love to hold public meetings for which they believe few, if any, will turn out.

Keeping this in mind, don't forget that Senator Paul has authored Bill 61 (not posted on yet) which you might want to take some time out of your busy schedule to support.

The Bill is said to be the same as the one Senator Gard would not let go to vote last year, and calls for a 3 Year Moratorium on building CAFOs in the State and would be effective July 1.

You'll want to contact Senator Long to request that this Bill be heard. And don't forget to also email your area Rep/Senator and let them know your feelings with respect to CAFOs and support for the moratorium.

They do track the numbers, folks. So, the more the merrier.

And, though I truly believe it won't do much good, you can haunt the Gov with an email or call on the issue. 317-232-4567

Personally, I'm hoping both he and Becky have ticked off enough people in this State that their reign in the Mansion will be coming to an end soon... you gotta love election years!!! hehehe

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tough Questions for 2008

It's been hectic here, what with all the freezing rain and icy roads... school delays and closures ...and Christmas baking (yummy!). This morning is the first time in over a month that I've been able to return to blogging. Did you miss me?

The pro-CAFO side are probably thinking, "Oh no! She's back!"

The anti-CAFO side are probably thinking, "Finally! She's back!"

Well, I'm probably going to disappoint both sides with today's post... because even though there's plenty to talk about on the CAFO side of bad science and politics, there's an even bigger mess going on in the financial industry -- and I gotta tell 'ya, it's not pretty.

For those not up to speed on what's been happening in sub-prime mortgages, you might be scratching your heads right now wondering -- "What's up?"

(Not our dollar, that's for sure! Have you seen the tumble it's taken?)

Take comfort in knowing there are a lot of others who DO KNOW what's going on in the sub-prime mess that are probably wondering the very same thing -- "What's up?" -- but I'm guessing they're more worried about who is being investigated and who isn't right now.

You see, the tough question is really... "Who knew what?"

This article puts things into perspective and suggests our very own Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, the brainchild behind the Gov plans for saving Aunt Millie's home, needs to be answering that very same question.

Ever since the big Enron debacle, one can't help thinking along the lines of conspiracy and fraud theories when it comes to the financial industry as a whole, but what happens to the innocent, hardworking taxpayers across America? How much deeper will they have to dig into their pockets to pay for the messes created by the profiteers hiding in their castles hosting private meetings with the drawbridge closed to all of us peasants?

There are some tough questions that need to be asked in 2008. I wonder who will have the courage to ask them?

On the lighter side, for a comical look at our "financial crisis" ...check out this video from across the ocean in the Queen's English. It might bring some laughter to the gloomy picture:

The Last Laugh - George Parr - Subprime

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wal-Mart Gets Slammed In Europe

When it comes to carbon footprints, there is no doubt about it; Wal-Mart leaves a GIANT dirty path on our planet.

In fact, "the company publicly acknowledged in 2006 that its global operations created 220 million tons of greenhouse gases every year...", according to a new report released in Europe yesterday by a large coalition who are severely criticizing Wal-Mart's so-called "sustainability programme."
"Wal-Mart's 'cheap' imports are not cheap if you consider the estimated two million tons of annual carbon emissions associated with shipping from China to US ports, pollution from inefficient non-U.S. trucking fleets, and the health impacts of port pollution on local communities," the groups stated.

... "Wal-Mart can change to more efficient light bulbs, but that doesn't change its carbon footprint or the enormous social consequences of its globally unsustainable business model," stated report contributor Ruben Garcia of Global Exchange. "If we look at its practices internationally, Wal-Mart has used its market power to cut costs at the expense of workers and the environment across the developing world."
There is one quote in the new report that I humbly believe echoes the growing tidal wave of sentiment against factory farming -- and I quote:
"There is no action we take, as consumers, that has a more profound impact on the environment than our choice of food, and Wal-Mart's dependence on imports and unsustainable factory farming is highly destructive,"

[Source: FoodNavigator news article]

Friday, November 02, 2007

Temporary Hiatus

Sorry for delays in posting. I have to take a brief break because, frankly, I'm swamped right now.

Writing clients, plus my second screenplay, plus a short novella for the NaNoWriMo competition this month... all have me buried in work and words.

For the month of November I'll be turning "comments" off because I simply have no time to moderate them all. Plus, there are a few commenters not following the rules (which I've stated several times but which they choose to ignore). I'll rewrite terms to make it a bit more clear and turn comments back on when I return to regular blogging in December.

Meanwhile, my posts will be quite sporadic over the next 4 weeks. Sorry about that.

I'll leave you this weekend with a few quotes to ponder:

"Many of the things you can count, don't count. Many of the things you can't count, really count." Albert Einstein

"The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is." Winston Churchill

"What's interesting about a writer is not himself, but what he manages to see outside of himself." John Updike

"The human physiology is part of the cosmic physiology. Every rhythm of the universe therefore naturally has an effect on the individual and vice versa." Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

"In this inconceivably enormous universe, we can never run out of energy or matter. But we can easily run out of brains." From the book, Profiles of the Future, by Arthur C. Clarke

Friday, October 12, 2007

About World Food Day October 16-2007

Not sure if you are aware of this, but World Food Day is October 16, 2007. Here's what's being planned over in Europe and other parts of the world;
The FAO is flagging events taking place around the world to mark World Food Day next week, with more than 150 countries organising events around the theme The Right to Food. (further details here)
Here at home in the USA, there will be a teleconference broadcast live from Washington, DC, carried by DISH Network by tape-delayed basis.

Here is a snippet of the theme/focus the USA will be presenting:
The links between climate change, hunger and poverty will be the focus of the 2007 teleconference.

Three international leaders -- Suzanne Hunt, independent consultant, currently dividing her time among the Natural Resources Devense Council and the Global Bioenergy Partnership, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Research Scientist and Leader of the Climate Impacts Group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Dr. Stephen H. Schneider, Stanford University professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies and founder and editor of the Interdisciplinary journal, "Climate Change", -- will discuss the many crosscutting issues of global climate change and the potentially disastrous consequences, especially for millions of poor and chronically undernourished people.

The overwhelming majority of the world's climate scientists are convinced that the looming crisis is caused primarily by "humankind's activities" and will require immediate and farsighted action by all nations, rich and poor.

In addition to the guest panelists there will be a live uplink from the World Food Prize ceremonies and cameo comments from other experts.
Visit for further details, plus links to handouts and more.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The High Cost of Low Price

By now, a lot of people the world over have seen the movie, "WALMART: The High Cost of Low Price" so I won't go into all the details here.

A lot of people are saying, and I humbly agree, that even Sam Walton would be disappointed to see what has become of retail stores across America -- including Wal-Mart.

