Friday, March 30, 2018

Morgan Griffith on Passover and Easter

Happy Easter and Pesach Shalom to you and everyone at your office too, Congressman Griffith (R-VA-9):

Friday, March 30, marks the concurrence of two of the most significant holidays for two of the most prominent world religions. It is the beginning of Passover, and it is Good Friday.
In Judaism, Passover commemorates the events described in the Book of Exodus, the leading of the Israelites out of Egypt. The last of ten plagues meant to convince Egypt’s Pharaoh to let the Israelites go was the death of first-born sons, but households with lamb’s blood marking their doorways would be passed over. In Christianity, Good Friday observes the day Jesus Christ was crucified and died, to be resurrected on Easter Sunday.
These observances don’t always match on the calendar, but much connects them just the same. Their themes are similar. Each is a celebration of freedom from bondage: in Passover, freedom from slavery in Egypt; in Holy Week and Easter Sunday, freedom from death.
The Last Supper, which Jesus and the Twelve Disciples shared the night before his crucifixion, is commonly believed to have been a Seder, the meal that commemorates Passover. In the original event that Passover commemorates, lambs were sacrificed and their blood used to mark the posts around doors; Jesus is metaphorically called the Lamb as a reflection of his sacrifice on the Cross.
Generations of people across the world have observed these holidays with rituals, meals, and songs. It is true that Easter songs are not as imprinted on the culture as their cousins, Christmas carols. But one classical song played often in the Christmas season was originally written to commemorate Easter.
George Frideric Handel was born in what is now Germany and composed his first opera by the age of 18. As an article in Smithsonian Magazine relates, Handel worked as a musician and composer across Europe before he set up shop in London, writing operas. They were lavish affairs, and putting them on required dealing with large egos and expensive productions.
Oratorios, in contrast, are works that present narratives, as operas do, but are usually religious in nature and simpler in execution. Handel devoted more time to composing these works as operas wore him down.
Over the span of a few weeks in 1741, Handel worked from morning to night on a new oratorio inspired by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It premiered on April 13, 1742, during Lent, in Dublin and was a great success. The oratorio later opened in London.
Legend says that one part of the oratorio so moved King George II that he stood for its performance. Out of deference to the monarch, the crowd rose as well, and to this day, when the “Hallelujah” chorus of Handel’s Messiah is performed, the crowd stands.
Messiah eventually became a Christmas favorite, and a third of it is devoted to the birth of Jesus, but it is still appropriate for Eastertime, with its text taken from the Bible. For example, note the words of the “Hallelujah” chorus, inspired by the Book of Revelation:
Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord,and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever.King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.Hallelujah!
These words are a fine expression of what Christians like myself celebrate on Easter.
We don’t know for sure whether King George II stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus, but I like to think he did. From kings on down, we all could benefit from the good news Messiah celebrates.
The final words in Messiah are also worthy of reflecting upon, and I leave you with them. Not only do they also capture the meaning of Easter for those who celebrate it; in speaking of Christ as the Lamb, they remind us of Christianity’s debt to the Jewish faith, in which the lamb served as a sacrifice on Passover and in other rituals. I extend my best wishes to all who are observing Passover and Easter.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Book Review: Paddington at Large

Title: Paddington at Large

(That's the cover picture on the book I physically own. The Amazon link may redirect to a newer edition with a different cover.)

Author: Michael Bond

Date: 1962

Publisher: Dell

ISBN: 0-440-46801-9

Length: 128 pages

Illustrations: drawings by Peggy Fortnum

Quote: “Paddington spent most of his spare time out of doors, and when he began supplying the household with vegetables as well as flowers everyone had to agree...that he must have been born with green paws.”

After the animated stuffed animals in Winnie-the-Pooh, there was A Bear Called Paddington, a fantasy so anthropomorphic I’m tempted to describe it as stories about a child who, for no obvious reason, looks just a bit like a very small, harmless bear. Paddington Bear turned up on Paddington Station wearing a little blue coat with a note pinned to it, saying “Please Look After This Bear,” and the very nice Brown family did so through many volumes of stories that are funniest if you try to imagine a real bear acting like Paddington.

