Sunday, February 22, 2009

And The Water Goes To...

A few weeks ago at the Farmers Market, I got to chit-chatting with the organic avocado lady and asked her about the farm where they grow the avocados and how life is away from the city. She told me that, although her family loves being away from the hustle and bustle, there were so many frustrating aspects of farm life, primarily the politics of water. Recently, she explained, the municipality decided to cut water to the farms so that they could give it to...get this...CASINOS.

This article reminded me of the conversation and makes me wonder what kind of evil takes water from farms that grow the nation's food so that the towels of pathetic gamblers can be washed daily?


SACRAMENTO - Federal water managers said Friday that they plan to cut off water, at least temporarily, to thousands of California farms as a result of the deepening drought gripping the state.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials said parched reservoirs and patchy rainfall this year were forcing them to completely stop surface water deliveries for at least a two-week period beginning March 1. Authorities said they haven’t had to take such a drastic move for more than 15 years.
The situation could improve slightly if more rain falls over the next few weeks, and officials will know by mid-March if they can release more irrigation supplies to growers.

Farmers in the nation’s No. 1 agriculture state predicted it would cause consumers to pay more for their fruits and vegetables, which would have to be grown using expensive well water.
“Water is our life — it’s our jobs and it’s our food,” said Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the farm bureau in Fresno County. “Without a reliable water supply, Fresno County’s No. 1 employer — agriculture — is at great risk.”

The drought would cause an estimated $1.15 billion dollar loss in agriculture-related wages and eliminate as many as 40,000 jobs in farm-related industries in the San Joaquin Valley alone, where most of the nation’s produce and nut crops are grown.

'We're talking about a huge band of area that will be affected," Richard Howitt, professor of resource economics at UC Davis, told in an interview Friday. "I heard these predictions coming down the line, the $1 billion loss in revenue and 40,000 jobs, so I ran the numbers again. "

He delivered the grim statistics to the state Board of Good and Agriculture last week. He said new figures to be released later Friday showed even more trouble head for the state.
"As far as job losses? The answer is the majority of losses will be related to farms and farm work, the processing done for all farm commodities, and all those secondary jobs that roll through the valley economy," Howitt said.

California's sweeping Central Valley grows most of the country's fruits and vegetables in normal years, but this winter thousands of acres turned to dust as the state hurtles into the worst drought in nearly two decades.

The state's agricultural industry typically receives 80 percent of all the water supplies managed by the federal government — everything from far-off mountain streams and suburban reservoirs. The state supplies drinking water to 23 million residents and 755,000 acres of irrigated farmland.

Farms supplied by flows from the state’s system of pumps and canals would also see cutbacks but still get 15 percent of their normal deliveries, said Lester Snow, director of the Department of Water Resources.

This year, both the state and federal reservoirs have reached their lowest level since 1992.
Dwindling supplies would have to be routed to cities to ensure residents, hospitals and fire crews have enough to meet minimum health and safety needs, said Don Glaser, the federal reclamation bureau’s Mid-Pacific Region director.

The water shortages are so severe most cities will have to start mandatory ration programs by summertime, and residents will be asked to reduce their usage by 20 percent, Snow said.
“You’ve got to think about water as a precious resource,” he said. “It may seem a stretch to conserve 20 percent of your water, but that’s nothing in comparison to the consequences of the drought and job loss in agriculture.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Victims Of Persecution Or Arrogant People Who Push The Limits?

"You know very well, and the stupid Americans know equally well, that we control their government, irrespective of who sits in the White House. You see, I know it and you know it that no American president can be in a position to challenge us even if we do the unthinkable. What can they (Americans) do to us? We control congress, we control the media, we control show biz, and we control everything in America. In America you can criticize God, but you can't criticize Israel."

Israeli Spokeswoman Tzipora Menache on whether she was worried about negative ramifications the Israeli onslaught on Gaza might have on the way the Obama administration would view Israel.

If You Put Your Faith In These Glorified Drug Dealers, You Deserve What You Get

Drug Companies & Doctors: A Story of Corruption By Marcia Angell

Hat tip to Rick for sending this my way.

Recently Senator Charles Grassley, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has been looking into financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and the academic physicians who largely determine the market value of prescription drugs. He hasn't had to look very hard.

Take the case of Dr. Joseph L. Biederman, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of pediatric psychopharmacology at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital.