Think about this a moment you stroll down the aisles in any retail superstore these days, how many items can you find that are Made In The USA?

As if 21.7 million pounds of burger being recalled were not enough to shake things up, the ongoing recalls from "that other" corner on supply are pushing the threat level to public health significantly higher. Even Boy Scout badges are being recalled, for heaven's sake! (see this story - Scouts Not Prepared for Lead Badges)

Meanwhile, legislation right here at home seems to be bent on lining the pockets of the profiteers ...and to heck with public health and safety altogether... or at least, that's how it appears to me.

The manure bill designed (IMHO) to protect large industrial farms is bad enough, but did you see the mercury thing? (learn more here)

And just wait till you find out what's going on with almonds. The new pasteurization laws put in place have more than a few people upset. I'll quote William Campbell Douglass II, M.D. on that story as follows:
But perhaps the biggest hit will be taken by the smaller almond operations. Truth be told, even though all of the problems originated with the biggest almond industries, this little piece of legislation could spell the end of the line for organic and small-time almond operations. The minimum cost of the pasteurization equipment is $500,000 - a hefty price that not many smaller businesses can afford. Shipping the almonds off to be pasteurized has its own road bumps, not the least of which includes higher prices tied up in transportation costs.

This is an awful lot of fuss, especially considering the fact that nuts are not likely to pose a threat in and of themselves. It's when manure or other fecal matter gets transferred to the crops that contamination can occur. A better solution is one that would regulate the manmade carelessness that's the source of all these problems to begin with. But with today's Band-aid mentality, the likelihood of that happening is almost nil.
Yeah, there's that "perfectly safe manure (NOT)" sliding it's way through our food supply again.

By the way, in case you didn't know it, propylene oxide has been banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The pasteurization method the FDA is recommending requires the use of propylene oxide.

It's a recognized carcinogen. A pollution information site called Scorecard says that propylene oxide is in the top 10 percent of compounds that are hazardous to human health and to the ecosystem. In six out of twelve ranking systems, it's ranked as one of the most hazardous chemicals.

Meanwhile the Big AG groups get richer, and the rest...?

As a quick aside, if this source is correct, did you know that the top 1 per cent of Americans now accounted for 22 per cent of national wealth, compared with 9 per cent in 1970?

Go figure!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Hamburger Class I Recall - Health Risk: High

It began on Sept. 25, 2007 with a recall of 335,000 pounds of ground beef...

-- BUT --

On Sept. 29, 2007, following "an additional positive product sample reported by the New York Health Department, reported illnesses and findings from a food safety assessment conducted by FSIS at the establishment"

...the recall was expanded to include...

21,700,000 pounds of ground beef!

Yep. You read right. That's 21.7 million pounds!!

And of course, the culprit is -- AGAIN -- E. coli O157:H7

According to USDA/FSIS:
There are currently 25 illnesses under investigation in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. An investigation carried out by the New York Department of Health in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, preceded the recall of Sept. 25.
One blogger writes:
E. Coli meat contamination is the result of cow sh** in your meat. Or steer sh** in your meat. Or calf sh** in your meat.
Ummm... I provided the **s for those who might be offended by the word sh**

If you have a strong stomach that can handle sh**, and you're really curious as to how so much sh** can get into so much burger, you really want to read a little history about HACCP and HIMP to find out "who pushed food safety over the cliff." Here's the link.

Don't Let Your Dingell Dangle in the dirt...

Now, if a little bit of sh** happens to splatter on some burger and people get excited enough to recall 21.7 million pounds of the stuff -- why is it ok to dump millions (or billions) of gallons of sh** all over the land?

You gotta wonder what's got into the heads of this powerful group of lobbyists pushing to make sure they aren't liable for any of their sh** ...

I'm talking about this story...

The AFBS -- oops, I mean AFBF (not) -- has joined forces with the likes of Land O' Lakes, National Chicken Council and Tyson to name a few, plus a new group calling themselves -- get this -- Farmers for Clean Air & Water Inc. -- now there's a crock of... oops, my bad.

Anyhoo... the groups above are lobbying for a Dingell (et al) bill to be pushed quickly through that takes manure (the polite word for sh**) out of the Superfund, essentially meaning they can dump their sh** without being held responsible for cleaning up the mess if/should something go wrong.

So if you happen to live downstream from a factory farm, guess what? You gotta rely on taxpayers to clean up any mess if something particularly nasty happens as a result of the farm, since the farm itself can't/won't be held accountable -- if this thing goes through.

All This For Cheap Meat?

You know, I get sooooooo tired of hearing how factory farming is so much more efficient in bringing us cheap meat (and eggs, and dairy, etc.). Cheap for the producers, maybe -- but for the taxpayers and the consumers?

Think about it...

The LA Times reported:
In the first nine months of 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced 60 recalls totaling nearly 30 million pounds of meat.
And now here we have 21.7 million in just a single recall. Add up all the other tons and tons of recalls that have been happening just over the past 24 months. I don't care how you slice it, that's not what I would call efficient by any stretch.

By the way, did you know this...?

"21.7 million pounds of ground beef just happens to be an entire year’s worth of production." According to Dr. Kirk James Murphy, M.D. If you have the stomach for it, you really gotta read his blog on this subject!

If you read through his entire article and the links leading from it, you'll soon realize that buying meat to eat these days is a total crap shoot (pun intended).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Udderly Insane?

Have you herd (pun intended) the latest news on mastitis?

What Is Bovine Mastitis?

For those who don't know what bovine mastitis is...

In dairy cows, bovine mastitis is a common bacterial disease of the mammary that causes the udder to be painful and swollen. It has been associated with overproduction of milk. Cows that are injected with rBGH are believed to be prone to mastitis.

Even so, here in the USA, many scientists believe... "The gram negative bacterium, Escherichia coli is responsible for most cases of bovine mastitis in North America."

Yes... there's that ugly E. Coli bacterium popping up again.

By now, just about everyone has heard about some strains or versions of it; particularly since it's been popping up so frequently in our food supply in recent years.

But with regards to bovine mastitis, here's something you might not have heard about:
The USDA is promoting a potentially disastrous strategy for controlling mastitis in cows that could enhance a host of other diseases and create new disease agents. Prof. Joe Cummins (link)
To fight E. coli mastitis in dairy cows, the USDA/ARS's mad scientists have been feverishly at work adultering tobacco plants to produce a CHEAP new protein (called CD14) which they say can reduce the severity of mastitis.

So, in addition to that massive tax slam on cigarette taxes, after reading the brief article at this link, we have one more reason to quit.

What else might be affected besides tobacco?

