Thursday, December 28, 2006

I'm Feeling Sick All The Time - Here's Why

Photo link

Zoonotic is defined as a disease which can be passed from animal to human. All humans at any given time have a variety of these pathogens and defenses against them(antigens) with-in our stomachs, as a part of our immune system; both can cause deteriorating health and death.

Over time the whole of human civilization individually build defences to these pathogens; but at a price, sometimes taking the form of a mass death epidemic.

The rate of increase in the incidence and variety of zoonotic pathogens in our food supply at the present time is alarming the experts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes with respect to the new abundance of these zoonotic pathogens, "...public health concerns must now include the safety of what food animals themselves eat and drink." This suggests a return to an old standard of how we husband livestock.

The standard inspection regime right now is, if the animal appeares healthy at the slaughter house door - if it can stand steady, has a normal temperature, is not showing outward signs of ill health - it is considered fit to eat by humans. But with the help of antivirals, antibiotics, and Antimicrobials, Livestock are adapting to pathogens in unsanitary conditions; so they look healthy while the diseases they harbour are deadly.

So the old way of ensuring public health, including these casual 'check-up' style inspections and line inspections to ensure no fecal matter comes in contact with slaughtered meat - is now insufficient. Even Kosur or Halal type slaughter regimes will not protect us from these new emerging pathogens that are developing in the barnyard.

Livestock are adapting to new pathogens at a rate faster than humans are adapting to new pathogens in their diet. This is due the inhuman conditions in which we raise livestock, in cattle barns and feed lots; to global food distribution, which introduces new pathogens to new populations of animals and humans; and to underfunded health networks, which undermine our ability to cope with crisis.

As we've seen this summer and fall, the effluent running off these production sites into our waterways are funneling new pathogens into produce growers water supplies and then into the produce food chain as well.

Animal husbandry is a term you don't hear alot today - it's a term from the era of the family farm. Farmers who run large scale family farms unexpectedly prefer the phrase 'livestock production' to descibe what they do. For corporate farms managed by boards of directors and run by waged workers the term 'livestock production line' is entirely appropriate and where the term originates. For both kinds of production entities the new phrase is integral to a mindset that produces profit. The scale of new farming demands a new mindset. Yet the choice of the term 'animal husbandry' says volumes about the way we treat our livestock.

The continuing industrialization of our food production and the global distribution model is a critical new health threat. The mass production model must include animal Care. The result of ignoring so called 'animal rights' could be an epidemic spread through the global food supply chain.

If we permit the animals we eat to live their lives in feed lots, regularly up to their bellies in their own excrement, we get what we get; we reap what we sow. Poultry for example get no exercise, living the vast majority of their lives in cages - only big enough for the full grown bird. In the case of pigs they also live their lives immobile, inhaling high levels of ammonia that eminate from their stool.

As a result of this unhealthy environment the animals we eat are adapting to pathogens faster than we, in our healthy evirons are. Add to this the fact that the global trade in livestock is also a global trade in pathogens, and one can say without qualification: this state of affairs will eventually lead to a mass death epidemic.

What we're seeing in industrial food production amounts to abuse. So the moral imperative groups like PETA are acting upon in the spiritual dimention can now be seen in a larger sence; choosing not to eat meat is not essencially a moral choice, but a health safety issue.

This clairity demands an expansion of the moral imperative; not eating meat is now a Hedonistic Reaction - choosing not to eat meat that is produced in this industrial manner is a Moral Imperative.

These new findings by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others are the canary in the coal mine - a warning; our food production/distribution model must change.


THE RAMS HORN - a monthly journal of food systems analysis.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION - Emerging Infectious Diseases journal

CANADIAN FOOD INSPECTION AGENCY - Food Recalls and Allergy Alerts

THE LANCET.COM - "Europe set to tackle zoonotic infections"

MED-VET-NET - a vitual journal working for the prevention and control of zoonoses...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

How Did We Get Here? An Analysis

Canadian soldier at Kandahar

That is not my oil, that is not my beautiful car.

