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New FDA Guidelines on Livestock Antibiotic Use: A Big Deal or Not?

By: TobyWollin Friday December 13, 2013 4:30 pm

Earlier this week, there was a lot of excitement (nay, elation) expressed over the new guidelines from the FDA on antibiotic use in production livestock situations (i.e., factory farms). It sounded like a huge thing. It sounded as if finally, the FDA was going to do something which would end up cleaning up the dynamic on large-scale factory farms so that regular usage of low dose antibiotics would be eliminated (and frankly, this is way after the horse, ahem, has long left the barn in terms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being out in the population, but hey, what the heck).

As usual, it’s the details. It’s the ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ thing.

It’s all about antibiotic usage in feeds … to promote growth.

Know what portion of the antibiotics in animal feeds (and a huge proportion of antibiotics in this country are used in animal feeds, by the way)?

“… the amount of antibiotics used for growth promotion is minimal, explains Ron Phillips of the industry group Animal Health Institute. “Many people believe that all or most antibiotic use is for growth promotion,” says Phillips. “That is not the case. We estimate only 10-15 percent at best.” FDA Rules Won’t Reduce Antibiotic Use On Farms

The other thing is this: These are just ‘guidelines’ and are ‘voluntary’. Hello? So, the concept of public health benefit coming out of this — as in countries such as Denmark, where the general use of antibiotics in livestock feed and water is forbidden, though if an animal has a raging infection, a vet is allowed to Rx a specific dose of a specific antibiotic for a specific animal (and, Denmark has a far smaller rate of antibiotic-resistant infections than we do) — is basically nil. More issues on the new FDA antibiotic rules

But … it sounds good. This situation is not going to get any better until ALL antibiotics are taken out of livestock feeds and water, period, AND the general availability of antibiotics in farm supply stores like Tractor Supply (which has a refrigerator in every store with no lock on it, which is filled with large bottles of injectable antibiotics) is eliminated. Is that going to happen? I doubt it.


Livestock producers are causing MRSA – We now have proof

By: TobyWollin Saturday April 6, 2013 6:20 am

People – get on the horn, email, tweet, whatever to your Congress Critters and Senators about this:
“The groundbreaking study was conducted by genetics researchers who analyzed the genomes of MRSA bacteria from patients and their farm animals, and found the samples to be genetically identical. Published on Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine, the study confirms animal-to-human transmission of MRSA.

Study confirms MRSA transmission from livestock to humans

Here’s the link to the EMBO study results: Animal to human Transmission of MRSA

Louise Slaughter (who represents the Rochester area of Upstate NY) has put forward strong legislation to basically shut down the routine and uncontrolled use of antibiotics in livestock food and water which is causing this. Please take the time to read her release AND the legislation (HR 1150), which contains the history of knowledge of livestock antibiotic use in livestock and the promotion of resistant bacteria.

HR 1150

I leave you with one piece of information which will literally make you ill (because it did me): The USDA ALREADY had study results showing that this routine low-level use of antibiotics in livestock feeds and water would cause the development of reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. IN 1977.

In 1977, people. And they did nothing.

OK, all you women at the top: Zip it. Right NOW.

By: TobyWollin Saturday March 23, 2013 11:02 am

Kathryn Weymouth, heir

OK…so we now have another in yet a seemingly endless stream of women from elite backgrounds, who are playing at the top of their respective games, who are telling other women a) how to live their home and work lives, and b) that they are not trying hard enough. This one is from Katharine Weymouth, who is the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post.

“I see it all the time. Women are often meeker in meetings and afraid to ask for raises and promotions. I’ve told countless female colleagues to stop apologizing when they ask for more. It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Kathy Weymouth Tells You All

As a character played by Sean Connery in “The Untouchables” said (numerous times throughout the film), “What are YOU prepared to do?”

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper have not put any programs into place to help women, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY TO OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE NOT OF THE ELITES. ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who have dependents for whom they must care, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who do not come from money, who do not come from the elites, who do not come from elite college and university educations, to get opportunities to rise, to get educations, to get out of the ‘non-elite ghetto’, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

We have had at least 30 years of this sort of ‘you aren’t trying hard enough,’ ‘you aren’t dressing correctly,’ ‘you aren’t sacrificing enough,’ ‘if only you would….’ garbage out there. Women have it hard enough just on the basis of gender. If we try to work in male-dominated fields such as high tech or programming, we are looking to end up with violent threats in our emails, along with the usual garbage comments about how we dress, how much we weigh, and how we look. The media is filled with images and stories which send one message: Women are never smart enough, attractive enough, good looking enough, thin enough, hard working enough, aggressive enough, not aggressive enough.

It is no wonder that smart young women decide that none of this…is worth it.

Pull Up a Chair: Where Does the Shade Go?