We-ell... it kinda makes you wonder if this delightful little protein has been added to your milk in recent years, doesn't it? You'll understand why after reading the article.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nothing Changes Until Something Changes

I get this awesome weekly newsletter that is a great success motivator. This week the subject was about change.
Nothing will change until something changes. What steps or changes will move you forward this week? What must you read or learn? What must you do, or stop doing? ...
After watching Ken Burns' new film about World War II, the writer went on to share a personal message;
I do not know the answer to terrorism or hate, but the horrors of war know no bounds. In this time of tension, let us pray that we might live together in peace and mutual respect.

In your community or corner of the world, reach out to your neighbors. Make your contribution. Share your life, your hope and your bounty. The future of our small planet depends upon it.
Now, after hearing rhumors about at least 2 small farms that the CAFOs moving into our area either tried to deceive and/or intimidate, I'm wondering how many more are out there -- silent -- afraid to speak up?

The first farm I heard about late last fall, the other farm I just heard about yesterday... even though the incidents happened quite some time ago.

Interestingly enough -- both implicated the Fair Oaks group of farms.

I'm wondering, how many more small farms (or residents) in the Jasper/Newton county areas have been deceived and/or received threats/intimidation from that group? Just curious (for now)...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stinky Cheese

Whenever we have spaghetti at our house, our son always asks for the "stinky cheese" first. In case you're wondering, he's referring to Parmesan cheese. With the great debate over cheese names in other parts of the world today, who knows what we may some day be calling it.

Speaking of debates, a recent Cheese article published by the Rensselaer Republican has sparked a furious debate -- not about cheese -- but about the escalating CAFO issues surrounding one particular group of CAFOs in our area -- and comments are getting quite nasty on both sides ...which is precisely why I'm not jumping into the fray over there.

Albert Einstein once said:

"Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."

But... and here is the big BUT order to solve a problem, you have to acknowledge and admit there is a problem in the first place.

And in my personal opinion, that is precisely why there is such a growing outcry of protest against CAFOs regardless what news is published; whether the news be about winning some kind of contest, or about trucks raising dust on the roads, or about flyash finding its way into areas where it hasn't been approved for use.

There is a problem. Actually, there are a host of problems. The problems are still growing. And those creating the problems are refusing to admit there even is a problem.

Or at least, that's the way I see it.

Europe is seeing things differently in recent years.

In fact, the latest report coming out of that corner of the globe, issued on September 17, 2007, by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns about the increased risk of pathogen contamination owing to intensive animal farming methods being employed today throughout the world. (Read more here.)

The FAO warns there are problems. Environmental groups emphatically state there are problems. Independent scientists are shouting that there are problems. And many neighboring residents (some of whom are farmers themselves) have been crying for years that there are problems.

And who are the people steadfastly refusing to admit there is a problem?

Well, you can meet some of them posting comments on that RR article referenced above. If you run your own blog and happen to share my opinion on CAFOs, chances are you've received a few inflammatory comments and bashing from them, as I have, too. Or if you happen to fight one from invading your community, you may have even received a SLAPP lawsuit from one (or more) of them. (IMHO, they seem to enjoy using SLAPP suits to shut people up so they can do whatever they want to do -- to any neighborhood they please.)

What disturbs me most is some of the Indiana Government entities that are not only refusing to admit there is a problem -- but are actively encouraging GROWTH of the problem. If you want to see one example, here's a cute pic of Becky.

The above article paints a rosy picture, indeed. But here's a different article that tells the other side of the same story -- Neighbors Raise Stink Over Farmer's Cow Plan.

Same farm -- two different pictures. And our very own Lt. Governor getting her photo op turning the soil to promote the plans.

Totally off topic -- do you recall a long time ago on this blog I asked the question: "What happens when you push a hoosier up against the wall and threaten his livelihood, his family, his home?"

Well, I was sitting here watching a YouTube video for which I got the link from one of my Stock Market newsletters, that described the video as follows:

"It was filmed by a tourist in Kruger National Park in South Africa and it's had over 17 million viewings since it was first posted in May, so you know that it's well worth watching."

While watching it, I got to thinking...

Imagine the buffalo are Hoosiers. Now imagine the lions are CAFOs. Now imagine the crocodiles are our Indiana government.

The video is 9 minutes long -- nothing to do with CAFOs -- might be a great way to take your mind off the subject for awhile. Here's the link. Enjoy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Dead Fish at Jasper-Pulaski Game Reserve

In readiness for our son to start Tiger Cubs, we took him on a little fishing trip to the Jasper-Pulaski Game Reserve the day before school began. He had one of those cute little zebco-type rod and reel kits, and we sat back to watch (waaaaay back sometimes) as he practiced casting.

The heat was sweltering, a day during that heat wave that hit all of us late last month. Needless to say, it wasn't long before our little guy tired of his adventure. Instead, he wanted to go on a short hike through the bush to the old wooden "tower" at another small lake location.

The welcome shade from the trees enticed us to agree... and off we went.

Entering the first area, however, we were shocked at what we discovered -- hundreds and hundreds of dead fish. Some were laying on the banks, most were floating throughout the small lake (pond, really), and the smell -- UGH!

There were dead, rotting fish carcasses all over the lake and shore areas. Hundreds of them... At one point, a Kingfisher bird swooped down to snatch up a small fish. Not sure if it was one of the dead fish, or one of the few remaining small bass struggling to stay alive.

This was not natural at all.

We're not certain, but it looked to us like the Reserve had recently had all the lilly pads sprayed, since we could see what looked like "trails" through the thick weed patches. We'd also seen some type of "Aquatic Management" trucks passing by our home a few days before.

In any event, our son learned some valuable lessons regarding the environment, ecosystems and more that day.

It's a pity to think that a 7 year old child can understand more about protecting our environment than the people in charge of nurturing and safeguarding our State Reserves and Wetlands. That's pretty sad in my humble opinion.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Princeton Indiana Mining Deaths

Reports aren't very clear yet, but more news is coming out regarding the 3 killed at a coal mine northwest of the city of Princeton in Gibson County, Indiana earlier today. Here are links to a few reports on the story:

Three Killed in Mine Accident in Indiana

3 killed at southern Indiana coal mine

3 Dead in Indiana Mine Accident

I'm wondering if this is the same mine that Peabody Energy Corp. was planning to use as its source for a proposed new coal-fired power plant near Central City, Kentucky ...a permit for which was recently struck down by a Kentucky Judge. (Full story)

Meanwhile, we noticed "flyash mountain" (read about it here and here) was still present a couple weeks back when we took our visitor on a tour of this region.

WHEN are they going to REMOVE that STUFF?!?

Who knows for certain how much of that arsenic has already leached into waters in this area. Sheesh!