Originally publisihed September 4, 2006

Canadian soldiers are now involved in a NATO counter insurgency in Afghanistan. This summer, for the first time since Korea we saw Canadian soildiers in a fire-fight. How did we get here?

Well, 9/11 happened - Al-Qaeda was blamed. The government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, aided and abetted them. On October 7 the area bombing of Taliban strong-holds began. The Americans supported one of several groups fighting in parts of Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance and others formed a provisional government on April 18, 2002; officially ousting the Taliban; and institutionalizing US primacy in Central Asia.

Canadian troops were sent by the Liberal government of Jean Chretien in 2002; to fill a power vacuum created by US bombing, and to rebuild the country after 10 years of Soviet occupation and 10 more years of civil war.

Four years later the Taliban have regrouped. What we are doing there now, in no way resembles peace keeping or reconstruction. Canadian soldiers are involved in a NATO counter insurgency. Its time to take stock.

How did we get here, why are we trying to kill them? Oh yes.., 'the Taliban aided and abetted Al-Qaeda'.

The Taliban are no friends to democracy, rule of law, the enlightenment, or equal rights. They desire a theocracy like the Dark Ages(400 - 1600AD) - when Rome projected terror across Europe to maintain its' primacy - not anything like the German Fascism of the 1930's and '40's the Whitehouse keeps pumping. Neither are they friends of an oil pipeline on the northern border. A pipeline that would send regional resources west, to the USA; or the 'Great Satan', in their vernacular.

I personaly wouldn't support a government like that; but that doesn't mean I would go to war with them either.

The Taliban stopped the opium crop when they were in power, something we cannot seem to do. The Taliban have never invaded a foreign land; they are not even a regional power. At this time, a multi-polar global power negotiation is in progress; Taliban rule, while hard to stomach could be a stabilizing force right now. The alternative, an unwinnable urban war could become much worse.

Tolerating the de-facto situation in Afghanistan is not defeat, its clear thinking. Canada, as a member NORAD and a transmogrified NATO should push for another way.

We could have cut a deal with the Taliban in 2001; we may need to now. Before more blood is spilt, NATO's political leaders should talk with the Taliban who controlled 90% of the country pre-9/11.

A US 'No Fly Zone' would project Imperial tranquility with-in a schematic borrowed from British imperial history; a step 'back to the future', towards the G-8 model of the balance of powers pre 9/11. To facillitae this the Americans have to recognise Russian control of her oil industry; just as congress blocked China from buying UNICOL the largest energy company in the world(US), the Russians are protecting their national interest, albeit with slight of hand and 'lawyering'.

A 'No Fly Zone' would facilitate an intelligence net and the ability for the US to project influence on the Taliban government; and to maintain their primacy with-out Al Qaeda or other forces. It would continue to fortify and stabilize the Northern Alliance, and with Russian help, ensure passivity along the northern border; bringing relative stability to the entire region.

We need to deal. The question is, do the Taliban still want to make a deal, now that they have us perplexed militarily? The road out will hurt more than the road in; but less than an unending counter-insurgency amongst an increasingly desperate civilian population.

We have to make a deal. With in a model that recognizes American primacy we can propose: give the Taliban power with-in a new US hegemony that recognizes the strategic importance of the northern frontier and the impropriety of tolerating Al Qaeda's presence. This would serve all the demands of Bush's' 'war on terrorism' and the underlying strategic objective: an stable oil pipeline corridor to Turkey.

One problem with this plan is that the Northern Alliance and the Taliban were at war pre 9/11. The Taliban may have been involved in the assassination of the Alliances top field commander, Ahmed Shah Masood. But the reality of the situation is that they would have no choice but to accept the power. Undoubtedly they would display a genuine front while perusing other agenda. This is standard when empires try to project their will.

