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    Default Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz ~ Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Don't worry Giovonni - more people than you know are ready and waiting ...... we are here - and we are growing daily in number ............

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    We continue to learn that much of our behavior is driven by our physical organism...

    ***********
    As with blood, several types of human gut

    By Agence France-Presse
    Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

    PARIS — The human digestive tract, host to an ecosystem teaming with trillions of living bacteria, comes in three variations as distinct as blood groups, according to a study released Wednesday.

    These so-called "enterotypes" are found in populations worldwide and exist independent of race, country of origin, diet, age or state of health, the study reported.

    The findings have major implications for detecting and predicting the risk of diseases ranging from intestinal cancers to diabetes to Crohn's disease, a painful inflammation of the bowels, the researchers said.

    They also showed that certain strains of bacteria -- varying in concentration across the three intestinal types -- boost the likelihood of obesity, a discovery that could help explain why some people struggle more than others to shed excess weight.

    "The more efficiently the bacteria extract energy from food, the greater the chance that the person has a high BMI," or body-mass index, said co-author Stanislav Dusko Ehrlich, a professor at France's National Agronomy Research Institute.

    "Looking at the genes of the microbiota tells us with much greater precision than looking at the genes of the individual if someone is obese or not," he told AFP.

    BMI measures deviation from optimal levels of body fat.

    he study, published in Nature, could also help scientists tailor treatments for certain diseases to the intestinal profile of the patient.

    "The three gut types explain why the uptake of medicines and nutrients vary from person to person," said Jeroen Raes, a researcher at VIB-Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and a co-author of the study.

    "This knowledge could form the basis of personalised medicine with treatments and doses determined on the basis of gut type," he said.

    Some 100 trillion bacteria -- up to 1,000 different species -- live inside our intestines, where they play a crucial role in converting food into energy and protected us from pathogens.

    In exchange, our digestive track provides these single-celled guests with food and shelter.

    This symbiosis is a crucial element of human health, but when disrupted can lead to disorders with consequences ranging from poor digestion to death.

    "Certain species of bacteria can become overly abundant, while others can disappear. It can happen at any point in one's life," said Ehrlich in an interview.

    Researchers can now aim to design treatments that seek to stimulate "good" bacteria, or inhibit the growth of those that do us harm, in order to reestablish a balance, he said.

    "We can even imagine one day 'transplanting' the microbiota of a healthy individual into that of a patient suffering from a serious disease," he added.

    The three types -- called bacteroides, prevotella and ruminococcus -- are named for the bacteria that dominate the intestines in each case.

    "Ecosystems have a tendency to evolve toward a stable equilibrium, with certain species becoming dominant while others occupy niches.

    "This also appears to apply to our intestines," said Raes, comparing the microbiota in the human gut to forests, tundra or tropical jungles.

    It is still unclear whether a person can switch from one group to another over the course of a lifetime, the researchers said.

    The study found that vitamin production also varied sharply among the three gut types.

    People in the bacteroides group were better able to generate vitamin C, B2 and B5, while those in the prevotella group showed higher levels of B1 and folic acid.

    The researchers cautioned that the results, while robust, were based on samples from several hundred people, and that further research is needed to determine if there are additional types of bacterial ecosystems in the gut.

    Source;
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/04/2...-of-human-gut/

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    Thumbs down Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    we are approaching a level of surveillance that was not even present in the Soviet Union. This is our paranoia, expressed as social policy. Ask yourself how would you feel about filling out a form like this when you next apply for a passport. i can tell you from my recent trip to France that Europeans increasing avoid the U.S., and our tourism figures reflect this.

    ***********
    State Department wants passport applicants to reveal lifetime employment history



    By David Edwards
    Monday, April 25th, 2011

    The U.S. Department of State has proposed a new questionnaire that would make it almost impossible for some people to get a passport.

    The new document (PDF) would require that certain applicants submit a list of every residence and every job they've ever had since birth.

    In February, the department published a request in the Federal Register allowing 60 days for comment before the new rules go into effect.

    "The Biographical Questionnaire for a U.S. Passport, form DS-5513, is used to supplement an application for a U.S. passport when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity," according to a supporting statement (PDF) issued along with the request for comment.

    "This form is used prior to passport issuance and solicits information relating to the respondent’s family, birth circumstances, residences, schooling, and employment," the statement added.

    "In addition to this primary use of the data, the DS-5513 may also be used as evidence in the prosecution of any individual who makes a false statement on the application and for other uses as set forth in the Prefatory Statement and the Passport System of Records Notice (State-26)."

    The document also requires some applicants to submit information about the mother's pre-natal and post-natal care, the mother's residence one year before and after the birth, the persons in attendance at the birth and religious or institutional recordings of the birth.

    "The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form," Consumer Traveler's Edward Hasbrouck noted.

    The Consumer Travel Alliance opposes the new form as "exceeding the statutory authority of the DOS, unconstitutional, and in violation of U.S. obligations pursuant to international human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party," according to draft comments (PDF) prepared by the group.

    "[C]hoosing to require an applicant for a passport to complete the proposed Form DS-5513, which few if any applicants could complete, would amount to a de facto decision to deny that applicant a passport. And that decision would be standardless, arbitrary, and illegal," they added.

    The State Department had not returned a call asking for comment at the time of publication.

    Source:
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/04/2...yment-history/
    Last edited by giovonni; 26th April 2011 at 09:15.

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    Default Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    and so it begins...

    ***********

    France and Italy in call to close EU borders in wake of Arab protests

    Sarkozy and Berlusconi want passport-free travel within the EU suspended as north African migrants flee north



    Sarkozy and Berlusconi are demanding European deportation pacts with the countries of revolutionary north Africa to send migrants home.


    France and Italy have thrown down the gauntlet over Europe's system of passport-free travel, saying a crisis of immigration sparked by the Arab spring was calling into question the borderless regime enjoyed by more than 400 million people in 25 countries.

    Challenging one of the biggest achievements of European integration of recent decades, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi also launched a joint effort to stem immigration and demanded European deportation pacts with the countries of revolutionary north Africa to send new arrivals packing.

    The French president and the Italian prime minister, at a summit in Rome, opted to pile the pressure on Brussels and the governments of the other 25 EU states, demanding an "in-depth revision" of European law regulating the passport-free travel that takes in almost all of the EU with the exception of Britain and Ireland.

    Prompted by the influx to Italy of almost 30,000 immigrants, mainly from Tunisia, in recent months, the two leaders warned that the upheavals in north Africa "could swiftly become an out-and-out crisis capable of undermining the trust our fellow citizens place in the free circulation within the Schengen area".

    The passport-free travel system known as the Schengen regime was agreed by a handful of countries in 1985 and put into practice in 1995. Since then it has been embraced by 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, but spurned by Britain and Ireland. It is widely seen, along with the euro single currency, as Europe's signature unification project of recent decades.

