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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Bush reverses environmental nod to high-speed rail system

An environmental alliance has formed, it was announced today, behind Florida's quest to create a high-speed rail system for the tourist-centric state. Calling themselves the "Rail Truth", the PAC organized in order to oppose Amendment 6, repealing the year 2000 passage of a bill which proposed to spend $17-billion on the so called "Bullet Train", a mass transit system which, according to environmentalists, would be a boon to the environment and to wildlife protection throughout Florida's beleaguered ecosystem.

Originally drafted by Orlando lawyer David Cardwell and supported by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Bullet Train was expected to reduce the impact on the environment of steadily increasing pressure to build more roadways and turnpikes.

Governor Bush, reversing his position and with the compliance of State CFO Tom Gallagher, intends to lead a campaign to pass amendment 6, which would repeal the 2000 legislation saying the construction of a high-speed rail system would jeopardize the State's economy.

Millionaire C.C. "Doc" Dockery, who supported original legislation to build the system has contributed $150,000 in the cause to save it. The alliance of Florida's Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Conservation Alliance and Florida's AFL-CIO plan to work through the November elections and secure a future for the proposed rail system, hoping to spare Florida's fragile environment from further abuse at the hand of road construction interests.



Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Vegans in space, now about that space suit

The International Space Station, Virgin Galactic's announcement that they will offer regular flights for tourists, proposed colonies on the Moon and Mars are all the buzz for this year’s World Space Week symposiums scheduled October 4 – 10. NASA scientists, administrators, technology whips and the public will convene in Houston and locations around the world for a week long round of lectures, presentations and workshops all designed to focus the world’s attention on space and space exploration.

Among other topics of general interest food science and dietary development for future space programs will be on the agenda.

Despite the success of the Mars Pathfinder and its little rover that could, NASA isn't banking solely on robotics for future planetary exploration. It still dreams of sending real people to the Red Planet. NASA wants to do it soon, in the next 15 years or so according to most sources.

The trouble is, Mars is far place. It's a six-month commute--one way. Once there, it makes sense that the astronauts would stick around for a while, most likely more than a year. After a typical Martian day, (equal to 24.6 hours) working in their new habitat Mars exploration teams would presumably like to return to their quarters, kick off their space boots and sit down to what is mouthwateringly referred to by food scientists as edible biomass... and all of their cosmic cuisine could be vegetarian.

The reason, says Cornell agricultural and biological engineer Jean Hunter, is simple--in space, weight costs.

"During missions, astronauts are limited to less than four pounds of food per person per day, with another pound taken up by packaging, On multiyear missions to planets such as Mars, the future space shuttle, however it's designed, won't be big enough to carry enough food. It would require too much fuel.”

In addition, no Mars ship would have enough storage space for a big Sub-Zero meat locker, or for a pen, coop, or corral to hold fresh pigs, chickens, or cows. Thus, meat-based dishes and fresh milk are out. Besides, notes Hunter dryly, "it's easier to pick a plant than it is to butcher a goat.

"So the astronauts will have to grow their own vegetables, not only because of the lack of storage space on long missions but also because it will allow them to have fresh food," she says. "It's our responsibility to NASA to come up with a variety of recipes and help them make decisions about food choices in terms of the cost of each dish."

Nutritional factors must also be addressed; meals must supply the recommended dietary allowance of vitamins and minerals necessary to perform in space. Calorie requirements are suggested by NASA FTCSC Space Food Insights and are based on a formula that takes into account each astronaut's height, weight, and age.



Friday, September 24, 2004

Genome, geez!

About Three Quarters of a Million Residents of Florida East Coast Urged to Flee Hurricane Jeanne, geez! The Associated Press, again.

Tonight as hurricane Jeanne takes a bead on our eastern coast,thousands are urged to evacuate, go figure! Not since 1856 have four great storms invaded Florida in one season and in less than 6 weeks at that, consequently, the "geez" portion of our headline.

Suddenly today I remembered Dean Hamer's new opus The God Gene. Hamer also authored another classic the Gay Gene, well be still my heart. If genes can account for God and genes can make you gay then why not envision genes that can get your ass kicked by a hurricane; The Hurricane Gene.

Now, while I'm not a geneticist and I don't have the genome code stored anywhere on my desk-top, although it's probably imprinted somewhere nearby, I have a fair understanding of the root science which prevails; hey, I have a degree in English Literature for Christ's sake! Anyway, I figured that if God can plan to make us gay or devout why not give us a gene to make us live in Florida? I mean, if he/she wanted to, he/she could give us a gene that said we had to live in California, I suspect that would be called the earthquake-McSchwarzenegger gene.

