Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Phenology: New Wasps

Last year, I shared the office with two theoretically solitary wasps, one in spring and one in late summer, and their mates.

This year, I'm seeing paper wasp populations recover slowly. I think the Brown Marmorated Stinkbugs, which can attack their eggs, have driven my favorite Polistes fuscatus away from my home, perhaps for a long time--and I miss them. Every time I swat a mosquito I miss them.

Fuscatus means "dark." P. fuscatus look black or brown at a distance. Close up, individuals have brown, black, and sometimes yellow patterns that help them recognize one another. There's a sampling of different color patterns at https://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?search=Polistes+fuscatus . Because of the yellow markings they're sometimes called "Golden" paper wasps--although the invasive nuisance species P. dominulus are much yellower, the way Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies are much blacker than Black Swallowtails. Another nickname is "Northern" paper wasps. I've not found formal studies of this, but from personal experience and what I see on the Internet, conspicuous yellow marks may be more common in populations further north. Mine almost never show yellow on their faces or abdomens, while the current Wikipedia page for this species features a stripey specimen from Quebec I would have thought had to be some other species. I've seen striped individual fuscatus in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Anyway they're ferocious little predators whose severely limited minds have just enough room to learn that you are a friend, and remember that for the rest of their six or eight weeks of adult wasp life. Newly hatched P. fuscatus will fly at you in a threat display. If you stand still and remain calm, they classify you as a friend and will actively protect you from nuisance insects. In self-defense they will prod with the sharp bits at both head and tail ends, but they don't contain much venom, so being stung by P. fuscatus feels like being stabbed with a needle.

Apparently when a colony reaches a certain size the individuals spontaneously disperse, even when they're not threatened. I hope that's all that happened to my fuscatus, but I worry about the stinkbugs.

The paper wasps who've moved in are the slightly larger, much more venomous Polistes carolina. They're an interesting species to read about online. Their Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polistes_carolina) has quite a lot about their complicated family life. Unlike some social insects, even P. fuscatus, they have only two genders. All females mature, reach their full size, can mate, can lay eggs, and can sting, although not all do mate, lay eggs, or sting. A colony has a dominant queen or "foundress," plus her sisters, daughters, nieces and so on, and their associated males. Males look like females (some have brown or yellow markings, and some are orange-red all over like the females) but don't sting. Scientists currently believe carolina and fuscatus evolved from a common ancestor but their social life is quite different. Fuscatus has a smaller, asexual female "worker" role in addition to the breeding males and females.

Polistes carolina.jpg
Image donated By Sesamehoneytart - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45044419
Also moving in are what BugGuide.com identifies as probably Polistes canadensis, which look similar to P. carolina but have orange wings, and despite their name are not usually found in Canada--more likely in Mexico! Another similar-looking species, Polistes major, is normally yellow but has a sub-species that also have bright chestnut-color wings and bodies, P.m. castaneicolor. They also normally live in Central America so the appearance of either in Virginia indicates one of two things:

1. Global warming is prompting these tropical wasps to move north, encroaching on the territory of Northern Paper Wasps; or

2. Even the relatively informative web sites like Wikipedia, BugGuide, and DiscoverLife are confused, and P. carolina can sometimes have red-orange wings. 

Though all three of the red paper wasp species are large (queens sometimes over an inch long, males and "workers" not much smaller) and their sting feels as if there was nothing else inside the little monsters but venom, the literature notes that P. major and P. canadensis chase wasps of other species. My red-winged red paper wasps don't. Then I consider the quality of writing at the web pages devoted to these species and to something called Polistes perplexus, and...I'm working with hypothesis 2. 

There's another animal commonly known as a "red wasp," Polistes metricus. In colonial days this species was nicknamed "Jack Spaniard," from the days when Spain and England were at war and "Spaniards" had to be prepared to whip out their swords. They are red in front and black behind. The abdominal segment would be conspicuous for its size and length if it weren't distinctive in color. They sometimes act as if it were full of venom, to the point of pain, and they just had to go and sting somebody. Anybody. This species is rare around the Cat Sanctuary, probably because of a solid consensus that they needed killing. They give all wasps a bad name. But I don't see one of them in every decade. I thought of them because the "science" pages mention them as probably the closest relative to P. carolina.

P. carolina are described as generally a peaceable species, despite the pain their stings inflict. They don't chase other wasps, and are even said, by those who hang around watching paper wasp social life at the nest, to get along better among themselves than some other wasps seem to do. Jesse Stuart, a goodhearted writer, tried to upgrade this species' image by using "as peaceable as red wasps" as a stock phrase. It never caught on. People who've been stung by one don't care how peaceable these animals want to be. Aftereffects of a red wasp sting include a lingering feeling that the whole species need killing. I've not tried to do anything about the red wasps I've seen in the yard (all of them will attack a person they've seen attack one of them, and so will P. fuscatus, P. dominulus, and others); but when they get indoors I like to scoop them up in a matchbox and drop them into a fire. 

This is because the founding queen of a red wasp colony once stung the side of my hand when I was ten or twelve or thereabouts, and half of my hand swelled up so that I couldn't bend two fingers for two days. I like most animals but there are limits to everything. I am about as fond of red wasps as I am of the board of directors of the Bayer Chemical Corporation. 

But in spring another friendly mud-dauber wasp moved into the office. Like last year's Cobalt and Shimmer, she was iridescent in light, but more blue-green than cobalt blue. I called her Jade, for the color she showed under fluorescent light. 

During her first week Jade seemed restless--not making threat displays toward me, but making them. Apparently she didn't think the office was big enough for another, more true-blue, mud-dauber queen and her. It was; after a few day they seemed to have settled down with the bluer-colored wasp based around the west window, further from me, and the greenish one around the north window. 

According to BugGuide.com, there are four kinds of daubers whose iridescent black bodies can look more blue-green than blue. The one that looks like Jade is Chlorion aerarium, common enough to have an English nickname ("The Steel-Blue Cricket Hunter"), but the page for this species says that greenish ones are normally found in the Western States; Eastern specimens can be true blue or even purplish. 


Jade's mate didn't seem to move into the office; I don't know whether he lived with Jade for any length of time. He was obviously a male dauber, but shorter than Cobalt's and Shimmer's mates, with shorter antennae and a bigger head, which was what made me think that Jade might be a different species. 

She was certainly a friendly little thing. I'd learned from living with Cobalt and Shimmer, and with the fuscatus colony, that after the initial threat displays subside, these wasps' flying at me meant they were protecting me from a fly or mosquito. (Wasps buzz their wings loudly when making a threat display and make much less noise when chasing smaller insects.) So I held still and cooperated, one evening, and Jade gently picked a gnat out of my eyelashes. 

If asked, earlier that day, I would have said I didn't imagine I'd ever be able to tolerate any wasp crawling around my eyes. 

One evening the blue wasp, to whom I had not given a name, flew right at Jade. Jade dropped to the window sill, although she hadn't been physically hit, and lay still. I realized that we were going into her tenth week in the office. For a wasp ten weeks is old. Jade eventually got up and went out to hunt again, but during the next few days she seemed "old" and "tired." 

At the end of the week I found Jade's dead body on the outside of the window sill. The blue wasp now moved into her territory and made a few threat displays toward me, which I ignored, but it was mere bluff. She was old for her kind of animal, too. At the end of the week I found her on the outside of the window sill, about a foot away from where I'd found Jade.

This weekend a new dauber moved in. She's blue. I've not given her a name, or made any attempt to observe whether she's more like Jade or like Cobalt and Shimmer. 

So do they really hunt crickets? Jade lived and died in a season when our common field crickets are not active. BugGuide says crickets have been found in Chlorion nests. Jade spent much of her time outdoors and probably hunted whatever small, soft-bodied insects she found. While in the office she hunted gnats, flies, and mosquitoes. 

