Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I feel I must clarify something about my book posts: I process the new books here at the LPL so the above post is simply the books that seem interesting to me as they pass through my hands to the shelf. Some of these books I do indeed read but I by no means read all of them. Believe me, I'm having a hard enough time doing a book a week - I'm running behind as it is, but that has more to do with a date with a tube of Permethrin this weekend, than anything else. (And, no: no sex was had - just a friend of a friend who came and stayed and left little friends behind. Grr.)
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
By MARGIE MASON AND MARTHA MENDOZA
Associated Press Writers
The mystery started the day farmer Russ Kremer got between a jealous boar and a sow in heat.
The boar gored Kremer in the knee with a razor-sharp tusk. The burly pig farmer shrugged it off, figuring: "You pour the blood out of your boot and go on."
But Kremer's red-hot leg ballooned to double its size. A strep infection spread, threatening his life and baffling doctors. Two months of multiple antibiotics did virtually nothing.
The answer was flowing in the veins of the boar. The animal had been fed low doses of penicillin, spawning a strain of strep that was resistant to other antibiotics. That drug-resistant germ passed to Kremer.
Like Kremer, more and more Americans - many of them living far from barns and pastures - are at risk from the widespread practice of feeding livestock antibiotics. These animals grow faster, but they can also develop drug-resistant infections that are passed on to people. The issue is now gaining attention because of interest from a new White House administration and a flurry of new research tying antibiotic use in animals to drug resistance in people.
Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year - more than prostate and breast cancer combined. And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent.
"This is a living breathing problem, it's the big bad wolf and it's knocking at our door," said Dr. Vance Fowler, an infectious disease specialist at Duke University. "It's here. It's arrived."
The rise in the use of antibiotics is part of a growing problem of soaring drug resistance worldwide, The Associated Press found in a six-month look at the issue. As a result, killer diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and staph are resurging in new and more deadly forms.
In response, the pressure against the use of antibiotics in agriculture is rising. The World Health Organization concluded this year that surging antibiotic resistance is one of the leading threats to human health, and the White House last month said the problem is "urgent."
"If we're not careful with antibiotics and the programs to administer them, we're going to be in a post antibiotic era," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, who was tapped to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year.
Also this year, the three federal agencies tasked with protecting public health - the Food and Drug Administration, CDC and U.S. Department of Agriculture - declared drug-resistant diseases stemming from antibiotic use in animals a "serious emerging concern." And FDA deputy commissioner Dr. Joshua Sharfstein told Congress this summer that farmers need to stop feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals.
Farm groups and pharmaceutical companies argue that drugs keep animals healthy and meat costs low, and have defeated a series of proposed limits on their use.
America's farmers give their pigs, cows and chickens about 8 percent more antibiotics each year, usually to heal lung, skin or blood infections. However, 13 percent of the antibiotics administered on farms last year were fed to healthy animals to make them grow faster. Antibiotics also save as much as 30 percent in feed costs among young swine, although the savings fade as pigs get older, according to a new USDA study.
However, these animals can develop germs that are immune to the antibiotics. The germs then rub into scratches on farmworkers' arms, causing oozing infections. They blow into neighboring communities in dust clouds, run off into lakes and rivers during heavy rains, and are sliced into roasts, chops and hocks and sent to our dinner tables.
"Antibiotic-resistant microorganisms generated in the guts of pigs in the Iowa countryside don't stay on the farm," said Union of Concerned Scientists Food and Environment director Margaret Mellon.
More than 20 percent of all human cases of a deadly drug-resistant staph infection in the Netherlands could be traced to an animal strain, according to a study published online in a CDC journal. Federal food safety studies routinely find drug resistant bacteria in beef, chicken and pork sold in supermarkets, and 20 percent of people who get salmonella have a drug resistant strain, according to the CDC.
Here's how it happens: In the early '90s, farmers in several countries, including the U.S., started feeding animals fluoroquinolones, a family of antibiotics that includes drugs such as ciprofloxacin. In the following years, the once powerful antibiotic Cipro stopped working 80 percent of the time on some of the deadliest human infections it used to wipe out. Twelve years later, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking people infected with a Cipro-resistant bacteria to pork they had eaten.
