Links 5/10/09

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Gorilla mums keep family in check BBC

The danger of drugs … and data Ben Goldacre, Guardian. Merck plays nasty.

“Rats Outperform Humans in Interpreting Data” Mark Thoma

Body Weight and the New Normal Paul Kedrosky

Psychologists Are Better Stockmarket Speculators Than Economists jck

A U.S. Hog Giant Transforms Eastern Europe New York Times (hat tip reader Skippy)

The Risks of Denying Reality Michael Panzner

The Credit Card Squeeze New York Times and Are Taxpayers Bailing Out Troubled Banks Twice? ABC

Vanishing Credit Lines for Consumers and Small Businesses Michael Shedlock

The Roots of the Financial Crisis: Who Is to Blame? Public Integrity (hat tip reader Doug)

Hotel industry getting crushed along with CRE Ed Harrison

BTW, Bloomberg yanked a story on Goldman (on how its board lost a shareholder vote) for about 12 hours and then restored it. Go figure.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Independent Accountant

    Some comments on body weight.
    During the Civil War the average Union Soldier was 5′ 7″, 147#, BMI = 23.0; WWII, 5′ 8″, 160#, BMI = 24.3, now 5′ 10″, 190#, BMI = 27.3.
    Women’s dress sizes have gotten larger. Marilyn Monroe at 5′ 5.5″, 117#, BMI = 19.2; wore a 6-8 in the 1950s. 50 years ago there was no such thing as a “00”. In 1960 the average American woman was 5′ 3″, 143#, BMI = 25.3, now 5′ 4.5″, 166#, BMI = 28. Yes, today’s average American woman is overweight. With respect to life span, fertility, etc., I estimate the optimum BMI for women to be 18.5 to 22.5, meaning a 5′ 4.5″ woman should weigh 110 – 133, or she’s 37% overweight. “Normal” keeps changing.
    Similarly, I estimate the optimum BMI for men is 20.5 to 24.5, meaning our 5′ 10″ man should weigh about 157. Anyone remember Rocky Marciano, 1923-1969? The Rock, 5′ 10.5″, 188#, BMI = 26.6, looked like he was made of steel. The average American GI doesn’t.

  2. FO

    Rats outperform humans.

    the discussion stops when at rat scientist comments that the basic premise is faulty.

    rat scientist says…

    sorry to say this, but rats can’t see red. They have no color vision, as we think of them. Many nocturnal animals are that way. Their primary sense is olfaction, not vision. That’s why real scientist use birds (or shape instead of color). I haven’t read the book (don’t want to waste my time), so if they tested with red/green reversed. There are many other trick most people won’t think of to control rat’s behavior. But my point is this. The moment you use red/green as stimuli, you demonstrate that you have absolutely no idea how rat’s behave. If you don’t question it, you reveal your ignorance too.

  3. attempter

    Re the Smithfield story:

    We don’t know yet whether or not this incidence of swine flu originated at a Smithfield factory farm in Mexico (though given the fact that factory farms as such are a clear and present danger to public health, there’s no virtue in being timid about saying any such epidemic could have arisen at such a source, the warning should be taken, and we should eradicate this practice immediately).

    What is not in dispute is the radical socioeconomic aggression of the factory farm. As we see in this article, this is one of the most virulent colonialist practices of globalization.

    And while feudalist greed, government capture, radical concentration of wealth, and lack of economic resiliency and distributedness are nothing new to readers of this blog, I would emphasize that the menace is far more severe where it comes to direct control of the food supply (as opposed to the paper machinations of banks, whose “real world” effects are more indirect).

    The most critical problems America and the world face are food and water. Especially for America and the industrialized world, there is a critical shortage of farmers and depletion of farmland as land is destroyed for unreal things like suburban sprawl and parking lots.

    So whenever we are concerned about concentration of wealth and power, trustification, the hollowing out of economic resiliency, the eradication of all but the biggest producers (and we should be concerned about this at all times), we should first look to the food supply.

    If you’re worried and angry about the big banks and their “Too Big to Fail” protection racket, consider how much worse it will be the day it’s Smithfield, Monsanto, and a handful of other entities achieving complete domination of food production and distribution. Consider what kind of racket you’ll see then.

    That’s the goal they’ve been working toward.

  4. Doc Holiday

    Oddball news;

    Annual Elite Conclave, 58th Bilderberg Meeting to be held in Greece, May 14-17

    The plan is for the Bilderberg Group players, through their allies in Washington and Wall Street to continue to deceive millions of savers and investors who believe the hype…

    Wow, what a scoop!