Image result for chlorion aerarium
Image donated to Flickr by David Bygott. Flickr images are supposed to be free for non-commercial use by members, of which I am one. If David Bygott objects to this use of this image, will he kindly notify me, and I'll pull it down.

Growing up I've always been aware of species distinctions among paper wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets, but I always thought a dauber was a dauber. This is apparently not the case. BugGuide has an elaborate checklist to use for sorting through dozens of different blue-black, thread-waisted, annoying but harmless inch-long wasps...if you have a deceased individual and a magnifying glass where you go online, which I don't. I've only guessed the species identities of any of my daubers. I continue to be pleasantly surprised, though, that when Polistes aren't making them nervous they can be quite nice to have around. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Tortie Tuesday: Samantha's Wish

Tortie cat Samantha has expressed a wish that surprised me.


Samantha is basically an outdoor cat. She spends most of her time in the cellar where the temperature stays close to earth temperature all year, in the crawl space where she has a nice big dry sand pit that's normally kept clean by a friendly possum, on the porch where she watches for her Human Godmother and Kibble Dispenser to come and go, and in the orchard where she cavorts with Burr and chases mice and crickets.

If she wants to be in the house, which she usually doesn't because her family are outside and the dark corners indoors are often protected with mothballs, she can come and go through a cat door.

So why has Samantha started following me through the front door? She's not the kind of pet who wants to stay within six feet of me wherever I go. She wanted to tell me something.

What she wanted to tell me, I've confirmed through repeated observation, is that although she doesn't live indoors, she wants an indoor litter box. The box is still there from when she had kittens and used it. The sand has by now been removed. Samantha routinely runs to the litter box and paws at the bottom of it, releasing traces of that special odor-neutralizing stuff they add to commercial cat-litter sand.

Hence the following Cat Interview:

PK: "Samantha, why are you obsessed with that old litter box? Is Present Possum not doing its job?"

Samantha: "Present Possum cleans up everything. I want a litter box of my very own."

PK: "But why? You don't use it. You don't hang out indoors. You don't have kittens indoors to protect."

Samantha: "I heard you say to another human, 'We can take another cat if you can bring it in its own carrier. If it can stay in its own cage for a while, and if it comes with its own food, that will help.'"

PK: "So? That human found a Purrmanent Home for that cat, anyway, without having to send it up here. I like that. The fewer temporary places in between a cat's former home and its Purrmanent Home, the better. Don't you agree?"

Samantha: "I agree! Especially if they're the 'alpha female' sort of cats, like old Heather, or like that daughter of mine."

PK: "Don't you think Serena can handle those? I'd be more concerned about Serena being tempted to bully new cats. A person who hadn't noticed how she slaps or nips when stroked, but not when scolded or picked up and moved, might think she was a mean cat rather than just a big rough cat who likes to play."

Samantha: "I love my daughter and want her to be happy, but there are limits to everything! I want every other cat around here to know that this is my house, and I'm the one who used this litter box before they came here. That's what!"

PK: "Commercial cat litter costs money. Quite a lot of money considering that it's basically sand. Also, it's heavy to lug in and out. Also, when you've used it, it has to be cleaned out by me, not by the possum."

Samantha: "I know! That's the point! Serena may be the Queen Regnant, but I am still the Queen Mother around here. Even if I am a little Scaredycat...other cats do have some respect for seniority--and that's mine! I want a litter box inside the house!"

PK: "I'm the one who spends money on such things and I say you don't need a litter box inside the house, unless the weather turns bitterly cold, or you have kittens, or some such thing."

Samantha: "You should ask your readers to send us a fresh box of cat litter then. I see the old box has a crack halfway up the side, so I'll be nice and use the old scoop...I am determined that any other cat who comes here, including my own grandkittens, will know for sure that this was my litter box before they came here. This matters to cats, and they must know!"

Anyone who feels inclined to humor Samantha may send a U.S. postal money order to Samantha, c/o Boxholders, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322. Although I think she's being silly, myself, I will use funds sent to Samantha as she has clearly requested. Anyone who feels inclined to support this web site, the other cats, GBP, me, or Glyphosate Awareness may send the postal order to Boxholders, P.O. Box 322, without mentioning Samantha.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Morgan Griffith on Exhibition Coal Mine (edited for format)

Coal mines as tourist attractions? Yes. From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith, R-VA-9:

"
ICYMI: Renovations Underway at Exhibition Mine

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph today highlighted ongoing work at the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine, funded by the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Pilot program. The federal funding I secured for the AML Pilot program is bringing new economic opportunities to Southwest Virginia.

Renovations underway at exhibition mine

POCAHONTAS, Va. — Renovations which will improve access into a exhibition coal mine and add new facilities to its adjoining museum were continuing Thursday in Tazewell County, Va.

The Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine is among the Southwest Virginia economic development projects being funded by a grant from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Pilot program administered by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and funded by the Federal Power Plus Pilot Program. U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., and Gov. Ralph Northam announced the projects last March.

To read more from the article, click here.
"

"The article" in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph is copyrighted; it tells more about the attraction.

Not Having Grandchildren (Yes, Someone Asked)

It's been a while since this web site displayed a poem or short story (fewer rejection notices, heh-heh!) so this week someone wanted to sponsor a post about "not having grandchildren," since that could be a short post (long ones cost more than short ones) and it "would have to be 'creative'."

Right. Amazon link...it's been a while, but I enjoyed reading this book. One thing about not having grandchildren is that you can enjoy reading about other people's.



Another thing about not having grandchildren is that, if you're a celiac woman who would have been advised to have an abortion for medical reasons if you'd ever been in danger of having children, and you protected yourself and never had children, you may still be healthy enough to enjoy spending time with your nieces or nephews, or great-nieces or great-nephews, or whatever other relationships with children you have.

(About The Nephews...I use that term to include all children born to my natural and adoptive sisters, and also a child born to a friend who never called me "sister" but taught the child to call me "aunt." Some of these people are still children so the less information about their ages, genders, locations, etc., on the Internet, the better. All of them are much too big, by now, for the kind of dancing I had in mind when I used to joke about baby-sitting as "staying out dancing with three cute, young White guys." In fact some of them are old enough to have full-time jobs. They've never performed as a band, but they do, in the slang usage of their generation, rock. They also rule.)

Another thing about not having grandchildren is that, in fact, having nieces, nephews, etc., seems to feel pretty similar. If you belong to a family where people traditionally marry late, such that children born into your family often lack the full complement of grandparents, as an aunt or uncle you get to fill in that gap. Nieces and nephews are fun. And, as an aunt or uncle, you do sort of have them first.

Possibly the very best thing about not having grandchildren is that it puts you outside the competition.

All grandparents are of course naturally convinced that their grandchildren are not only theirs, but actually the most adorable grandchildren ever born. They think this includes everyone else's grandchildren including their own grandparents'. They are, of course, right in a subjective way. They will always have a perception of their grandchildren that truly does make theirs especially special.

Hence the jokes about how happily grandparents can spend hours completely ignoring what others are saying about the others' grandchildren, as long as the other grandparents give them equal time to run on about the wonderfulness of their own grandchildren. These jokes tend to come from people who lead completely childless lives.

Nevertheless, there is some truth in these jokes, even as they apply to aunts and uncles. We hear about other people's grandchildren's track meet medals and merit scholarships, and we're glad for them. Their Tracy ran the fastest mile in the state. Huzza. Our Lee was promoted to a full-time grown-up job! HURRAH!!!

However, our nieces, nephews, etc., not being grandchildren, we're still able to humor other people's subjective views of the awesomeness of their grandchildren.

Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter 2: Send This to St Louis

The Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter is published weekly by Priscilla King, c/o Boxholders, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322. It’s available free, in plain text as an e-mail or attachment. Printed or audiocassette versions are available for the cost of production. (Audiofiles are free to anyone who can convince me that s/he is blind and can’t read a document aloud using widely available software.) Reprinting, recirculating, and sharing this information at the reader’s own expense is encouraged, provided that all sources of material are credited.

This week, Canadians start suing Bayer for glyphosate damage, a French town’s glyphosate ban is ruled illegal, US citizens are invited (sort of) to comment on the proposed USDA regulations for genetically modified organisms (GMO), and  I ask youall to consider ways to raise Glyphosate Awareness in Missouri and Illinois...and more, in more or less the order they came in. I’ve tried to expand on the good news in this issue.

1. DID AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH SELL OUT?

Andy Kroll and Jeremy Schulman report to Mother Jones that the American Council on Science and Health pursued, and received, donations from Monsanto. ACSH’s job is to debunk the “junk science” that people rush into print without adequately questioning the evidence if it supports their bias. The article identifies conflicts of interest this nonprofit educational organization is likely to encounter when examining scientific evidence that might affect any of numerous corporate supporters.


2. USE OF GLYPHOSATE IN PUBLIC PARKS

Last spring, you may recall, somebody in Fish & Wildlife argued that glyphosate has to be sprayed in public parks to control invasive nuisance plants like kudzu. Kudzu is indeed intimidating. More intimidating than kudzu, however, was the condition some rivers and beaches in the Northeastern States reached during the Industrial Era. The Anacostia River became so foul that only “sewer worms” could survive in it. What changed this was a combination of the export of heavy industry and, on the brighter side, the marketing of “River Cleanup Days” as public festivities. Don’t spray...par-tay!

How long does it take to clear seventeen (contiguous) acres of kudzu? Has anyone timed this yet? Kudzu attracts few pests, and the individual vines are small and pliable. The daunting feature of kudzu is how much vineage you have to roll up before you come to the root. Kudzu roots actually have medicinal value. Some people will indeed roll up the vines, locate the roots, and dig them up. When some Twit jeered, “With a bulldozer, maybe,” I joked about the possible use of an excavator in getting the roots up within a set period of time...in practice, people who harvest kudzu roots use hand tools.

Today an e-friend was complaining of privet (Ligustrum) as an invasive nuisance. Where I live, it’s not one. For one thing it’s useful. It’s a tough little shrub that holds soil on steep banks; it’s easy to prune and hard to kill; fresh privet prunings are pre-soaked skewers for grilling, and dried ones are good firewood; the soft wood is easy for crafters to practice carving; if I prune it back to three or four feet high in spring, by winter the cardinals can safely flit around in the new growth, eating privet berries and singing “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!” For another thing it’s not all that invasive, in a damp climate. Soft wood absorbs water easily and, although privet resists most insects and fungi, when it stays damp long enough it becomes vulnerable to carpenter ants. If you have privet and wish you didn’t, water it lavishly, and smear a little grease or syrup on it to give the local carpenter ants the idea.

Honeysuckle, chinaberry, phragmites and other invasive plants have uses. Even ailanthus will burn. If you want to remove them from a public area fast, you find the people who are willing to use the plants, for crafts or whatever, and offer those people some sort of prizes or benefits for digging up those plants. They’ll be gone.

There are just a few invasive nuisance plants, like Johnson grass (which looks like corn but is toxic to cattle), Bermuda grass (which became obsolete when Astroturf was invented), and Spanish Needles (the Bidens species everyone hates), for which nobody has ever found a use. Guess what? They’re the ones that thrive on glyphosate.

One of the more pleasant things we can do with Glyphosate Awareness is explore the uses of invasive plants and talk to local park staff about replacing poison sprays, which also endanger native plants of course, with public parties—which may increase the use and potential funding of the parks. Worked for Anacostia.

3. IS IT TRUE, WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT ANCIENT WHEAT?

Needless to say, the big corporations are not racing to fund studies of exactly how and why it’s possible that some people can digest “ancient” wheat better than “modern” wheat...or less heavily sprayed wheat better than more heavily sprayed wheat. But it’s true: Though all plants, even “organically grown” plants, in North America today are likely to contain enough glyphosate residues to harm people, once we get glyphosate banned, some people who currently have to avoid wheat are going to be able to enjoy hearty brown bread again. The “ancient,” more natural strains of wheat have a lot going for them. Though its high protein content is useless to us celiacs, the majority of humankind used to be able to digest “ancient” wheat.

News on this front may be slightly premature, but then again it may offer hope to some readers...Rodale has brought out a book about how farmer Bob Quinn is profitably raising organic kamut. https://amzn.to/2SFF7Lr .

4. COLOMBIA RULES OUT POISONING COFFEE

A Colombian court rules that spraying glyphosate on the coffee fields, in an effort to destroy coca plants, should remain illegal. I can’t drink Hawaiian Kona coffee. I can still drink Colombian. Hurrah. (I happen to be one of those who believe we should all buy as much of any wholesome export from the High Andes as possible, alpaca yarn and coffee and Peruvian Purple potatoes and so on, to give the poor indigenous population a wholesome alternative to raising coca plants.) https://m.gulf-times.com/story/636972/Colombia-court-keeps-ban-on-aerial-spraying-of-gly .

5. DR. LEONG EXPLAINS HOW VEGETABLES AREN’T KILLING GRANDMA BONNIE PETERS YET

Vegetables are good for us...if they’re not full of glyphosate, as most of them are, even if they’re supposed to be organically grown. I no longer dare to eat a commercially grown vegetable. (I’m not as malnourished as some town readers expect...I do live in an orchard, where I can still pig out on fruits and veg that have been exposed to very little glyphosate vapor.) But my blog buddy (and fellow celiac), Grandma Bonnie Peters, still eats vegetables. She is starting to act “old and sick,” which she dislikes; she can’t rely on her ability to write, type, or sew, since having a stroke. Crumbs, she’s over eighty years old! How is it possible that she’s still walking around? Dr. Kristie Leong has been tweeting the explanation. While glyphosate damages our internal “microbiomes,” the soluble fiber in fruits and vegetables restores our microbiomes. GBP is at least ingesting a partial antidote along with her poison. https://twitter.com/DrKristieLeong/

6. GLYPHOSATE WORKS AS BIRTH CONTROL, THOUGH IN NASTY WAYS


Meanwhile, although the precise causative relationship was not analyzed, studies show that glyphosate-exposed mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely, or “miscarry”—meaning “spontaneously” abort—or, when they do give birth to live babies, produce babies with fatal physical defects.

Pro-life people need to be aware that this makes glyphosate not only a form of birth control, but an ABORTIFACIENT. Whether you believe that abortion is murder (I don’t) or physical abuse of women (I do), glyphosate is long-distance abortion. Pro-life lobbyists should join the Glyphosate Awareness movement now!

7. A DATABASE OF STUDIES

Michael Balter thinks we need a database of studies. He’s right. The hashtag #GlyphosateAwareness is supposed, in theory, to compile such a database if people are willing to scroll through the banter, cartoons, trolls, etc., and sort out the formal scientific studies people have linked. In practice, it’s reached the point where scrolling all the way back to the original EPA dossier, in which Monsanto’s carefully cherry-picked studies to “prove” that glyphosate is not a primary carcinogen inadvertently confirm that glyphosate is toxic to the majority of living creatures studied, may crash your browser. We need a searchable online database that loads a manageable amount of data at one time. If you have data compilation and coding skills, you might want to tweet to @mbalter and @Olivefarmer about this.