    But like the euro, fighting its biggest crisis over the past year, the Schengen regime is being tested amid mounting populism and the renationalisation of politics across the EU.

    In other setbacks to borderless Europe, Germany, France and other countries have been blocking the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to Schengen in recent months, while the arrival of thousands of Middle Eastern migrants in Greece has fed exasperation with Athens's inability to control the EU's southern border.

    The Franco-Italian move, following weeks of bad-tempered exchanges between Paris and Rome over how to deal with the Tunisian influx, is the biggest threat yet to the Schengen regime.

    "For the treaty to stay alive, it must be reformed," Sarkozy said. Berlusconi added: "We both believe that in exceptional circumstances there should be variations to the Schengen treaty."

    They sent a joint letter to the European commission and European council chiefs, José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, urging proposals from Brussels and agreement on a new system at an EU summit of government heads in June.

    The commission said it was drawing up new proposals, tinkering with the current system, to be unveiled next week. But it has resisted, with the support of most EU governments, intense Italian pressure to label the arrivals from north Africa an emergency.

    Under European law the border-free regime can be suspended only for reasons of national security, routinely invoked in recent years by member states hosting major international sporting events such as the World Cup or the European football championships, where individual countries contend with a huge, one-off influx of foreigners.

    Sarkozy and Berlusconi insisted the rules be changed to allow more restrictions on freedom of travel. A new deal was "indispensable", they said. The June summit should "examine the possibility of temporarily re-establishing internal frontier controls in case of exceptional difficulty in the management of the [EU's] common external frontiers".

    This, however, would clearly not be in the interests of Italy, which fears an end to the hostilities in Libya could spark an even bigger exodus. In that event, the letter said, the EU should provide "mechanisms of specific solidarity" including the distribution of immigrants among member states.

    This will prove extremely divisive and will be rejected by countries such as Germany and Sweden, which have much higher numbers of asylum seekers than Italy, less restrictive immigration policies, and little sympathy for Italy's plight.

    The concerted Franco-Italian initiative also called for accords between the EU and north African countries on repatriating immigrants, a policy certain to spark outrage among human rights groups, the refugee lobby, and more liberal EU governments.

    Promising strong support for the democratic revolutions sweeping the Maghreb and the Middle East, Sarkozy and Berlusconi added: "In exchange we have the right to expect from our partner countries a commitment to a rapid and efficacious co-operation with the European Union and its member states in fighting illegal immigration."

    Tuesday's move followed weeks of feuding between Rome and Paris over the Tunisian exodus. Furious at the failure of other EU countries to "share the burden", the Italians granted visas to the immigrants enabling them to move elsewhere in the EU. The Germans and the Austrians complained. The Belgians accused Rome of "cheating" on the Schengen rulebook. The French government promptly closed a part of the border with Italy briefly, re-erecting passport controls to halt trains.

    But Berlusconi and Sarkozy, seeking to curry favour with the strong far-right constituencies in both countries, sought to bury their differences by urging the rest of Europe to buy into their anti-immigration agenda.

    Source;
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011...-arab-protests

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    We are literally sacrificing our health to corporate profit. Putting our children on the altar. And there is this: If the peasants are a little duller and more tractable certain interests might see that as a plus. Or am i becoming a conspiracy theorist?

    ***********

    Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Linked to Diminished IQ




    Written by Sonya Lunder, EWG Senior Scientist

    In a 2010 meeting between the pesticide industry and the Obama Administration, the pesticide industry revealed its objective that government food testing data (like the USDA pesticide residue data EWG uses to create our Shopper's Guide to Produce) be spun to emphasize the safety of pesticide residues on conventional produce.

    Why?

    They're worried you know too much. See, if people know about the health (and environmental) downsides of pesticides, they might, well, not want to eat them. In their own (self-interested, your-health-is-not-their-first-priority) words in this high-level meeting:

    "[W]e want to see if we can figure out that whatever data is out there be less likely to be misconstrued and misinterpreted. We're trying to make sure that anyone who reads [USDA's pesticide residue report] sees -- as do all the people in the room -- that there is no risk associated with the consumption of fresh produce due to pesticide residues."

    But are pesticides really safe? Should fruits and veggie eaters everywhere breath a sigh of relief because there's "no risk," as the pesticide guys want you to believe? Not so fast.

    The science does not say "no risk"

    Industry's task spinning pesticides got a bit more difficult today, when a group of 3 long-term studies found that a woman's exposure to organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy could affect IQ and memory in her child 6 to 9 years later.

    Researchers at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, University of California Berkeley's School of Public Health and Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health separately recruited pregnant women and tested either their mother's urine during pregnancy or umbilical blood at birth.

    All three studies are available for free and online at the Environmental Health Perspectives website. And you can hear it for yourself on ABC's World News Tonight.

    Some restrictions in place, more possibly needed

    Between 1999 and 2003, EPA put in place restrictions on the most toxic organophosphate pesticides on crops and in homes. In 2006, the Agency concluded those restrictions would be sufficient to protect children's health, but these studies show further restrictions over the use of organophosphates in agriculture may be necessary to protect kid's health.

    For years, EPA used complex models to assure us that pesticide exposures were safe. These studies strongly suggest that kids remain at risk. The next time EPA and the pesticide industry tell you all is well with the food system, don't rush to believe them.

    Organophosphates have been associated with learning delays and ADHD in children. But the fact that three separate studies arrived at such similar conclusions is overwhelming evidence that this family of pesticides presents profound and very serious health risks to children before they're even born.

    Understanding - and avoiding - pesticide residues

    About that data the pesticide industry is worried you'll be worried about. Each year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture extensively tests fruits and vegetables for pesticide residues. The tests are conducted after each sample has been washed as if being prepared to eat or cook. EWG compiles USDA's data and ranks the most popular fruits and vegetables according to the levels of overall pesticide residues. [The cleanest 15 and dirty dozen are available from the original article here.]

    We think there is ample evidence to avoid pesticides, particularly while you are pregnant. Here are the 12 with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues from EWG' 2010 Shopper's Guide. The 2011 Guide will be out soon once USDA releases its latest round of produce testing.

    EWG's top tips to eat fewer organophosphate pesticides:

    It makes good sense to avoid these pesticides whenever possible, especially during pregnancy. Here's how:

    1. Eat organic and low-residue fruits and veggies. Organic produce is becoming much more available and the price gap between it and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables has narrowed somewhat, but buying organic can be a burden on families on tight budgets. EWG's online Shopper's Guide to Pesticides provides an easy-to-use list of non-organic items that have the lowest levels of pesticide residues. EWG recommends sticking to those fruits and vegetables whenever possible.

    2. Wash, wash, wash. Washing conventional produce won't remove all of the residues, but it does make a difference. Wash all fruits and vegetables before serving.

    3. Eat food that's in season. It is more likely to be grown domestically where there are tighter restrictions on organophosphate pesticide use.