Johns Hopkins University health sciences professor Ellen Silbergeld, who has reviewed every major study on this issue, said there's no doubt drug use in farm animals is a "major driver of antimicrobial resistance worldwide."
"We have data to show it's in wastewaters and it goes to aquaculture and it goes here and there," agreed Dr. Stuart Levy, an expert on antibiotic resistance at Tufts University in Boston. "Antibiotic use in animals impacts everything."
Farmer Craig Rowles remains unconvinced.
It's afternoon in one of his many rural Iowa pig barns, roaring with snorting and squealing pigs. Some snooze in corners, while others hustle toward their troughs, their slop laced with a steady supply of antibiotics.
"If there was some sort of crossover between the use of the antibiotics in animals and the antibiotics in humans, if there was in fact a real issue there, wouldn't you think we would have seen it?" said Rowles, also a veterinarian who sells 150,000 hogs a year. "That's what the science says to me."
The modular modern barn, home to 1,000 pigs, is a hygienic place. Manure plops through slatted floorboards; an invisible funk steams back up. Rowles dons a sanitary white paper jumpsuit and slips plastic booties over his shoes; he's anxious that his 100-pound pigs aren't exposed to outside germs. A few sick swine are isolated, corralled in a pen near the entrance.
Antibiotics are a crucial part of Rowles' business, speeding growth and warding off disease.
"Now the public doesn't see that," he said. "They're only concerned about resistance, and they don't care about economics because, 'As long as I can buy a pork chop for a buck 69 a pound, I really don't care.' But we live in a world where you have to consider economics in the decision-making process of what we do."
Rowles gives his pigs virginiamycin, which has been used in livestock for decades and is not absorbed by the gut. He withdraws the drug three weeks before his hogs are sent for slaughter. He also monitors his herd for signs of drug resistance to ensure they are getting the most effective doses.
"The one thing that the American public wants to know is: Is the product that I'm getting, is it safe to eat?" said Rowles, whose home freezer is full of his pork. "I'm telling you that the product that we produce today is the safest, most wholesome product that you could possibly get."
Some U.S. lawmakers are fighting for a new law that would ban farmers like Rowles from feeding antibiotics to their animals unless they are sick.
"If you mixed an antibiotic in your child's cereal, people would think you're crazy," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y.
Renewed pressure is on from Capitol Hill from Slaughter's bill and new rules discussed in regulatory agencies. There is also pressure from trade issues: The European Union and other developed countries have adopted strong limits against antibiotics. Russia recently banned pork imports from two U.S. plants after detecting levels of tetracycline that the USDA said met American standards.
Farmers and drugmakers are battling back. Pharmaceutical companies have spent $135 million lobbying so far this year, and agribusiness companies another $70 million, on a handful of issues including fighting the proposed new limits. Opponents, many from farm states, say Slaughter's law is misguided.
"Chaos will ensue," said Kansas Republican Congressman Jerry Moran. "The cultivation of crops and the production of food animals is an immensely complex endeavor involving a vast range of processes. We raise a multitude of crops and livestock in numerous regions, using various production methods. Imagine if the government is allowed to dictate how all of that is done."
He's backed by an array of powerful interests, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Pork Producers Council, Eli Lilly & Co., Bayer AG, Pfizer Inc., Schering-Plough Corp., Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto Company, who have repeatedly defeated similar legislation.
The FDA says without new laws its options are limited. The agency approved antibiotic use in animals in 1951, before concerns about drug resistance were recognized. The only way to withdraw that approval is through a drug-by-drug process that can take years of study, review and comment.
In 1977 the agency proposed a ban on penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed, but it was defeated after criticism from interest groups.
There has been one ban: In 2000, for the first time, the FDA ordered the poultry medication Baytril off the market. Five years later, after a series of failed appeals, poultry farmers stopped using the drug.