8. PAULETTE DESCHAMPS FIGHTS TO RAISE GLYPHOSATE AWARENESS IN FRANCE

Background information: In France, and Europe generally, a total glyphosate ban is being disputed because the use of glyphosate didn’t go insane in 2009, as it did in the United States. Austria is upholding a nationwide ban and being challenged by the European Union. Paulette Deschamps, Madame le Maire of Perray-en-Yvelines, is upholding a ban for her little town, and being challenged by the French national government, whose president promised a total glyphosate ban and then backed down. https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/mayor-of-ile-de-france-town-vows-to-ignore-order-to-overturn-local-ban-on-glyphosate-herbicide-and-neonicotinoid-pesticides

9. BAYER’S FEEBLE RESPONSE

Bayer claims the company will do something to reduce its harmfulness...by 2030. Hah. That’s definitely long enough for glyphosate to kill most of the celiacs who’ve already reached the visible-blood-in-toilet stage. No ethical government or citizen can let them wait that long to drop the poisons, move on to robots, and start paying us damages. https://modernfarmer.com/2019/07/in-panic-mode-bayer-monsanto-announces-5-6-billion-for-new-weed-control/

10. “BUT IT’S NOT A PRIMARY CARCINOGEN, SO IT’S SAFE”

Basically anyone using this argument is incompetent. Glyphosate is probably not a primary carcinogen; it’s very hard to identify what is a primary carcinogen. Cancer seems to involve a balance between risk factors and protective factors, so there may not even be a truly primary carcinogen. So what? Hanging, drowning, shooting, fire, and plane crashes are not primary carcinogens! Here, scientific studies show that glyphosate is definitely one of the factors that increase individuals’ risk of developing cancer—if it doesn’t kill them in other ways first. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1383574218300887

11. HOW (SOME) FARMERS CAN SAVE SOIL

Pesticide-addicted farmers whine that, if they’re not allowed to poison the soil, they’ll have to plough up weeds and lose topsoil. Research shows that in the kind of flat country that should be ploughed in the first place this is not true. https://littlevillagemag.com/how-planting-prairie-strips-on-iowa-farms-could-save-soil-water-wildlife-and-money-in-state-and-beyond/?fbclid=IwAR1EySAupV23FmrZzYa4uljMrkBNPGnC0NXlJGesehFJx5nMaay46KqN-hU

In steep hilly country, no, it won’t work. My parents tried ploughing, mulching, and composting the space right above the original row of fruit trees above the hedge, the first few years they tried putting a garden around our home. We all watched rain wash the mulch and compost down through the front and back yards, through the grass and wildflowers. We also saw that, although the field could be ploughed with a mule, it was too steep to be safely ploughed with a tractor. So that was when they made that field an orchard, which it still is today.

Hill farmers conserve soil by terracing—not digging into the topsoil and displacing the native plants, but laying solid layers of mulch on top of the topsoil. Some local farmers are getting good results putting rows of aged straw bales on hilly fields in autumn, adding compost or fertilizer while the straw ages in winter, then planting directly in the straw in spring.

12. SIGN THIS, SIGN THAT, SIGN EVERYTHING

We’ve all signed petition after petition to demand GMO labels, glyphosate restrictions, probably other things. We need to sign more. We need to keep signing them. Sometimes it’s the plethora of petitions that gets attention. Have you signed this latest one yet? https://advocacy.organicconsumers.org/page/8012/petition/1

Have you commented on the EPA’s current glyphosate docket yet? https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=EPA-HQ-OPP-2009-0361-2340

What about the FDA’s page for regulating and labelling GMO? Funnily enough, the link to the comment page from this page has been “temporarily” not working for the past three days. https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-2018-0034.

There are organized, 501(c)(3)-registered groups working on Glyphosate Awareness now. Some people may be comfortable working with them. I prefer to network with them at a distance because groups like the Institute for Responsible Technology, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, et al., though legitimate, have an overarching leftist agenda that can sometimes limit their usefulness to the people who need Glyphosate Awareness.

For example, although the Salsa Labs network that hosts IRT, where friends and I used to be consultants too, is very polite and never asks about anyone’s politics, I’m fairly sure they would not host a Republican rally. Sometimes D’s like to be alone to talk inside Democratic Party campaign strategy. That is their prerogative; even Little League teams like to separate when they practice baseball. Yet Glyphosate Awareness is most definitely for R’s too. I’ve seen R’s react to glyphosate more drastically than I did. Common glyphosate reactions include kidney malfunctions and learning disabilities. It’s possible that the Trump family stand to benefit from Glyphosate Awareness.

Why am I doing this Newsletter at all? I can ill afford to donate my time to a cause without being paid. One reason why we need this Newsletter is that IRT, FOE, EWG (Environmental Working Group), et al., send out flashy, cookie-infested Newsletters...the graphics may make their e-mails more fun for some people to read, but other people whom I know personally don’t want to open their e-mails. Another reason is that some Republicans want to be sure that, when they sign things or join things or support things in any way, their responses aren’t going to be piled in together with responses to Extreme Left petitions (as some suspected may have happened at Change.org). This newsletter is not only for them, but it’s the one where they’re welcome, too, and they’re safe. I don’t send out batch e-mails at all, I don’t aggregate responses to anything, and I encourage readers to be careful about people who do.

The Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter has no overarching agenda. It’s for people who know that glyphosate is harmful to all living creatures and needs to be banned. That is the only thing on which we need to agree.

And of course it’s also for people who have only just heard, or who may still be skeptical, about glyphosate being harmful. I want you readers to share these Newsletters with friends who may still be spraying “Roundup” on their roses. Tell them they don’t need to tell you or me or anyone else what they learn, but a good place to start is by noting on the calendar when they’ve sprayed, and when each member of their family has a flare-up of some sort of “chronic problem”—maybe something sub-clinical, like extra-messy hayfever, unusual grumpiness, or extremely strong cravings to take another drink/pill/cigarette. Become aware. Then they can read as much more and become as “active” in the movement as they feel moved to be.

We met each other online. That means we’re people who have time to hang out on the Internet, maybe even chat on Twitter. That means we’re highly likely to be “retired,” disabled, students, or home care givers for people with disabilities. We have little time and less money. I live from odd job to flea market to hack-writing job, myself; I buy a few days’ groceries and don’t ask where the next load of groceries is coming from. So how are you, how am I, supposed to follow Gloria Steinem’s program for activists? (Remember, the one printed in Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions—at least one letter to the editor per week and so on and so forth?) Do what you can. This Newsletter is not going to dock your pay if you spend a month with a sick relative and don’t write any letters to the editor. But it does encourage everyone to write those letters, sign and circulate those petitions. The more different perspectives, the better.


Especially in St. Louis, Missouri. If you know anyone there, please raise their Glyphosate Awareness! https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bayer-glyphosate-lawsuit-analysis/bayer-could-benefit-from-home-advantage-in-st-louis-roundup-cancer-trial-experts-idUSKCN1UH10F . Missourians like to stereotype themselves as “The Show-Me State” where people want hard evidence. We have that. So show them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Quick Cat Post: Burr Is a Special Tomcat

Call it a belated Tortie Tuesday post...or an early Tuxie Thursday post, in honor of Loulou the lovely Tuxie:

https://www.livingwithloulou.com/good-apples/

I think I figured out the words to the little morning song with which Burr woke me this morning. (Burr is more white than black, but he almost qualifies as a Tuxie.) I think they must have been,

Good morning to you, and how do you do,
Get up, it's five-thirty, you lazy thing you.
Dawn's a fine time to play! You can nap in the day!
Never knew why you humans mix up times that way.
Well we're all hungry now, so bring out some chow,
To get home before you go into town is my vow.
I will not stay to eat what you set at your feet;
My other family worry if they don't see me eat.
Feed my daughter, OK? Then I'll be on my way,
And if you're still sleepy, you can sleep the whole day.