    4. Pregnant? Make that extra effort to eat organic or low-residue fruits and veggies. Eating fruits and vegetables is an essential part of a healthy diet, but we recommend that women who are pregnant choose organic produce or conventional fruits and veggies with the lowest levels of pesticide residues. And, by all means, avoid farms that spray these chemicals.

    For more tips for an environmentally healthy pregnancy, see EWG's 11 Healthy Pregnancy Tips. Those are nine (plus!) very important months, with significant health consequences for babies.

    This post was originally published by the Environmental Working Group's blog.

    Source:
    http://www.care2.com/causes/real-foo...diminished-iq/

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    it's like a quickening...

    'The Climate Change Deniers rant on while nature, paying no attention whatever, shifts with increasing speed into environmental formulations no human has ever seen. i find it particularly tragic and ironic that Climate Change Deniers, who are concentrated in red states particularly in the South, central and southwestern U.S., are going to suffer notably from the extreme climate events we are increasingly experiencing. There have been several hundred tornadoes in this April, over 200 per cent higher than usual. And this is just the beginning. The level of destruction in those states, over the next 20 years, is going to be truly catastrophic."
    Stephen A. Schwartz

    ***********

    King Crabs Invade Antarctica

    ScienceDaily (Apr. 26, 2011) — It's like a scene out of a sci-fi movie -- thousands, possibly millions, of king crabs are marching through icy, deep-sea waters and up the Antarctic slope.

    "They are coming from the deep, somewhere between 6,000 to 9,000 feet down," said James McClintock, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine Biology.

    Shell-crushing crabs haven't been in Antarctica, Earth's southernmost continent, for hundreds or thousands, if not millions, of years, McClintock said. "They have trouble regulating magnesium ions in their body fluids and get kind of drunk at low temperatures."

    But something has changed, and these crustaceans are poised to move by the droves up the slope and onto the shelf that surrounds Antarctica. McClintock and other marine researchers interested in the continent are sounding alarms because the vulnerable ecosystem could be wiped out, he said.

    Antarctic clams, snails and brittle stars, because of adaptation to their environment, have soft shells and have never had to fight shell-crushing predators. "You can take an Antarctic clam and crush it with your hands," McClintock said. They could be the main prey for these crabs, he said.

    Loss of unique mollusks could jeopardize organisms with disease-fighting compounds, McClintock said. Sea squirts, for example, produce an agent that fights skin cancer. If the crabs eat them, it could bring McClintock's research with that organism to a halt.

    McClintock's chemical ecology program has published more than 100 papers on species researchers have discovered, including the compound that combats skin cancer and one to treat flu, that are being explored by drug companies.

    "I am very concerned that species could disappear, and we could lose a cure to a disease," he said.

    McClintock's colleague Sven Thatje, Ph.D., an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southampton in England, saw the first signs of the king crab invasion in 2007. He spotted a lone crab climbing up the slope. McClintock and Rich Aronson, Ph.D., a paleoecologist at Florida Institute of Technology, put together a proposal to launch the first systematic search for king crabs in Antarctica. With Sven as chief expedition scientist, the team headed back with two ships and a submarine earlier this year.

    "We ran transects up the slope and discovered hundreds and hundreds of king crabs, which could translate into millions across broad expanses of coastal Antarctica," he said. "They are adults, males and females. They appear healthy and have all the ingredients needed to produce a healthy population."

    The king crabs' large numbers on the slope suggest that they are increasing in number at a rate faster than anticipated, McClintock said. "Before long, they could be in shallow water and on the shelf," he said. "This is a very visual, visceral way of thinking of an impact of climate change."

    McClintock and his fellow researchers are exploring causes for the invasion, which they believe is linked to human-induced climate warming. Around 40,000 tourists visit the area each year.

    "Antarctica has become a popular destination for tourists," McClintock said. Cruise ship companies have seen it as an opportunity to take visitors to "one of the most stunningly beautiful areas on our planet."

    After cruising along the waters, tourists can then take a rubber boat called a zodiac to a beach covered with penguins as far as the eye can see. "The penguins will come right up to you," McClintock said.

    And, now that the king crabs are on the Antarctic slope, some fishermen are anxious to head to Antarctica as well. McClintock has already gotten an email from a fisherman asking when he can come.

    But the icy waters and dangerous logistics make fishing difficult, McClintock said. "There is a TV show called the 'The Deadliest Catch,'" he said. "Well this is the deadliest, deadliest catch."

    For now, McClintock and his team are reviewing the thousands of images they captured during their submarine exploration. His team is analyzing the data and plans to have its findings published in a major journal within a year.

    "The whole ecosystem could change," McClintock said. "And this is just one example of a species expanding its range into a new territory. There will certainly be more as the climate warms up."

    Source;
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0419191022.htm

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    Angry Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    We live with the unintended consequences of our choices.

    ***********

    Internet privacy: At every turn, our privacy is compromised by technology

    An Editorial
    The Observer, Sunday 1 May 2011

    A pattern is emerging. A researcher discovers that a product or service offered by a large (generally US-based) company contains a security flaw or a feature that compromises the privacy of internet users. The revelations are confirmed by other experts across the internet. The company responsible then goes through a predictable series of steps: first, "no comment", followed by indignant denial, then a PR-spun "explanation" and, eventually, an apology of sorts plus a declaration that the bug will be fixed or the intrusive practice terminated.

    A recent example was Apple's extraordinary contortions over the discovery that its iPhone was covertly collecting location data and storing it in unencrypted form. But last week also saw the revelation that devices made by TomTom, the leading manufacturer of GPS navigation systems, had effectively been spying on Dutch users and that the aggregated data had been sold to the police in order to guide the location of speed traps.

    Before that, there were the revelations that Google's street-mapping camera cars were also collecting data on every domestic WiFi network they passed. On the web, many sites now deploy hidden "history sniffing" codes to find out what other sites a user has visited, webmail servers "read" every email that passes through them and social networking sites reveal every detail of some subscribers' tastes, activities and location.

    What these developments presage is a perfect storm of surveillance, orchestrated not by the state but by huge corporations. Meanwhile, information commissioners across Europe try to enforce data protection laws that were crafted in the mainframe era, long before the founders of Google, Facebook et al were born. Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner responsible for data protection, is determined to reform the law to make US-based companies respect the privacy of their European users. But her efforts are doomed unless those users wake up to the ways their privacy is undermined by the services and devices they use.

    Internet users must be more aware of the dangers inherent in the services they use

    Source;
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...ternet-privacy
    Last edited by giovonni; 1st May 2011 at 16:31.

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    more...

    "unintended consequences of our choices"

    ***********

    Feds sting Amish farmer selling raw milk locally
    Cite interstate commerce violation


    By Stephen Dinan
    The Washington Times

    Thursday, April 28, 2011


    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters stand in Silver Spring, Maryland.

    A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.

    The product in question: unpasteurized milk.