Real bears destroy people’s gardens. Paddington cultivates a garden.

Real bears don’t understand human words. Paddington not only speaks, but reads and writes, English on about a second grade level.

Real bears pull trees apart to get at honeycombs. Paddington buys jars of marmalade and politely dips a paw into one from time to time.

Real bears hibernate in winter. Paddington celebrates Christmas and particularly enjoys shopping.

Real bears are big, rough, gruff animals. Paddington never grows bigger than the Brown children, and speaks politely even when other people speak to him as if they believed he was a bear.

So why is Paddington described as a bear rather than a boy? His stories involve messes and misunderstanding, and the pretense that he’s “only a dumb animal” allows children to laugh at his misadventures and learn from them, even though his mistakes are the kind real children might make.

During the “Help our British allies recover from the war” years, our local library acquired all the Paddington books that were then available--nine or ten--and I think the siblings and I read each volume at least once. I don’t think they ever became our favorites. They weren’t disliked; they weren’t loved. Rereading this volume to see whether, as an adult, I can understand why, I think the stories must have seemed too unlikely even to be funny.

The Browns’ neighbor Curry tries to trick Paddington Bear into doing yard work for him. In our world people were positively hypervigilant about allowing anyone to do yard work, always afraid of lawsuits; a lazy man might cover his front yard in gravel but he wouldn’t entrust a gas-powered lawnmower to a kid who might leave it running.

Paddington goes to an open-air concert and tries to complain to Mr. Schubert about his allowing the band to perform an “Unfinished Symphony.” In our world open-air concerts might occasionally have featured a band ambitious enough to try a Sousa march, but not symphonies.

Paddington tries to repair a TV set by crawling inside it. In our world TV sets weren’t big enough to tempt anyone to try that.

On consideration, Paddington’s adventures remind me more than anything else of the TV cartoons being played and replayed at the time...except that the anthropomorphic cartoon animals were usually chasing and fighting each other, and Paddington never fights anybody. He’s a sweetheart, a Perfect Gentlebear, sometimes confused but never angry. If the Warner Bros had done a cartoon series set on the Lost Planet of Nice, they might have featured Paddington.

As a nursery story, toy, and TV/movie tie-in, Paddington gave Winnie-the-Pooh serious competition. There were remakes and remixes, so the counts vary depending on what people consider separate books, but at least 150 separate books about Paddington were printed--not all available in the same countries. (Each chapter in the first nine books could be read as a single short story and was later sold as one...) More than thirty million of these books were sold. At the turn of the century craft books were still featuring patterns inspired by Paddington Bear.

The stories are funny in their bland implausible way. Written to be accessible to elementary school children, they also appeal to adults who read them aloud to children. If you're in the mood for gentle absurdities, and haven't already read this series, Paddington Bear might appeal to you.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Book Review: Our Amazing Birds

Title: Our Amazing Birds

Author:  Robert S. Lemmon
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: none
Length: 235 pages
Illustrations: black and white paintings by Don R. Eckelberry
Quote: “[T]his tiny creature, weighing but one tenth of an ounce, is at once the amazement and delight of everyone who knows and grows outdoor flowers, for it is the most bejeweled little living helicopter you can possibly imagine.”
Our Amazing Birds is a collection of 102 short (maximum of two pages) articles about 102 birds. There’s nothing wrong with it, as far as it goes; apart from a few belabored phrases and politically incorrect wisecracks, it’s an entertaining read. The reason why libraries are likely to have replaced it is simply that there are better bird books, with more complete facts and color pictures, on the market these days. If you want more “story” than Peterson’s, Sibley’s, or the Audubon Society field guides can offer, Janet Lembke’s Dangerous Birds is fresher than this book. Graeme Gibson’s Bedside Book of Birds mixes fact, artefact, fiction, and poetry, but it’s also a great read. Actually, Audubon’s Birds of America is still a pretty good read, as is William Dupuy’s Our Bird Friends and Foes.