In 2008 the FDA issued its second limit on an antibiotic used in cows, pigs and chickens, citing "the importance of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans." But the Bush Administration - in an FDA note in the federal register - reversed that decision five days before it was going to take effect after receiving several hundred letters from drug companies and farm animal trade groups.
Laura Rogers, who directs the Pew Charitable Trusts Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming in Washington D.C., says the federal government, from Congress to the administration, has failed to protect the public.
"Because of poor regulations and oversight of drug use in industrial farm animals, consumers in the U.S. do not know what their food is treated with, or how often," she said. "Nor is there a system in place to test meat for dangerous antibiotic resistant bacteria."
Back in Missouri, farmer Kremer finally found an antibiotic that worked on his leg. After being released from the hospital, Kremer tested his pigs. The results showed they were resistant to all the same drugs he was.
Kremer tossed his hypodermic needles, sacked his buckets of antibiotic-laced feed, slaughtered his herd and started anew.
"I was wearing a syringe, like a holster, like a gun, because my pigs were all sick," he recalled. "I was really getting so sick and aggravated at what I was doing. I said, 'This isn't working.'"
Today, when Kremer steps out of his dusty and dented pickup truck and walks toward the open-air barn in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, the animals come running. They snort and root at his knee-high gum boots. There are no gates corralling the 180 pigs in this barn. He points to a mound of composting manure.
"There's no antibiotics in there," he says proudly.
Kremer sells about 1,200 pigs annually. And a year after "kicking the habit," he says he saved about $16,000 in vet bills, vaccinations and antibiotics.
"I don't know why it took me that long to wake up to the fact that what we were doing, it was not the right thing to do and that there were alternatives," says Kremer, stooping to scratch a pig behind the ear. "We were just basically killing ourselves and society by doing this."
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Ejukpe mask (closest to camera) and other Igbo masks.
Think of a man who, unlike lesser men, always goes to battle without a shield because he knows that bullets and matchet strokes will glance off his medicine-boiled skin; think of him discovering in the thick of battle that the power has suddenly, without warning, deserted him. What next time can there be? Will he say to the guns and the arrows and the matchets: Hold! I want to return quickly to my medicine-hut and stir the pot and find out what has gone wrong; perhaps someone in my household - a child, maybe - has unwittingly violated my medicine's taboo? No.
At any other time Ezeulu would have been more than equal to his grief. He would have been equal to any grief not compounded with humiliation. Why, he asked himself again and again, why had Ulu chosen to deal thus with him, to strike him down and cover him with mud? What was his offense? Had he not divined the god's will and obeyed it? When was it ever heard that a child was scalded by the piece of yam its own mother put in its palm? What man would send his son with a potsherd to bring fire from a neighbor's hut and then unleash rain on him? Who ever sent his son up the palm to gather nuts and then took an axe and felled the tree? But today such a thing had happened before the eyes of all. What could it point to but the collapse and ruin of all things? ...
Perhaps it was the constant, futile throbbing of these thoughts that finally left a crack in Ezeulu's mind. Or perhaps his inplacable assailant having stood over him for a little while stepped on him as on an insect and crushed him in the dust. But this final act of malevolence proved merciful. It allowed Ezeulu, in his last days, to live in the haughty splednour of a demented high priest and spared him knowledge of the final outcome. (285-287)
G.I. Jones Photographic Archive of Southeastern Nigerian Art and Culture
Monday, December 21, 2009
Taking a cue from Sean at Just a Jeep Guy I'm going to provide 5 good things and 5 bad things about the books that I just finished and want to review. "Finished" is a loose term for Arrow of God, I have 40 pages to go, but not having yet read the ending, I feel like I can give you a better review without having to worry about revealing the end.
1) An amazing book about Ezeule the Chief Priest of Ulu of the village of Umuaro. The book has many levels, some of it a straight forward tale of Ezeule and his fellow villagers, his family and their interactions with the white colonial administration, but woven with Igbo history, ritual, tales, songs.