Humans would sing these words to the old kindergarten classic, "Good Morning" or "Happy Birthday to You." Cats are not particular about tunes; or at least, if they hear tunes at all, they hear pitches and rhythms very differently than we do. We know this because they don't seem to mind listening to one another "sing."

Tomcats usually sing to female cats who are in heat. Since that was last week, romance was probably not the theme of Burr's song this morning.

Burr is a very special tomcat. His mother, Irene, gave birth to only one viable kitten. He was it. He was, technically, adopted at an early age, but his official home is near enough for him and Samantha to have been quite a steady couple since she moved in. He has always been big for his age, not particularly cute and not at all cuddly (although he'll rub against me if he wants food). He's a big ugly jugheaded Manx-mix who provides a good example of what I'd prefer that no kitten ever look like.

But, what they act like? Burr is his great-great-granduncle Mackerel all over again, except that Mac bonded with me as a kitten. Most tomcats either ignore or actively attack kittens...Burr has fed, visited, played with, and fought in defense of kittens who I know for sure aren't even related to him. (Traveller, for one.) Most cats' pairings are all about sex and dissolve as soon as the female comes off heat...Burr has stayed around to reassure and "socialize" our little Samantha Scaredycat from the first full day she spent with me. He never seemed fond of his aunt Heather or cousin Tickle, or of me (I was fond of them), but he bonded with Samantha.

Recently Samantha actually let a visitor stroke her while she snuggled in my arms. She's let herself be flea-combed. She's actually purred...I don't know whether she'd let her claws be clipped without a fight, because I've not had a reason to clip her claws--no inappropriate scratching for at least a year. I remembered the little panic-biter she used to be. I've put some time and effort into providing calm, firm, stable discipline for the cat who spent too much time around middle school boys. I wonder, though, how much more Burr has helped Samantha than I've done.

I think Irene, who always adopted everyone else's kittens even when one of her own had survived, would have been proud of her one son. (Most cats don't seem to have family ties. Social cats do.)

I've not found statistics about how cats react to images of other cats on computer screens. I've not tested most of the cats at the Cat Sanctuary; not Burr, not Irene, not Samantha. Heather would look at another cat on the screen without showing a real reaction, then snuggle against me. As a kitten Serena ignored my computer; as a cat she positively dislikes any cat image, especially her own reflection in a dark screen, and won't stay in the room with one.

So, for those who want a cheerful post, here's a picture of social cats surviving a socialist government in Venezuela:

Image
These cats need a lot of food and rabies shots. http://paypal.me.FReinosoPerez/ is their fundraising link.
Someone dumped a Manx kitten outside this Cat Sanctuary and, just as when someone dumped Inky off on us, within the week one of the females had adopted it. And very likely somebody's fallen in love with it...after Inky moved out, Tickle stayed around and missed her for a while, and then he started commuting between his home and hers. Someone feeling really munificent might want to send this Cat Sanctuary the cost of a simple operation. I don't imagine these cats have a bed of pennyroyal to wallow in, as Samantha does.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Yelp Outs Self as Rubbish That Will Raise Your Blood Pressure

This web site has never actually endorsed Yelp.

For those who may wonder, Yelp is not a site that pays people to rave about their favorite local businesses, the way Associated Content did or the way Chatabout did. Yelp does advertise a "cash back" system (where Yelp writers get cash off their actual purchases at stores they write about) and some form of social rewards for those nominated as "evangelists for Yelp," which seems pretty tacky in view of the site's high-flown self-promotion. However, Yelp's actual mode of operation seems to work like this:

1. While writing for some other site, person looks up current web site for business person wants to recommend.

2. Google displays the (promoted) Yelp page for the business at the top left, the business's own site at the top right, so person may actually see the Yelp page first. Or person may be provoked by a preposterously unreal Yelp review--which is likely to draw the most traffic to Yelp, as writers' attention spans are probably long enough that we all remember to look for the business's own URL rather than Yelp's.

3. Person goes to Yelp and writes a review to provide some balance and get person's own blood pressure back down. Blood pressure surges occur when Googlers recognize, for example, raves about the cleanliness and fabulous bargains, from an alleged customer with a name like "Katie B.," at Yelp's page for what we know to be a stinking, price-gouging, salmonella-ridden store mismanaged by a lunatic with a name like "Katie B." Or we see rants from some alleged one-time visitor about the "rude staff" at a family business where the consistently kind, courteous, cosmopolitan owners, pillars of the church, etc., etc., have been known to employ a troubled 25-year-old foster child who apparently, shudder quake, said a swearword. Or, as yesterday, somebody posts what may or may not be a very unusual experience, or just an outright lie, about a business that has served a lot of people well for a long time.

4. This generates some traffic at Yelp, which encourages people to post reviews with pop-up lines like "With so few reviews, yours could be huge." A person might, as I did once many years ago, decide to devote a half-hour or an hour to reviewing every local business listed on the site.

5. Yelp used at least to display replies to the reviews that truly make visitors wonder whether some Yelpers are thinking about the right store. (Yesterday I stumbled across one that was showing for a chain store outlet in Tennessee, where a Yelper who claimed to live in California burbled "I like this store because it's so close to my home." Say whaaaat? How hard is it to change your address on Yelp if you have, in fact, moved?) A few stores generated some rant-and-rave exchanges. However, Yelp has decided to replace this feature with one that allows only the listed owner of the business to reply to reviews. How nice, considering Yelp's admitted goal of making big-chain stores look better than local independent ones. When unhappy small-town storekeepers (like one who's actually listed his store for sale by now) see only one review, some of them are likely to get all emotionally involved with blaming the person who gave them four stars instead of five...and they can't see any exchanges in which the writers of bad reviews admit, e.g., "I think I was actually thinking of a different store."

6. Yelp used, also, to hide individuals' reviews based on the claim that they didn't know who the reviewers were or how impartial they were, based only on people's online presence. I got that run-around, years ago when this web site's archive ran to less than a full ream of printed material. My reviews went live again, as best I recall, when Ronia Regal joined Yelp in order to follow me and when, around the same time, I sold the words to a picture book about chickens. Since then I've not visited Yelp within every single year, so don't know whether they've been suppressed and unsuppressed. Nor do I know whether RR ever visited Yelp again. Becket Adams did, and verified Yelp's bias.

https://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-yelp-protects-corporate-interests.html

This has changed into something...interesting. In a nasty, biased, even cyberbullying sort of way.

Whatever people may think about my social media presence, it is no longer possible for them to doubt that I'm a real live writer. This blog's been presenting a consistent personal narrative for years. I've written other books, guest-posted on other sites, and interacted in real time with thousands of people on social media. I'm read by thousands of people worldwide, wherever English is spoken, and not exclusively in English either. (This bothers me. When I was able to read priscillaking.blogspot.fr it looked weird enough in French; I have no way to imagine how bizarre it looks in Romanian, which, the computer says, is one of the most common ways it's currently being read...I wrote something for a Romanian site recently.) I have enough online presence and clout to annoy the everlovin' daylights out of Bayer, which may well be the last good thing I'll accomplish in this life; in any case I achieved it without investing a single penny or having, when I registered this screen name, a single active e-friend. I'm a real individual and a real American. Those who try to "verify" such things by encroaching on my privacy only make themselves look bad.

