Maybe Bees Will Get a Break?

U.S. EPA proposing temporary pesticide-free zones for honeybees

By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) – U.S. environmental regulators on Thursday proposed a rule that would create temporary pesticide-free zones to protect commercial honeybees, which are critical to food production and have been dying off at alarming rates.

The restrictions would cover times when specific plants are in bloom and when commercial honeybees are being moved through certain areas, EPA officials said.

Honeybees are needed to pollinate plants that produce a quarter of the food consumed by Americans, and beekeepers travel around the country with managed hives to help the process.

The rule, due to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, includes a class of insecticides knowns as neonicotinoids, which some have blamed for the demise of honeybee colonies.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that honeybees had disappeared at a staggering rate over the last year. Losses of managed honeybee colonies hit 42.1 percent from April 2014 through April 2015, up from 34.2 percent for 2013-2014, and the second-highest annual loss to date, according to the USDA.

Beekeepers, environmental groups and some scientists say neonicotinoids, or neonics – used on crops such as corn as well as on plants used in lawns and gardens – are harming the beess.

But Bayer, Syngenta and other agrichemical companies that sell neonic products say mite infestations and other factors are the cause.

The White House has formed a task force to study the issue, and the EPA has been studying the effects of neonics on bees.

Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director for the

Center for Biological Diversity, applauded the proposed rule, but said neonics, which are commonly used as seed treatments on crops like corn, need to be banned. In seed treatments, the pesticide is applied to the seed before it is planted.

“EPA needs to take the next step and ban these poisoned seeds,” Burd said in a statement.

(Reporting By Carey Gillam; Editing by Peter Galloway and Jonathan Oatis)

Databases, Databases, Can They Make Life Safe?

Databases, Databases, Can They Make Life Safe?

In Louisiana, they recently passed a state law that prohibits the use of cash for the purchase of second-hand goods. That seems a bit beyond the pale, but hey, they say it is to keep us safe so it has to be okay. Now, in Missouri and other states, laws are coming into effect that are putting some serious constraints on not just pawn shops, but on second hand goods in general. Here is Missouri’s current law, and this is what they want to enact at the state level to ensure that this database extends beyond the current realm of required participants.

In a town called Mountain View, the City Council passed an ordinance on March 9th that requires pawn shops, second hand merchants and even itinerant merchants and temporary sellers of second-hand or used goods to upload the personal identification information of people selling goods to them into a database and to hold onto to those goods for 5 days before they can resell them. That pretty much bears repeating. If you want to sell some of your used stuff to someone who wants to resell it, you will have to give them your state issued id, possibly your social security number, definitely your address and contact information, and be loaded into a database that is accessible by law enforcement or anyone with “secure” identification information that can search the database.

The question is, if you want to have a big yard sale, do they have the ability to require you to provide all the information of whomever you received goods from for the yard sale? The way it is worded, I would say, “Yes.”

You decide, here is an excerpt:

“Secondhand means property or goods received from or through an intermediary, property or goods acquired after being used by another, or property or goods not considered new.”

Now, if you’re like me and regularly become irritated with keeping paperwork (receipts) around for things you have purchased, could you be found to be in violation of this ordinance if you tried to sell these things? Again, the way this is worded, yes.

So law enforcement will be able to access this database and find out who sold what to which second hand seller. Doesn’t this put any red flags up for any of the deep thinkers on the city council in Mountain View? If law enforcement has access to this database simply to make queries, does it let law enforcement know who has any item in sufficient quantities to want to off load some of it?

The wording of the goods that will be required to be loaded into the database is Orwellian at best. Again, here is an excerpt with that language:

“Every person and/or business licensed by the city that is regularly engaged in or conducting business for the purchase, sale, barter, exchange, recycling, reselling or pawn of property or goods including but not limited to antiques, Jewelry, coins, any metal, including but not limited to aluminum, copper, gold, silver, brass, bronze and platinum.; gems, and semiprecious stones, watches, firearms, power tools, hand tools, computers, electronic equipment, cameras and camera equipment, including but not limited to film, digital and videotape, still and motion pictures cameras and camcorders, and associated recording and viewing equipment, electronic game equipment and game cartridges or discs, compact digital disks (CDs), digital video discs (DVDs), musical instruments and equipment, bicycles, and any self-propelled device not required to be licensed by the state department of revenue, including but not limited to every pawnbroker, flea market merchant, secondhand dealer of the goods described in this section, coin dealer, jeweler, and junk dealer, both wholesale and retail, shall, within ninety (90) days of the adoption of this article, maintain an electronic inventory…”

Another problem with this ordinance is that it looks like it gives room to find a seller of second hand or used goods in violation of the ordinance if they don’t acquire the information of the person who has purchased these used, pawned or second-hand goods. This thing brings up waaaay more questions than answers.