Lemmon didn’t even offer readers the Latin names for the birds he selected to write about...which isn’t all bad, since some species’ names have been changed in the last fifty years. And, instead of following up on Audubon’s interesting observation about anhingas’ resemblance to loons and cormorants with some comments about their similarities to those species and also to geese, grebes, and herons, he wanders off into lame evolutionary remarks about anhingas being more like snakes...than swans are? Hello? Several species of large birds have snaky necks, but the specific evolutionary theory that found some snaky-necked birds somehow closer to snakes than others is no longer received as probable fact—if it ever was. However, apart from this lapse, Lemmon steered clear of speculation and sticks to observed facts—such as he had.
Several of my favorite birds aren’t even mentioned in Our Amazing Birds, but serious bird-nerds will probably enjoy the write-ups of the birds that are here. The pictures are worth studying. In no way is Our Amazing Birds a bad addition to a library. It's just that there are better ones--and were, at the time.

And I've already sold the physical copy of this book that I had when I originally wrote this review in 2009. Since nobody else seems to have reviewed Our Amazing Birds I see no reason to waste a good review. If you want some good, though not superb, bird pictures and stories, send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to the appropriate address in the lower left-hand corner of the page. You could fit four copies of this book into the package I last used to ship books, and if you bought them from this web site the total cost would be $25. And if anybody buys this book from me, I will indeed write to the publisher and try to find out whether Lemmon is still alive and, if so, whether he wants $1 per copy for himself or wants to send it to a charity.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

This Web Site Loves Vegetables. Here Is Some Spinach.

According to e-friends, activists complaining about the damage being done by glyphosate and GMO's (specifically, "Roundup-Ready" or E. coli-enhanced corn) are being told they're anti-fruit-and-vegetable. Oh, per-lease. This web site is furiously pro-fruit-and-vegetable. That is how glyphosate has done Grandma Bonnie Peters and me so much (unmistakable) damage, and (we suspect) why Adayahi, a big strong man who likes his veg, has been calling himself "old" when he's not even seventy-five yet.

Why spinach in the title for this post? Because in the U.S. when I was growing up "spinach" was used to mean "any and all foods that kids hate, but are told they need to eat for health reasons." I personally like spinach, especially raw "baby" spinach, which I eat the way some people eat chips--but then I'm not exactly a kid any more.

Anyway, status update: On Friday I received payment for a new non-book blog post. On my home computer I had one ready to transfer about the trending topic of gun control, as freshly marketed to kids too young to remember what horrible effects a gun ban had on (mostly males between ages 13-30) in Washington when I lived there. I also thought about a cute animal post and a pretty spring flower poem. But when I came online and finished my hack writing yesterday, reality said no. Reality said I have to write more about glyphosate and my icky-once-more celiac life. Did the nice lady ever get her money's worth of research in this one, and it's not fun reading, either, I might add. I have read a lot of squick today in order to help you navigate directly to the documents you most need to read, for health reasons.

Our government is officially reconsidering the self-evident truth that glyphosate and various other "pesticides" need to be banned.

One of the books my Drill Sergeant Dad read aloud to the children later to be known as Priscilla King and her late lamented brother, while our own choices still included Little Golden Books or at least Golden Nature Guides...When did "explosive new books" cost 95 cents? Copyright 1970. The information discussed below was in print before my sisters were alive!

[BREAK. Regular readers may save some time by skipping down to the next picture.]