PS: Sorry I've been absent these past couple weeks. I've had tons of writing (for clients) to catch up on after completing the pilot plus 2 partial episodes and the Treatment for a new television series. Now THAT is a HUGE project! I'll tell you more about it in November. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another 10,540 cows in Newton County?

The July 17, 2007 "Pending CFO and CAFO Construction Applications" includes a name familiar to many Newton/Jasper County residents. Dan Brugen is the listed IDEM project manager for the NPDES General Construction application from Fair Oaks Dairy Farm, LLC owned by Michael McClosky. The application indicates the construction application is for 10,540 dairy cattle.

Here's another little interesting piece of information. Just a couple weeks ago "Newton County Enterprise" reported this story:
The Board of Zoning Appeals met last Tuesday night to discuss a Variance to Ordinance and a Special Exception. First the special exception was discussed and this pertained to the Fair Oaks Dairy LLC. The Dairy, represented by Steve Ryan during the meeting, needed a special exception to have 1,200 head of calves. Currently, they are housing about 1,200 head but it was not permitted for them to do so. The Dairy, however, did not know that they didn’t have the approval of the board and have had roughly this many calves since 2001.
Ever wonder what that number of calves and calf hutches might look like? Here's an areial view of Calf Land:

Click for larger version.

Notice how nicely those trees and bushes hide those hutches? Reminds me how they managed to hide the HUGE PILE of flyash... but I digress...

Now, just in case you missed it, let's think about this a minute.

The Dairy claimed they were unaware there was no zoning for the 1,200 calves housed there since about 2001 -- they didn't even know a Special Exception Permit was required to do so?!

According to the article, after all this time, now "they just wanted to make it right with the board and do everything legally."

Ahem. 'Nuff said, right?

We-ell... you might think by their representative's comments that they have never run a Dairy Farm of this size and nature before...

Meanwhile, the May 30 edition of The Enterprise reported that the Newton County Council held a meeting with the Commissioners. Their biggest subject was the discussion about Fair Oaks Dairy. Apparently the Dairy is in need of $14 million for their new digester.

The first digester doesn't work so well.

Here's an important quote from the above news item for taxpaying residents in this area:
The Council will not be liable for giving the Dairy money however, nor will they be responsible for paying back the money to the loan lender if the project should fall through.

A public hearing on the issuance of Variable Rate Demand Economic Development Revenue Bonds for the $14 million was to be held 9 a.m., June 8 at the Newton County Government Center, but I just found out about this recently. I'm not sure how things turned out, yet.

Just in case you didn't know, Fair Oaks received a DOE funding in 2002 for the first digester to the tune of $95,723 -- here's the details:
Fair Oaks Dairy Farm will demonstrate the feasibility and document technical and economic performance of a high rate anaerobic digestion process that can be used in dairy and swine flush systems. A state-of-the-art anaerobic digestion facility will be constructed at Fair Oaks Dairy Farm at one specific site which houses 3000 milk cows.
Was the above DOE Funding for the same digester which has failed expectations? If so, I'm guessing the so-called "demonstrate" part didn't go so well.

I won't even go into the subsidies they've received over the past 5 years for growing their own feed. Let's not go there for the moment.

But hey, we're not the only State dishing out cash for McClosky/den Dulk related farms. For example, the Ravena Farm (owned by Timothy den Dulk) in Michigan was "awarded a million dollars to build a bio-digester plant" there. According to the news article, the digester should be operational and producing power by October 2007. (link to full story)

Really, it should be no surprise to any of us when we see our taxes keep going up ...and up ...and up in Northwestern Indiana. By all accounts, the BZA is actually helping to make that happen when you consider how careless they are about trashing a Triple AAA (in my humble opinion) subdivision (which could have brought many more taxpayers into the region) by allowing yet another calf operation into the region -- to be built right on that subdivision's doorstep.

In other news, we have another Canadian visitor staying with us, this time from Ottawa, Canada. We'll be escorting him on the CAFO tour later this week. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Walker Township Meeting Tonight

This was in the paper last week. Thought I should let all of you know about it:

Walker Township

Hearing to Consider
Establishment of Cumulative Fire Fund
to Build a New Fire Station

Tuesday July 10th at 7:00 pm
At the Wheatfield Ambulance Center

If approved, the tax will be levied on all taxable real and personal property within Walker Township and will not exceed $.0333 per $100 of assessed valuation. Taxpayers appearing at this hearing shall have the right to be heard.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Farming Facts

If you've been searching for high quality AIR and WATER factsheets, you're going to love this site!

Check out the IATP

And that's just the beginning. The website above is a virtual library of information at your fingertips -- both for farmers and consumers. They've really done their homework.

For example, I clicked on: "Smart Meat and Dairy"

The short 2-page Smart Guide was both educational and helpful, providing excellent health tips for consumers.

Before your next trip to the grocery store, you might want to spend some time on this site. It will be worth it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ball State University Studies

Since I've been so rushed for time these past several weeks, I'm writing about two topics in one today.

Ball State University Studies

First, the Ball State studies, which Seth Godin wrote about in The Star Press the other day. Not sure how long it will be up on their site, but here's the link.

I've skimmed a bit in both studies.

1. Randolph County study.
2. Jay County study.

Interesting reading for everyone on both sides of the CAFO issue. The studies were conducted by Ball State University and reflect a poor ecomonic return on Indiana's hog industry - the very industry that Mitch and his buddies have been pushing to double here in Indiana.

Seth has presented both sides of the issue, with comments from GRACE Factory Farm Project (anti-cafo), the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (pro-cafo) and the Indiana Pork Producers Association (pro-cafo).

But, surprisingly, the side of the issue understated (in my humble opinion - least represented) is the farmers' side of the issue, which includes people from both sides of the fence.

Yes, there are farmers that are anti-cafo, just as there are farmers on the pro-cafo side.

But one commenter on the above referenced article brought forth some excellent points on the farmers' side -- the comment regarding integrated corporations.

Integration and Market Power

This is an area I've also been researching lately.

Integrated marketing approach to farming is a touchy subject for most farmers. For most, to speak up could quickly result in losing important contracts. For several, doing nothing means continued farming for little to no profits.

In a way, it kind of reminds me of the illegal sweatshops you sometimes hear about. Only, in this case, it isn't the fear of immigration laws (or worse) keeping "farmers" silent. It's the very real fear of losing the farm. And it's also one of the biggest reasons some farms are forced to make the choice to "go big or get out."

We've all heard the expression, "The truth shall set you free."

Sadly, not in this case.

You see, there are very powerful corporations, and yes, government entities/key officials, that would much rather this story not be investigated to deeply. There's a bit too much money at stake.

Hint: As they say in journalism schools, follow the money.

