More weekend NYT highlights, chosen by David Lindsay

More weekend NYT highlights,  chosen by David Lindsay

Eliza Blue took my breath away with her piece, Our Unstable Industrialized Food Chain. She wrote:

“Smithfield is near the end of the food supply chain; we are where it begins. On our drought-prone side of the state, where ruminants outnumber humans, there are no processing plants, just grass — vast, luminous expanses of grass — with intricate root structures that grow thick and deep.

There are still custom butcher shops scattered across the hundreds of miles of open pasture, small mom-and-pop operations, remnants of a system that used to connect rural economies to the food they were producing. Now nearly all animals raised here are shipped elsewhere — to feedlots to be grain-fattened, and then to gargantuan facilities like Smithfield to be slaughtered.

I know some ranchers who are working to change this system, but many more lack the financial or political clout to innovate beyond the scope of their own operations. We are part of an industrialized system that treats animals and their caretakers as columns on spreadsheets geared toward achieving maximum profit. These columns ignore the physical realities of labor in animal husbandry, as well the dignity of the animals we husband, while saddling us with debt and draining resources from our rural communities.” Eliza Blue  prayed for a more humane animal husbandry. https://nyti.ms/3d4PRvV

 

Gina Kolata writes in One Way Back to Normal Life,  “The researchers, Dr. Mette Kalager and Dr. Michael Bretthauer, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Oslo, do not suggest randomizing individuals, as is done in studies of experimental drugs, but rather randomizing regions like similar school districts in adjacent towns.

To test whether it was safe to open schools, they envision what is called rapid-cycle randomization, in which measures are quickly evaluated and adjusted as data emerge.

In the first cycle, schools in one district would remain closed while those in another would reopen carefully with, for example, half the usual number of students and with six-foot social distancing in place. Students and teachers in both districts would be tested for the coronavirus at the start and end of the cycle. Each cycle could last between 10 days and two weeks, accounting for a viral incubation period of four to five days.

If the careful reopening did not result in increased transmission of the virus, the study would advance to the second stage: Schools in one district would open with half the normal number of students and six-foot social distancing while those in the other would have three-quarters of the normal number of students and maintain just three feet of social distancing.

If there were no increased transmission, the third phase would compare that less restrictive setting with a full, unrestricted reopening.

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In the best-case scenario — no increased transmission — all schools could open after three to six weeks.” https://nyti.ms/3fg6dDJ

 

Brett McGurk’s haunting piece, The Father I Never Forgave,  made me pause, and I wrote the following note to myself: “I should write the story of my life and the stormy relationship with my father.”  My father was a great man in the law and politics, but also an alcoholic and a dead beat dad. I was blessed to have a marvelous reconciliation with him shortly before he died prematurely of cancer.  https://nyti.ms/2SxioCC

 

Last but not least, Nicholas Kristof writes, A Young Doctor, Fighting For His Life:

“Dr. Andres Maldonado normally bounded into the Emergency Department, fit and vigorous, but this time he had to be escorted in, pale and fighting for breath, with a patient bracelet on his right wrist. A nurse, seeing her colleague struggle, burst into tears.

Maldonado was 27, a third-year resident physician with no underlying medical conditions. When he came down with a fever on March 23, he called in sick. Soon he developed a tightness in his chest and tested positive for the coronavirus.

At first he resisted the idea of seeking treatment. He was by nature stoical; in youth soccer games, other boys had crumpled when injured, but Maldonado always got up and limped through his pain. Now as a doctor — a badass emergency doctor, he jokingly called himself — he was humiliated by the thought of becoming a patient.

But on March 31, so out of breath he could barely get to the bathroom, he called his older brother, Nestor, also an emergency physician, who remembers panic in Andres’s voice.

“It hurts to breathe,” Andres told his brother. “My body aches all over. I’ve been having really bad fevers, and I’m getting, like, dizzy.”