So the last few times I visited Yelp, my reviews were showing. Then, as mentioned, one of them annoyed a local character more than I'd intended it to--by having appeared at a particularly bad time for him, he claims. Now, during the month that review of his store was written, the review was suppressed, so I doubt the review contributed anything to the demise of his store. (I won't go into what-all did contribute to the demise of his store. Local readers remember; nobody else cares.) Apparently the man knew nothing of Yelp or of my review until last spring, when his sole Yelp publication consisted of a rant about my review.

https://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2019/06/status-update-yelp-is-seriously-whacked.html

It wasn't the sort of refutation of facts that Yelp claims to want business owners to post. The man did not deny that his store went out of business and is currently listed for sale. He was just upset that I'd given the store, when it existed, less than full marks, due to a fact that he admitted was true. I posted something that I meant in a conciliatory way. He posted something that showed that he didn't want to be conciliated. Now if he'd disputed my facts, I would have stood by them; if the facts had changed--if, for instance, he'd reopened the store--I would have conceded that. But the fact is that the store has not existed, as a place shoppers could discover, for many years. All the store's Yelp page was doing was bringing up bad memories and raising the blood pressure of a cardiovascular patient. So I pulled down both of my posts on his store's page, and suggested that Yelp purge the whole page. And there I intended my Yelp activity for this year to end.

This was not meant to be.

Someone on Twitter asked for help with a computer problem. I naturally thought of the local computer store that's developed a specialty in "vintage" computers, and has served me well over the years. I Googled their address.

Say whaaat? Yelp was giving this business one star? That's not a matter of personal preference or even business competition. That's insanity. This store has a niche that's not everybody's, but they own that niche; they're very, very good at keeping older computers running.

Yelp makes it possible to see the reviews they've decided to exclude from consideration when down-rating an independent business, so I verified that these were still there:

"
Belinda M., Kingsport, TN, 3.28.19: 5 stars

Charles & I have been using Compu World for computer repair  ~15 years and are very pleased with their work.  They are trustworthy with very reasonable pricing.  Highly recommend.

Priscilla K., Gate City, VA, 12.20.17: 5 stars

Where I go for Christmas! This store has or will find everything...the newest or the oldest, the flashiest or the cheapest, or any gadget in between. I clicked four stars for that, then added the fifth one because they both let me upload files from floppy disks to e-mail *and* chatted up my car pool buddy while upgrading my 1998 desktop. 

Small store, though. Everyone I've seen in there, staff and customers, has seemed the type who would help clear a path for any wheelchair user who came in, but it'd take them a while.
"

And here's what Yelp had decided to present as the only review worth consideration:

"
Vincent S., Kingsport, TN, 11.11.18 (First to Review): 1 star

these people ruined my macbook pro laptop. i had already formatted the hard drive and all i needed was operating system reinstalled. They said they cou!d do it. But after a week they admitted they didnt work on macbooks! finally after much back and forth over a 3.5 week period of me trying to get it back to take to someone that worked on macbooks. they told me that mine was one that had been recalled due to graphics card being bad. which was a LIE according to apple. when I finally did get it back the screws had been removed from back of it as 1 was missing.and another one was cross threaded.  So im guessing the one person that worked there who allegedly had one like mine, switched out guts with his which was more likely the one with messed up graphics or whatever they tried to say was wrong with mine. Not honest people and my job is to alert all  future potential customers about these people. Not only did they charge ,they charge me 100.00 for loading an operating system on it but said I had to use a cooler under it or no graphics will display on screenl.  and charged m,e 30l.00 for IT!!!!!! 
CROOKS!!!!!! I WOULDNT LET THESE PEOPLE WOIRK ON AN  AM TRANSISTOR RADIO.
"

Now I have no way of knowing that Vincent S. may not be a real person. I doubt very much that his guess about what happened to his Macbook Pro laptop is accurate. I'd believe that a mistake could have been made, because even wizards aren't always perfect. What I do know is that Vincent's experience is not typical. How I know this is because this store, Compuworld, is located about fifteen miles from my home. I have walked fifteen miles with a laptop in a case, but I'm not about to try carrying a 1998 desktop through fifteen miles of local whatever-is-least-convenient weather. So I almost always bribe somebody to drive over there with me. I've gone to Compuworld in the company of Grandma Bonnie Peters, Adayahi, Oogesti, Lisiwayu, Adawee, The Goth, and The Grouch: that's seven fellow computer users, and about as diverse a group as you could find. All seven have their own accounts at Compuworld.

And it's not the case that they all leap at any excuse to rush over there at once. They all do say things like "All the way to Colonial Heights? Can we wait another week?", and like "What I want is the new computer in the other store's window. Would you consider going there instead?", and like "The other store's on my side of town." They do not, ever, say anything like "I no longer trust those guys" or "I'm not satisfied with the last job they did." Even when they've said they didn't want to shop for anything electronic, and even though the store is in a row of businesses that include places that have seats and sell snacks, they always come into the crowded little computer store and look around. Frequently they buy something.

This is because, whether they are prim little church ladies like GBP or large hairy characters like The Goth, the wizards always seem to remember them and happen to have stocked more of what they're likely to want. And one of the guys actually chatted up The Grouch. I did not go into this on Yelp, but yes, he was the one the wizards managed to keep in a cheerful mood for two or three hours. You have to be local to realize how hard it is to keep The Grouch in a cheerful mood for two or three minutes, particularly if you are a small business owner and The Grouch isn't buying anything.

For comparison, Google Reviews gives Compuworld an average of four stars, based on the following reviews...Google links ought to work on a Google-hosted site, so I'm leaving them in.

"
Gena Prince
a year ago
Ron, the owner, is an awesome guy. He has always came when I have called him (which is about 40 minutes away) and have always done an excellent job. He has also went way beyond to fix the problem the office has had with what ever the issue is. We have also bought all of our office equipment from him and the prices are great!!! Would not trust anyone else to touch our computer systems. He is the BEST!!!!
Ben Vogel
a year ago
Went to have a screen replaced on my laptop with the replacement screen already in hand. Shop was quite messy with computers and parts scattered everywhere. After agreeing to do the labor, employee gave an estimate of "a couple days" for labor with no definite finish date. No confirmation or paper assurance or business card was given from this employee to contact him or to confirm the repair. This was on a Wednesday. Come Saturday after 3.5 full days to work on it and the laptop is still not repaired. On Monday, I receive a call saying the laptop is repaired. Was charged for 3 hours of labor, which is fine but could have been completed sooner. Repair was fine except for an issue with the screen not turning off when shut. It was not like this before.

Overall, they did the job I asked them to do for the agreed upon price, but it took longer than stated with no communication and was sketchy with no receipt or contact info after dropping the laptop off. A receipt was given after the repair had been done The repair left an issue that was not there before, which I will have looked at by another specialist.
Deborah Wilson
2 years ago
These guys are trustworthy, honest and do a great job servicing computers. They have helped me out numerous times on different issues. Very affordable too! Highly recommend them!
Janet Leigh
2 years ago
Good computer services. Owned by. Ron. Miller.
"

I read this idjit's bad review that was displacing two good reviews...I also looked at Vincent's profile on Yelp. He has only ever posted this one bad review. He has no "friends" on Yelp. He has no noticeable online presence, no link to a web site or social media account. How in blinkin' blue blazes is it possible for his reviews to impress anyone, even a bungled electronic algorithm, as more credible than, well, mine? The only way I can imagine would be through confusion with Vince Staten of the Kingsport Times-News. A bungled algorithm might achieve that level of confusion. Nobody who's read the Times-News would believe that that's the way Vince Staten writes. (For comparison, a link to Vince Staten's last blog post should be over on the right side of the screen somewhere.)

So, word-nerd and Perfect Virginia Lady that I am, I gave Yelp the chance to recognize and correct their egregious mistake. I e-mailed the site's headquarters to say that, if they wanted to suppress all my reviews in the interest of helping an old cardiovascular patient live longer, that was fine by me, but they ought at least to display the other Yelper's recent five-star review of Compuworld. I spelled out that although I'd clicked on a button to flag Vincent's review as "misleading," I wasn't asking them to purge his review, just to display it alongside one of the two reviews that reflect a more typical customer opinion.

This is what I got.