Thanks largely to him, children as young as two years old are now being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with a cocktail of powerful drugs, many of which were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that purpose and none of which were approved for children below ten years of age.

In June, Senator Grassley revealed that drug companies, including those that make drugs he advocates for childhood bipolar disorder, had paid Biederman $1.6 million in consulting and speaking fees between 2000 and 2007. Two of his colleagues received similar amounts. After the revelation, the president of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the chairman of its physician organization sent a letter to the hospital's physicians expressing not shock over the enormity of the conflicts of interest, but sympathy for the beneficiaries: "We know this is an incredibly painful time for these doctors and their families, and our hearts go out to them."

Because these psychiatrists were singled out by Senator Grassley, they received a great deal of attention in the press, but similar conflicts of interest pervade medicine. (The senator is now turning his attention to cardiologists.) Indeed, most doctors take money or gifts from drug companies in one way or another. Many are paid consultants, speakers at company-sponsored meetings, ghost-authors of papers written by drug companies or their agents, and ostensible "researchers" whose contribution often consists merely of putting their patients on a drug and transmitting some token information to the company. Still more doctors are recipients of free meals and other out-and-out gifts. In addition, drug companies subsidize most meetings of professional organizations and most of the continuing medical education needed by doctors to maintain their state licenses.

No one knows the total amount provided by drug companies to physicians, but I estimate from the annual reports of the top nine US drug companies that it comes to tens of billions of dollars a year. By such means, the pharmaceutical industry has gained enormous control over how doctors evaluate and use its own products. Its extensive ties to physicians, particularly senior faculty at prestigious medical schools, affect the results of research, the way medicine is practiced, and even the definition of what constitutes a disease.

In view of this control and the conflicts of interest that permeate the enterprise, it is not surprising that industry-sponsored trials published in medical journals consistently favor sponsors' drugs—largely because negative results are not published, positive results are repeatedly published in slightly different forms, and a positive spin is put on even negative results. A review of seventy-four clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that thirty-seven of thirty-eight positive studies were published. But of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome. It is not unusual for a published paper to shift the focus from the drug's intended effect to a secondary effect that seems more favorable.

Many drugs that are assumed to be effective are probably little better than placebos, but there is no way to know because negative results are hidden. One clue was provided six years ago by four researchers who, using the Freedom of Information Act, obtained FDA reviews of every placebo-controlled clinical trial submitted for initial approval of the six most widely used antidepressant drugs approved between 1987 and 1999—Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Serzone, and Effexor. They found that on average, placebos were 80 percent as effective as the drugs. The difference between drug and placebo was so small that it was unlikely to be of any clinical significance. The results were much the same for all six drugs: all were equally ineffective. But because favorable results were published and unfavorable results buried (in this case, within the FDA), the public and the medical profession believed these drugs were potent antidepressants.

Clinical trials are also biased through designs for research that are chosen to yield favorable results for sponsors. For example, the sponsor's drug may be compared with another drug administered at a dose so low that the sponsor's drug looks more powerful. Or a drug that is likely to be used by older people will be tested in young people, so that side effects are less likely to emerge. A common form of bias stems from the standard practice of comparing a new drug with a placebo, when the relevant question is how it compares with an existing drug. In short, it is often possible to make clinical trials come out pretty much any way you want, which is why it's so important that investigators be truly disinterested in the outcome of their work.

In recent years, drug companies have perfected a new and highly effective method to expand their markets. Instead of promoting drugs to treat diseases, they have begun to promote diseases to fit their drugs. The strategy is to convince as many people as possible (along with their doctors, of course) that they have medical conditions that require long-term drug treatment. Sometimes called "disease-mongering," this is a focus of two new books: Melody Petersen's Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs and Christopher Lane's Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness.

One result of the pervasive bias is that physicians learn to practice a very drug-intensive style of medicine. Even when changes in lifestyle would be more effective, doctors and their patients often believe that for every ailment and discontent there is a drug. Physicians are also led to believe that the newest, most expensive brand-name drugs are superior to older drugs or generics, even though there is seldom any evidence to that effect because sponsors do not usually compare their drugs with older drugs at equivalent doses. In addition, physicians, swayed by prestigious medical school faculty, learn to prescribe drugs for off-label uses without good evidence of effectiveness.

Read more Here