“Yo,” his brother ordered him, “get your butt to the E.R.”

Maldonado called his parents to say that he was going to the hospital. His dad, Jose Maldonado, was a refugee from the civil war in El Salvador who started life over as a dishwasher in New York. His mom, Cecilia Aguilar-Maldonado, came from Ecuador, and both were undocumented for a time — yet they sent both sons through medical school. The parents were the first of many to be devastated by their son’s sickness. https://nyti.ms/3f9cr8F

Op-Ed: Coronavirus shows animal and human health are inseparable – By VIVECA MORRIS – Los Angeles Times

“About two-thirds of emerging infectious diseases in humans — including COVID-19, SARS, MERS, Ebola, HIV, Zika, H1N1, cholera and almost all recent epidemics — came from animals. And 70% of those originated in wildlife.

Pathogens have leaped from animals to humans for eons, but the pace of this spillover has increased rapidly over the last century. As 7.8 billion people on this planet radically alter ecosystems and raise, capture and trade animals at an unprecedented scale, “the road from animal microbe to human pathogen” has turned into a “highway,” as the journalist Sonia Shah has written.

The growing body of scientific research is clear: Diseases like COVID-19 are an expected consequence of how we’re choosing to treat animals and their habitats.

By changing the nature and frequency of human-animal interactions, our actions — through the wildlife trade, deforestation, land conversion, industrial animal farming, the burning of fossil fuels, and more — propel the emergence and transmission of novel and known human infectious diseases.”

Source: Op-Ed: Coronavirus shows animal and human health are inseparable – Los Angeles Times

Everything You Need to Know About Chocolate – By Melissa Clark – The New York Times

“You probably think you already know everything you need to know about chocolate.

For instance: The higher the percentage of cacao, the more bitter the chocolate, right? The term “single origin” on the label indicates that the chocolate expresses a particular terroir. And wasn’t the whole bean-to-bar movement started by a couple of bearded guys in Brooklyn?

Wrong; not necessarily; and definitely not.

Americans spend $21 billion on chocolate every year, but just because we eat a lot of it doesn’t mean we know what we’re eating. And misunderstandings at the store can make it especially hard for chocolate lovers to figure out which of the myriad, jauntily wrapped bars crowding the shelves are the best to buy, in terms of both taste and ethics.”

“. . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . But while creativity and technical acuity in chocolate making have blossomed, ethical and environmental concerns still plague the supply chain. Despite a 20-year effort to battle the systemic poverty, child labor and deforestation endemic to the industry, those problems may actually be getting worse.

It might seem a lot to think about as you choose your Valentine’s Day chocolates, but here are answers to some basic questions you may not even know you had.”

“. . . . It’s a similar story with environmental impact. In 2017, 34 chocolate companies agreed to end deforestation by their industry. But according to a 2018 report by the environmental group Mighty Earth, cacao production was still ravishing forests, and the animals living within them, at an alarming rate.

Even when the industry does act, efforts from the top down can fail to take root. Both child labor and deforestation are part of the daily realities of the systemic poverty afflicting West Africa, said Kristy Leissle, a founder of the Cocoapreneurship Institute of Ghana and author of the 2018 book “Cocoa.”

To truly improve the lives of farmers and their families, Dr. Leissle said, the farmers need to be included in the conversation. “The current initiatives have been imposed on Africa from European and North American people who are not engaged in the daily labor of cocoa farming,” she said. “The solutions need to come from within the cocoa industry in Africa. That’s where the expertise is.”

Cacao, a shade-tolerant plant, can be grown under the forest canopy without drastic clearing. And when grown in a sustainable manner, it can have a low carbon footprint.”

Opinion | The Parable of the Sick Pig and the Lonely Rooster – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

“NASHVILLE — John Chester’s lovely new documentary film, “The Biggest Little Farm,” opens with a tragedy in the making: Wildfires are moving toward the farm from three different directions. A horse whinnies in alarm as workers rush to shepherd a storybook cast of farm animals — chickens, pigs, sheep, cows — toward what they hope will be safer pastures. Sirens wail in the distance. Smoke and ash fill the air.