All of this is entirely too close to requiring identification to buy and sell for me. I assure you that if I want to sell a used tool, I am NOT going to give my id to someone to do so.

A basic human right is to be able to transfer goods that one either doesn’t need or that they would like to turn into something else.

Are we really going to be safer if we put everything into a database on who has sold what goods to which person? Heck, they’re saying the Russians hacked Obama’s email. How can any database be considered secure?

 

Genetic Altering of Human Embryos

Just because you can, does not mean that you should…Article is linked in the title:

Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos

Rumours of germline modification prove true — and look set to reignite an ethical debate.

Dr. Yorgos Nikas/SPL

Human embryos are at the centre of a debate over the ethics of gene editing.

In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that  sparked a high-profile debate last month2, 3 about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using ‘non-viable’ embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

“I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale,” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes.”

Some say that gene editing in embryos could have a bright future because it could eradicate devastating genetic diseases before a baby is born. Others say that such work crosses an ethical line: researchers warned in Nature2 in March that because the genetic changes to embryos, known as germline modification, are heritable, they could have an unpredictable effect on future generations. Researchers have also expressed concerns that any gene-editing research on human embryos could be a slippery slope towards unsafe or unethical uses of the technique.

The paper by Huang’s team looks set to reignite the debate on human-embryo editing — and there are reports that other groups in China are also experimenting on human embryos.

Problematic gene

The technique used by Huang’s team involves injecting embryos with the enzyme complex CRISPR/Cas9, which binds and splices DNA at specific locations. The complex can be programmed to target a problematic gene, which is then replaced or repaired by another molecule introduced at the same time. The system is well studied in human adult cell and in animal embryos. But there had been no published reports of its use in human embryos.

Huang and his colleagues set out to see if the procedure could replace a gene in a single-cell fertilized human embryo; in principle, all cells produced as the embryo developed would then have the repaired gene. The embryos they obtained from the fertility clinics had been created for use in in vitro fertilization but had an extra set of chromosomes, following fertilization by two sperm. This prevents the embryos from resulting in a live birth, though they do undergo the first stages of development.

Huang’s group studied the ability of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to edit the gene called HBB, which encodes the human β-globin protein. Mutations in the gene are responsible for β-thalassaemia.

Serious obstacles

The team injected 86 embryos and then waited 48 hours, enough time for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and the molecules that replace the missing DNA to act — and for the embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Of the 71 embryos that survived, 54 were genetically tested. This revealed that just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%,” Huang says. “That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”

His team also found a surprising number of ‘off-target’ mutations assumed to be introduced by the CRISPR/Cas9 complex acting on other parts of the genome. This effect is one of the main safety concerns surrounding germline gene editing because these unintended mutations could be harmful. The rates of such mutations were much higher than those observed in gene-editing studies of mouse embryos or human adult cells. And Huang notes that his team likely only detected a subset of the unintended mutations because their study looked only at a portion of the genome, known as the exome. “If we did the whole genome sequence, we would get many more,” he says.

Ethical questions

Huang says that the paper was rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections; both journals declined to comment on the claim (Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its research editorial team.)

He adds that critics of the paper have noted that the low efficiencies and high number of off-target mutations could be specific to the abnormal embryos used in the study. Huang acknowledges the critique, but because there are no examples of gene editing in normal embryos he says that there is no way to know if the technique operates differently in them.

Still, he maintains that the embryos allow for a more meaningful model — and one closer to a normal human embryo — than an animal model or one using adult human cells. “We wanted to show our data to the world so people know what really happened with this model, rather than just talking about what would happen without data,” he says.

But Edward Lanphier, one of the scientists who sounded the warning in Nature last month, says: “It underlines what we said before: we need to pause this research and make sure we have a broad based discussion about which direction we’re going here.” Lanphier is president of Sangamo Biosciences in Richmond, California, which applies gene-editing techniques to adult human cells.

Huang now plans to work out how to decrease the number of off-target mutations using adult human cells or animal models. He is considering different strategies — tweaking the enzymes to guide them more precisely to the desired spot, introducing the enzymes in a different format that could help to regulate their lifespans and thus allow them to be shut down before mutations accumulate, or varying the concentrations of the introduced enzymes and repair molecules. He says that using other gene-editing techniques might also help. CRISPR/Cas9 is relatively efficient and easy to use, but another system called TALEN is known to cause fewer unintended mutations.