For example, let's take this cute little corn check-off thing. Ummm, best not to go there -- right now. (I'll explain more at a later date.)

I tip my hat to the brave person who posted the integrated marketing comment. Good job. I'm wondering when mainstream press will expose the full story. Personally, I feel Big Ag has a lot to answer to. They've managed to gobble the profits at the farmers', the consumers' and the taxpayers' expense for a very long time... in my humble opinion.

Oh, by the way... coming next week - the NEW farm subsidy experiment that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES - but might make one farmer very, very happy.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Celebrating Independence

As many of us are celebrating Independence Day here in the USA this week, and with a national election on the horizon, I've been getting a few requests from new writing clients of late relating directly (and indirectly) to the political arena.

I'm not sure how many of these new projects I will be taking on as yet.

You see, I've been buried in a 72-hour non-stop crash course in screenwriting for a potentially new television series for a fairly large network. I'm only one third of the way through the "treatment" and "overview" stages ...and ready to dive into the presentation script. Well, 4 episodes of script, actually. And I'm LOVING every minute of it!

Even so, I did decide to "test the temperature of the waters" out there on the political scene, since writing copy is my bread and butter writing full time from home.

I was a bit surprised by some of my findings.

For example, did you know that "...nearly three-fourths of 17- to 29-year-olds say they're registered to vote." [source]

Equally interesting is that "a recent CBS-New York Times-MTV poll finds that one-third of Americans aged 17 to 29 have visited a presidential candidate's Web site and that 15 percent say they've been to a candidate's MySpace or Facebook profile."

(Sidenote: They don't know yet what's happening behind the scenes at Time4me. I'll tell you more next month.)

I'm curious to see how this young group will be influencing the next elections, considering that -- 1968 was the last year when the USA registered a voter turnout better than 60 percent -- and then factor in the results from the poll referenced above.

I'm guessing there might be more than a few politicians seeking to beef up their web presence.

Speaking from experience, writing for the Internet is different than writing emotional t.v. campaigns, snappy radio spots and slick 4-color brochures.

And yet, in all cases, WORDS MATTER.

Happy Independence Day to all my visitors, relatives, friends and neighbors. And belated Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the north. Stay safe and enjoy the fireworks!

PS: Special thanks to Debbie and Scott for an excellent show Saturday night! We loved it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

You Call This Bacon?

One of the priceless memories I will have of my parents' recent visit was my mother's reaction after opening up a package of bacon she purchased from Tyson's.

"You call this bacon??"

I guess this is one of those "you had to be there" moments. The puzzled, almost comical expression she had when she opened the package drew laughter from both my husband and I... but then, we don't normally buy CAFO bacon here, if we can avoid it - hahaha

Other interesting comparisons made:
- apparently paper products here in the USA are extremely high in cost vs. those in Canada
- overall cost of food was actually higher here than in Canada, particularly in the area of staples (such as bread, milk, eggs, etc.) although many processed foods were less expensive
- cost of goods like electrical tools, large gas bbqs, etc are far less expensive here (one example, a very lg gas bbq at Menards had a price tag of about $650 and an identical one in their area would cost about $1400)
- medical costs are way out of hand here in the USA when compared with Ontario/Canada, but then we all know that (don't we?)
- and although they thought taxes were excessive in their area, they were blown away by the many creative ways we are taxed down here.

And then there was the air -- yes, the air we all breathe -- which few people realize how bad it is in this region. My mother had a hard time adjusting to it, just as I did when I first moved here.

You see, clean air has a sweetness to it that's difficult to explain. Your body doesn't have to work nearly so hard breathing, in my humble opinion. There's a "lightness" you feel that goes beyond just your lungs that I can't quite describe.

My parents live deep in the bush, surrounded by lush forests, quite a distance from any large cities... or towns for that matter. No industry. Little to no traffic. No CAFOs. It's pure wilderness outside the main campground community, probably the closest to natural clean air you can get these days.

But now, on to water. What saddened me was the shocking drop in water tables throughout the region at the tip of Lake Superior. The once-mighty Kam River has almost dried up. My father said there were points you could even walk across it, which would have been impossible in my youth owing to its strong undercurrents and depth in those days. Even Lake Superior, one of the largest fresh water lakes in North America, has noticeably receded when compared with some of my old photos taken on the waterfront.

And finally, energy. Both my husband and I quizzed my parents relentlessly on their solar and wind powered home. Where they live, they don't have access to any power grid for electricity -- they're forced to create their own. I think we learned a lot and picked up some excellent tips that will save us a great deal of money and time when we make the move toward converting part (or all) of our energy supply needs.

Overall, we all had a wonderful time during their visit. But, alas, it's time to get "back to work" so-to-speak. You'll be hearing more from me soon as I wade through a ton of emails and get caught up on things going on in our neck of the woods.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Powering Up Northern Indiana

Not sure if you heard about the potential sale of NIPSCO here in Northern Indiana. According to Associated Press (May 30/2007) ...the sale is off. (see link)

Many people here in Northern Indiana are unaware of what has happened in other States where deregulation of power has led to exhorbitant rate increases, hurting small to medium sized business and residential comsumers alike. In some cases, power bills more than tripled in size overnight.

We were lucky to not have experienced the same kind of drastic rate hikes.

But that doesn't mean we couldn't see our electric bills go up -- FAST -- and without much warning...

Now, more than ever, it's important to keep a tight reign on expenditures and debt load at our Jasper County REMC. Leonard Richardson mentioned just a few points where cut backs could result in powerful savings, for example, Directors of our REMC are Independent Contractors – they are not employees - and yet, they:

- are entitled to free health insurance – costing REMC over $5,000 per year per director

- are entitled to family health insurance – costing REMC over $8,500 per year per director

- get 4 all expense paid trips including Las Vegas for directors and their spouse –costing REMC thousands of dollars

Think about it. These perks are all funded by your utility bill, for a PART TIME JOB!

Leonard Richardson has refused to attend anything but in-state meetings. He has limited his spending, makes his wife pay her own way, and they have both refused REMC paid health insurance. He stood alone against the current policy that gives large power, like the Dairy on SR 14, free installation.

He's worked very hard for all of us to keep our electric bills low.

He could use our support at the upcoming Annual Meeting Tuesday, June 12th, at the Jasper County Fairgrounds. Bring the GREEN card they sent you in the mail or call the REMC office for a replacement.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dan Bartlett Leaves White House Too

You may not know who Dan Bartlett is... Briefly, he's been described as one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and his longest-serving aide, as well as "someone who has Bush's ear."

The big story on the news wires today is about Dan Bartlett's resignation, effective for around July 4th of this year.

