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Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The Los Angeles Times reports that an independent panel of scientific advisors has told the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that its reasoning was flawed when it issued a provisional ruling that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), used to make plastic for food packaging, baby bottles and other consumer and medical goods, is safe.
According to the Times, “The margins of safety defined by FDA as 'adequate' are, in fact, inadequate," the report said. The advisors found that the FDA had not considered all available, credible scientific evidence, and urged the agency to essentially go back to the lab.”
The FDA has not yet responded to the rebuke.
As previously reported here on MNB, there have been a series of studies linking BPA with health problems that include diabetes and heart disease. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a draft assessment saying that BPA does not pose a health hazard when people are exposed to small amounts, and that conclusion has been confirmed by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Authority, Health Canada, the World Health Organization, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate of the European Commission; the European Chemical Bureau of the European Union; the European Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavorings, Processing Aids, and Materials in Contact with Food; and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, as well as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the American Chemistry Council.
However, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian government, Consumers Union (CU), the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and Walmart from disagreeing with the FDA decision; in Walmart’s case, it is not selling children’s products containing BPA.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) responded to the report by issuing the following statement from GMA Senior Vice President and Chief Science & Regulatory Affairs Officer Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D.:
“Recently, a subcommittee of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Science Board was asked to review the FDA’s safety assessment for BPA. While we are currently evaluating the subcommittee’s report, we are confident that the risk-analysis approach utilized by FDA and a host of regulatory agencies around the world to evaluate the risk associated with BPA exposure is scientifically sound and appropriate … While we appreciate FDA’s process for reviewing the safety of BPA, it is important to note that the subcommittee is an advisory group only, and that its report is the first step in a multi-step review process. That is why we support FDA’s advice to consumers that there is no need to change their purchasing or eating patterns and that food and beverages using packages that contain BPA are safe to consume.
“We call upon the FDA Science Board to consider the full weight of the evidence and opinions of other regulatory bodies from around the world as it considers the subcommittees report. We look forward to reviewing the committee’s full report and to working with the FDA and other stakeholders to continue to evaluate the safety of BPA.”
Morning News Beat...Kevin Coupe
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
The New York Times this morning has an interesting profile of Bill Niman, who founded the pioneering Niman Ranch back in the seventies, but who left the business in 2007 “with a modest severance check and a small amount of stock” after a series of arguments with the company’s management team.
While he can’t use his own last name in business anymore, Niman has created a new company, BN Ranch, which he runs with his wife, Nicolette Hahn Niman - an environmental lawyer who also is an animal rights activist and, amazingly, a vegetarian.
“Now they are raising what they hope will be the best-tasting animals around,” the Times reports. “They have a handful of premier cattle that fatten only on pasture and a flock of traditional turkey breeds they personally chauffeured from Kansas to Bolinas last spring. Mr. Niman also has an organic pig project going in Iowa.”
But Niman’s big bet is on goats. “That’s in part because he has more of them around, and because he sees a wide-open market for pristine, pasture-raised goat meat … Chefs on both coasts are fast discovering his goat meat, although it is still available only in limited amounts,” the Times writes.
Apparently, a goat is not just a goat. “The breed of goat is important … Mr. Niman raises some stout, muscular Boer goats. But he is particularly fond of meat from lighter framed Spanish goats, which sometimes mix with the Boer … For about half the year, Mr. Niman lets the goats roam his California ranch. In the summer and fall, when the California grass is brown, they move to Oregon. He also works with ranchers raising two other herds to his specifications in California and Oregon.
“Goats and cattle work particularly well together in a pasture. Goats don’t like clover or rye grass, which the cattle love, but they make fast work of scotch broom, poison oak and other plants that can take over good grassland.
“’Nature is so perfect,’ Mr. Niman said.”
KC's View: Not sure we are going to suddenly see a run on goat meat, or that mainstream supermarkets will start opening goat departments. But at some level the industry should be paying attention, if only because it survives and thrives on the new and the innovative. Trends like these need to marinate for a while…
As for me, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten goat. But I’m going to be on the lookout for it now, because it sounds so interesting.
Reacting To Adversity
Whether one is sold out by his stock broker because he was on margin, loses one’s house because he couldn’t make the interest rate reset or comes out on the wrong side of a produce speculation, one question worth pondering is how one ought to react to adversity.
Robert Falcon Scott, CVO, was a officer in the British Royal Navy and led two expeditions to Antarctica. The first, the Discovery Expedition of 1901-1904, led to his being seen as a heroic explorer. He was named a Captain in the Navy and was invested by King Edward VII as a Commander in the Royal Victorian Order.
His second Antarctic expedition, the Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913, was not to meet the same fate. The purpose of the expedition was to claim for Britain the glory of being the first nation to reach the South Pole. When they did get to the Pole, they found that a Norwegian team led by Roald Amundsen had beaten them by five weeks.
Despairing as this news was, the worst was yet to come. It was an 800-mile trek over land back and they were not to make it. Of the final five people who were sent to the South Pole, one died on the way home, another, unable to travel more and fearful he was holding back the group and hoping his sacrifice might save the others, voluntarily left the tent and walked into the snow to die.
