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• See Jim Hightower
(Re: “Prosperity in prohibition,” cover story, Aug. 13.) I thought it interesting that one day after the BW story on dispensaries and the revelation that no federal agency had yet interfered with such an enterprise the FBI confiscated all of the marijuana of a well-known Denver dispensary. The stated goal was to collect the records of an adjacent business. However, the FBI agents somehow managed to observe the marijuana and then seized it, as well.
Paul Tiger/via Internet
I enjoy reading the Weekly. However, what is your obsession with pot? It seems like all you like to write about is drugs and marijuana. Perhaps that is also why you have a woman who writes about desserts. I do enjoy the Dessert Diva article — but it seems too short. Just when you are entertained, it is over and has no pictures. You always have a picture of a pot plant without a problem. Just my input for the day.
Ken Lay/via Internet
The devil is in the details
(Re: “Phytoestrogens in soymilk,” Danish Plan, Aug. 13.) It’s easy to misinterpret information from phytochemistry (the chemistry of plants) — the devil is in the details.
The soy isoflavones mentioned in this article may “mimic estrogen” in some respects, but the way that they alter cellular behavior is very different from the changes brought about by exposing cells to pharmaceutical estrogens or to other types of estrogen mimics commonly known as “endocrine disruptors” or “xenoestrogens.”
There’s no doubt that the body of science concerning phytoestrogens is large, complex and sometimes conflicting. However, the critic who “claims a glass of soy milk contains as much estrogen as three birth control pills” is apparently not very well educated concerning the differences between the isoflavones found in soy and the types of estrogens found in birth control pills. Isoflavones have what we call a “weak binding affinity” compared to pharmaceutical estrogens; they have much less of an ability to bind to cellular receptors and therefore ultimately convey much less of an estrogenic message to the cells (generally, strong estrogens convey a “pro-growth” message, which is why they can promote cancers). Sometimes phytoestrogens can even block stronger estrogens, thereby lowering the overall estrogenic message that a cell receives.
Think about it this way: if it were true that a glass of soy milk is equivalent to three birth control pills, how many birth control pills would a baby raised on soy-based formula — very commonly used in the U.S. — be drinking every single day? The FDA — despite its real or imagined shortcomings — would never allow that.
My point is that there are significant differences between the effects of phytoestrogens (of which there are many different types), natural human estrogens, the estrogens used in birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, and estrogen-mimicking endocrine distruptors from various sorts of pollution. We can’t assume that information about one type applies equally to any of the other types.
As Mr. Danish points out, the research on GMOs is inconclusive. So is the research on the link between smoking and cancer. Unlike, for example, a blind faith in a particular economic dogma, science never reaches unassailable conclusions. Promoters use this as a justification for marketing the technology until and unless some effect appears that is so widespread and catastrophic that it cannot be covered up by corporate public relations. There is nothing new about this political strategy; it has been used in the past to counter the concerns of skeptical citizens and scientists on issues from tobacco to nuclear power to global warming to pesticides. That accepted scientific practice puts the onus of reasonable proof of safety and effectiveness on the advocates of new, and potentially destructive, technologies is conveniently ignored.
But the companies promoting GMO technology now have yet another weapon that is the very antithesis of good science. The contracts one must enter into when purchasing GMO seeds specifically prohibit any research without permission from the corporation selling them. To publish independent research in defiance of these agreements, particularly if that research raises questions about the product, is to risk a devastating lawsuit. The company is, of course, free to license research by scientists it has good reason to believe will promote its products and to retain the right to suppress unfavorable results. In effect, the corporations that profit from GMOs have a veto power on independent research on safety and effectiveness.
Much of Mr. Danish’s writing seems intended to conflate good science with profit maximization. This may be a principle of libertarian economics, but it is not as far as I know, a principle of science.
For a discussion of GMO research, expanding on the points above, see the editor’s comment in the August 2009 Scientific American, Page 28.