2) Achebe adopts (and this might be my untrained ear) two styles of writing: one is the voice of Ezeulu and Umuaro - it is very ritualistic (and kind of choppy at first) but hypnotizing full of sayings that seem very much like Buddhist koans that twist the brain. It also reminds me of Greek Tragedy with the occasional long monologue and chorus. The second is the voice of the white colonial administration, Captain Winterbottom and Tony Clarke: polished, English, regular, government.
3) Ezeulu is not (so far) a tragic character like Okonkwo (from Things Fall Apart). At first I thought he would be: Ezeulu is so set in his ways and believes that the white Capt. Winterbottom (or Wintabota, as he is called by Ezeulu) is his friend, and that they're relationship is based on some sort of understanding between the two as equals, but this is obviously not the case, and my heart kept pounding for the moment when this would become clear to Ezeulu - and in 40 pages, it still might. Ezeulu thinks he's is a fish swimming soundly with another fish - not knowing that more than likely Winterbottom and the colonial powers are piranhas waiting to strike.
4) There are a lot of sayings involving the penis: "Unless the penis dies young it will surely eat bearded meat."
5) The book seems very biblical in its scope and scale. You can feel the power of the writing on every page.
1) Things Fall Apart is to Arrow of God, what Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes is to almost everything else she ever produced: it could have benefitted greatly from editing. The wikipedia article on Chinua Achebe discusses how Achebe edited Things Fall Apart cutting away whole sections. It was probably this cutting away down to the bare bones of the story that has made it such an accessible classic. Though Arrow of God is a great book, it can be difficult to read.
2) There are a lot of sayings involving the penis. I know I put this in the For catagory too, but whereas it was kind of neat, as are all the sayings, some of which don't make any sense or aren't explained - and I don't think they have to be explained - it is a bit off-putting. I am not Igbo. I have never been to Africa and definitely not to Nigeria. I have more in common with the British government than I do with the villages of Umuaro - I don't need these sayings explained to me, but so much of the conversation between Ezeulu and his people revolve around these sayings.
I should say they are off-putting at first: eventually you can start interpreting based on the context of the conversation.
3) If you have any knowledge of the history of white governments in Africa, you know this book potentially will end badly, giving the entire novel, no matter how beautiful the moment, a looming shadow at its future edge. It's like a horror novel in that respect and can be rather stressful to keep going through.
4) Another off-putting aspect is the way Ezeulu treats his family, especially his wives - he can be verbally abusive and physically intimidating. But once again this is a cultural aspect that rubs more against my feminism than anything else.
** I could do only 4 against, and I probably could have stopped at number 2. I've been surprised at how easily I put down the Harry Potter and came back to Arrow of God. It is an amazing read, and like the best of mythologies (i.e. the Bible, Bulfinch, D'Aulaire, Gaiman's Sandman series) pulls you into this web of interrelated stories that give the main story such an overwhelming richness. It makes the main arc so much more real and painful and intense and immediate to read.
"It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless, my son, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live. The man who has never submitted to anything will soon submit to the burial mat." (I can't remember what page this is on.)
"Nweke Ukpaka spoke next. 'What a man does not know is greater than he. Those of us who want Unachukwu to go away forget that none of us can say come in the white man's language. We should listen to his advice. If we go to our elders and tell them that we shall no longer work on the white man's road, what do we expect them to do? Will our fathers take up hoes and matchets and go out to work themselves while we site at home? I know that many of us want to fight the white man. But only a foolish man can go after a leopard with his bare hands. The white man is like a hot soup and we must take him slowly-slowly from the edges of the bowl. Umuaro was here before the white man came from his own land to seek us out. We did not ask him to visit us; he is neither our kinsman nor our in-law. We did not steal his goat or his fowl; we did not take his land or his wife. In no way whatever have we done him wrong. And yet he has come to make trouble for us. All we know is that our ofo is held high between us and him. The stranger will not kill his host with his visit; when he goes may he not go with a swollen back. I know that the white man does not wish Umuaro well. that is why we must hold our ofo by him and give him no cause to say that we did this or failed to do that. For if we give him cause he will rejoice. Why? Because the very house he has been seeking ways of pulling down has caught fire of its own will. For this reason we shall go on working on his road; and when we finish we shall ask him if he has more work for us. But in dealing with a man who thinks you a fool it is good sometimes to remind him that you know what he knows but has chosen to appear foolish for the sake of peace..." (105-106)
Friday, December 18, 2009
Disclaimer: I could really care less where Tiger Woods puts his dick or his balls (I'm of the "Golf is a good walk ruined" school) but I have a distant cousin whom I've convinced myself is a sheet little old lady, so when she sent me this, I fell out of my seat.
