Friday, November 19


As all the stories stress, this is not the end, but it's certainly the beginning of the end. "The Speaker of the Commons, Michael Martin, last night invoked the Parliament Act, overriding the opposition of the House of Lords and bringing to an end almost 700 years of foxhunting in England and Wales. Within hours, the Queen gave her royal assent and the total ban on hunting with dogs will be enforced from February 18 next year." While pro-hunt thugs will continue to demonstrate, challenge in court, and generally make asses of themselves, the most they'll gain is a temporary reprieve in the form of a "compromise" for a couple years. The tide has turned, and at least on this one extreme example of animal cruelty, people have opened their eyes are are unlikely to simply close them again. The Tory leader oh-so-eloquently called for his fellow-thugs to "Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war." Typical - even when they're picking fights, they let the dogs do all the work.

Thursday, November 18


Damn. I had an item ready yesterday but didn't get around to posting it: "New cases of mad cow would not be surprising, says food inspection agency" with the lede "Canada can expect more cases of the mad-cow disease that has rocked the cattle industry, officials with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Tuesday." And I had already added my comment "Hmmmmm... could that be because they've already found some?" Well, maybe not, but they might've heard that there was already another presumptive positive down here in the US. After all, Ann Veneman certainly seems to have got wind of it a couple days previous.

What's important to note, and which the mainstream stories are doing a terrible job of, is that this is not another "maybe" along the lines of the two in June that turned out, purportedly, to be negative. There have probably been any number of those since then, but they stopped telling us about them (and said so). This one involves the same initial test, but done three times, with three positives. Which leads Michael Hansen of Consumers Union to argue that the odds are 100,000 to 1 that this is correct. I don't know if it's that high, but it's certainly a lot more probable than the ones this summer.

UPDATE 11/23: It may have been more probable, but apparently not enough so to be correct, as the USDA dodges the bullet again, enabling the agency (as well as the FDA) to keep dragging its feet on doing anything substantive.

Wednesday, November 17


We've hit on this study already, but since it was in a NYT link that's now been archived, here's a fresh link to a conference presentation on it: "Losing weight may be as simple as eating more -- eating more fruits and vegetables and less food that is "calorie-dense" such as cheese, researchers said on Wednesday" at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Las Vegas. The takeaway: Despite the media's favorite trendy explanation, it's not "portion size" that makes you fat - it's eating fattening stuff. You can actually eat bigger portions of fruits and vegetables and still lose weight.

Tuesday, November 16


Cockfighting proponents, so clearly on the losing side of history, get more and more ludicrous in their desperate attempts to put a logical face on this naked barbarity, providing better entertainment than the bloodsport itself. Today the Supreme Court turned down an appeal from cockfighting supporters in Oklahoma (who have lost both at the ballot box and in courts), rejecting it without comment.

Listen to this: 'Attorney Larry Oliver, in filings at the court, said that the law was so vague that people could be arrested for watching blue jays fight in their back yard. "All birds fight by nature," he wrote. "This Oklahoma statute was drafted by radical animal rights people who exacted a constitutional overkill in their pursuit to ban everything associated with cockfighting."' Uh huh. Right, Larry. Arrested for watching blue jays. Dissenting from this view, Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General Sherry Todd said, "The right to conduct cockfights is not a fundamental right," adding that the law "does not criminalize the enjoyment and/or observation of the natural activities of birds in their natural habitat." Phew! Pass the popcorn, I'm gonna go watch some jays!


"Trend" stories and their damning statistics are now making it official that the backlash has begun against the ridiculous 'low-carb' claptrap promulgated by Atkins & co., and now a judge has cleared the way for "the nation's first anti-Atkins lawsuit, filed by 54-year-old Jody Gorran, who said two years on the diet left him with arteries so clogged that only emergency angioplasty saved his life. Gorran seeks little money, and instead wants the court to force Atkins Nutritionals, the firm behind the diet, to print warning labels saying the diet may be 'hazardous to your health' on its books and products." Such a label would be on-target, according to experts who warn that millions of Americans on a low-carb regimen are missing out on fiber-rich foods essential to healthy hearts. And "popping a fiber supplement won't change that," one adds, "because it isn't just the fiber that helps us--it's fiber-rich foods" - something Atkins' saturated-fat-happy diet has in short supply.

The kicker is that the one thing Atkins is supposed to do well - take weight off - is proven over and over again to be a temporary blip; a low-fat diet works better for keeping weight off, in addition to being much healthier. A study just announced yesterday confirms this. "People who started eating more fat... regained the most weight over time," said Suzanne Phelan of Brown Medical School. So if you want to gain weight while endangering your heart (i.e. increasing your chance of "slipping on the ice"), by all means, go the Atkins route.

Monday, November 15


Researchers in the current issue of Science say they may have found a new and different form of Mad Cow, a finding which is consistent with previous theories that BSE-linked CJD may be misdiagnosed as "sporadic" CJD. "The human version of mad cow disease may look different in different people, depending on their genetic make-up, experts reported on Thursday, raising the possibility the disease could be circulating undetected." And as always, Steve Mitchell is checking into that possibility, raising questions about a California man who died from "what tentatively was diagnosed as a rare brain disorder, but his brother said the patient's neurologist is concerned the man was infected with the human version of mad cow disease." While there's no corroborating quote from the neurologist, the brother straight-out says, "I'm concerned he got it from beef."

Similarly, there's been some interesting action in New York, where state officials currently are looking into a cluster of five cases of CJD. Turns out that New York recorded 23 cases of CJD in 2003 and 28 in 2001, which is about four and nine more, respectively, than would be expected based on the state's population size. "Although UPI had requested to see a breakdown of the cases by county, New York officials refused to release the information." And note that "The area where the southern New York cases occurred is just two counties away from a northern New Jersey area that saw five CJD cases within 15 months.

There is perhaps one silver lining in these stories of death and gloom: The son of one victim "noted that his dad was a 'huge beefeater' and that he can no longer bring himself to eat ground beef. 'Every time I look at ground beef, I want to throw up now,' he said." Well, at least you're looking at meat in a logical frame of mind.

UPDATE 11/16: VENEMAN RESIGNS AS USDA HEAD We'll see who replaces her, but I doubt it'll be more than a case of "Meet the new boss..."

UPDATE 11/18: Let's look back at that article from Tuesday: The lede is that her resignation "caught many in the farm community by surprise." Now why is that? "Veneman had campaigned tirelessly for President Bush in key farm states in the run-up to the recent election. At a teleconference with reporters last Tuesday, she sidestepped a question about her future, saying only that 'the president will be making decisions on personnel.' But in a letter to Bush just three days later, she declared that 'now is an appropriate time for me to move on to new opportunities.'" Yes, I guess it is.