A GMO stipulation
(Re: “Planting a seed,” cover story, Aug. 6.) Pamela’s White’s article on GMO crops in Boulder County was pretty good. There are many important issues regarding GMO crops discussed, but one was missing.
I would advocate that all of the commissioners voting on the subject be required to watch the movie Food Inc. If they have any intention of letting farmers plant GMO crops, it should come with the explicit stipulation that any legal costs inflicted upon non-GMO farmers by biotech companies, like Monsanto, due any form of litigation/legal actions regarding cross-pollination of any crops, like Roundup Ready, with non-GMO crops shall be paid for by those farmers who choose to grow GMO crops in the first place.
The real goal for companies like Monsanto is to gain control over non-GMO farmers via cross-pollination of GMO crops/seed stocks with non-GMO crops/seed stocks thereby letting them use their patents to legally entangle non-GMO farmers for patent infringement.
The buffers, early flowering plant rules and crop rotations discussed will not provide 100 percent containment for GMO crops, and that’s what Monsanto is counting on.
It only takes one truck driving down the highway on a windy day, filled with GMO waste, to contaminate the rest of the non-GMO crops.
OK. So let me get this straight: a bunch of professional politicians, many of whom have been heavily sponsored by insurance corporations, HMOs and Big Pharma, and all of whom are completely covered by a government paid-for health-insurance plan, are the ones who are going to “reform” our current health-care mess, and these same guys have ruled out any possibility of a single-payer plan (like the one they have), and they seem to be all but ruling out a possible “public option”? Right. Yeah. Want to take any bets on how this one is going to turn out?
Gene Ira Katz/Boulder
There’s a reason that 90 percent of people on Medicare think it is a lifesaver. A real public health-insurance option is crucial to lowering costs. With premiums projected to hit $22,000, we need to get costs down. By spurring competition, a public plan will help bring down out-of-control costs for individuals, families and small businesses.
License cyclists, too
I had a run-in with an irate cyclist (no helmet, staring straight ahead) in downtown Boulder last week, and frankly, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. Had I, the driver, not been paying attention, there could have been a collision. Guess who would have been held responsible, both in the public’s eye and that of the law? I was in the left-hand lane of a two-lane, one-way street, making a legal left-land turn onto another one-way street. I had a green light. As I began my turn, this blissfully unaware cyclist sailed into the intersection in the oncoming direction (from sidewalk to crosswalk to sidewalk, also with a green crossing light) at full cruising speed, expecting that because he also had a green light, he didn’t have any obligation to pay attention to his surroundings.
Upset at two near accidents I had seen in the previous three blocks, I was upset, and tapped my horn both out of frustration and to remind him that the law, as it pertains to bicycles, is that they must “enter the crosswalk at pedestrian speed,” although they are not required to dismount.
So what was this now red-faced cyclist’s reaction? He proceeded to follow me for three blocks to Broadway, weaving in and out of traffic, circling my car repeatedly (illegally), and insisting that I roll down my window so that he could scream at me or worse. I refused, simply choosing to leave the scene lest things escalate. His final action was to physically strike my vehicle’s passenger window with his fist and scream “F*** you!” with a particular finger held high to ensure I understood his meaning.
I had no desire to start a fight, nor to inconvenience or interrupt this gentleman’s day. Had he but recognized his error and moved on, none of this would have happened. And had I been a different sort of driver (i.e., the sort who’d exit his vehicle and turn the argument into a physical altercation), things could have turned out very different.
Cyclists: When you stop weaving in and out of traffic, sidewalks, one-way streets and ignoring stop signs and red and yellow lights, and begin slowing to pedestrian speed when crossing at crosswalks, perhaps you’ll deserve the respect you seem to think the world owes you just because you have fewer wheels than most vehicles do.
If there were a bicycle registration process, in which bicycles had to display some sort of visible identification, I could have called the police and reported this cyclist’s physical attack on my vehicle. But here in the land of Lycra and shaved legs, hell will freeze over first.
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