Long story as short as possible, for first-time readers: All non-emergency use or production of "pesticides" needs to be forever banned by common sense, because we've all lived long enough to knows that they all start a Vicious Spray Cycle. You spray poison to kill a nuisance species. You see a gratifying number of nuisance plants or animals die, right away. You also see many of that species' natural predators die. So then, at the end of whatever amount of time it takes the surviving specimens of the nuisance species to reproduce...all prey species reproduce faster than their natural predators, so the next generation of the nuisance species is more numerous than the generation you tried to poison. And hardier; more of them have inherited resistance to the poison. And although some "pesticides" are more immediately toxic to humans than others, nobody has yet identified a "pesticide" that actually does humans any good. Repeated use of "pesticides" is what made corn earworms and codling moths (apple worms) major pests, rather than rare nuisances, in the United States. We need to be moving beyond this whole stupid, self-destructive idea of trying to control any plant or animal population by poison. We need to be thinking, "Just don't go there. If we want to see fewer of this species, there must be a better way than poisoning anything."

By limiting our use of poisons to real emergencies, we can limit the use of things like DDT to levels that don't make humans sick and that actually stop the mosquito-borne plagues...but we need policies like "Once, not twice, in fifty years."

That's axiomatic. That's what my parents pounded into me, early in the Nixon administration, before we even had a federal Environmental Protection Agency. Most of the old fogies who failed to absorb this information, in my part of the world, have been dead for a long time. It always surprises and disturbs me that anyone my age or younger still thinks any "pesticide" can be used over and over.

Yes, reasonable people might want to spray wasps and hornets to knock'em down before they sting anyone...but there's no need to spray poison. Anything that sticks to their skins will stop wasps and hornets attacking humans. Those vegetable oil emulsion sprays you might use to lubricate baking pans can kill insects. (Insects breathe through their skins, so they'll drown in any liquid that adheres to their skin surface for very long.) Just about any household cleaning product you have in a spray bottle will at least take their minds off attacking anybody. Insect repellent sprayed right on them will. Alcohol, wintergreen, witch hazel, Listerine, or any alcohol-based herbal tincture you might use will kill some insects and adjust the mental attitudes of the ones that survive. I don't buy vodka, but people who do say it's also effective.

You do not, ever, need to spray plants with anything stronger than salad dressing. Just the salt and vinegar will kill most plants, without even adding the oil. So will very hot water. The only plants that really need to have anything poured on them to kill them, in any case, are the Rhus genus (poison ivy)--and goats will happily clear them out of a field. The way to control unwanted plants is to chop and dig and, if it's really necessary, burn. There is no need for any kind of poison to control nuisance plants.

There is a wide-open market for more sophisticated, more efficient gadgets to control nuisance plants. The technology already exists, at least theoretically, to build robots that could selectively weed grass out of a field of green wheat plants. "Pesticides" are clogging the wheels of Progress, here, and it's hard to believe that the nastiest of the "herbicides" is being manufactured by the same company that financially nurtured the growth of the smartest of the tech companies.

There is a lot of controversy about exactly how much harm any of the "pesticides" do to humans. We've all heard that DDT was banned because it caused cancer, and some of us have also heard that DDT was not conclusively shown to cause cancer more directly than other things that are still in the U.S. food supply, that DDT was really banned because it had been overused to the point of uselessness. Chlordane and lindane were also suspected of causing cancer, known to be easy to use to kill humans and animals; chlordane vapors give me asthma so I'm glad those two were banned. Dioxin...the controversy still rages about how bad it is, but there is general agreement that dioxin was very bad.

Glyphosate became popular because, although close observation shows that it does have harmful effects on humans, its effects on humans vary widely, often don't occur immediately, and aren't readily suspected. People will say "I work with glyphosate all the time; all it does is taste nasty." Er, um...not hardly. Observers may notice effects, especially on these people's mental functions, that the person does not notice or admit in perself. One effect I notice some people showing after exposure to glyphosate is impaired cognitive function: the poison makes them less alert, less efficient, and less intelligent than they were the day before exposure.