It’s a sobering opening for a feel-good film about a young California couple who leave their day jobs to become organic farmers. “Everyone told us this idea was crazy, that attempting to farm in harmony with nature would be reckless, if not impossible,” Mr. Chester says in a voice-over. But it wasn’t impossible: After the opening sequence, the film backtracks to tell the story of how Mr. Chester, a documentary filmmaker, and Molly Chester, a personal chef, managed to turn 200 acres of worn-out, arid land 40 miles north of Los Angeles into an agricultural paradise called Apricot Lane Farms.

As “The Biggest Little Farm” unfolds, the Chesters hire Alan York, an expert in biodynamic farming practices, to teach them traditional methods that will restore their land to true fertility, no chemicals required. Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil and sequester rainwater, preventing runoff and holding the topsoil in place. Sheep graze among the cover crops, leaving behind fertilizer for the soil. A giant worm-composting facility produces more fertilizer for the gardens and orchards. It’s breathtaking, all the ways the Chesters have found to ensure that every animal on the farm contributes to the health of the crops, and to ensure that the crops can sustain the farm animals while still producing enough fruits and vegetables to sell at market. And all of it works in concert with the wildlife that soon returns to the newly restored ecosystem.

I won’t give away the film’s genuine drama by revealing too many details, but it’s not a spoiler to point out that there’s a reason industrial farms typically use enormous amounts of chemicals: Attempting to farm in harmony with nature means that nature will sometimes get the upper hand, at least at first. “I guess I don’t know what Alan’s idea of a ‘perfect harmony’ is even supposed to look like,” Mr. Chester laments midway through the film. “Because every step we take to improve our land seems to just create the perfect habitat for the next pest.”

How Often Should Cats Get a Distemper Shot? – Pets

Booster ShotsWhether your now-grown cat received his first FVRCP shots as a kitten or an adult, he’ll need a booster one year after the initial series and then another booster every three years. If your cat spends time outside or otherwise comes in contact with a lot of strange felines, your vet might recommend an annual booster. The FVRCP is considered a core vaccine, along with rabies shots, meaning it’s recommended for all cats. Your vet gives the FVRCP injection in the right front leg. If your cat develops a rare vaccine-related cancer called fibrosarcoma at the injection site, the leg can be amputated to save his life. An intranasal vaccine is also available.

Source: How Often Should Cats Get a Distemper Shot? – Pets

Rabies vaccines every year? Seriously? Every 3 years new rule! – m.petmd.com/blogs/dailyvet/2009

“On the plus side, yearly vaccination is no longer considered a medical necessity. Every three years is now considered sufficient. And this less stringent recommendation may well relax even more in years to come.

Consider, also, that while our government may require rabies vaccines every three years for the protection of public health, individual veterinarians may exempt some pets––temporarily, at least––on the basis of their compromised health.

It’s also the case that testing for the presence of rabies antibodies with a simple blood test called a “rabies titer” is one approach to achieving exemption from additional, potentially unnecessary doses of vaccines in other countries. The U.S. does not yet recognize this test when it comes to replacing the requirement for vaccination.

That’s because the duration of immunity of rabies vaccination has not been completely and irrefutably established by the veterinary community. It’s also because measuring antibody levels through blood testing does not necessarily mean the animal is 100 percent immune to rabies. (Something called “cell immunity” is arguably as or more important than the number of antibodies the immune system brings to bear.)

Yes, it’s true that if your pet has already received a round or two of rabies vaccines, he or she is likely to be protected by antibodies against rabies for his or her entire lifetime. In fact, I received the human version of the rabies vaccine in 1991 and my own antibody levels are still quite high. So why force pets to undergo such frequent vaccines? Are they so biologically different?