    It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

    “It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” said Tamara N. Ward, spokeswoman for the FDA, whose investigators have been looking into Rainbow Acres for months, and who finally last week filed a 10-page complaint in federal court in Pennsylvania seeking an order to stop the farm from shipping across state lines any more raw milk or dairy products made from it.

    The farm’s owner, Dan Allgyer, didn’t respond to a message seeking comment, but his customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland were furious at what they said was government overreach.

    “I look at this as the FDA is in cahoots with the large milk producers,” said Karin Edgett, a D.C. resident who buys directly from Rainbow Acres. “I don’t want the FDA and my tax dollars to go to shut down a farm that hasn’t had any complaints against it. They’re producing good food, and the consumers are extremely happy with it.”

    The FDA’s actions stand in contrast to other areas where the Obama administration has said it will take a hands-off approach to violations of the law, including the use of medical marijuana in states that have approved it, and illegal-immigrant students and youths, whom the administration said recently will not be targets of their enforcement efforts.

    Raw-milk devotees say pasteurization, the process of heating food to kill harmful organisms, eliminates good bacteria as well, and changes the taste and health benefits of the milk. Many raw-milk drinkers say they feel much healthier after changing over to it, and insist they should have the freedom of choice regarding their food.

    One defense group says there are as many as 10 million raw-milk consumers in the country. Sales are perfectly legal in 10 states but illegal in 11 states and the District, with the other states having varying restrictions on purchase or consumption.

    Many food safety researchers say pasteurization, which became widespread in the 1920s and 1930s, dramatically reduced instances of milk-transmitted diseases such as typhoid fever and diphtheria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no health benefit from raw milk that cannot be obtained from pasteurized milk.

    Acting on those conclusions, the FDA uses its regulatory powers over food safety to ban interstate sales of raw milk and has warned several farms to change their practices.

    According to the complaint the FDA filed in court, the agency began to look into Mr. Allgyer’s farm in late 2009, when an investigator in their Baltimore office used aliases to sign up for a Yahoo user group for Rainbow Acres’ customers, and began to place orders under the assumed names for unpasteurized milk.

    The orders were delivered to private residences in Maryland, where the investigator, whose name was not disclosed in the documents, would pick them up. By crossing state lines the milk became part of interstate commerce, thus subject to the FDA’s ban on interstate sales of raw milk. The court papers note that the jugs of milk were not labeled - another violation of FDA regulations.

    Armed with that information, investigators visited the farm in February 2010, but Mr. Allgyer turned them away. They returned two months later with a warrant, U.S. marshals and a state police trooper, arriving at 5 a.m. for what Mr. Allgyer’s backers called a “raid,” but the FDA said was a lawful inspection.

    The investigators said they saw coolers labeled with Maryland town names, and the coolers appeared to contain dairy products. The inspection led to an April 20, 2010, letter from FDA telling Mr. Allgyer to stop selling across state lines.

    He instead formed a club and had customers sign an agreement stating they supported his operation, weren’t trying to entrap the owners, and that they would be shareholders in the farm’s produce, paying only for the farmer’s labor.

    Customers hoped that would get around the FDA’s definition of “commerce,” putting the exchange outside of the federal government’s purview.

    The FDA investigators continued to take shipments, though, and last week went to court to stop the operation.

    Ms. Ward, the FDA spokeswoman, didn’t say exactly why they targeted Mr. Allgyer’s farm, but that violations generally are determined either by FDA investigations or by state-obtained evidence.

    Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, said undercover stings are not unheard of.

    “It happens quite a bit. It’s almost like they treat raw milk as crack. It’s happened in a number of states, and at the federal level,” he said.

    His organization has sued to try to halt FDA enforcement, and the case is pending in federal court in Iowa.

    Mr. Allgyer’s customers declined to talk about the operations, and when asked whether they knew what would happen to the farm’s distribution, they said they would have to wait and see.

    One of those customers, Liz Reitzig, president of the Maryland Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, said she started looking for raw milk when her oldest daughter began to show signs of not being able to tolerate pasteurized milk.

    She first did what’s called cow sharing, which is when a group of people buy shares in owning a cow, and pay a farmer to board and milk the cow. But Maryland outlawed that practice and she was forced to look elsewhere for raw milk, and turned to Mr. Allgyer’s farm.

    “We like the way they farm, we love their product, it’s super-high-quality, they’re wonderful. It’s just a wonderful arrangement,” she said.

    “FDA really has no idea what they’re talking about when they’re talking about fresh milk. They have no concept - they really don’t understand what it’s like for people like me who have friends and family who can’t drink conventional milk,” Ms. Reitzig said.


    Source;
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/...=all#pagebreak
    © Copyright 2011 The Washington Times

    ***********
    comments giovonni

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  17. Link to Post #189
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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Is America the exceptional, #1 country in the world?

    Apparently it is...

    Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/ameri...#ixzz1LKA4VDzu
    Last edited by giovonni; 19th May 2011 at 05:20.

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    We have the most ideological and activist Supreme Court in generations. They are slowly but steadily reorienting American law to favor corporations.

    ***********

    SCOTUS (The Supreme Court of the United States ) Deals Consumers Another Blow



    posted by Jessica Pieklo

    May 2, 2011

    One of the reasons the class action lawsuit is such an effective tool at stemming corporate overreach is that it forces guilty parties to bear the consequences of their bad business decisions en masse. A gentle fleecing of one customer for $40 a year may not seem like a big deal until tens of thousands of fleeced customers are able to aggregate their claims and place an overarching cost to the bad practice.

    But thanks to the Roberts Court, businesses have much less to fear from the class action lawsuit. That's because, according to the holding in AT&T v. Conception, companies should be free to ban class actions in the fine print of their contracts.

    The 5-4 ruling, authored by Justice Scalia, holds that corporations may use arbitration clauses to cut off consumers and employees' right to band together through class actions to hold corporations accountable.

    The decision is the most recent in a series of systematic efforts to roll back consumer protections and class action rights. In Concepcion, a cell phone customer claimed that AT&T's contract promising a free phone did not mention a $30.22 sales tax charge. The customer sued, but AT&T argued the suit customer's claim was barred by the arbitration provision in his contract.

    Relying on a California Supreme Court decision, the California district court ruled the arbitration clause was unconscionable under California law because it prohibited class action proceedings.

    Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia said that the California law was trumped by the Federal Arbitration Act and stood in the way of federal interests. Even though the FAA contains a "savings clause" that permits arbitration agreements to be declared unenforceable "upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract", Justice Scalia said that the statute "does not give states free rein to adopt policies that discriminate against arbitration or interfere with its central mechanisms."

    Once again, the Court's conservative majority is for states rights, except when he's against them.

    The decision may not bode well for the other big class action under the Court's consideration, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the nation's largest ever employment discrimination class action, and threatens to reach even further.