In the spring of 1995 several people in my part of the world began losing significant quantities of blood every time we sat on the toilet, and local bee colonies collapsed; the local honey industry died. I wondered whether it had really been something in the water as four people in my neighborhood consulted different doctors and got different diagnoses in one week. One was told it was a reaction to medication, which was true. One was told it was chronic Crohn's Disease, which seems to have been true. One was told it was cancer and he had six months to live--and he's still working. I was told it might be celiac sprue, though then again, even people who have the rare "strong" form of that gene don't normally develop sprue before age fifty; I was only about thirty so I ought to be tested for cancer. I was lucky. I tested for gluten intolerance at home, found that that was what I had, didn't need the test for cancer. I don't expect I'll ever be able to sit around a table with non-celiac people and eat a polite little portion of everything they eat, without being sick, for the rest of my life, but since I have felt so much better after age 30 than I did in my teens and twenties, I don't mind.

In the spring of 1995 my neighborhood was also saturated with the increasingly popular glyphosate formula marketed as "Roundup" lawn weedkiller. So there really was something in the water.

Every year since 1995, more people who don't even have the celiac gene have been breaking out with "gluten sensitivity." How is it possible that the food that's been "the staff of life" for most of humankind, worldwide, for thousands of years, is now being blamed for everything that goes wrong with otherwise healthy North Americans? These people are not genuinely gluten-intolerant, yet they have reactions to wheat gluten that mimic celiac reactions up to and including celiac sprue. The answer is that glyphosate residues, which are now present in most foods because some farmers are spraying this poison right on food crops to speed up the ripening process and preserve food from insects, affect many people the same way wheat gluten affects celiacs--only moreso. Glyphosate exposure affects us celiacs, of course, the same way wheat gluten does--only much moreso. I don't have a reaction to skin contact with wheat.

Copyright 2016. 

[Regular readers may resume reading. New content begins here.]

Now the E.P.A. has set up a web site for the public to read about and discuss these pesticides. They've not made it easy for anybody, and left-wing correspondents are screeching in my e-mail headlines, "Blame that horrible Republican head of the E.P.A. for making it difficult," blah blah. One should never assume malice behind what is adequately explained by incompetence; nevertheless, that E.P.A. web site is a bore. So this web site will now undertake to simplify the reading list for you. "You," in this case, meaning The Nephews, the youngest of whom may be reading beyond a sixth grade level but are still in grade six anyway.

If you have time, of course, reading the whole dang mess should be interesting and useful. Several other chemicals, the names of which I don't even recognize, are also being reconsidered. Students can find material for years of term papers.

This is a nasty PDF document; this computer usually handles PDFs well, too.

What you'll learn here is whether, and why, you've been having celiac-like reactions to foods that do not naturally contain any trace of wheat gluten. Food products that are very likely to contain glyphosate residues include apricots, apples, asparagus, avocados, cherries, corn, grapes, all nuts, nectarines, kiwifruit, olives, peaches, pears, prunes, pluots, pomegranates, soybeans. Between 2004 and 2013 all of the fig, sugar beet, and soybean growers reporting to this U.S.D.A. study admitted having sprayed glyphosate on these food crops. Glyphosate was also sprayed on nearly all the citrus fruit in the U.S., although most of it was trapped on those thick, leathery peels. Presumably most glyphosate sprayed on nuts was sprayed on the shells--but that assumption becomes less safe for each year of the present century, as Monsanto has positively encouraged farmers to use up supplies of this poison by spraying it right onto shelled nuts as a preservative.

This one at least opens as a Word document--867 pages. No points for guessing that none of the short documents listed in this bibliography is going to be available from Amazon, your public library, or your neighborhood bookstore...but it's worth skimming through the document just to see how many of the masses of paper presented to the E.P.A. came from chemical companies, not from independent researchers. Like just about all of them. It's not "Published by U. Mass., U. Conn., U. Ky., Harvard, Berkeley..."; it's "Published by Monsanto, Dow, Monsanto, Johnson, Monsanto..."

This 33-page PDF basically confirms that glyphosate residues linger in milk, meat, and eggs.