Not at all. But you might choose to view things differently if your child were bitten by an animal that had been vaccinated only once … ten years ago, for instance. In the absence of hard science on the subject, human health will always trump animal health in these matters.

Until veterinary science can prove that vaccines last longer than they do, your best bet in the interim is to play it as safe as you can. Make make sure your pet is healthy when vaccinated and only receives his or her rabies shot when administered by a trusted veterinarian whose selection, storage, and handling of the vaccine is likely to adhere to the highest standards of vaccine quality and safety.”

Source: Rabies vaccines every year? Seriously?

I have two adorable and playful orange cats R2 and D2, also nicknamed Atemis and Dexter. Artemis is normal, loving, friendly bird-killing cat, while his brother will not let any human ever come near him, and has refused to come indoors for most of his life here. Getting him caught to go to the vet every year, requires a commando, stealth, psy-ops operation, worthy of its own short story.

I was surprised not to get a card from the vetinarian this year saying they must come in for their annual rabies shot. I looked up on google if these shots are really necessary, and found the article here, that by at least 2009, the rule changed to every three years, with an understanding that might also be overkill. They haven’t bothered to test whether the rabies shot in cats is needed more than once in their life time. I and perhaps some of you have been ripped off I guess, again, by the medical profession.

Warning of ‘Pig Zero’: One Drugmaker’s Push to Sell More Antibiotics – The New York Times

“Facing a surge in drug-resistant infections, the World Health Organization issued a plea to farmers two years ago: “Stop using antibiotics in healthy animals.”

But at last year’s big swine industry trade show, the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, one of the largest manufacturers of drugs for livestock was pushing the opposite message.

“Don’t wait for Pig Zero,” warned a poster featuring a giant picture of a pig peeking through an enormous blue zero, at a booth run by the drugmaker Elanco.

The company’s Pig Zero brochures encouraged farmers to give antibiotics to every pig in their herds rather than waiting to treat a disease outbreak caused by an unknown Patient Zero. It was an appealing pitch for industrial farms, where crowded, germ-prone conditions have led to increasing reliance on drug interventions. The pamphlets also detailed how feeding pigs a daily regimen of two antibiotics would make them fatter and, as any farmer understands, a heavier pig is a more profitable pig.

x
David Lindsay: Excellent article, thank you.
Here is my favorite comment so far:
Ron From Chicago
Chicago

This is a HUGE problem. We will soon be exiting the antibiotic age, and will be back to the same place humans have been most of our existence-completely at the mercy and randomness of not catching a bacterial infection. We have developed one of the most remarkable life-saving advances in human history-antibiotic drugs, and through greed and recklessness have squandered this advantage. Our children will look back on this and curse our collective actions.

2 Replies124 Recommended

Opinion | Make America Graze Again – By Margaret Renkl – The New York Times

Margaret Renkl

By Margaret Renkl

Contributing Opinion Writer

Ewe lambs grazing.CreditWilliam DeShazer for The New York Times

“NASHVILLE — Just past the intersection of Highway 70 and Old Hickory Boulevard, in the Bellevue section of Nashville, stands a tiny patch of native wilderness. Four acres of pristine woodland tucked behind a condominium complex, the Belle Forest Cave Arboretum is a stone’s throw from restaurants, shops and big-box stores. I’ve passed it probably a hundred times over the years with no idea it was there.

Last week, on a drizzly spring afternoon, I found it. The pocket park provides the perfect habitat for a huge range of plant and animal life: In addition to the usual songbirds, mammals, turtles, and wildflowers that can make a home of even the tiniest wooded opportunity, Belle Forest boasts salamanders and tri-colored bats and at least 39 species of trees.

It is also home to a wide range of invasive plants: bush honeysuckle and Chinese privet and a host of others that pose a serious threat to native plants and the wildlife that depends on them. But clearing this densely woven environment of unwanted vegetation, especially without harming native plants, is a challenge: herbicides would poison the creeks, and heavy machinery would dislodge the trees and compact the soil — if machinery could make it up the steep terrain at all.”

