Friday, April 18, 2008


Fear Downer Salmon Slipping Into Food Supply

Problems familiar to United States beef manufacturing are emerging in salmon manufacturing in Chile. Like our cattle, the salmon held fin to fin in feeding pens tend to get sick and pale, and need to be fed “medicated food” containing antibiotics and pigment as well as hormones to make them grow faster. In 2005 the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris criticized Chile’s fish farming, saying they needed to control the use of fungicides like green malachite, a carcinogen that was prohibited in 2002; and better regulate the colorant used to make salmon more rosy, which has been associated with retina problems in humans. It also said Chile’s use of antibiotics was “excessive.”

Industry backers pointed out that no one has proved conclusively that antibiotics like flumequine and oxolinic acid increase antibiotic resistance in people, and that there have been no reported cases of people going blind from the colorant used. Further, they noted that it was just another of those false internet rumors that growers were using cattle prods in attempts to reactivate salmon found floating on the surface in the pens. They stressed that any such efforts would certainly have been filmed by PETA and put on You Tube by now. Most importantly, they stressed that they had been vetted by the F.D.A., which tested 40 samples of the 114,320 net tons of salmon imported from Chile in 2007. None tested positive for malachite green, oxolinic acid, flumequine, Ivermectin, fluoroquinolones or drug residues.

Nonetheless, the pen muckraking New York Times published a distasteful expose of the problems March 27, stirring up Safeway to decide to stop buying from Marine Harvest, its main supplier of salmon and associated drugs, saying that the virus for infectious salmon anemia was affecting size, and thus quality and taste. There is no word yet from Costco, the other largest Marine Harvest customer. While the Bush administration generally prefers to leave such matters to the free market, the United States Food and Drug Administration sprung into action, saying it was planning an inspection trip to assess Chile’s overall controls on its farmed salmon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


It is 11 pm and the phone is ringing

Bill Clinton just doesn’t consider the issue is settled about that landing in Bosnia, and brought it up again Thursday. As the world knows, Hillary included a misspoke in her stump speech about her landing in 1996 in Bosnia ``I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.'' The press, “picking on a girl” according to Bill, insisted on showing film clips of Hillary arriving to a much more leisurely and friendly reception. Worse, the press showed clips that documented the misspoke in a number of speeches over several months.

Bill, campaigning in Booneville, Indiana, Thursday, said his wife may have forgotten the details because she was 60, forgetful, and tired. He added that reporters, when they are 60, “they’ll forget something when they’re tired at 11 o’clock at night, too.” He went on to say “A lot of the way this whole campaign has been covered has amused me. . . .there was a lot of fulminating because Hillary, one time late at night when she was exhausted, misstated — and immediately apologized for it — what happened to her in Bosnia in 1995. Did y’all see all that? Oh, they blew it up.”

It did not help that both the landing and the series of misspokes occurred in the daytime and Hillary did not apologize until March 24. ``I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time, and recently,'' Clinton told reporters in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. ``I made a mistake. I have a different memory. That happens. I'm human. For some people that's a revelation.'' Later, she called the issue a ``minor blip,'' according to the Daily News. ``I say a lot of things -- millions of words a day -- so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.''

The Clinton campaign was not happy that the issue, coverage of which had died down, was reactivated by Bill, and issued a news release. “Senator Clinton appreciates her husband standing up for her, but this was her mistake and she takes responsibility for it,” the statement said. And for his part, Bill, asked if he regretted his earlier comments, said, “I regret that there appears to be a double-standard about misstatements.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


The Princess and the Pea Brains

Princess Diana died August 1997 when a car in which she was a passenger crashed headlong at high speed into a pillar in a Paris underpass. The driver had been drinking, and was trying to escape pursuing paparazzi. The princess wore no seat belt. That much was known. What was not known was whether it was just an accident, or whether there was negligence involved, or whether the princess was murdered by Prince Phillip, her ex father-in-law.

Fortunately, that is now all settled. The inquest jury, after 6 months of hearings and 278 witnesses, concluded the princess died as the result of negligent driving, to wit: “caused or contributed to, by the speed and manner of the driver of the Mercedes and the speed and manner of the following vehicles”. This concluded a series of official investigations costing an estimated $20 million. No evidence of a murder conspiracy was developed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Monty Hall Strategy Shows McCain Heavily Favored

In the Science Times, John Tierney explains how the economist M. Keith Chen has challenged certain experiments in cognitive dissonance, claiming that the researchers have fallen for a version of the Monty Hall Problem. You remember the old TV show “Let’s Make a Deal” which Monty Hall hosted. One game was the one with the three closed doors, one with a car behind it and the other two with a goat behind it. The idea is to pick the door with the car, unless, of course, you have a car and need a goat.