"
Hi Priscilla,

Thanks for writing back. After careful evaluation, we have decided not to remove Vincent S.'s content of Compuworld Systems. When reviewing user content, we look at a number of factors, including potential conflicts of interest, threatening or lewd commentary, and whether content has been posted to the correct business page. If a review falls within the bounds of our tolerance for strong language, appears to meet our guidelines and reflect the user’s personal experience and opinions, it is our policy to let the user stand behind their review.

Business owners can address concerns or misunderstandings via their Business Account by posting a public comment or sending a private message to the reviewer.

For further information on using Yelp, please find answers to frequently asked questions in our Support Center (http://www.yelp-support.com).

Additionally, one of the ways we try to help Yelp users discover local businesses is by using automated software to showcase reliable reviews. This means Yelp doesn’t recommend every review from every user and is automated so that it can apply the same standards to every business and every review. This is very different from other sites that tend to feature every single negative rant and positive rave. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability and activity on Yelp. What is recommended can change over time, and a review that is currently not recommended may be recommended on another day.

Because our recommendation software is automated, the Yelp Support team cannot manually override the software to recommend or not recommend a review. Our recommendation software is automated precisely so that it can apply the same standards to every business and every review without being overridden by someone's personal preferences.

We hope you'll take the time to watch our video about the Recommendation Software: https://www.yelp-support.com/article/What-is-Yelp-s-recommendation-software?l=en_US and visit our Support Center for more resources: http://www.yelp-support.com/Recommended_Reviews.

Regards,
Michael
Yelp Support
San Francisco, California
"

In other words, Yelp's criterion for a review's reliability is "How much of a point lead do this person's reviews, taken together, give to independent businesses over big chains?"

Let's all give Yelp zero stars.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter: WYSIWYG

E-mail Salolianigodagewi to receive newsletters like this one every Thursday (or maybe Friday) directly in your e-mail. This one's just a write-up of what we chatted about on Twitter last Tuesday. It's being offered as a newsletter because, as all Real Twits have noticed by now, we can't depend on Twitter. The printed edition, with the size type you see below, would cost $1 plus printing costs for any linked articles you'd asked to receive; full text of linked documents would be mailed out with the reader's next newsletter. Note that the Newsletter will be plain text--no graphics, no affiliate links.

The Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter is published weekly by Priscilla King, c/o Boxholders, P.O. Box 322, Gate City, Virginia, 24251-0322. It’s available free, in plain text as an e-mail or attachment. Printed or audiocassette versions are available for the cost of production. (Audiofiles are free to anyone who can convince me that s/he is blind and can’t read a document aloud using widely available software.) Reprinting, recirculating, and sharing this information at the reader’s own expense is encouraged, provided that all sources of material are credited.

After last week’s Yellist flop, here is the first mailable Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter. Currently you sign up for this Newsletter by e-mailing salolianigodagewi@yahoo.com, which is a group e-mail address. A specific e-mail address for this Newsletter should go live next week.

WHAT WE LEARNED ON TUESDAY: 1. BAYER APPEALS

Playing the traditional courtroom game, Bayer appealed to reduce the amounts of damages the company was ordered to pay to cancer survivors. Reducing the amounts may have improved the chance of the cancer survivors actually receiving any of the damages due to them while they are alive.

In the Hardeman case, Judge Vincent Chhabria upheld the $5 million “compensatory” payment to Mr. Hardeman but reduce the $75 million “punitive” payment to $20 million. Judge Chhabria, who has been accused of being biased by loyalty to Monsanto, stated that “The evidence easily supported a conclusion that Monsanto was more concerned with tamping down safety inquiries and manipulating public opinion than it was with ensuring its product is safe.” More at https://www.thejournal.ie/roundup-weedkiller-cancer-4726164-Jul2019/ .

Bayer wants to appeal again—to continue stalling while Mr. Hardeman, Mr. Johnson, the Pilliods, and the thousands of other cancer survivors who have filed suits against this despicable corporation suffer financial stress, aggravating what may already be fatal and painful diseases, over their horrific medical expenses. They whine, just as the cigarette companies used to whine, that it’s hard to prove that their product is a primary carcinogen.

Cancer is a complex disease that appears to involve balances among all kinds of factors. One of these factors is the patient’s overall  health and immunity. Glyphosate is a weird chemical that affects individuals, in every tested group of every species, differently depending on individual heredity, health condition, and exposure, but the confirmed effects it has on significant minorities of every test group, across species, most definitely include damage to the individual’s overall health and immunity. Therefore, Bayer should have no realistic grounds for hope that an unbiased jury will ever rule that glyphosate has not contributed to an individual’s cancer...whether or not it turns out to be a primary carcinogen.

Earlier this spring, we saw that some studies even supported a claim that glyphosate might reduce the incidence of some slow-growing types of cancer that appear to require a human lifespan to develop...quite possibly because heavy exposure to glyphosate causes people to die in other ways first. However, glyphosate-exposed people appear to be developing slow-growing cancers at accelerated rates. Twelve-year-old Jake Bellah has already not only been diagnosed, but survived chemotherapy for, non-Hodgkins lymphoma—a rare and usually slow-growing cancer. Another child in California, a girl, is also suing with a similar claim. https://usrtk.org/monsanto-roundup-trial-tacker/sick-children-among-cancer-victims-suing-monsanto-over-roundup/

2. BAYER BOYCOTT

Private individuals are already boycotting all Bayer products. There is, to date, one official Bayer Boycott Song. There should be more. This is mine. It can be sung (and danced) to the tune of “Everybody Rejoice” from The Wiz. It is subject to the folk process; add, omit, or substitute verses as you like. This is the original version from my web site:

Well, Bayer's on the run! Do they remember 1945?
The day of profit's come and gone! They are just trying to get out alive!
Their glyphosate makes people sick a dozen different ways,
Yet they debate, to wear out cancer patients' dying days!

Join the Bayer Boycott now!
Join the Bayer Boycott now!

Headache trying to begin? Drink some water, take a good hot bath.
Throw out the aspirin! Make Bayer feel the loss and do the math!
Lose Dr. Scholl's--just buy some shoes that really fit your feet!
Bayer controls less of our lives than they thought, ain't that sweet?

Dog or cat has fleas? Then boil their blankets and flea-comb their coats.
No need to make them wheeze, no need to burn their noses and their throats.
Pets' allergies are mostly chemical reactions, just like ours.
Ban things like these, relief lasts more than twenty-four short hours!

Tampering with genes will feed more population growth, or so they claim?
Bosh! All that means is profit for themselves, their only aim!
No vitamin pill undoes the damage Bayer's poisons do!
They've made us ill! That's why the boycott's good for me and you!

On the serious side, here are the brands to stop buying, return and demand a refund, etc., to join the Bayer Boycott now:

Advantage
Advantix
Aleve
Alka-Seltzer
(Bayer) Aspirin, Bayerin, Bufferin
Cipro (which may cause muscle cramps severe enough to break bones! Do you need THAT much antibiotic power?)
Claritin
Coppertone
Dr. Scholl’s
Drought-Gard
Levitra
Miralax
RoundUp (obviously!)
Seresto
Xarelto (there were some major issues with this one too!)

That’s only a short list of popular products sold directly to the general public in the Eastern States; the full printable list is at https://www.bayer.com/en/products-from-a-to-z.aspx .

3. BAYER BEHAVES EQUALLY DESPICABLY IN EUROPE

Glyphosate Awareness recognizes the brave and helpful support of German (and German-expatriate) readers who realize that glyphosate harms them too. (While the celiac genetic type is Irish, pseudo-celiac reactions to glyphosate residues in wheat and other food are found across Europe, as far east as India and as far south as South Africa. Germany, too.)

Nevertheless, German-based Bayer resumes the role of the German characters in The Sound of Music as Glyphosate Awareness achieves a nationwide ban in Austria. Worldwide petition can be signed here: https://actions.sumofus.org/a/austria-glyphosate-ban .