This user-friendly, feel-good document airbrushes the facts almost beyond recognition. You can't say it contains lies, but..."Animals exposed to products with glyphosate may drool, vomit, have diarrhea, seem sleepy"...or die in screaming agony like poor, cute, cuddly Boots-kitten, last summer? Or die slowly, having time to cuddle kittens who insisted on nursing, so then one kitten died right away, one after acting droopy for a day or so, one after three days in a coma, like poor, lovable Bisquit-cat? Lord. "No information was found linking exposure to glyphosate with asthma"...because effects on individual humans vary, like effects on individual animals; I know for sure that when I inhaled glyphosate vapors I had asthma, followed by celiac sprue. But some people I know might get a skin rash, or feel weak all over, or show more severe memory loss, or more of a learning disorder, or more arthritis...

This page claims that the E.P.A. found ecological risks, but not risks directly to human health, associated with glyphosate. How is that possible? Because the effects on individuals vary enough that traditional statistical analyses don't show what's considered conclusive evidence that glyphosate harms humans. We all learned in college that if something consistently causes asthma in one person and mood swings in another person and fainting in another person, even if you could get those people to demonstrate conclusively that that thing had that effect on them, you would not have conclusive evidence that it has an effect on humans, generally. Lord have mercy.

This page opens a 318-page PDF that summarizes the results of extensive studies as showing that glyphosate presents some risk to birds, insects, plants, and animals, although for several specific species that were studied the results were the results of studies involving humans and domestic animals, I'd guess. Statistics buffs will want to read the whole thing; I'm not a true statistics buff, due to my dyscalculia, or math-dyslexia, but what I did read was pret-ty in-ter-est-ing.

This one discusses exactly how much glyphosate and its various residues and by-products of decomposition are likely to seep into water. Frankly, it's over my head, possibly because it contains the bizarre concept of an allowable level of glyphosate in drinking water. Any poison is more than we want in drinking water!

This one opens lots of statistical tables summarizing which kinds of cancer occurred more frequently, and less frequently, in rats and mice exposed to various doses of glyphosate. For a start: Rodents exposed to glyphosate are more likely to develop cancer in parts of the body analogous to the very most sensitive and vulnerable parts of a human body. They may be actually less likely to develop cancer of the lungs or thyroid gland, but that may be because the more sensitive parts go first.

This one opens a 204-page PDF discussing the literature the E.P.A. have read from sources other than chemical companies about the effects of glyphosate...

Note this howler on page 17:

Impact on Glyphosate Human Health Risk Assessment
Over 450 open literature journal articles were considered as part of this review. Only a limited number of these studies were deemed acceptable and appropriate for consideration in risk assessment.

What that means in plain English is that documentation of the widely differing effects glyphosate is having on different people--effects that are probably determined by genes, like the celiac genes, such that glyphosate damage may actually turn out to be dependent on ethnicity--has been discarded as "anecdotal rather than scientific." That's why glyphosate wasn't banned in 1995. Rigorous scientific studies would have to be conducted on a truly monstrous scale to identify all the different ways glyphosate is harming people, in more than an "anecdotal" way. An analysis of the "anecdotal" literature might be simpler--and well worth doing!

Not that all of these studies that were discarded as being unscientific have been the firsthand, bloggy, "I walked past a field sprayed with glyphosate and this is how I've felt during the week since then" kind of stories that the word "anecdotal" calls to mind. One study, for instance, attempted to identify glyphosate effects on uterine and embryonic cells that were being cultivated in a laboratory, rather than actually taking the risk of feeding glyphosate to pregnant women to find out whether it caused birth defects and/or spontaneous abortions. Four quibbles caused this humanely planned, and probably accurate, study to be discarded.

- Exposure was directly to human embryonic and placental cells as well as other tissues.
- The active ingredient was not measured.
- It is difficult to extrapolate in vitro effects with in vivo toxicity.
- The percent purity of the reagent grade glyphosate was not stated.

And this web site is sure that the company-funded studies that purported to show that glyphosate was safe were held to similar standards of rigor...Not! 

