Friday, June 10


They're shameless about it now: "The announcement came at the end of a weeklong tour by veterinary experts from South Korea who inspected U.S. slaughter plants, and as Japan's Food Safety Commission convenes to conduct risk assessments based on U.S. mad cow safeguards." The announcement of what, you ask? Oh, that's right, you may not have heard because the end of the weeklong tour happened to be the end of the week - FRIDAY. Don't worry about it or anything, it's just another potential *cough* Mad Cow.

The sneaky behavior of the USDA on this suggests that this really is Mad Cow, or at least that they're pretty sure it is. This is classic behavior in obfuscating a coming bombshell (remember that the first "actual" Mad Cow was announced a few hours before Christmas Eve), part of the PR strategy to spin it that this is a non-event. And having it released to the press when it won't get covered helps it not be an event.

But in case this is finally confirmed, that won't be enough, so language gets ever more Orwellian: "This is a situation where the firewalls worked. We do not have a human health risk. This animal did not enter the food chain," says Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. What, didn't anybody have time to brief the incoming USDA chief on the meaning of firewall that they've been using for almost a decade? The firewall was keeping BSE out of the United States, simple as that. Now all of a sudden, the firewalls are inside the system, so sure, there will be Mad Cow in the meat, but it will miraculously be stopped from getting to your plate.

Problem with that is the bottom line: Our trading partners don't care whether Mad Cow gets from the animals to our plate, they care if it's in the animals. And that's why this will continue to be a big deal, whether or not this particular animal is completely confirmed as infected. We've already moved the "firewalls" inside, virtually declaring defeat in the crusade to Keep Mad Cow Out of US Beef. Yeah, that's gonna make US beef an attractive product for export, all right.

Wednesday, June 8


I really couldn't improve on this Washington Post headline for laying it out on the table. Milk has dramatically failed to live up to its purported powers as a weigt-loss tool, and has been proven more of a weight-gain tool.

    "Children who drink more than three servings of milk each day are prone to becoming overweight, according to a large new study that undermines a heavily advertised dairy industry claim that milk helps people lose weight. The study of more than 12,000 children nationwide found that the more milk they drank, the more weight they gained: Those consuming more than three servings each day were about 35 percent more likely to become overweight than those who drank one or two."

    "I went into this project expecting that drinking milk would have some weight benefit for children. So I was surprised when it turned out the way it did," said [Catherine S. Berkey of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston], whose findings are being published in the June issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
A heavily advertised dairy industry claim, eh? Gee, isn't this pretty close to actionable? As in class? And speaking of which, as New Jersey bans sodas from its schools, it's worth noting that milk causes as much weight gain as sugar-sweetened sodas: "The researchers analyzed whether the children would have been better off if they replaced the soda they were drinking with milk but found no benefit. 'Our findings do not suggest that if children replace beverages sweetened with sugar with milk they would reduce their body weight,' Berkey said."

Well, sure, I mean, of course milk will make you fat if you don't drink low-fat milk, because... what's that? They were all drinking low-fat? Yep. "Those who drank more than three eight-ounce servings of milk a day gained the most weight, even after the researchers took into consideration factors such as physical activity, other dietary factors and growth. The association held, even though most of the children were drinking low-fat milk. 'That was surprising,' Berkey said. 'Apparently this applies to any kind of milk.'"

The dairy industry is already spinning this furiously, but this is a major, and well-deserved, blow to their credibility - as long as enough people hear about it.

Tuesday, June 7


A lot of people listen to Adam Curry's Daily Source Code podcast every day or so, and so congrats to Vegan Cooking School Podcast for getting your promo played on the show. First I've heard of VCS, but looks good from here - if nothing else this is a welcome alternative to the mainstream cooking podcasts.

And yeah, there really are such things.

Monday, June 6


A more happy milestone: "A group of dolphins living off the coast of Australia apparently teach their offspring to protect their snouts with sponges while foraging for food in the sea floor. Researchers say it appears to be a cultural behavior passed on from mother to daughter, a first for animals of this type, although such learning has been seen in other species," says the AP, adding: "Researchers suspect the sponges help the foraging dolphins avoid getting stung by stonefish and other critters that hide in the sandy sea bottom, just as a gardener might wear gloves to protect the hands."


A less than happy milestone.

Sunday, June 5


Kudos to New Scientist, the periodical that routinely takes up provocative scientific controversies, for its "Animals and Us" special section. Even non-subscribers can get a good taste from this intro, which, while a little sloppily written, lays the issues right out on the plate:

    What's wrong with the way we interact with animals at the moment? Nothing, if you don't accept that animals have their own feelings and emotions, or accept it but still don't care. But if you do care, then you will realise that the moral relationship we have with animals is deeply troubled. It becomes impossible to maintain moral blindness to the way we treat them.
Sounds a little like Gary Francione's "moral schizophrenia," doesn't it? Well, he's here to represent on that, along with perspectives from Frans de Waal, Simon Blackburn and, heh, Temple Grandin. Only Jane Goodall gets to parade in front of the "subscribe" curtain, though. This might be an occasion where it's worth buying the magazine.