    One potential result could be that virtually no consumer or employee cases involving small claims get heard anywhere. Many states have consumer protections laws that have deemed provisions banning class actions as unconscionable. But in finding those laws preempted the Roberts Court has effectively given the green light to business to force consumers to sign away rights as part of doing business.

    Source;
    http://www.care2.com/causes/civil-ri...-another-blow/

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Flexible future: Forget the iPhone, here's the smartphone made out of 'paper' that will shape with your pocket

    By Daily Mail Reporter

    Last updated at 10:10 AM on 6th May 2011

    * The PaperPhone's flexible display makes it more portable that any current mobile computer

    In an industry where unbreakable and smaller are best, the world's first interactive paper computer looks set to dominate for years to come.

    The PaperPhone has a flexible electronic display that is set to herald a new generation of computers.

    Extremely lightweight and made out of a thin-film, the prototype device can do everything a smartphone currently does.

    Its display consists of a 9.5cm diagonal, thin-film flexible E Ink display.

    The flexible form of the display makes it much more portable that any current mobile computer - it will shape with your pocket.

    Being able to store and interact with documents on larger versions of these light, flexible computers means offices will no longer require paper or printers.

    'The paperless office is here,' said Dr Vertegaal. 'Everything can be stored digitally and you can place these computers on top of each other just like a stack of paper, or throw them around the desk.'

    Dr Vertegaal will officially unveil his paper computer on Tuesday at the Association of Computing Machinery's Computer Human Interaction 2011 conference in Vancouver.

    Arm-band: The device uses no power when nobody is interacting with it


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl-qy...layer_embedded




    Source;
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencete...pe-pocket.html

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    This may be a game changer. As with all these stories i always think: If we had spent the money we squander to little effect in Iraq and Afghanistan, where would we be today in the Green Transition?

    The results described in this report have been published in: The American Chemical Society's Nano Letters journal.

    Thanks to Damien Broderick, PhD.

    ***********

    New type of rechargeable battery – just add water



    The mixing entropy battery could be used to build power plants at estuaries where fresh water rivers join the ocean (Image: NASA)

    By Alan Brandon
    May 5, 2011

    Scientists at Stanford have developed a battery that uses nanotechnology to create electricity from the difference in salt content between fresh water and sea water. The researchers hope to use the technology to create power plants where fresh-water rivers flow into the ocean. The new "mixing entropy" battery alternately immerses its electrodes in river water and sea water to produce the electrical power.

    Making electricity from the difference in salinity (the amount of salt) in fresh water and sea water is not a new concept. We've previously covered salinity power technology, and Norway's Statkraft has built a working prototype power plant. But the Stanford team, led by associate professor of materials science and engineering Yi Cui, believes their method is more efficient, and can be built more cheaply.

    Other fresh/salt water power plants work by releasing energy through osmosis (the passing of solvent molecules through a membrane). The Stanford team's approach harnesses entropic energy from the interaction of the fresh water and salt water with the battery's electrodes.

    The mixing entropy battery works by exchanging the electrolyte (a liquid that contains ions or electrically charged particles – in this case water) between when the battery is charged and when it is discharged. The ions in water are sodium and chlorine, which are the elements of ordinary table salt. The saltier the water is, the more sodium and chlorine ions there are, and the more voltage that can be produced.

    The battery is first filled with fresh water and charged. Then the fresh water is swapped out for salt water. Because salt water has 60 to 100 times more ions than fresh water, the electrical potential is increased and the battery can discharge at a higher voltage, providing more electricity.

    After the battery is discharged, the salt water is drained and fresh water is added to begin the cycle again.

    To enhance the efficiency of the battery, the positive electrode is made from nanoscale rods of manganese dioxide. The negative electrode is made of silver. The design of the nanorods provides about 100 times more surface area for interaction with the sodium ions compared to other materials, and allow the ions to move in and out of the electrode more easily. The Stanford team reports a 74 percent efficiency in converting the potential energy in the battery to electricity. Cui believes that with further development the battery could achieve up to 85 percent efficiency.

    The Stanford team has calculated that with 50 cubic meters (more than 13,000 gallons) of fresh water per second, a power plant based on this technology could produce up to 100 megawatts of power. That is enough electricity to support about 100,000 households.



    The mixing entropy battery alternately immerses its electrodes in fresh water and salt water to produce electricity


    While salt water is plentiful in the ocean, the volume of fresh water required suggests that a good location for a mixing entropy battery power plant would be where a river flows into the ocean. Because river deltas and estuaries are sensitive environments, the Stanford team designed their battery to have minimal ecological impact. The system would detour some of a river's flow to produce power, before returning the water to the ocean. The discharge water would be a mix of river water and sea water, and released into an area where the two waters already meet.

    In fact, the fresh water doesn't have to come from a river. Cui says that storm runoff, gray water, or even treated sewage water could potentially be used. As an added benefit, the mixing entropy process can be reversed to produce drinking water by removing salt from ocean water.

    The Stanford scientists are currently working on modifications to get the battery ready for commercial production. For example, the silver electrode is very expensive, and they hope to develop a cheaper alternative. Because the mixing entropy battery is simple to make and produces energy efficiently, the team hopes that their technology can become a significant source of renewable energy in the future.

    Source;
    http://www.gizmag.com/rechargeable-b...eawater/18565/

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    Default Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Hmmm...of course this is an estimate...

    ***********

    North America Settled by Just 70 People, Study Concludes



    Live Science
    http://www.livescience.com/289-north...concludes.html

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    whether this is really going to matter in the big scheme of events - U. S. citizens are currently faces...i still find this disturbing and alarming.

    ***********

    "The contempt in which conservatives hold ordinary folk, expressed as an attempt to limit their ability to vote, is breathtaking in the second decade of the 21st century. I grew up in Virginia with its poll tax, designed as this is, to keep African-Americans from voting. It was wrong then. It is wrong now."
    SA Schwartz

    ***********


    REPORT: In 22 Statehouses Across The Country, Conservatives Move To Disenfranchise Voters


    http://thinkprogress.org/2011/03/05/...ement-schemes/
    Last edited by giovonni; 12th May 2011 at 19:47.

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Please note that this piece is fully sourced and URLs are provided to back up the facts -- and we are dealing here with facts. See this as an expression of ultimate contempt by the social psychosis placing profit above all. The task of the 21st century is going to be how to permit the benefits of the profit system while, as the same time, placing human values first.

    ***********

    GM soy destroying children

    Thursday, May 12, 2011 by: Kaitlyn Moore

    NaturalNews) Soy, once touted as a medical miracle, has been outed. Ninety-one percent of the soy we consume is tainted by the filth of the GMO machine, literally the most quietly kept epidemic of our lifetime. Soy makes up a large portion of the diet for the chickens, pigs, and cows some of us eat. Even the vegetarian/vegan community is exposed as a number of meat substitutes list soy as a main ingredient. Soy and soybean oil have wiggled their way into a wide array of processed foods including salad dressings, peanut butter, tamari, mayonnaise, crackers, baby formula, baked good mixes, textured vegetable protein, and the list goes on. So unless you are eating an organic version of any of the above, there is a good chance you are exposing yourself to GMO soy.