This document confirms, among other things, that the basis for the claim that glyphosate probably won't cause cancer in humans is that some studies found that it caused relatively little increase in cancer in rats. (Yes, the other study linked above found that it did raise the incidence of some kinds of cancer in rats. Cancer seems to be promoted and prevented by a complex interaction of several different factors, so identifying a true cause for any kind of cancer is always going to be fiendishly difficult--although we do know that glyphosate is unlikely to prevent cancer. Anyway: different studies, different rats.) Note that the document also admits that glyphosate exposure seemed to be correlated with non-cancerous liver damage, brain damage, cataracts, and other eye damage in rats. When big corporations invest heavily in lobbying, this is the kind of evidence it takes to get permission to apply a known poison directly to foods like figs and apples that are normally eaten without even being peeled...

Here's a more recent study, analyzing reports of what happened after humans ingested glyphosate either by breathing, by getting it into their eyes, or by swallowing it. Yes, it does more than taste nasty. "8 major types of adverse health effects were identified: gastro-intestinal (4.8%), dermal (30.1%), upper-respiratory (10.3%), neurological (34.3%), cardiovascular (0.3%), ocular (13.8%), muscular (0.3%), and combination (5.5%) effects (Updated Review of Glyphosate Incident Reports, M. Hawkins and J. Cordova, 03/12/2009)." If you keep scrolling, you'll see some extremely disgusting pictures of skin rashes and other damage done by handling large amounts of glyphosate. "Neurological effects" can include twitching or paralysis (no human patient had yet died in howling convulsions like poor little Boots-kitten--as of 2009). One patient was paralyzed for 39 days in a hospital intensive care ward. Some people died. This study didn't even consider mental health effects--when I observe retirees who spray "Roundup" on their gardens, vertigo, memory loss, weakness, decreased or reversed progress toward recovery from strokes, confusion, and mood swings are some of the most obvious things I notice, but of course that's still "anecdotal," as hospital emergency room staff seldom remember what the patients were like the day before.

This PDF evaluates the claim that glyphosate increases the risk of an otherwise rare type of cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and notes that this increase is mostly found among farm workers who work with other things that also seem to increase the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma ("confounders"). Why do E.P.A. employees hesitate to observe, "Every little bit hurts," when it comes to cancer-promoting agents?

This PDF, in direct conflict with the one following it in numerical order, finds "no evidence that glyphosate is neurotoxic." (There may be more than one way of being paralyzed for 39 days?) The studies cited here did find that exposure to glyphosate caused "decreased body weights," as it might be because the internal surface of the colon is sloughing off in bleeding ulcers and therefore failing to digest food, and "toxicity to the liver, and/or kidney"--but not that "glyphosate is...immunotoxic." Say whaaat? If something is toxic to the liver and/or the kidneys, vital parts of the immune system, how can it not be immunotoxic? I'm keeping this one on my computer, and you might want to download and save it on yours if you want to do a presentation on the an example of a badly done study that needs to be done over. Wouldn't any self-respecting teacher, finding a whopper like "This is toxic to the liver and/or kidneys but it's not immunotoxic" in a freshman term paper, order the freshman to start all over with a different paper?

This one quantifies the amount of glyphosate exposure it took to cause "diarrhea, nasal discharge, and death in maternal animals" when glyphosate was fed to rabbits (specifically to nursing mothers, to pinpoint the levels in milk that become toxic to the baby bunnies as well). For rabbits, whose diet and metabolism aren't particularly similar to humans', that amount was "350 mg/kg/day." By scrolling through the rest of the 20 pages you might want to work out how much glyphosate you're likely to be consuming along with your daily fruits and veg, and--assuming that your reactions are more like a rabbit's than like an Irish-American celiac human's--how much more you can take before you too develop diarrhea, nasal discharge, and death. (Scientific studies are supposed to be cold-blooded, but that phrasing...! How many of those rabbits sank into comas before they died, and how many screamed?)