Walter Trochez, a LGBT activist and a member of the National Resistance Front in Hondurus, was shot and killed December 13. After a military coup in June, Trochez began to document and publicize homophobic killings and crimes by those responsible for the coup. According to journalist Doug Ireland, Trochez had been tailed for weeks and the men responsible for his murder were part of the state security forces.
Just a month before his murder, Trochez was arrested and beaten while documenting the treatment of transgender prostitutes in the Comayagüela district. Also previously, he had released an open letter documenting an "increase in hate crimes and homophobia towards LGTB as a result of the civic-religious-military coupe in Honduras...Once again we say it is not acceptable that in these past 4 months, during such a short period, 9 transsexual and gay friends were violently killed." He ended the letter saying, "As a revolutionary, I will always defend my people, even if it takes my life." He was 25.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent. In this divine glass, they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.
~William Penn, More Fruits of Solitude
I regret to inform you that my "review" of Arrow of God may have to wait till the week after next. I bought the new Harry Potter movie and am now rereading the last book, from which the above epigraph comes. Though after reading (and rereading) all the books, it has become easier to pick out the author's faults in this last book, it is probably my favorite of the series.
I wish next she would right that History of Hogwarts that is always mentioned - and I mean a thick tome of work not those slim little volumes that were released as textbooks a couple of years ago.
From From Towleroad:
"The incident occurred Tuesday during a meeting in which a majority of commissioners agreed to offer domestic-partner benefits to county workers in same-sex relationships starting in 2011. Toward the end of an emotional, two-hour debate on the topic, James leaned over to commissioner Vilma Leake and asked: 'Your son was a homo, really?' Leake responded: 'You're going to make me hurt you. Don't do that to me. Don't talk about my son.' Leake had just finished speaking about her personal connection to the debate, including mentioning her son's 1993 death from AIDS. 'To be insensitive to that is completely inappropriate,' Roberts said Wednesday. 'I think he does owe her an apology.' But James said he won't apologize, and said he was only asking Leake to clarify an earlier comment she made about her son's death and his lifestyle. He said he wasn't making a derogatory comment, and used a slang word used when he was growing up. 'People can believe whatever they want, they can believe in the tooth fairy and legend of Atlantis,' James said. 'I don't determine what I do based on what people think. I determine it based on what I did and what I did was I asked a question and that question doesn't deserve or require an apology.'"
Leake wants James censured.
How 'bout fired too?
Don't worry: douchebaggery is not a theme for today...just this morning...so far.
And they fucking call it a "harvest" like they're going out shucking corn!
Bears have become so populous over the past 10 years in southeast Kentucky that the state's first bear hunt in 100 years has been scheduled for this weekend.
As bears have become a sight-seeing attraction and sometimes a nuisance for state parks in Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties, local hunters have been eager to add black bears as a big game animal, said Steven Dobey, bear program manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"Kentucky is kind of a unique spot in this region of the United States because they historically had not had bears in great numbers. West Virginia, Tennessee, Virginia have had bears for decades," Dobey said. "Their return (to Kentucky) has been in the grand scheme more recent."
“State government can and should continue to demonstrate leadership in reducing avoidable highway dangers,” Beshear said at a news conference at the Transportation Cabinet. “The risks are too high and the statistics are too staggering for the commonwealth of Kentucky to remain ambivalent about this issue any longer.”
Governor Beshear orders that state employees can't text while driving