The debate over human embryo editing is sure to continue for some time, however. CRISPR/Cas9 is known for its ease of use and Lanphier fears that more scientists will now start to work towards improving on Huang’s paper. “The ubiquitous access to and simplicity of creating CRISPRs,” he says, “creates opportunities for scientists in any part of the world to do any kind of experiments they want.”

A Chinese source familiar with developments in the field said that at least four groups in China are pursuing gene editing in human embryos

Transparency? Heck no! Shutting Down Cell Phones is for Your Safety

Technology is not inherently evil. However, dependency upon it and authoritarian control over it can certainly be seen as either ignorant or evil.

When one considers the desire of the Powers that Shouldn’t Be to be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, it doesn’t take long to arrive at the conclusion that the freedom garnered by such wonderful inventions as the internet is very much a double edged sword. We have electronic fingerprints. We are monitored at every site. If we wish to not be monitored, we are “suspect” for being unlike the herd they would have us be. I guess it raises your position in the herd managing system for culling.

For myself, I will continue to be a criminal because I will continue to think unregulated thoughts. I will continue to try to “interface” with people in the real world about real topics. I will continue to be nonplussed by celebrities latest dalliances or legal kerfuffles.

If they turn off the cell phone, the internet, the cars, the lights, the amusement, so be it.

The revolution will not be televised.

And it won’t be tweeted, either:

Court mulls revealing secret government plan to cut cell phone service

Feds: SOP 303 mobile-phone kill-switch policy would endanger public if disclosed.


A federal appeals court is asking the Obama administration to explain why the government should be allowed to keep secret its plan to shutter mobile phone service during “critical emergencies.”

The Department of Homeland Security came up with the plan—known as Standing Operating Procedure 303—after cellular phones were used to detonate explosives targeting a London public transportation system.

SOP 303 is a powerful tool in the digital age, and it spells out a “unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices.”

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in February sided (PDF) with the government and ruled that the policy did not need to be disclosed under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The court agreed with the government’s citation of a FOIA exemption that precludes disclosure if doing so “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.”

EPIC asked the court to revisit its ruling, arguing that the decision, “if left in place, would create an untethered ‘national security’ exemption'” in FOIA law. On Friday, the court ordered (PDF) the government to respond—a move that suggests the appellate court might rehear the case.

EPIC originally asked for the document in 2011 in the wake of the shut down of mobile phone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during a protest. The government withheld the information, EPIC sued and won, but the government then appealed and prevailed.

In its petition for rehearing, EPIC argued that the appellate court’s decision “created a catch-all provision that would allow federal agencies to routinely withhold records subject to disclosure where the agency merely asserts a speculative security risk.”

Under the direction of the so-called National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, SOP 303 allows for the shutting down of wireless networks “within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area.”

There have been no publicly disclosed instances when SOP 303 has been invoked, but the telecoms have agreed to shutter service when SOP 303 is invoked.

Local governments, however, have the power to shutter wireless service regardless of SOP 303.

The last known time mobile phone service was cut by a government agency was the San Francisco example from 2011. That’s when the Bay Area Rapid Transit System took heat for disabling service to quell a protest in four downtown San Francisco stations. The three-hour outage was done after BART cut service without the assistance of the telcos.

In the aftermath, BART produced a new policy that said service could only be cut off when “there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of district passengers, employees, and other members of the public.”

More Trouble For Round Up

Despite the fact that the website is called…Sustainable Pulse…(maybe they mean that in the non UN Agenda 21 way?) This is a good article regarding a recent study by scientists from several different nations on Round Up and bacterial resistance to antibiotics. We don’t need any more super bugs, do we?

New Study Shows Roundup Herbicide Causes Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria

Research lead by a team from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand has found that commonly used herbicides, including the world’s most used herbicide Roundup, can cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

antibiotic resistant bacteria

Full Study:  mbio.asm.org/content/6/2/e00009-15

Herbicides are used to kill plants. They can be tested for killing bacteria, too, as part of the process of reviewing their approval for use. However, they have never been tested for other effects on bacteria, University of Canterbury’s Professor Jack Heinemann says.

This is the first study of its kind in the world. While other substances such as aspirin have been shown to change bacteria’s tolerance to antibiotics herbicides have never been tested. The team at the University of Canterbury investigated what happens to species of disease-causing bacteria when they are exposed to common herbicides such as Roundup, Kamba and 2,4-D.

“We found that exposure to some very common herbicides can cause bacteria to change their response to antibiotics. They often become antibiotic resistant, but we also saw increased susceptibility or no effect. In most cases, we saw increased resistance even to important clinical antibiotics,” Professor Heinemann says.

“We were so surprised by what we were seeing. We wanted to be sure it wasn’t an artefact of conditions in our laboratory or some kind of contamination. So we enlisted a fellow researcher at Massey who conducted the same experiments but without knowing what she was adding to the bacteria. She got the same results.”