This PDF spends a lot of its 216 pages blathering about the generally observed fact that it's almost impossible to pinpoint a single cause of any kind of cancer. I don't know about you, but I say this one's a waste of disk space (and federal agents' time). Anyone who's read anything about cancer studies already knows that cancer is fiendishly hard to study. Anyone who's read the other PDFs (or had a nasty glyphosate reaction) already knows, also, that glyphosate harms (and may in some cases kill) people in more immediate ways before they'd have time to develop cancer.

This three-page PDF admits that a correlation between glyphosate exposure and three types of cancer was found, but only after prolonged exposure. Well, duh...cancer does not normally develop overnight.

What can we do with this information, Gentle Readers? First of all, each of those links opens a page you can use, after downloading and reading the document, to comment on the document--at the EPA site, or on social media, or both. You can e-mail the documents to friends. You can e-mail them (or, if you like, e-mail this summary of them) to your U.S. Senators and Representative.

Additionally, depending on the resources your computer has, you might want to paste key pages of those documents into a slideshow. They're all public documents; you're free and encouraged to use them during the official public discussion of why we need to ban glyphosate, during the rest of March and April.

What the documents as a group show is that, no matter how hard we-the-people have tried to ignore the cumulative effects of glyphosate exposure on our health, those effects are bad and getting worse. Glyphosate exposure is associated with cancer at high levels of exposure. That means, ban it now, and the harm it's already done may be reversible; put off banning it for another fifteen years, and we'll start to see it causing cancer. It also means, ban it now, and you may be absolutely astounded by how much better you may feel.

Book Review: Hill Country Harvest

Title: Hill Country Harvest

Author:  Hal Borland
Date: 1967
Publisher: J.B. Lippincott
ISBN: none
Length: 377 pages
Quote: “An editor...forty miles or so up the Housatonic valley from where I live, asked me to write a weekly column for his daily newspaper. ‘What about?’ I asked. ‘Nature,’ he said, ‘the outdoors, life in general.’”
Ten years later, Borland and his book publisher looked back over his columns and decided, “We’ve got a book.” This is the book.
Borland’s home was farther west, but he had married a native of New England, and this book is about New England. It’s about the Appalachian foothills rather than the Atlantic seacoast, which may explain why the book was read and enjoyed here, too. The similarities and differences between our hill countries are interesting.
New Englanders are hereby invited to keep up the consideration of a question Borland raised after reading an old book about New England : “It is observed by the Indians that every tenth year there is little nor no winter.” Borland had not observed this, but if any readers in New England observe it I hope they’ll keep the rest of us posted. Of course, the old book was written “about 330 years” before some point between 1956 and 1967, when Borland was writing about it. Between 1625 and 1640 the English in America were still stumbling around in confusion. They were aiming for Virginia when they struck Massachusetts and it’s possible that Borland’s misinformant, one William Wood, thought he was in Massachusetts when he was actually in Virginia .
That was the topic of one column. There are dozens. There are columns about the behavior of Borland’s squirrels (he was able to attract red squirrels and gray squirrels to the same feeder), about the origins of Groundhog Day, about why the grass greens and the flowers bloom earlier above the septic tank. There’s an explanation of why Weather Service reports started including “wind-chill factors” and why the thermometer on your porch is likely to run a few degrees colder than the one at the local weather station. There are observations of towhees and ground-ivy and lilacs and country people who whistle in public. There are complaints about rhubarb and salsify...people who dutifully ate those two New England classics never complained about zucchini. And so on.
If Borland had meticulously noted the date of each of his observations of nature and listed them in chronological order, his book might have seemed bloggier and less like a novel than it does, but he would also have been practicing “phenology,” the scientific observation of shifts in natural cycles from year to year. Bloggers who keep methodical phenological records are helping professional ecologists with tasks like proving or disproving theories such as global warming. Borland was not a really meticulous phenologist, but he came close enough to give Hill Country Harvest some real scientific and historical value.
In short, Hill Country Harvest is a fun read, often comic, never very sad, often informative...warmly recommended.     

Hill Country Harvest is not a Fair Trade Book, but it can be added to a package along with one or more Fair Trade Books. To buy it online here, send $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address in the lower left-hand corner of the screen.