No One Is Taking Your Hamburgers. But Would It Even Be a Good Idea? – by Kendra Pierre-Louis – The New York Times

Quote

. . . .    . . .    “The beef with beef
Agriculture was responsible for 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2016, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While the sectors with the most emissions were transportation and electricity generation, at 28 percent each, United States agricultural emissions were still greater than Britain’s total emissions in 2014, according to data from the World Bank.

Cows and other ruminants are responsible for two-thirds of those agricultural emissions. Their guts produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, though it also dissipates faster. Cows release some of that methane through their flatulence, but much more by burping.

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Deer, camels and sheep also produce methane. But in the United States, it’s cows that primarily account for the 26.9 percent of methane emissions, more than any other source. Natural gas accounts for 25 percent.

via No One Is Taking Your Hamburgers. But Would It Even Be a Good Idea? – The New York Times

Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide – EcoWatch

Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide

There is no reason why India should face hunger and malnutrition and why our farmers should commit suicide. India is blessed with the most fertile soils in the world. Our climate is so generous we can, in places, grow four crops in a year—compared to the industrialized west where sometimes only one crop is possible per year. We have the richest biodiversity of the world, both because of our diverse climates and because of the brilliance of our farmers as breeders. Our farmers are among the most hardworking, productive people in the world. Yet India faces an emergency, in our food and agricultural system. This emergency is man-made.

Firstly, the poor and vulnerable are dying for lack of food. According to the Deccan Herald, Lalita S. Rangari, 36, a Dalit widow and mother of two children of the Gondiya tribal belt, allegedly died due to starvation. Justice Bhushan Gavai and Justice Indu Jain of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court have served notice to the government of Maharashtra seeking its reply to the starvation death of a Dalit widow.

Photo credit: Nourishing Revolution”Even as India gets richer, we have emerged as the capital of hunger and malnutrition. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 42.5 percent of children under five years old were underweight. This is more than double the African average of 21 percent, which until recently was the face of hunger.

The second tragedy is that our food producers, the small farmers who have provided food to more than a billion Indians and hold the potential to provide healthy food for all, are themselves dying because of agriculture and trade policies which put corporate profits above the rights and well being of our small farmers. More than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide in India since 1995, when the rules for the globalization of agriculture of the World Trade Organization (WTO) were implemented, transforming food into a commodity, agriculture into corporate business and shifting control over seeds and food from farmers to a handful of giant multinational corporations.

The third tragedy is that even those who get food are being denied their right to healthy and nourishing food. The explosion of junk food, of pesticides and toxics in our food, have created a disease epidemic that is a human tragedy and an economic burden. There is an epidemic of diseases related to our lifestyle and food, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, infertility and cardiovascular diseases.

The recent Maggi noodle scandal highlights the rapid invasion of junk food in the Indian diet. We are what we eat. When we eat food full of toxic chemicals, we pay the price with our health. India has emerged as the epicenter of diabetes.

In 2004, 8.2 lac Indians were diagnosed with diabetes and 2.6 lac succumbed to the disease. In 2012, the diabetes numbers jumped to 180 lac diagnosed and 7 lac dead. In 2010 alone, India spent 32 billion dollars on diabetes care. Cancer has also seen an increase by 30 percent in the last 5 years, with 180 million people affected in India. At 10 lac treatment per cancer victim this multiplies to 300 billion dollars, or 18 lac crores in rupees.

In extensive studies reported in “Poisons In Our Food” by Navdanya, elevated levels of PCBs, DDE and DDT have been found in the blood of women suffering from breast cancer. Studies show that 51 percent of all food commodities are contaminated by pesticides.”

Source: Vandana Shiva: There Is No Reason Why India Should Face Hunger and Farmers Should Commit Suicide – EcoWatch