The blog "" have an interesting collection of public appearances/press releases referencing Dan Bartlett. Paints and interesting picture.

One of the news stories that caught my eye regarding Dan's resignation was published by Swiss Info in which they write:
Bartlett, who said he had been pondering his departure for months, started working for Bush in October 1993 in the future president's first race for Texas governor. One of his first communications crises was to handle the fallout when Bush accidentally shot an endangered bird on a hunting trip. (link)

Accidentally? Kind of makes a person wonder if the man knows what he's shooting at when he makes his decisions, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Food With Integrity

A lot of people visiting my blog are unaware of my personal slogan which I use when communicating with my copywriting clients: "Conversions With Integrity"

It's more than a slogan -- it's a philosophy I use in all my direct sales copy work. It means a lot to me. In fact, I've turned down more writing jobs than I've accepted because of this very same philosophy. It's an ethical decision that ties directly into my own personal values.

If I don't believe in the product -- or feel the offer is unethical -- I won't accept the job.

Sure... staying true to my personal values has cost me a bit of money. One contract I turned away would have paid me $35,000 for less than 5 weeks worth of work (research included). Plus, there was a "royalty" attached to the job which would have added several thousand per month to my residual revenue stream.

But I don't regret that decision, nor any other similar decisions, one bit.

That's why, when a friend told me about a billboard he saw during his commute home last week with the slogan "Food with integrity" ...I was naturally curious.

I followed the link to the restaurant's website (Chipotle's Mexican Grill) and was pleasantly surprised.

On their website, they write,
Food With Integrity means working back along the food chain. It means going beyond distributors to discover how the vegetables are grown, how the pigs, cows and chickens are raised, where the best spices come from. We learn how these factors affect the flavor of the finished product. And what we can do to improve it.

Take our carnitas, for example. In pursuing new sources of pork, we discovered naturally raised pigs from a select group of farmers. These animals are not confined in stressful factories. They live outdoors or in deeply bedded pens, so they are free to run, roam, root and socialize. They are not given antibiotics.

Consequently the pork they produce has a natural, moist, delicious flavor. We think it tastes better and is better for you. Our customers love it. And because they do, we buy all we can. By creating a market for meats raised in a healthier environment, we make it worthwhile for these farmers to raise even more. That's how Food With Integrity works for everyone.
You really want to read Steve's Vision, where he writes about reading acclaimed food writer Ed Behr's newsletter, "The Art of Eating" and learn more about the impact that article has had on the shaping of their restaurant chain. Here's just a brief quote,
In it he wrote about Niman Ranch and Paul Willis, a farmer in Thornton, Iowa who ran his hog farming program and raised pigs the old-fashioned way. The way it was done for many years before factory farms grew prominent in the 1960s and 70s.

The pigs Behr wrote about got to frolic in open pasture or root in deeply bedded barns. They weren't given antibiotics. The farmers who raised them truly cared about the welfare - and well-being - of the animals in their care.

In short, these farmers relied on care rather than chemicals, and practiced animal husbandry the way their parents and grandparents had, and their parents and grandparents before that.
Read further and you'll discover Steve's personal opinion regarding CAFOs ...and why he avoids factory farmed meats for his restaurants.

There's more on their website. It's worth a visit. And the next time you're feeling hungry, look for a Chipotle's in your area.

Disclaimer: No, I'm not being paid to write this post. In fact, we unfortunately don't have a Chipotle's anywhere near our house... but I'm really looking forward to tasting their food on our next trip.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Storms Chasing Through Indiana

Whew! What an afternoon! Our little guy was just getting of the Kindergarten bus when the edge of the storm hit our area. Although one lightning strike hit one of the trees over our house, we luckily had no major damage.

The storm systems to the south and to the north of us in Indiana were much more brutal. Valporaiso got hit pretty hard -- check this story out in the Post Tribune.

Speaking of storms, have you heard about what's brewing on "Flyash Mountain" over at the Schuringa/DenDulk calf CAFO? I'll bring you an update soon.

Also, check out what's been happening in Delaware:
No results have been released from the unannounced inspections in March and April by the Environmental Protection Agency. The inspections have sparked concerns from state agricultural officials, including those on the Delaware Nutrient Management Commission.
Here's a link to the article.

Meanwhile, the "wheels of justice" are turning slowly on the IDEM vs. DeGroot Dairy LLC and Johannes DeGroot case. Check out more here.

In personal news, something truly incredible entered my WAHM world yesterday. Not sure where it will lead, but it could mean a remarkable change in direction for my writing career -- a small door opening on a lifelong dream. I'm still "pinchng" myself while I wait for the package to arrive.

A lot of writers out there would sell their souls for an opportunity like this ...and I gotta tell 'ya... I feel truly blessed and humbled all at the same time. I'll tell you more about it in a couple months. Can't say anything more right now.

Meanwhile, I'll be back tomorrow with one of the 5 articles I mentioned in WAHM Monday. Stay tuned and stay safe.

Monday, May 14, 2007

WAHM Mondays Mean Massive Action

Being a full time work at home Mom (WAHM) means Mondays can get pretty hectic around our home. WAHM Mondays are usually a day of massive action for my clients, so I rarely get to post long articles... unless I've already done some of the groundwork for each.

I have five rather large articles in the pipes for this blog, all of which are at various stages of research prior to being ready to write them. Here they are, in no specific order;
1. Pet Food Follow-Up and FDA Shake-up: It's not so much what they are telling you. It's more about what they are NOT telling you that makes this story alarming.

2. Acrylamide Connection: ...and more from the world of nutrition research. Some of this is making BIG headlines in Europe, yet by comparison the silence over here is deafening.

3. Blowing in the Wind ...and Harming Crops?: Many of us are aware of the air particles attacking us on a daily basis, but what's blowing on the wind these days that could seriously impact crops in Indiana this year?

4. Some Answers, More Questions over Honey Bees: Updates on research and more news regarding the disappearing honey bees appears to be serving up more questions than answers. But there are a few theories which appear to be getting scientific support now.

5. Science History - Lessons Learned?: You might think we've come a long way in the field of science, but then politics and profits step in. Here's why we need to think twice before believing everything we read in some science Journals.

By themselves, each of the above are HUGE topics -- and important for many reasons -- but I just haven't had the time to piece everything together yet to let you know what I've learned.

Being a full time work at home mom also means plenty of interruptions that you wouldn't ordinarily find in the workplace.

Not that I'm complaining... I absolutely LOVE what I do, and being able to flex my schedule to meet so many different demands on my time is priceless.

But it also means hobbies, such as this blog, often don't get a lot of my time some weeks. To let you know I haven't abandoned my readers here, I'll be doing WAHM Monday posts on a regular basis to at least keep you up to date on some of the topics I'm working on which I will be bringing to you soon.