    Genetically engineered crops are destroying the environment, the health of indigenous communities, and ultimately our health as end of the chain consumers. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has reported a number of studies. Their results? Frightening. Think major issues like infertility (http://www.responsibletechnology.or...), immune problems, accelerated aging, and even changes in the cellular structure of major organs (http://www.responsibletechnology.org/). Also, as a result of the antibiotic resistant genes within GE food, they are the highly suspected culprits behind the new "superbug." The animals involved in the studies ended up deformed, sterile, and dead.

    Children are the most susceptible to these harmful effect, since they are constantly in a state of high growth; parents should take care. GMO foods, and especially soy, have been tied to an increase in allergies, asthma, and a propensity to get antibiotic resistant infections.

    None of this would surprise any of the individuals in various South America countries that live near GM crops. South America is the world's largest provider of soy (http://www.naturalnews.com/031382_G...).

    A recent story in the UK Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/ea...) revealed that the herbicides used on GM soy are so toxic that direct contact often results in severe illness and sometimes death. Petrona Villasboa is one of those that has faced direct loss. Her son was accidenatlly sprayed by one of the machines that are often spraying Monsanto's Roundup on the surrounding crops. Silvino Talavera died that same day - and it was a horrible death (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/ea...). That's not all - Non GMO farmers are being displaced, and those that stay run a calculated risk. Mothers living close to GM farmland are twice as likely to have a fetus with a birth deformity.

    The industry doesn't want this information out there. Monsanto provides over 90 percent of GMO soy seeds and related herbicides to farmers worldwide (http://www.smdp.com/Articles-c-2011...).

    Agent Orange was one of Monsanto's first herbicides and the resulting effect to U.S soldiers and Vietnamese citizens was reprehensible( http://www.organicconsumers.org/mon...).

    Scientist who push to hard to get a widespread scientific inquiry about the devastating effects of GE foods have had subtle and not-so-subtle pressure applied and been forced to back off their findings (http://www.responsibletechnology.or...).

    Just as efforts are underway to assist these farmers in seeing the benefits of growing organic food as a means of survival and commerce, the end consumer must also make a change. Soy purchases must be viewed in a whole new light. The best way to protect your family from these potential harmful effects is to remove it from your diet or stick to strictly organic soy and organic processed foods.

    for more on this subject-
    Source
    http://www.naturalnews.com/032370_GM_soy_children.html

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    This is what the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld policy of creating and utilizing mercenary forces has loosed upon the world. It's been done before, and does not end well. Think late Roman empire.

    ***********

    Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder


    Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has a new project.

    Story here;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/wo...pagewanted=all

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    Question Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    There is a correlation between conservative religious beliefs and spousal abuse, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, literacy, and educational level. Now here is the not surprising data showing that the willful ignorance of the Religious Right also correlates with its failure to find financial success. Rather than examine this it is much easier to strike out with anti-semitism, racism, and resentment. This is part of what drives the Tea Party.

    ***********

    Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?

    By DAVID LEONHARDT
    Published: May 11, 2011

    The economic differences among the country’s various religions are strikingly large, much larger than the differences among states and even larger than those among racial groups.

    The most affluent of the major religions — including secularism — is Reform Judaism. Sixty-seven percent of Reform Jewish households made more than $75,000 a year at the time the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life collected the data, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.

    On the other end are Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baptists. In each case, 20 percent or fewer of followers made at least $75,000. Remarkably, the share of Baptist households making $40,000 or less is roughly the same as the share of Reform Jews making $100,000 or more. Overall, Protestants, who together are the country’s largest religious group, are poorer than average and poorer than Catholics. That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.

    Many factors are behind the discrepancies among religions, but one stands out. The relationship between education and income is so strong that you can almost draw a line through the points on this graph. Social science rarely produces results this clean.

    What about the modest outliers — like Unitarians, Buddhists and Orthodox Christians, all of whom are less affluent than they are educated (and are below the imaginary line)? One possible explanation is that some religions are more likely to produce, or to attract, people who voluntarily choose lower-paying jobs, like teaching.

    Another potential explanation is discrimination. Scott Keeter of Pew notes that researchers have used more sophisticated versions of this sort of analysis to look for patterns of marketplace discrimination. And a few of the religions that make less than their education would suggest have largely nonwhite followings, including Buddhism and Hinduism. Pew also created a category of traditionally black Protestant congregations, and it was somewhat poorer than could be explained by education levels. These patterns don’t prove discrimination, but they raise questions.

    Some of the income differences probably stem from culture. Some faiths place great importance on formal education. But the differences are also self-reinforcing. People who make more money can send their children to better schools, exacerbating the many advantages they have over poorer children. Round and round, the cycle goes. It won’t solve itself.




    Source;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/ma...tiny.html?_r=2

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    Unhappy Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    There is no question our social programing has taken its toll...one sees it even here on this forum.
    "Another facet of the growing failure in the U.S. to create a nurturing environment for the next generation."


    ***********

    Studied:
    Rejection May Hurt More Than Feelings



    New research suggests rejection's sting is more like physical pain was understood.

    By PAMELA PAUL
    Published: May 13, 2011

    THE GIST Being socially rejected doesn’t just feel bad. It hurts.

    THE SOURCE “Social Rejection Shares Somatosensory Representations With Physical Pain,” by Ethan F. Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith and Tor D. Wager; published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    NOBODY would deny that being ostracized on the playground, mocked in a sales meeting or broken up with over Twitter feels bad. But the sting of social rejection may be more like the ouch! of physical pain than previously understood.

    New research suggests that the same areas in the brain that signify physical pain are activated at moments of intense social loss. “When we sat around and thought about the most difficult emotional experiences, we all agreed that it doesn’t get any worse than social rejection,” said the study’s lead author, Ethan F. Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

    The image of a bunch of social scientists inflicting pain on laboratory volunteers seems creepily Mengelian, but in this case the experiments involved were markedly less cruel. First off, the subjects weren’t socially rejected by the laboratory technicians — each of the 40 volunteers was recruited specifically because he or she felt intensely rejected as a result of a recent (unwanted) breakup.

    Once in the lab, participants were hooked up to functional M.R.I. scanners, which measure brain activity. They were then asked to look at photos of their former lovers and brood over a specific rejection experience involving that person. (Sob.) Later, they were asked to look at a photograph of a friend and to think about a recent positive experience they had with that person.

    On to more fun! Next was the physical pain component, also in two parts. First, participants experienced noxious thermal stimulation on their left forearms (the “hot trial”), simulating the experience of spilling hot coffee on themselves. Then, they underwent a second, nonnoxious thermal stimulation (the “warm trial”). Technicians monitored their brain activity to see which areas lighted up.