4. “NATURAL,” “ORGANIC,” “HEALTHY” PRODUCTS: CONTAMINATION CONTINUES

A US-based consumer group recently sued Twinings Tea of London for “misleading advertising” that fails to acknowledge high levels of glyphosate residues found in their products: https://www.organicconsumers.org/press/organic-consumers-association-sues-twinings-tea-false-and-misleading-advertising .

But what else is new? Last year, you no doubt remember, General Mills tried to lure gluten-sensitive (mostly glyphosate-sensitive) shoppers back to their products by advertising cereals and granola bars as oat-based and rigorously gluten-free. Many celiacs had long avoided oat products because this naturally gluten-free grain, which should not trigger celiac symptoms, was triggering ours. “Cross-contamination, careless handling, wheat flour sifting down onto oat products in storage,” was the usual explanation. The truth came out as GM’s gluten-free cereals and granola bars continued to make celiacs sick and, no surprise to me, were shown to contain high levels of glyphosate. This week’s news was that GM has succeeded in producing relatively low-contaminated batches of Honey Nut Cheerios...even though their Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, which contain more different ingredients, tested outrageously high for glyphosate contamination. It is just remotely possible that some celiacs, in some parts of the US, may currently be able to eat small amounts of Honey Nut Cheerios without visible loss of blood affecting our ability to work in the next 48 hours. https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/monsanto-weedkiller-still-contaminates-foods-marketed-to-children/

True celiacs, of course (at least the ones of us who want to live), don’t wait for studies like these to tell us when food products contain enough glyphosate to make us sick. We know. We’ve learned that eating any part of any plant grown commercially in North America is currently a gamble with the odds against us...even if it’s completely gluten-free. Epa.gov displays a complete, though outdated, list of the most contaminated US produce (search the site to find where that list is currently “archived,” and please drop a comment on the current glyphosate docket page while you’re there). Basically all grain has to be considered poison, as are most nuts and beans. All parts of plants absorb glyphosate but generally, if we’re going to risk eating any commercial fruit or vegetable, the best chance of our bodies tolerating it is likely to involve fruits with thick outer peels; if we avoid swallowing any rinds or seeds, many celiacs can still digest citrus fruits and melons. Apples? Peaches? Tomatoes? Don’t even look at’em.

“Organically grown” sometimes means a few fruit and vegetables are safe for us to eat. Other times, it means that farmers have tried, but failed, to raise crops free from contamination by glyphosate-polluted air or water. Occasionally it means that some dishonest farmer has paid a lot of money to a certifying board, then sprayed poison on crops anyway. There’s no real guarantee.

5. SWEET KILLER

Have you ever heard of the University of T├╝bingen? There may be a reason why not.There is such a school, and what it has for a science department has breathlessly announced the discovery of a new form of sugar that also disrupts the shikimate pathway in plants, just as glyphosate does, and so is likely to seem harmless to humans, pets, and wildlife—except when it kills them—for years, until mass outrage arises. The Failing to Learn from History Award goes to https://www.marketsgermany.com/new-sugar-molecule/ .

There are other “natural” things you can spray on unwanted plants—concentrated forms of biochemicals found in living plants that inhibit the growth of competing plants—like this geranium-extract formula: https://www.mandycanudigit.com/2019/07/16/neudorff-weedfree-plus-weedkiller-review/ . The “natural” herbicide Glyphosate Awareness likes best is boiling water. Or you can carefully apply a mix of salt and vinegar to “weeds”—basically fat-free salad dressing—and watch them wilt like a dressed salad.

6. SWEET VICTORY

For a long time, neighborhoods have tried to go pesticide-free, and chemical companies have paid people to move in and squeal for the “right” to endanger everyone else’s health by poisoning their lawn. Two neighborhoods particularly dear to my heart, which have been battlefields for this kind of thing, are Takoma Park and Bethesda, Maryland. (Bethesda can be considered a city in its own right, and it ranks among Maryland’s biggest, but culturally it’s a sprawly suburban neighborhood outside Washington.) I was particularly glad to see that Maryland has recognized these neighborhoods’ right to enforce stricter pesticide regulations than the state as a whole has adopted. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/beyond-pesticides-montgomery-county-legal-victory-a-win-for-public-health-and-the-environment-loss-for-pesticide-industry-bullying-300884330.html

7. BEYOND BAYER

No other company has ever made more money off glyphosate than Monsanto had, before it merged into Bayer. However, one reason why glyphosate use exploded in 2009, and why so many of us feel so much more than ten years “older” than we were in 2009, is that in 2009 other companies started manufacturing—and competitively marketing—their own glyphosate products. Swiss reporters confront Swiss-based Syngenta, the second worst offender lined up for lawsuits after shameless Bayer collapses, about that multinational company’s transition away from glyphosate: https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/health-and-environment_un-expert-urges-phase-out-of-hazardous-pesticides/45040316#.XS4lClwkjsU.twitter

8. BUT WHAT CAN THE POOR FARMERS DO, WOE, WOE

Laura Rance of Winnipeg reports how crop product councils are recommending that farmers reduce their dependence on glyphosate. These short-term strategies won’t protect farmers’ health, and really if they’re still spraying glyphosate they deserve to suffer. They won’t protect farmers’ innocent children, either. Nor will they protect family farms from becoming places where people feel unaccountably sick and tired after a few hours’ work, inclined to go in and watch TV and let the monster “farmers” machine-raise the toxic “crops” that are making us all so much sicker than we need to be. But they will reduce the level of glyphosate in produce—e.g. canola oil—such that people may not associate the smidgen of canola oil in their gluten-free cereal with the glyphosate reaction that makes them sick after eating the cereal. Who knows, some may not even notice the reaction. This is a short-term, rather cowardly strategy. We need a total ban on all use or production of glyphosate. But it may buy some more time for Bayer and the “farmers” colluding with Bayer to continue selling “foods” that will make a smaller number of people sick. https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/farmers-taking-the-hint-on-glyphosate-512673971.html

We need a zero tolerance policy for whines about numbers. If you or I got tired of waiting for an inheritance from a hateful old rich relative, so we minced an oleander blossom into his salad, then even though we only ever harmed or intended to harm one fellow human, and even if he spat out the poison and lived, we could look forward to a long hard time in prison. The same principle should be applied to chemical companies. Reducing the numbers of affected people allows them to argue, basically, “These people we’ve poisoned are only statistical freaks. Ignore them. They mattered less than other humans do.” This is the kind of argument with which Bayer’s first generation comforted themselves when they were making Zyklon B. The rule needs to be: Any fatalities is too many. If your product harms one person, you grovel, you pay that person a pension for life, and you stop making or selling that product...and if you even dispute this rule, the American public will boycott your company to death. No exceptions. No excuses.

What Glyphosate Awareness recommends farmers do is stop poisoning their land now. Sue the chemical companies for starting the Vicious Spray Cycles that produced the unnatural pest population explosions you’ll see right away. (All at once is the most efficient way.) Make them pay for the five or ten years it’ll take you to recover a natural balance and start raising real food crops again. When we’re all pesticide-free, nature thins pest populations and doing the work by hand feels like much less of an unthinkable burden—in fact, like a pleasant way to do your morning exercise. The year the pest populations rebound will be gruesome...but every year after it will be better. https://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2013/06/advance-phenology-bean-beetles.html

9. OVER TO YOU, GENTLE READERS


If Twitter was working properly, you saw most of this information on Twitter on Tuesday, or you would have seen it if you’d visited Twitter. (Glyphosate Awareness does not want anybody to give up any beach, garden, sports, family, or other quality time to join us on Twitter.) Next question: What did we not see on Twitter? What can you tell the Glyphosate Awareness community first, before we see it on Twitter? Please share your questions, links, and stories!