By: TobyWollin Saturday February 23, 2013 4:56 am

Something which, even after 35 years plus of gardening together, the DH and I are still fine tuning is the issue of where to put stuff to grow, keeping in mind the path of the sun versus the orientation of our garden beds. In the picture above, taken this morning at about 11:30, you see your dear Aunty, standing outside (in the rather windy 16 degrees F, I might add – the things I do for you guys..) in one of the garden beds, in the snow, holding up a door.

Now, if you look at the shadow, flaring off toward the bottom center of the photograph, you will be reminded of the fact that this is mid-February and at 11:30 a.m., the sun is actually rather low in the sky. If this were May or June, by 11:30 a.m., that sun would be pretty close to right over my head (and I would not be standing out in the garden wearing my heavy coat, hat and gloves, either). My pose is not a re-enactment of Horace Greeley’s famous phrase (and I am pointing rather Northwest rather than directly west); I am pointing in the direction of the path of the sun in the summer. Because of the way our property is situated and the orientation of the garden beds, we get a rather oblique angle on the sun’s path here.

But this is merely an introduction to the issue of the door (what other insane person would stand out in the winter with a door to demonstrate this? I ask you). This is NOT a door (well, actually it IS a door). This is, you will have to imagine, a row of sunflowers, or corn, or something else rather tall. And all of which begins it’s life as a row of something rather short but which becomes something extremely tall and dense before half the summer is over. It literally becomes something LIKE a door. Dense, dark, and solid.

And which casts an extremely wide and long shadow over anything that is planted to either side of it.

Last summer, in one of those last moment fits of gardening madness, the DH decided he wanted to put sunflowers into the garden. Because we’d already planted nearly every other bed, we were left with one of the beds at the eastern end of the arrangement. To say those sunflowers dominated that garden last year is to put it mildly. On one side of the sunflowers was a brand new bed we put in last year which had tomatoes in it. Once the day was past noon, those tomatoes were basically trying to grow in the dark. Disaster. The plants crouched on the ground as if waiting to be attacked. It was like we were re-playing “Day of the Triffids” in the garden. On the other side of the sunflowers were potatoes and some cabbage family plants, which suffered in the early morning (when the sun is not terribly effective in any case up here), but which ended up doing fine because they had all the sun from noon through 8:30 when the sun dropped down behind the hill. That end of the garden did..just..fine.

So, lesson learned.

First: plan out your garden on paper. Depending on the path of the sun at YOUR house (and all other forms of shade from trees, out buildings and so on), put the tall things where they will cast their shade at the end of the day. In our case, if the DH wants to grow corn or sunflowers again, we will reserve the farthest west garden bed for him. And we will mulch and compost accordingly because corn is very greedy in that way.

Second: Start the planting according to the path of the sun — that is, plant the beds or side closest to where the sun comes up, and move in the direction of the path of the sun as it moves through the day. That way, you will end up at the end that if you want to put something tall in, or change your mind, or discover something else that is tall that you want to do (climbing beans, cucumbers on a trellis, etc.), you’ll be able to do that without shading out anything else.

Third: Stick with the plan. I cannot tell you how many times we have ended up sticking odd stuff in little out of the way spots because someone decided “Oh, joy – I have a wizard idea – let’s plant this!!” Think the whole thing through – now is as good a time as any – and stick to the plan. Much better in the long run.

Pull Up a Chair: Ready or Not, Spring Is Coming

By: TobyWollin Saturday February 16, 2013 4:55 am

Life gets in the way sometimes, even for gardeners, so here I am with no seeds started (oh, the horror!), and scrambling around at the last minute (didn’t follow my own advice last fall, but what the heck) trying to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re still snow-covered here, but unless we get some major snow (sorry people in New England who are still digging out from the last snow; in Upstate NY, we didn’t get very much and have since had warm weather and some rain), not for long.

And without snow cover, we know what is going to happen: the soil is going to warm up. What to do…oh, what to do?

OK – if I want to speed things along, I can scrape off the snow off one of the beds and put to work our ‘old window over some lumber’ trick, which warms up the soil PDQ. And I can either order or go through our local seed racks (at this point, the seeds will still be pretty good) for what I can use right away and get started.

So, what can I use ‘right away’ (or what passes for that here)? Well, if I can get the soil temperatures up to 50+ degrees F, I can plant:

  • Anything from the CABBAGE family: broccoli, kale, cabbage, Chinese cabbages and mustards, cauliflower, kohlrabi.
  • Anything from the BEET family: beets, Swiss and other chards
  • Various sorts of lettuces and other greens
  • Spinach

And frankly, I have had just as good (if not better, actually) experience just putting the seeds into the ground rather than starting them and setting out the plants.

This year, for the first time, I am doing the research in terms of ‘who owns/controls/has agreements with who’ in terms of seed suppliers. There is part of me that is considering very seriously going with Seed Savers Exchange or another heritage seed group, just to make sure that the sticky GM fingers of Monsanto, Bayer, Dow et al. are not on there. I might even save seeds at the end of the summer (which is actually not all that hard to do; I’ll be happy to go over that if anyone is interested). Here’s an amazing factoid about ‘germ plasm ownership’: The number 5 organization in terms of who owns/controls seed germ plasm in…the…world… is……. Land o’ Lakes. The butter people. I kid you not. Look it up.