  5. Doc Holiday

    Skippy, Fellow Americans and Global Surfers,

    I really enjoyed your swine link (Skippy); it helps me see the clear connection between shipping genetic (swine) materials between Romania and Mexico, and then the gap between what The CDC thinks it understands and what global corporations are doing.

    1. Facing more restrictions in the United States, Smithfield took its North Carolina game plan to Poland and Romania, where the company moved nimbly through weak economies and political and regulatory systems.

    2. Smithfield contends that “it is impossible to know” why the pigs got sick, while noting a breakdown in the supply of government-supplied swine flu vaccines. But several officials on both sides of the debate believe that Smithfield was overwhelmed by its own industrial machine and its ever multiplying pigs.

    * I'm thinking wal-mart here for some reason and scale….

    3. In less than five years, Smithfield enlisted politicians in Poland and Romania, tapped into hefty European Union farm subsidies and fended off local opposition groups to create a conglomerate of feed mills, slaughterhouses and climate-controlled barns housing thousands of hogs.
    It moved with such speed that sometimes it failed to secure environmental permits or inform the authorities about pig deaths — lapses that emerged after swine fever swept through three Romanian hog compounds in 2007, two of which were operating without permits.

    4. Genetic enigma
The report also discusses the genetics of the novel virus. It says its eight gene segments include six genes that come from swine flu viruses that have been circulating in North American in recent years. (Those viruses themselves are hybrids described as "triple reassortants," meaning they contain elements from swine, human, and avian flu viruses. The triple-reassortant viruses were identified in 11 human cases identified over the past 3 years, which are described in another NEJM report published today.)
    The other two genes in the novel virus now infecting people trace back to Eurasian swine flu viruses, and experts have no clue when or how they reached North America.
    "Those genes had never been seen in North America before," said Shaw at the news briefing. "There's clearly a gap in the surveillance, because there are no close relatives, no immediate precursors."

    5. Every stage of a hog’s life — from artificial insemination to breeding genetic characteristics — is controlled. A handful of employees tend thousands of hogs that spend their lives entirely indoors, under constant lighting, to spur growth. Sows churn out litters three or four times a year. Within 300 days, a pig weighing roughly 120 kilograms, or 270 pounds, is ready for slaughter.

    Conclusion: Does anyone think that nice lean pigs cloned from Romania are being mixed into the global swine market?

    Also see:

    The deal brings to Viagen ProLinia's technology development contract with the world's largest hog producer, Smithfield Foods, through their Murphy-Brown operations, and the company's premier scientific talent and key intellectual property in the area of advanced reproductive technology.
    Also included in the agreement is ProLinia's non-exclusive license obtained from Geron Corporation to use nuclear transfer technology for agricultural purposes, conveying worldwide rights to clone swine and worldwide rights (excluding Australia and New Zealand) to clone cattle.

    "It's hard to imagine a more attractive partner for ViaGen than ProLinia," said Scott Davis, ViaGen's co-founder and president.

    >> You can also replace swine flu, with TARP, Iraq and the general increase of fascism in America …. it's global, so relax.

  6. Doc Holiday

    Sorry to be a pig with another post, but NakedCapitalism is THE place for meat news:

    U.S. Cloning Industry Awaits FDA Approval: Regulatory approval could catalyze the U.S. cloning industry, but leading firms said growth would come slowly as they battle to win consumers over to the concept of food from cloned animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could issue a final ruling as early as next week that meat and milk from cloned animals poses no special risks to consumers. Mark Walton, president of Texas-based ViaGen, which clones cows and other animals, is hoping the ruling will finally open the door for greater cloning in animal agriculture, stating, “Only after that will the community really open up and begin to embrace it on a larger scale.” The ruling would be good news for proponents of the technology and would presumably bring an end to the voluntary ban on marketing food made from cloned animals or their offspring.

    Re: " meat and milk from cloned animals poses no special risks to consumers"

    No "special risks" but what about unknowns and risks that are sort of not in the models or risks that are not being reported or hidden …. huh, huh?

    Well, they say: "No one can guarantee meat is not from a clone says ViaGen, a cloning company, “The likelihood that anyone could credibly say ‘Our animals are not descended from clones’ is zero.” So even if your meat does claim to be clone free, it could still be contaminated."