All this speaks to the complex inter-dependencies present, in the largest geo-political sense. Canada with its vast oil
and gas reserves, has very little interest in any of these machinations, aside from one.

We need another assembly line at the Oakville Car Plant. In jest of coarse, but it represents a critical part of our Strategic National Interest. The basis of the post war affluence in Canada was the Auto-Pact. Canada traded leading Jet technology and expertise to the Americans for a share in the American automobile market and other things. This guaranteed Canada's post war affluence; and Americas primacy in air power and space power.

If we continued the "head in the sand", Jean Chretien strategy of doing as little as possible while continually telling the Americans they're too loud, the USA might restrict trade with-in a post 9/11 xenophobic reaction.

American protectionism is not on the political front burner right now in Washington, instead it's been over shadowed by a ugly drift towards persecution of non-citizens, witnessed by the massive Latino demonstrations around the still stalled immigration bill. Illuminating just how important citizenship has become to protecting ones self from both real and perceived new anti-terrorism powers of the state.

60% of Americans polled think their army should be out of the Iraq debacle. They can hardly be vitriolic now if we suggest a different coarse. In fact we might be their best friends again by 2008. We should lead and innovate now, be the honest broker.

This congressional election year, the Whitehouse is easing up on the rhetoric and is trying to look more conciliatory. Surrounded by litigation and corruption scandals all around, and a quagmire in Iraq, the administration might be willing to talk.

Lets make a deal!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Tension of Life; and the Death of Ease.

Living is not easy, it's not supposed to be; but I discovered the death of ease, is excruciating.

Recently I have begun to manipulate the code that makes my blog look the way it does. In one year I've gone from writing on paper with my favourite style pen - an IT sceptic waiting for the producers to stop talking to each other in code and come up with some friendly software - untill now, I've become a Web Geek.

The search engine, tab browsing and push button publishing have changed everthing; the web is now officially (in my opinion) friendly.

Now the work starts; I'm 30 years behind; the last time I wrote software was is 1976, the first year my highschool had a computer science coarse to GOTO.

The tension is on, the ease of ignorance and critical opining about the revolution is for the critics.

Now to create that widget that 'windows' my favourite dictionary in my writing page... .

Image: Edgar Degas from wikipedia

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Noosphere-sythesizer: The first Human/Cyber Machine - the Beginnings of Web 3.0

The search engine is like what the steam engine was to the industrial revolution.

In the early years of the industrial revolution (1700's) the waterwheel and then the steam engine powered machinery that was beginning to replace manual labour. This change lead eventualy to Fords' production line, mass production and economies of scale.

A buisiness model like Fords' production line, in the context of the Information Technology Revolution(ITR), hasn't been invented yet; or has it?

The production line was the central innovation that changed the industrial revolution from a slowly developing reniasance of knowledge to an extrapolating technological juggernaut.

The production line began a doubling of human knowledge, the rate of which is quickening exponentially - this means that at one point, knowledge will double before it doubles again; a singularity, a sea-change in human history, Web 3.0 . Here's how Ray Kurzweil one of the leading edge thinkers in this area puts it: "...we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress...". His estimate may well be under the mark...

An information sythesizer, a commons, a machine that intigrates humans and computers - has been developed - that can be seen as the first machine in a future ITR production line.

"A Noosphere-sythesizer" (to borrow Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskys' notion of Gaia; noos Gk.-mind- through the Fr. nous us, we; plus sphere or globe), this IT Machine consists of large communities harnessing the collective intelligence of the whole to produce Intelligent-solutions to complex problems. A Self organizing information sharing Tool; a combination of 'wikis' and the 'blogs'; create individual human cognition quickly from vast data-sets one human could not organise in a life-time.

A synthesis of many brains working collectivly on the internet with an array of search tools in a commons, creates this Noosphere-sythesizer. Knowledge is offered, edited, tested, and peer reviewed - in other words the data-set is rationalized, based on the understanding or the collective vision of the group. A solution derived through this virtual think-tank is immediatly recognized by the collective as true, or requiring a tweek here and there - in other words it's self regulating.