    Lo and behold, bad breakups and hot coffee elicited a similar response in the brain, at least as measured by fMRI machines.

    Previous research had shown that while social rejection hurt, it did not activate parts of the brain associated with physical distress. But this team found that when the emotional pain was awful enough, those parts of the brain were affected as well, and in equal part. According to the authors, the emotional pain simulated in previous experiments (being told a stranger dislikes them, looking at rejection-themed paintings) wasn’t powerful enough to elicit a true-to-life response. “We were shocked because no prior research had demonstrated this same connection,” Dr. Kross said.

    What the team doesn’t yet know is what region of the body feels the physical pain or whether it’s diffused. And while people have long taken painkillers to cope with emotional distress, there’s no telling, in this instance, whether a Tylenol can help.



    Source;
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/fa...er=rss&emc=rss
    Last edited by giovonni; 17th May 2011 at 19:45.

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    Exclamation Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    With an estimated 40 million Americans without any health insurance this not a healthy trend...

    ***********

    "This is the latest report on what the Illness Profit System has wrought in America. And once again you can see clearly the choice to place profit above national health, expressed in all these individual cases. It's not hard to see why the World Health Organization rates us as 37th in the world for quality of healthcare."


    Study: Third of hospital ERs have closed over past 20 years



    By Mary Brophy Marcus, USA TODAY

    Close to a third of emergency departments closed shop over the past two decades, a new study shows.

    From 1990 to 2009, the number of hospital emergency departments in non-rural areas in the USA declined by 27%, according to a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

    "That's a hefty number, and more than I expected," says study author Renee Hsia, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.

    Hsia says she and colleagues did a "survival analysis," much like researchers do for breast cancer patients. "In our study, we used the ER as the patient," says Hsia.

    They found that the number of emergency departments dropped from 2,446 to 1,779 — an average of 89 closings per year. The figure included only non-rural locations since those in rural areas generally receive special funding from federal sources.

    Hsia says researchers wanted to examine the factors that led to closings. "Certain hospitals are at higher risk for losing their ERs than others," she says. ERs shut down were more likely to:

    •Have low profit margins;

    •Serve patient below the poverty level;

    •Serve patients with poorer forms of insurance, including Medicaid;

    •Be in for-profit hospitals;

    •Be in more competitive markets;

    Emergency experts aren't surprised by the shrinking ER trend.

    "It isn't shocking. Health care is a business and certainly health care parallels the course of small business needing larger corporate affiliations to survive," says Carl Ramsay, chairman of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City.

    Hsia says it's very concerning that during the same period of time that number of ERs has decreased, there's been a 35% increase in ER visits.

    "The demand for care has increased and has rapidly outpaced our supply. They're going in opposite directions," she says. Other studies show that the more crowded emergency departments become, the less able they are to give optimal care, and remain America's health care "safety net," she says.

    It's a myth that ERs are sucking the healthcare system dry, says Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "About 92% of patients who come to ERs have to be there. So you're not going to get the money you need by closing emergency departments," Schneider says. She says studies show only 2% of total healthcare costs occur in emergency medicine, while treating obesity-related illnesses is linked to about 20% of costs, and hospital readmission rates are linked to about 15%.

    "The ER is the bird's eye perspective of the whole healthcare system. If we really want a better system, not just band-aid solutions, we need to look at how to simplify the way we pay for health care," says Hsia.

    Source;
    http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/hea...osing-US_n.htm
    Last edited by giovonni; 19th May 2011 at 02:47.

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    Lightbulb Re: From futurist Stephan A. Schwartz - Trends That Will Affect Your Future …

    Here is some more good news; it's a story from a several months ago, but I missed it, and the trend it represents is growing, although still somewhat problematic. This is the antipode to Monsanto's approach to agriculture.

    ***********

    The new black gold?

    Biochar - charcoal derived from burning plants - can boost crop yields and help fight climate change.



    Experiments around the world have convinced soil
    scientist Johannes Lehmann of biochar's benefits.

    by Andrew Tolve

    In the summer of 2002, scientist and entrepreneur Danny Day sent a lab assistant to retrieve some charcoal from behind Day’s lab in Blakely, Georgia. At the time, he was researching how to turn peanut shells into hydrogen for the U.S. Department of Energy. He regularly used charcoal to preheat the reactor. When his assistant returned, he came bearing strange news: Plants had taken root in the bed of charcoal—weeds, grass, turnips as big as baseballs, enough to fill four garbage bags.

    How had turnips sprouted from a pile of charcoal? Day wondered.

    Charcoal is easy to make. Take biomass like wood, leaves and grass clippings, and burn it in an oxygen-free setting until all that remains is a bit of ash and a bunch of carbon. Typically, the carbon is released into the atmosphere when charcoal is burned. But if you buried the charcoal instead, the carbon would remain safely captured. And if charcoal helps turnips grow as big as baseballs, there might be a very good reason to bury it.

    Such was Day’s thinking as he rushed behind his lab with a sample bag, a -microscope and a digital camera. In the eight years since that moment, “biochar”—charcoal deliberately buried to bolster crops and sequester carbon—has heated up the climate change debate.

    Universities are researching the concept, and entrepreneurs are launching startups with millions of dollars of private investment. People like former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson talk up biochar’s potential to offset the combined carbon outputs of all planes, cars and buses, while critics warn of unintended side effects.

    “This began with nothing, zero, just a pile of charcoal,” Day says, “and now it’s all over the world. It’s wonderful.”

    I traveled to meet Day at a lab in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, where he was running analytical tests on various biochar feedstocks. His main piece of equipment had just broken down, but that didn’t dampen his spirits. “This might not end up being very big,” he says of biochar in his lyrical, ironic Southern drawl. “It could be like, you know, just another Internet.”

    Day has reason to think big. Studies suggest biochar is excellent at retaining moisture and thus, when buried, operates as a sort of emergency reservoir, taking in and holding what water is available. Microbes love the oils in biochar, so it stimulates microbial activity and stabilizes nutrients. As an added bonus, biochar can replace nitrogen fertilizers that release nitrous oxide, a chemical compound with a greenhouse effect 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide. The net impact is sequestered carbon and higher crop yields.

    Results like this have stimulated activity all across the private sector. Some startups are creating biochars that could replace or complement traditional fertilizers, targeting everything from wheat, soybeans and sugarcane to fruit, vegetables and palm oils. Many companies are hunkered down in “stealth mode,” racing for first-to-market advantage, according to David Shearer, co-founder of the biochar enterprise Full Circle Solutions in San Francisco. “This is potentially a $50 billion industry. If you factor in the agriculture benefits, the soil restoration -benefits, the carbon benefits and the -energy -benefits, it’s a huge number.”

    Full Circle believes there’s a range of opportunities for its products, including in environments with degraded soil. “Biochar has the most significant impact on soils in severe need of restoration,” says Shearer. “We can take the world soil base from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, identify where the soils are in the worst shape, and by adding our biochar products, dramatically increase crop yields to meet the planet’s food needs.”