Anyway, I have survived 3 or 42 of these storms, I'm not sure, and I'm grateful. I seem to have a gene which, according to my reading of Hamer's genetic protocol, makes me a survivor, not the TV type but rather, you know, the disaster type and so I wanted, on the eve of our fourth hurricane this season, to go on-record with the theory that jeans, not genes, control our fate and if you are foolish enough to take up residence in Florida you better have good jeans (genes).



Thursday, September 23, 2004

Martha Stewart, an American Pie

Vegetarians like to eat, of that I'm convinced. Whether they like to eat more than others can only be a matter of speculation, still, I'm inclined to go with the theory.

Hardly anyone is born vegetarian, it's a matter of socialization; no "vegetarian gene" here - except that I do have a niece who might be a candidate - we'll have to check her genome map later. Anyway vegetarians and vegans have this in common, they all started out as carnivores. Even if your last non-vegan meal was breast milk, you probably started out as a non-vegetarian, or at the very most a lacto-vegetarian.

Having said that I'd like to return to my original contention that vegetarians really like to eat. Why, because we made a choice, yeah, that's right, at some point in our lives we made a choice to drastically change a fundamental aspect of our existence, eating and that makes us well, committed and enthusiastic and hungry.

There are plenty-o-food gurus around ready, willing and able to satisfy any and all exotic palates: Atkins, South Beach, Cajun, Italian, The Fred Astaire diet (add a little Ginger to everything), problem is that almost no one with real star power ever showcased vegetarian/vegan cuisine, enter Martha.

For the first time ever, vegetarians had a diva to distract: hor'dourves, brunch, soup, salad, main course, dessert for two or twenty Martha did vegetarian and non with equal alacrity; it need only be great tasting and served in style. With that in mind we availed ourselves of a close-out bargain at Kmart and purchased our first ever set of Martha Stewart's "Every Day" cookware. It seemed only fitting, therefore, to dedicate this recipe to her: Martha Stewart Chili Pot Pie.



Thursday, September 16, 2004

Chicken feathers into dashboards

Following the cancellation of this years televised Victoria's Secrets Fashion show feather manufacturers (or make that suppliers) don't seem to despair over lack of demand for their feathery by-product.

Agricultural Research Service scientists working at ARS' Environmental Quality Laboratory in Beltsville, MD. have succeeded in converting chicken feathers into industrial fiber.

ARS research chemist Walter Schmidt and research polymer scientist Justin Barone discovered that feathers can be compounded with certain plastics used in car parts such as dashboards to strengthen them while reducing their weight. Schmidt and Barone also found that feather fiber can be combined with wood pulp to make filter paper, decorative paper and other products.

Processed chicken feather fiber, because of its super-fine size and shape, may be used for filtration. Wood pulp filters have a width of 10-20 microns, compared to 5 microns for filters made from feather fiber. That means filters made from feather fibers will have a finer mesh, resulting in smaller pores for trapping more minute airborne particles.

A large-scale facility, now in the design phase and will be built in either southwest Missouri or on Maryland's eastern shore. When complete, the plant will produce about five tons of feather fiber per hour.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

From Farmed Animal Watch

"With nearly 46 billion slaughtered in 2003, chickens accounted for 93% all types of farmed animals included in the FAO database. Following chickens, more ducks were slaughtered for their flesh than any other animal; approximately 2.3 billion ducks were slaughtered in 2003. Not considering birds, the slaughter of pigs was highest with more than 1.2 billion pigs slaughtered in 2003, followed by more than 850 million rabbits slaughtered last year..."Farmed Animal Watch_ n_68, v_2

Read Matt Evans slightly bemusing story about a chance meeting with a duck and, well it's not "Sex in the City" but the characters may seem familiar.
The Morning News - Natural Selection



Friday, September 10, 2004

We'd Like to Buy the World a "Coke"

Since its founding, the Coca-Cola Company had global ambitions. In 1906 Coca-Cola opened its first operation outside the United States when it launched a bottling company in Cuba. Shortly thereafter soda fountains and bottling operations were instituted in Canada, Germany, Hawaii, the Philippines, Bermuda, Mexico, France and the United Kingdom.

By 1930 Coca-Cola had sixty-four bottlers in twenty-eight countries. In 1936 they expanded to the United Kingdom, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and shortly thereafter to Venezuela and Central America.

During World War II Coca-Cola followed the American military throughout the world establishing bottling plants behind the lines as our troops moved into the United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, the Philippines, and Australia.

Because virtually everyone alive today has heard of if not tasted Coke, we thought a little taste was appropriate. So take a break, have a muffin,
listen for a moment and forget the approaching storm or war or election and have a nice day.

Real Media

I'd Like to Buy the World a Home

You Can't Always Get What You Want



I Want to be Free