With study and in the very near future (2008) the proper inputs of info, or raw materials will be defined that produce desired out-puts - in essence a human/cyber machine!

Huston, Neuromancer has landed!

N.B. I think I've coined "Noosphere-sythesizer" (let me know if I'm wrong), also I like Us-sphere or We-sphere or Cybersphere-sythesizer too (better names out there? Comments is always on).


Monday, December 11, 2006

Fake Cheney quote:

A friend of mine was watching one of those Sunday Week in Politics shows and Vice President Dick Cheney was on talking about energy self-sufficiency, and Cheney says, and I can't believe this; a solution to the foriegn oil problem
" shredding all the books and making them into ethanol."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Food Recalls, Mario Saroli Sales Inc. and the CFIA.

On Decmber 1, 2006 The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced a food recall that may involve botulism, distibuted by a little known food Wholesaler in Ontario. Which food Retailers are involved is not being disseminated and thus consumers don't have enough information to protect themselves against this deadly toxin.

Transparancy in food quality situations should be the guiding philosophy of companies and the CFIA. Instead big retailers and government seem to be afraid of the consumer. By approaching this situation with a Need-To-Know Mind Set, the Government of Canada and corperations are complicating a deadly situation for consumers.

To be clear, SAROLI BRAND GREEN BELLA DI CERIGNOLA OLIVES, sold in 1 litre containers bearing UPC 7 79390 00404 1 and the lot code 075/6, imported to Canada by Mario Saroli Sales Inc. are being removed from the market, "because the product may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum (that)... may cause botulism, a life-threatening illness." says The Canadian Food Inspection Agency(CFIA) which is over seeing the voluntary recall. No updates have to this time, been released as to the effectiveness of the recall.

Botulism is amoung the most deadly of food toxins, most dangerous because it is colourless and odourless and thus impossible for consumers to detect.

What retail companies recieved these foods from Mario Saroli Sales Inc.? Why don't consumers know?

Granted it's probably not Mario Sarolis' fault that the olives may contain the precursors of botulism; and understood by consumers that Mario Saroli Sales Inc. dosn't want to injure the reputations of their retail clients, but fault and reputation pale in relation to the deadly nature of the contaminent in question.

The situation demands more transparancy from corperations and government.

The consumer is left with the burden of checking each package of olives at every retailer they may shop at. We're left relying on the store manager at our neighbourhood stores who may be stressed-out this week because of all the recalls, or the increased volume of shoppers at this time of year; what if a low wage stock person misses aome packages?

If Loblaws was listed as one of the companies involved in the recall, and I shop at my local 'Loblaws Market Store', I'd pobably print out the info noted above on my way to my 'Loblaws Market Store' next Friday. As it is I don't know where I should be looking, Sobeys, Dominion, Value Mart, at the small delicatessen I like to go to for that extra special Christmas thing? Or at the corner grocer I occasionaly visit on my way home? Because it's so difficult I'll probably decide not to buy olives this month; thus further injuring the industry at a time when it can least absorb the shock.

Transparancy is the best policy. Are big retailers afraid of the consumer? By being opaque, approaching this Deadly situation with a need-to-know mind set, the Government of Canada and corperations are just complicating the situation for consumers.

Companies like Mario Saroli Sales Inc. who have very little presence in the market place or on the web, (just a brief public listing in, should ask the CFIA to publish a supply chain 'tree' diagram showing exactly what went where when - in the CFIAs' press release.

Creating Transparancy through Real Time tracking should be our long term goal; rather than worrying that retailers brand names may suffer if pertinent information is made available to consumers.

The up side for retailers and governments alike, is a sence of trust that will develop among shoppers as we all work together to protect our food security through information sharing.

You can recieve e-mail press releases from the CFIA at this LINK

Telephone CFIA at 1-800-442-2342, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time Ottawa, Canada, Monday to Friday.