    Other startups make the machines that manufacture biochar, known as pyrolysis units. Loaded with biomass, pyrolysis units not only produce biochar but also heat, which can be used locally, and oil that can be refined for transportation.

    “Two-thirds of this planet’s population lives off the grid,” says Thomas Harttung, an organic farmer and founder of the biochar firm Black Carbon in Denmark, “and there are hundreds of thousands of diesel engines out there producing electricity locally, very inefficiently, with great pollution and at great cost. So there’s a huge demand for substitutes for fossil fuels in electricity generation, and we see this as a promising way to do it.”

    Harttung wants to produce pyrolysis units and distribute them in the developing world—“dropped in by parachute if need be,” he insists—to provide clean, locally produced power.

    Carbonscape, a startup in New Zealand, is making biochar by way of industrial-scale microwaves, and Biochar Engineering, a startup based in Golden, Colorado, plans to release a commercial pyrolysis unit this summer. Given the commercial interest, Day is advising, startups and municipalities on how to implement biochar programs in local communities.

    On the tables in Day’s Marietta lab lie shards of corn stover from Iowa, bamboo from China, tan-tan from the Virgin Islands and peanut shells and pine wood from Georgia. Day’s ultimate goal is to create a vast network of local biochar programs employing local workers and using local biomass to sequester carbon, increase local crop yields and provide energy to the region.

    “Think of all the different biomass that can be turned into biochar,” Day says. “We can set up revenue models for processing organic waste that are actually profitable for cities. If we’re trying to sequester carbon, the way to do it is to extract the energy value and then take the fixed carbon back to the ground in a form that nature can use.”

    Burying charcoal for its agricultural benefits is not, in fact, an entirely new concept. For years, scientists assumed the Amazon basin had wretched soil conditions because the rainforest stored all the nutrients up in the canopy. Archeologists believed the Amazon had never supported a fully developed agrarian civilization.

    But in the late 1800s, they began to uncover beds of deep, dark, nutrient-rich soil that teemed with healthy microbial activity. A hundred years later, scientists realized these pockets of rich soil—called terra preta, or “dark earth”—were not a fluke of nature but the remnants of a vibrant civilization that had discovered the beauty of biochar.

    “If you live and work on soils in the Amazon, you can’t help but notice the terra preta,” says Johannes Lehmann, a soil scientist who has worked on the issue of depleted soils in South America. “So we said, Okay, if there is a lot of charcoal carbon in these soils, let’s try to put -charcoal into soils today and see what it does to soil fertility.” Lehmann’s subsequent greenhouse and field experiments have created a buzz among soil scientists and environmental engineers.

    Upward of 10 American universities are experimenting with biochar. In 2009, the University of Edinburgh in Scotland launched the U.K. Biochar Research Centre. That same year, New Zealand’s Massey University did the same with the New Zealand Biochar Research Center. Lehmann is now at Cornell University, where he serves as chairman of the International Biochar Initiative and orchestrates research projects worldwide.

    In Kenya, he’s mapping out how much biomass local farmers have, how they use it, what biomass is best for making biochar, how local women respond to biochar stoves, what sort of emissions these stoves produce and how biochar impacts local crops. The goal: to understand the scientific and social impact of biochar before products hit the market.

    Not everyone is convinced that biochar is a climate crisis game-changer. “There have been many incidences in the past where people have gotten into a lot of hype and ended up making a bigger problem than there was before,” says K.C. Das, director of the Biorefining and Carbon Cycling Program at the University of Georgia. “We’re not in that business. I like the hype, but I want to be realistic, too. Biochar will only work if it is environmentally sustainable and has economic benefits. At this point, I don’t think we’ve solved both of those problems.”

    Das was speaking alongside his char maker in Athens, Georgia, where I traveled from Marietta for a tour of his lab, nestled in rolling farmland on the outskirts of town. The day I was there, Das had filled the char-maker—a large-scale batch pyrolysis unit beside a down-draft gasifier, in biochar jargon—with wood chips and was heating them to the boiling point. Das planned to send the resulting char to soil scientists to test how its chemistry -impacted soil.

    “The temperatures [in the pyrolysis unit], what biomass you use, what carrier gas you use, heating rates—all these variables affect the char in subtle ways that are not very well defined and not well understood,” Das explains. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

    Critics are wary of biochar precisely because so much has yet to be figured out. Last April, when 11 African nations approached the UN to consider biochar as an official offset for emissions, 143 non-profit groups protested that it was a “charred earth policy.” These groups worry that burying biochar amounts to a major climate intervention with unknown, and potentially disastrous, repercussions. “The evidence of [biochar] working at any scale really isn’t there,” says Almuth Ernsting, co-director of the non-profit Biofuelwatch. “There’s a complete lack of long- or medium-term field studies that look at impacts on soil -fertility.”

    Critics like Ernsting point to several specific concerns. For one, theoretical models of biochar adoption assume that all char will be successfully buried in the ground. But several studies indicate that as much as 30 percent of biochar is lost into the atmosphere during transportation and application, as well as during storms as windblown dust. Black carbon in the atmosphere has a larger greenhouse effect than CO2, Ernsting notes.

    A second concern is that subsidized biochar will put pressure on biomass, and companies may begin to grow and cut down trees exclusively for the production of biochar and the carbon credits that come with it. Carbonscape, the New Zealand startup, has proposed one such -tree-farming model.

    “Where the market goes from here depends on whether enough policymakers believe claims made about biochar enough to incentivize commercialization,” says Ernsting. “There is definitely a case for studying the role of charcoals in soils. But this is not ready to be commercialized.”

    James Bruges, author of The Biochar Debate, agrees that biochar has its risks. “If you are producing the charcoal in order to earn carbon credits, it can lead to all sorts of distortions,” he says. “The danger is that if you concentrate on the crops that capture the most carbon, companies would buy out the small-scale farmer and just plant monocultures on a large scale.”

    Bruges, who works with the Indian non-profit Social Change and Development, has seen firsthand some of the complexities of making biochar a reality. In 2008, biochar helped banana farmers in southern India double their yields while halving their water use. But since then, the cost of local biochar has increased due to demand, local women have proven reluctant to use biochar cooking stoves, the introduction of larger pyrolysis units is mired in delays and organizers fear widespread use won’t happen unless the government subsidizes biochar or doles out carbon credits for its use.

    Despite setbacks like these, Bruges still describes biochar as “the one technology that can save us.” Of course, it is unlikely that any single technology on its own can counter all the effects of climate change. But if its early promise pans out, biochar could become a crucial tool for sequestering carbon and repairing the planet’s degraded soils.

    Andrew Tolve typed this story with fingers stained black by biochar.

    Source;
    http://www.odemagazine.com/doc/71/biochar-black-gold/

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