Meanwhile, if one of the subjects mentioned above interests you most, post a comment to let me know and I'll do my best to complete the topic that is most popular based on readers comments.

Otherwise, I'll continue working and completing them in random order ...whichever gets done first will appear first.

Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Birthday Thanks and IDEM getting Sued?

It's my birthday today... and the flowers and gifts started arriving late yesterday. Just wanted to let everyone know how pleasantly surprised I am. You've all truly made this an incredible day -- and it's only just begun!

I'll be writing each of you but just wanted to post a
here, too. I'm truly blessed to know such wonderful people!

What's happening at IDEM?

I was going to leave this news story for tomorrow, but thought it should be posted while the story is still new...

Most of us here in Jasper County don't get the LaGrange News from LaGrange, Indiana but a friend forwarded me a scanned copy of this story published yesterday, (Friday, May 11/2007):
Local group sends notice of intent to sue IDEM (by Rochelle Schlemmer) -- A group of LaGrange County residents has sought legal counsel and has sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) under the Citizen Suit provisions of the Clean Water Act.

The suit stems from the group's claim that IDEM is considering granting a Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) permit for a fictitious entity "Toll-Tail Diry, LLC."

The application for the CAFO submitted by Aart-Jan Venema stating the applicant's name as Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC was signed under the penalty for perjury by Venema on June 27, 2006.

Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC was not in existence at that time, according to the news article.
Documentation from Secretary of State Todd Rokita certifies the "Toll-Tail Dairy LLC" has filed the necessary documents to commence business activities in the State of Indiana on April 23, 2007 and is authorized to transact business in the State of Indiana on April 26, 2007.

The intent to sue notification states that the LaGrange County residents have "instructed the initiation of a federal lawsuit seeking de-certification of IDEM's authority to administer the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) in Indiana.

The document goes on to state, "Whether this suit is filed depends on how IDEM handles the illegal CWA NPDES application for the fictitious entity 'Toll-Tail Dairy, LLC'"

There is more mentioned in the article, including questions into "...a pattern of other fictitious CWA NPDES applications associated with underlying developer Vreba-Hoff..."

So the big question was raised:

If IDEM fails to penalize Toll-Tail Dairy LLC (and others who have committed similar perjuries), does this create an environment where applicants are aware that no legal action will be taken against them for providing false information?

I said it before, and I'll say it again... I like to believe we are entering an era of accountability and responsibility.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Dairy IDEM Approvals Revoked

The Fort Wayne JournalGazette carries the story today regarding the DeGroot Dairy near Andrews (link):
In its letter mailed to DeGroot on Tuesday, IDEM outlines 13 permit violations by the dairy, dating to September 2005 and continuing until the April 11 spill, and IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly revoked the approvals for the confined feeding operation.

According to the article, DeGroot's attorney, Peter Racher said, "...there is still a question as to how the dairy could be decommissioned in a way that is not harmful to the animals or the environment."
And he said he needs to research whether any agency can allow a significant investment into a private business and then have that agency say it has rescinded the business' right to exist based on a permit violation.

Not to be picky or anything, but it's 13 violations ...not "a permit violation."

Still, DeGroot's attorney raises some interesting questions. This case is sure to test how much authority IDEM actually has to protect our environment ...and how far they are willing to go in order to do so.

It also raises another question in my mind. Does this mean "13" is the "magic number" that CAFOs in Indiana have to reach in violations before serious actions are taken?

I also find it interesting how now the CAFO appears to be stressing it is a business -- not a farm, not a farm business -- but a private business.

In a separate court case, the state is also seeking an injunction prohibiting the dairy owner, Johannes DeGroot, from spreading manure from the cows on nearby fields. This court case is still expected to proceed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Jasper County Power

Did you hear the news? The ethanol plant in Rensselaer is being sold. (link to news) I'm not sure if you recall me telling you a bit about it a while back (here and here). I'd heard rumors that they were in "financial distress." Guess I lost the bet, though -- I thought it would end up being closed. They got lucky and found a buyer instead ...from Australia.

Speaking of alternative fuels, here's a novel approach. Check out this article from USAToday Science and Space: "Algae — like a breath mint for smokestacks"
Enter Dr. Berzin, a rocket scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. About three years ago, while working on an experiment for growing algae on the International Space Station, he came up with the idea for using it to clean up power-plant exhaust.

If he could find the right strain of algae, he figured he could turn the nation's greenhouse-gas-belching power plants into clean-green generators with an attached algae farm next door.

...Fed a generous helping of CO2-laden emissions, courtesy of the power plant's exhaust stack, the algae grow quickly even in the wan rays of a New England sun. The cleansed exhaust bubbles skyward, but with 40% less CO2 (a larger cut than the Kyoto treaty mandates) and another bonus: 86% less nitrous oxide.

And there's another bonus attached to this unique science that could help coal fired power plants net a tidy sum -- biofuels.
One key is selecting an algae with a high oil density — about 50% of its weight. Because this kind of algae also grows so fast, it can produce 15,000 gallons of biodiesel per acre. Just 60 gallons are produced from soybeans, which along with corn are the major biodiesel crops today.

As the price of corn keeps rising, forcing food costs higher and higher, this new science might become even more inviting for plants like the NIPSCO plant near Wheatfield. Listed as one of the nation's Top 50 Dirty Power Plants, this would be a unique way for them to clean up their emissions while raking in a tidy little side profit.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Senator Gard Calls Us Losers

Once again Senator Beverly Gard squashes important CAFO legislation -- and she calls us losers?!

In the first instance, Senator Gard would not allow a vote in her committee on Senate Bill 447 calling for a CAFO moratorium. Imagine -- she wouldn't even allow a vote on the matter.

Next came House Bill 1197 (authored by Rep. Pflum and Rep Saunders) which included setbacks and fees to insure yearly inspections, plus a character clause. Bill 1197 passed the House with bipartisan support... but Senator Gard refused to hear the Bill in her committee... and it died.

And finally, along comes her Bill 431, which passed the Senate and which Rep. Pflum heard in the House. When this bill went to conference -- with CAFO setbacks of one mile from schools and/or towns (down from the original 2 mile setbacks asked for) -- she would not support the setbacks.

The Star Press reports (link):
Senate Bill 431 did not get a final vote Sunday after setback requirements were stripped out of the bill in conference committee.

Senator Gard claims the Senate was fine with the bill, but House Democrats would not give it a chance. In her spin to the press;
Gard insisted that the real losers were "the people of Indiana."

She'll get away with calling us all losers in the Press, while trying to support her own "spin" on everything. A few choice names to call her come to mind, but in my efforts to be a good role model for our child, I won't sink down to her level.