The last three men made a final camp and a fierce blizzard prevented any further progress. Out of supplies, riddled with frostbite, all three men would die, including Scott. Before he did he wrote a “Message To The Public,” which included this line:
“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us. We have no cause for complaint...”
By Robert Falcon Scott
Found in his diary after the entire party froze to death in Antarctica
The line begins the penultimate paragraph of the Message, which concludes this way:
We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. But if we have been willing to give our lives to this enterprise, which is for the honour of our country, I appeal to our countrymen to see that those who depend on us are properly cared for.
Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. The rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.
A search party discovered the bodies and the notes, and Scott was to become an iconic hero of the nation. Dozens of memorials still exist across the British Isles. A Memorial fund to help dependents raised the then-astonishing amount of £75,000 equivalent in 2008 to about $7 million.
It is only in recent years in line with a skeptical age that Scott has been attacked for his conduct and competence.
We wish we knew how we would react under such a situation. We think there is something immensely admirable about assuming risk and then being willing to suffer the consequences of things turning out badly.
It wasn’t very politic of Phil Gramm, the former Republican Senator from Texas and, at the time, an adviser to the McCain campaign on economics to declare that America had become a “nation of whiners.”
Yet as others have pointed out, his point was not without merit:
Yes, losing one’s job or home is traumatic, and having both taken away more so. But the average citizens facing $4-a-gallon gas and learning that their hacienda isn’t the money factory they thought it was haven’t exactly been thrown into the Dust Bowl. Some Europeans pay twice as much for gas and live in half the space, and no one is passing around the hat for them.
I spent last week replaying Ken Burns’ searing series on World War II. “The War” follows several American families ranging from working class to upper-middle class. None of them, not even the fancy folks in Mobile, Ala., lived as large as today’s typical McMansion family.
These people also had to endure the war’s horrific sacrifice, made more unbearable by the youth of the dead. Nearly 7,000 Americans perished on the tiny island of Iwo Jima alone, with several times that number injured, many grievously. It was a hideous battle in a long parade of gruesome campaigns. Over 400,000 Americans died in that war.
One of the documentary’s running themes was that of servicemen pining for their loved ones back home. And their homes were modest triple-deckers in Connecticut, farmhouses in Minnesota or bungalows in California.
When the war ended, Americans soon resumed their historic quest for bigger and better. But even then, the returning soldier’s idea of palatial living was a 750-square-foot house in Levittown, one-third the average size of a new home in 2006. The accommodations in America, by the way, were the envy of ruined Europe.
So the recent economic downturn hasn’t made Americans poor by any sane measurement. No one enjoys downward mobility, but let’s ask whether telling kids to share a bedroom or downsizing to a sedan represents anything worthy of the word “sacrifice.”
Middle-class Americans fell into this predicament because they started acting like people who are richer than they are. They had built extravagant lifestyles with borrowed money.
Put another way, many took risks and now they have turned out badly. Yet the risks were not so dramatic as those taken by Robert Falcon Scott and the members of his expedition. And the consequences of losing are not as great.
Perhaps in loss, there can even be gain. We recognize the loss of a home is no trivial matter but the character of a man is no triviality either. Perhaps in adversity, we will have an opportunity to teach our children what we are truly made of. That perseverance and honor matter in a way that material things cannot.
The quote can be viewed here: (Download this entire volume through Google Books)
Scott’s Last Expedition ...: Vol. I. Being the Journals of Captain R. F. Scott, R. N., C. V. O. Vol II. Being the Reports of the Journeys and the Scientific Work Undertaken by Dr. E. A. Wilson and the Surviving Members of the Expedition, Arranged by Leonard Huxley; with a Preface by Sir Clements ...
By Robert Falcon Scott, Leonard Huxley
Published by Dodd, Mead and company, 1913
Item notes: v.1
Original from Harvard University
443 Pages, Pg. 417
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
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Monday, October 13, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Saturday, October 4, 2008
A curious incident happened some four or six weeks
ago which I think it worth the while to record. John
and I had been searching for Indian relics, and been
successful enough to find two arrowheads and a pestle,
when, of a Sunday evening, with our heads full of the
past and its remains, we strolled to the mouth of Swamp
Bridge Brook. As we neared the brow of the hill form
ing the bank of the river, inspired by my theme, I
broke forth into an extravagant eulogy on those savage
times, using most violent gesticulations by way of illus
tration. "Thereon Nawshawtuct," said I, "was their
lodge, the rendezvous of the tribe, and yonder, on Clam
shell Hill, their feasting ground. This was, no doubt, a
favorite haunt; here on this brow was an eligible look
out post. How often have they stood on this very spot,
at this very hour, when the sun was sinking behind
yonder woods and gilding with his last rays the waters
of the Musketaquid, and pondered the day's success
and the morrow's prospects, or communed with the
spirit of their fathers gone before them to the land
" Here," I exclaimed, " stood Tahatawan; and there "
(to complete the period) "is Tahatawan's arrowhead."
We instantly proceeded to sit down on the spot I had
pointed to, and I, to carry out the joke, to lay bare an
ordinary stone which my whim had selected, when lo!
the first I laid hands on, the grubbing stone that was to
be, proved a most perfect arrowhead, as sharp as if just
from the hands of the Indian fabricator ! ! !
Friday, October 3, 2008
Thursday, October 2, 2008
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