The effects found are relevant wherever people or animals are exposed to herbicides at the range of concentrations achieved where they are applied. This may include, for example, farm animals and pollinators in rural areas and potentially children and pets in urban areas. The effects were detectable only at herbicide concentrations that were above currently allowed residue levels on food.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing problem for human and animal health. New antibiotics are hard to find and can take decades to become available. Effects of chemicals such as herbicides could conflict with measures taken to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

The research team included researchers from Mexico, Lincoln University and Massey University.

For further information contact Professor Jack Heinemann, School of Biological Sciences, jack.heinemann@canterbury.ac.nz

Monsanto Admits “Hubris”, but Still Beats the Same Drum

The article below is interesting. A Monsanto exec admits that they “never thought” about these aberrations of agriculture fit into the food chain, but he still holds to the disproven idea that GMO’s are necessary to feed a larger population. Answer: More smaller diversified farms with better access to market.

I guess it’s kind of good news, so I just wanted to share it with you!

Monsanto chief admits ‘hubris’ is to blame for public fears over GM


Monsanto CEO : ‘We never thought about our place in the food chain’

The American company that produced the world’s first genetically modified crop has admitted for the first time that its “hubris” in promoting the technology contributed to a consumer backlash against genetically modified food.

Speaking to The Independent, the chief executive of Monsanto conceded that the company had failed to appreciate public concerns over GM technology when it was introduced nearly 20 years ago.

And he also said that the company had suffered by making “the wrong call” when it failed to rebrand itself in the aftermath of the botched launch of GM in Europe.

But Hugh Grant claimed that unless public attitudes towards biotechnology changed it would be impossible to feed the world’s growing population and called for a more nuanced debate on the potential uses for GM technology in the developing world.

“There never had been a lot of trust in companies, particularly not big companies and certainly not big American companies,” he said.

There is no compelling evidence to suggest that genetically modified crops are any more harmful than conventionally grown food There is no compelling evidence to suggest that genetically modified crops are any more harmful than conventionally grown food (Getty)

“[But] we were so far removed from that supermarket shelf, that was never something we gave a lot of thought to. We never thought about our place in the food chain.”

“I think as an agricultural community in general – and Monsanto in particular – there is so much more to do to explain where food comes from and how it is produced and how much more we’re going to have to make.”

The Independent visited Monsanto to speak to its senior executives as part of a series on GM food.

Asked how the company had dealt with public concerns over the introduction of the first GM varieties 20 years ago, Mr Grant replied: “Hubris and naivety. They are sort of opposite sides of the same coin. We did really cool science and we worked within global regulatory requirements. From where we were the conversation with consumers was an abstract.”

But he claimed that companies like Monsanto would be needed if the world was to feed a growing population. “If you look at (farming) growth in the last 15 years, about 70 per cent came from new land cultivation. When you go from six to nine billion over the next 30/40 years there is no new land. Can you do it without biotech? I don’t think so.”

Monsanto’s research centre in Missouri Monsanto’s research centre in Missouri (Polaris)

Mr Grant hoped some form of consensus could be found between environmentalists and big biotech companies. “There is a middle ground in all this and if the shrill noise could die down my hope is there is an opportunity to engage in this. Maybe this is optimism but I think there is a chance that we are going to look back fondly and say, ‘God – some of those arguments. They were intellectually interesting but practically ridiculous’.”

Addressing European anti-GM activists who have long targeted Monsanto as the face of the biotech industry, Mr Grant said they had to explain how the world could be fed without such technologies. “I would say (to them), if you step back from your daily life – and Tesco or Waitrose or Sainsbury’s – and you think about your kids and your grandchildren, then if not this, then what? How are we going to crack this thing? If Monsanto and this entire industry did not exist then what would the alternative would look like.”

Mr Grant added that he was also frustrated that the anti-GM lobby had failed to adequately answer the question of how to feed more people with finite land without using new technology. “The thing that often frustrates me in the debate is that there is never an alternative… The other side of this is still pretty empty.”

Net Neutrality Rules Are Out

Net Neutrality Rules Are Out.

The rules for Net Neutrality are finally out. The doc is 400 pages and can be downloaded here:

http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0312/FCC-15-24A1.pdf

At this point, we can now begin to have honest conversation about what these rules may mean for us as far as internet freedom, privacy, and security are concerned. Anyone opining about how horrific or wonderful they were before reading them was truly jumping the gun.

So, let’s actually read them and backtrack on what the terms mean, and then we can have a solid opinion as to whether they are going to be positive or negative for us common folk.

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