On the other side of the fence, I tip my hat to Senator Paul, Rep. Pflum and Rep. Saunders for all their hard work on this important topic. They've each had to take on a great deal of heat for making a stand on behalf of all Indiana citizens.

Meanwhile, I sit here wondering... "Why -- oh why -- was it so important for some legislaters not to have any safety setbacks on the books for CAFOs in Indiana??"

Are there plans in motion already for CAFOs to come near towns and schools in our State? If a simple no-brainer clause like minimum setbacks can be tossed out -- not once, but twice -- you really gotta wonder what they know that we don't know, yet.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In The News Last Week

If you haven't heard about it yet, there is a problem with bee populations in certain areas of the world, including the USA. This story in The New York Times wrestles with the subject:

"Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons" - BELTSVILLE, Md., April 23
More than a quarter of the country’s 2.4 million bee colonies have been lost — tens of billions of bees, according to an estimate from the Apiary Inspectors of America, a national group that tracks beekeeping. So far, no one can say what is causing the bees to become disoriented and fail to return to their hives.

In other news, the Washington Post has a story out that has commenters posting furiously -- if one were to test the temperatures of the voting public using this public forum, one could only conclude that there is an extremely angry voting population eager for November 2008 to get here. The article is titled:

"FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food" - By Elizabeth Williamson, Monday, April 23, 2007

Buried in the 12 pages of comments posted to the above article, one post drew my attention even closer:
"When pet food with Melamine is tested it shows a higher protein percentage and that is put on the label to boost sales. However, there is no more protein in the food. Melamine fools the test. I believe a criminal probe is about to be launched in the pet food case. In short, it is a man-made form of plastic whose toxic effects on pets and animals humans eat is not well studied."

It got me to thinking if, when ingested by pigs, does it raise the protein content in pork? Probably not... but I thought it might explain another little mystery that has popped up in South Carolina. Check out this headline through Associated Press in the news last week:

"Tainted Hogs Enter Human Food Supply" - By ANDREW BRIDGES, AP 2007-04-27

It was the above article which led me on a quick search where I discovered this article:

"Melamine in urine of S.C. hogs" - South Carolina "The State" Thu, Apr. 26, 2007

The reason I bring this article up is because, according to the article...
"Traces of melamine were found in hog urine at the farm, but the feed has tested negative for contamination."

So how did the melamine get into the hogs' urine? Apparently, that's still under investigation.

What are State officials doing about it? Let's roll over to CLEMSONews, since "Livestock and Poultry Health is a unit of Clemson University Public Service and Agriculture" and see what they have to say on the issue:
State officials are waiting for guidance from the FDA, FSIS and EPA as to the significance of these tests and other pending tests.

Not very comforting for people already upset with the FDA and FSIS ...and, sadly, even the EPA is a questionable source for protecting us, since the Federal Government seems to have gutted them, too.

For one example, after a decade of study and public review of scientific evidence, the EPA proposed a stricter standard, reducing the safe limit for arsenic in our drinking water from 50 ppb down to 10 ppb while Bill Clinton was president. Mr. Bush reversed EPA's decision shortly after taking office. The Administration tossed out these recommendations, with no solid science to back up their actions. You can read about the whole sordid mess over here.

I'm hoping not all is lost... in fact, I'm hoping this Administration, and future governing powers, will stop playing chess with important agencies that were originally meant to protect us -- and stop using us as pawns in their game with Big Ag lobby groups.

The Farm Bill is up for renewal this year. Let's all watch closely to see who is really looking out for who.

Oh, and before I forget, one more article that slipped under the radar of mainstream media:

"Dairy linked to Parkinson's disease, study" - By Chris Mercer 4/24/2007

Hey -- don't shoot the messenger. It's just one more study (among many) that have been completed in recent years saying dairy is doing some pretty bad things to us... do a quick search on google and see for yourself.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this quote by Albert Einstein:
"If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then man would have four years left to live," said Albert Einstein. "No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Have a super week ahead!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Senate Bill 431 is still alive

The folks over at the Jasper County Indiana Information website have posted an update on Senate Bill 431 along with contact information so you can voice your own opinions to the powers that be. Check it out through this link.

On a separate note, in the April 27 edition of Indiana Agrinews, it's reported that the Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director, Andy Miller, recently took a trip to Mexico to attend the Tri-National Agricultural Accord meetings.

A lot of the CAFO owners in Indiana may not realize it, but Canada and Mexico are two of our most important trading partners for agricultural products. Although Andy Miller attributes most of this to NAFTA, when it comes to Dairy Product Imports the Canadian imports websites suggest much of these imports are owing to the "Import for Re-export Program" (IREP).

Imports of dairy products under IREP reached approximately 73,093 tonnes in 2005, a 7% increase over the previous year and make up about 36% of total dairy imports. The main products imported under the program are whole milk powder, butter and fats, and oils derived from milk.

And where are most of these imports coming from?
In 2005, the largest suppliers of dairy products in terms of value were the European Union (39%), New Zealand (24%) and the United States (23%). Primary suppliers of specialty cheese were France ($39.9 million), Italy ($32.7 million) and the United States ($7 million). Germany was the primary supplier of casein products in 2005, accounting for over 51% of the total value of imports. Primary suppliers of butter and fats and oils derived from milk were New Zeland, Uruguay and Argentina, which make up 36%, 19% and 18% of the value respectively.

Keeping in mind, the rules for IREP are (see link for more detail):
Companies who hold an authorization to import dairy products under IREP must be the importer of record of those products. Product imported under IREP must be used exclusively to manufacture products that are subsequently exported. Diversion of product imported under IREP to the Canadian market is prohibited.

For USA CAFO Dairy owners, this is probably a good thing. Why? Because the use of flyash on dairies in Canada is heavily regulated -- many provinces consider flyash a hazardous substance (see this British Columbia document for one example).

And, of course, as everyone knows, the use of rBST is banned in Canada -- as well as other countries such as Japan, Australia, New Zealand and most of the EU. If dairy products were being imported to Canada from farms using this banned substance, I have a feeling many Canadian Dairy farmers might have a case for "dumping" ...and many Canadian consumers would have second thoughts about purchasing products made from such imports... wouldn't you?

The USA is relying heavily on exports to both Canada and Mexico, as can be seen when you view some of the speeches made at the recent 2007 Agriculture Outlook Forum. For CAFO owners, now is not a good time to be ticking off our neighbors to the North or South.

On a more personal note, my parents are coming for a visit (from Canada) this summer. I'll be giving them a first hand tour of Northwestern Jasper County (and parts of Newton County) so they can take plenty of pictures back home with them. Have any sightseeing tours that you recommend?