    Wired magazine (November 2007, page 235) says many times the lab has to clone an adult multiple times because the baby dies before it’s shipped to the farmer:
    Within weeks of delivery in September 2002, the first piglet got sick and died. Another dropped dead two months later. A few days before Christmas, Earnhart walked into his heated barn at feeding time and spotted his last two piglets belly-up in the straw. […] “I felt sick, ” Earnhart says. “I thought maybe someone was telling us we shouldn’t have done this.” ViaGen promised to ship replacements, but Earnhart says he was told that two more litters had died at the lab.

    > Oh crap, now I'm not sure what's for dinner….


  7. Doc Holiday

    The juices are flowing:

    Boss Hog
    America's top pork producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history. Welcome to the dark side of the other white meat.

    JEFF TIETZPosted Dec 14, 2006 8:53 AM

    When Joseph Luter entered Poland, he announced that he planned to turn the country into the "Iowa of Europe." Iowa has always been America's biggest hog producer and remains the nation's chief icon of hog farming. Having subdued Poland, Luter announced this summer that all of Eastern Europe — "particularly Romania" — should become the "Iowa of Europe." Seventy-five percent of Romania's hogs currently come from household farms. Over the next five years, Smithfield plans to spend $800 million in Romania

    >> Great reporting here from Rolling Stone, even if it is a few years ago

    "Hog farms that contract with Smithfield differ slightly in dimension but otherwise look identical: parallel rows of six, eight or twelve one-story hog houses, some nearly the size of a football field, containing as many as 10,000 hogs, and backing onto a single large lagoon. From the air I see that the lagoons come in two shades of pink: dark or Pepto Bismol — vile, freaky colors in the middle of green farmland."

    At one point, three hog-raising counties in North Carolina were producing more nitrogen, and eighteen were producing more phosphorus, than all the crops in the state could absorb.

    Millions of factory-farm hogs — one study puts it at ten percent — die before they make it to the killing floor. Some are taken to rendering plants, where they are propelled through meat grinders and then fed cannibalistically back to other living hogs. Others are dumped into big open pits called "dead holes," or left in the dumpsters for so long that they swell and explode….

    Ok, that was nice, maybe a break?

  8. Doc Holiday

    Wiki says:

    Franklin D. Roosevelt in an April 29, 1938 message to Congress warned that the growth of private power could lead to fascism:
    The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism—ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

    FDR continues to say, in regard to The Growing Concentration of Economic Power:

    Statistics of the Bureau of Internal Revenue reveal the following amazing figures for 1935: "Ownership of corporate assets: Of all corporations reporting from every part of the Nation, one-tenth of 1 percent of them owned 52 percent of the assets of all of them."

    > Bottom-line, maybe the reason that Capitalism seems like it's broken, is because it was broken by fascism and the fact that we no longer live in a democracy. That concept just may explain why this mess isn't being fixed in a logical way, because this mess is based on corruption that is using solutions that look like neo-Mussolini/Nazi chaos!

  9. Juan

    so now you’ve done it – infected me with transnatty hog fever

    afterbirths, piglets accidentally
    crushed by their mothers,
    old batteries, broken bottles
    of insecticide, antibiotic
    syringes, stillborn pigs

    oxytetracycline, draxxin, ceftiofur, tiamulin

    ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide,
    carbon monoxide, cyanide,
    phosphorous, nitrates, heavy metals,,,
    salmonella, cryptosporidium,

    global limits

  10. skippy

    @Doc H and others that looked at the Smithfield’s link,

    Firstly, Doc you must have some nice search utility’s (jealous), to the rest I strongly advise investigating and divulge information as possible to others with regards to the context enclosed in both the link and Docs comments. Fear of a IB melt down that would have severe consequences, pales to the wrath living microbes would unleash upon us (survival and reproduction are the main traits of all living things eh). They in their infancy some times kill, till they evolve to only infect to spread.

    Just think of the animal manufacturing sector (massive feed lots) as the biggest petri dish ever created, upon which viruses and bacteria can not unlike the Fruit Fly in the lab archive accelerated generational outcomes. Yes, yes they control out breaks with drugs and chemicals, but do we not have resistant strains of little bugs in hospitals, do to the same treatments. What do we do if nature/evolution comes up with a real nasty little bug that we are totally unprepared for, after feeding pigs, cattle, chickens, fish their own kind that died of some illness or resistance to drugs or chemicals we introduced to them.

    Profit as the top objective in the financial sector has shown us its true colors, now mix that IB/MSG in with your food production system, um yummy.

    Skippy…You’ll wish you ordered a BK and not the BLT. Death by market driven food production/profit shezz, BTW how many recalls did we have in the last year ummm.

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