Now the cognitive dissonance part has to do with which of three colors of M&Ms monkeys prefer. I will leave you to the Tierney article for that, as my concern here is with a problem (albeit possibly related), how people choose between the three current presidential candidates. But first I will let Mr. Tierney explain how the Monty deal works, as I still don’t believe it.

He shows you three closed doors, … If you open the one with the car, you win it. You start by picking a door, but before it’s opened Monty will always open another door to reveal a goat. Then he’ll let you open either remaining door. Suppose you start by picking Door 1, and Monty opens Door 3 to reveal a goat. Now what should you do? Stick with Door 1 or switch to Door 2? This answer goes against our intuition that, with two unopened doors left, the odds are 50-50 that the car is behind one of them. But when you stick with Door 1, you’ll win only if your original choice was correct, which happens only 1 in 3 times on average. If you switch, you’ll win whenever your original choice was wrong, which happens 2 out of 3 times.”

We have three presidential candidates (doors) and the all important independent voter will determine which goes to the White House. Two doors have donkeys behind them (goats – both ungulates by the way) and one an elephant (car – both big). The voters will pick one door, and then one with a goat behind it will open to let either Obama or Hillary out of the race. Now the independent, most of whom are voting in the Democratic contest, must choose to stay or switch. Enough of the voters will know that the best strategy to avoid a mistake is to switch. That will be McCain, two out of three on the average.

You can prove this to yourself by playing the game on the NYT web site.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Redwoods - The Dark Side

Ronald Reagan was right when he noted that trees are a problem with respect to global warming. Back then trees were known polluters, but it was not yet clear that shady situations were a crime in California. As governor, he opposed expansion of redwood forests, pithily stating “A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?” And this was before the shade problem.

Under the 1978 California Solar Shade Control Act, it is a crime to let your trees cast a shadow on your neighbor’s rooftop solar panels. That is just what Carolynn Bissett (no, not that one) did to her neighbor Mark Vargas with her eight redwoods (a k a Tree No. 1, Tree No. 2, etc.). In the judgment of the California legislature, redwoods may be somewhat green, but solar panels are greener.

Last December Bissett was convicted in the first prosecution under the Solar Shade Act. The judge found that Trees 4, 5, and 6 were not shading the panels when the panels were installed, but instituted their shading post panel, in contravention of the Act. The judge therefore sentenced all three to be pruned. Trees 1, 2, and 3 were already shading the area, so their shade was there first, thus prima facie they were acquitted, as were trees 7 and 8 which were not involved in the shading at all. As an indication of how tricky this can be, since not only do trees grow, but the sun moves around, the judge deferred adjudication of the adequacy of the pruning of tree 6 (shown left) until the winter solstice. At that point, December 21st, the sun will be lowest in the sky and tree 6 involved in casting the maximum shadow.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


Space Cadet

In 2004 President Bush astounded the world by announcing his goal of putting a man on the moon by 2020. Since then NASA, says Bush appointee Michael Griffin, its administrator, has “spent three years reassessing the policy and codifying it. Changing it now? I think that’s just stupid.”

Dr. Griffin was reacting to a meeting last month at Stanford where 50 space experts gathered to discuss the long range space program. Louis Freidman, founder of the Planetary Society and a host of the meeting, noted that we will have a new president and Congress next year that may not be “wedded to the vision for space exploration” put forth by the current president, and that interest was high in a workshop that might offer alternatives to the Bush plan.

What Dr. Freidman was ignoring is the fact that the Bush plan already has alternatives. A NASA insider, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the program, revealed that one version envisioned a landing module which would separate from a mother ship, transferring several astronauts to the moon surface while another remained in orbit. Depending upon the circumstances, the surfaced astronauts would either return to the ship, or, in the “Katrina” alternative, remain on the moon to establish a permanent colony. Either situation would clearly be mission accomplished. “We could be there a hundred years” he noted.

President Bush is not concerned about any interim administration, since even two terms of Democrats will expire before the anticipated landing date. At that point, Laura Bush, who has been sleeping with the president throughout the planning process, and will be a shoo-in candidate by then, will be ready to go on day one.

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