I’m also thinking seriously about trying, for the first time, to grow parsnips, strictly from having a plate with a whack-load of parsnip/apple puree on it. Yummy. Anyone with experience growing parsnips? I figure that since we’ve had some success with carrots, I will be able to grow parsnips (long pointy veggies under the ground? All the same? Or am I wrong?). We’re also going strictly production tomatoes this year: grow what we use, which is plum tomatoes. I might sacrifice some space to one slicing tomato (so that the DH will be able to make his beloved ‘mayo/black pepper/sliced tomatoes on horrible commercial white bread’ sandwiches), plus one cherry tomato, but other than that, I’ve decided not to bother. If I can find a plum tomato that comes from Eastern Europe or Russia, I’m sold.

The big work this spring will be on a bed we started last year with compost from the county landfill, which was compost in the same way that some Democrats in the House are Democrats. I don’t think I’ve seen as high a ‘wood chip to actual organic material’ ratio in anything other than saw dust in a long time. So that bed was as close to a dead loss as you can get. We’ll dump all the real compost out of the bins into there in the spring. I might even do nothing with that area but grow buckwheat 3 or 4 times (if nothing else, it will feed the bees really well) in the summer to put some more stuff into it. Anyone else have any ideas for cover crops that would do improvement there?

So, where is everyone else in their gardening? Any of you folks in southwest or southeast started? Or is it too dry? I’m not feeling all that good up here about that either – we’re having another dry winter like last winter, which does not predict good things.

You know the drill – fill up the coffee cups, pull the scones out of the oven and let’s talk.

NYC Threatens to Shut Down Occupy Sandy Relief Sites

By: TobyWollin Saturday December 1, 2012 3:48 pm

Inside an Occupy Sandy Distribution Center

While the history of relief efforts for Sandy victims in places such as Staten Island and Red Hook is still being written, a move on Friday by New York City will probably go down as one of the stupidest moves any governmental authority EVER made:

This Friday morning Staten Island police representing the mayor’s office have threatened eviction action against the crucial Staten Island hub at 489 Midland Avenue, in the heavily hit Midland Beach area. Aiman Youssef, a 42-year-old Syrian-American Staten Islander whose house was destroyed in the hurricane, has been running a 24/7 community pop up hub outside his property at 489 Midland Avenue since the day after the storm. He and a coalition of neighbors, friends and community members are serving hot food and offering cleaning supplies, non-perishables, medical supplies, and clothing to the thousands of residents who are still without heat, power, or safe housing. This popular hub is well-run, well-staffed, and has a constant hum of discussion, support, and advice as well as donations and pick ups and volunteer dispatch through another pop-up group, volunteers who call themselves “The Yellow Team.”

Occupy Sandy is looking for vocal support – call, email the Mayor’s office to keep these very vital hubs operating. Public Advocate’s office: (212) 669-7250 9am-5pm

UPDATE: The 626 Midland Avenue hub in Staten Island has been evicted.

Donate here to send blankets to Sandy victims.

Photo by Jeremy Zilar under Creative Commons license.

Romney on Mormonism and what a conservative bad-ass Governor he was

By: TobyWollin Thursday November 1, 2012 2:00 pm

Folks. Watch this.

All the way to the bitter end.

Even when Romney walks out of the frame and is still ranting.

Just keep listening. All the way to the end.

This guy is what the Republican Party has put up to be the president.

Now we know why he won’t go on The View or anything else.

Pull Up a Chair: What would I do any different?

By: TobyWollin Saturday October 6, 2012 3:57 am

Little One (photo: cwarnercarey / flickr)

Being someone who has more grey hairs than Clairol™ can cover these days, along with a grandson to match, I look at my kids and ask myself on numerous occasions, “Did we do the right thing by our kids?”

Some days, I think the smartest thing we ever did was to get them involved in 4H, which gave them a lot of experience in having to get up every morning, no matter how shitty they felt or how cold it was, to go out and feed the sheep and feed and milk the goats. Considering the amount of nostalgia they express about those experiences (which all seem to take place between May and November; no one remembers slopping buckets of water down their pants when they were going out in 0-degrees F), that decision gets a tick mark in the ‘good idea’ column.

On the other hand, I’ve asked myself more than once whether our emphasis on academics and going to college was the smartest thing. There are days when I think we should have enrolled at least two of them into voc tech and gotten them settled in plumbing or being an electrician. Some parents we know say that their greatest decision was in encouraging their kids to become computer programmers, but they’ve also said that their kids are generally miserable. Not that my kids are miserable – our eldest is a business development specialist for the local cooperative extension and our youngest has what passes these days for a pretty good job locally – he works in the facilities department of our local university and has full health and dental.

I’m not sure that any parent knows what to encourage their kids to do these days. What do you think?