Month: December 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Mark Albertson: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, January 3, 2018

Mark Albertson, historical research editor at Army Aviation magazine, will talk about “NATO Then and Now.”
A lot has changed since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed 70 years ago. First created for defense against Soviet threats in Western Europe, today NATO has a broader mission with more members.
As he always does, Mark will provide an informative review of this evolution and a provocative analysis of the challenges NATO faces today.
Mark has authored several books, including On History: A Treatise, and is finishing Volume 1, Sky Soldiers: The Saga of Army Aviation.
An avid speaker, he travels Connecticut presenting a variety of historical topics and current events. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Norwalk Community College for the Extended Studies Program and the Lifetime Learners Institute.
Arranged by Tom Lom
To learn more about DMA events and activities, go here. To post news on the website, email gary.m.banks@gmail.com. For the newsletter and email distributions, send news and photos to raymeurer9@gmail.com

Video of his talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2nNhHalFY

Wayne Karl passes away December 19, 2017

Wayne Karl, the former Chief of the Noroton Heights Fire Department who dedicated his life to community service and raised four sons in the town of Darien, CT, died surrounded by family in Vero Beach, FL on December 19, 2017. He was 82. Mr. Karl was a man entirely without pretense, but over the course of his life he earned some lofty titles: chief, commodore, commissioner, fire marshal, justice of the peace and president.
Mr. Karl joined the Naval Reserves shortly after graduating from Darien High School in 1953 and served until he was honorably discharged in 1960. He first volunteered at the Noroton Heights Fire Department in 1961. It would become a lifelong commitment. He became Assistant Chief in 1963 andin 1969, he was elected Chief, a position he maintained for ten consecutive years. He remained a passionate and active member of the NHFD long after stepping down as Chief in 1979. In 2012, the Connecticut State Fire Fighters Association presented Mr. Karl with a 50 Year Service Award to
honor his half century as a dedicated fire fighter – all as a volunteer. He served as a Darien Fire Commissioner from 1969 to 1979 and as Fire Marshal and Deputy Fire Marshall from 1969 to 1991.
Mr. Karl was an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Darien for decades, serving as president in
1991. For most of his life, Mr. Karl was also an active member of the Darien Boat Club, which he
joined in 1956. He held virtually every leadership position in the Club, serving as Commodore from
1983-85. In 1998, the Darien Chamber of Commerce recognized Mr. Karl’s service to the Darien community by naming him Citizen of the Year. The town Board of Selectman marked the occasion by proclaiming November 20, 1998 “Wayne Karl Day” in the town of Darien. The official proclamation listed some of Mr. Karl’s public deeds but added, “it should be noted that it is impossible to acknowledge all that
Wayne has done for the community.”

Known for his charisma and his unfailing sense of humor, Mr. Karl had many passions: gardening,
NASCAR, sports cars, baseball, country music – and anything to do with his children or grandchildren.
Mr. Karl was the proprietor and manager of Karl’s Auto Body in Stamford, a business started by his
father, James Karl in 1925. He often had the tow truck parked in his driveway, ready to respond
immediately to emergencies on Interstate 95 and throughout the area. Mr. Karl is survived by three of his sons: James Lawrence Karl, a practicing attorney in southwest Florida; Allan Frederick Karl, an adventure writer and photographer known as Worldrider; and ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan David Karl and his wife, Maria. He is also survivedby four grandchildren: Robert Stephen, Emily Jane, Anna Katherine and Christopher Aiden.

Wayne was predeceased by his second wife, Wendy Fisher Karl and his son, Robert Stephen Karl.
The family will receive friends at the Edward Lawrence Funeral Home, 2119 Post Road, Darien on
Wednesday, December 27, 2017 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. A Funeral Service will be held on Thursday,
December 28, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at the Noroton Presbyterian Chapel, 2011 Post Road, Darien.
Burial will follow with full Military Honors at Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Noroton Heights Fire Department, 209 Noroton Avenue, Darien, CT 06820.

Current Affairs: Inequality and increasing job automation, March 15, 2018

Discussion leader: Bryan Hooper

The American Dream is still alive, but it has been fading into the distance with the growth of inequality of income and wealth distribution over the past few decades. There are some good research guides to help us understand the current situation and provide a basis for discussion of how changes in automation might affect the situation in future. In particular, the economists Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Raj Chetty of Stanford University specialize in the study of inequality and its causes and possible cures, and the reading items suggested in these notes draw on their work.

  • The first recommendation is the World Inequality Report, which was part-authored by Thomas Piketty, and released in December, 2017. Download the executive summary from their website below and you will see in pages 4 through 16 a comprehensive review of the global situation, including an analysis of reasons for the rise in inequality and some suggestions to change the situation into a more equitable distribution. The use of well-designed charts is outstanding, and Figure E3 that illustrates the comparison between the USA and Western Europe is a good example. It shows that in the USA over a period of 36 years the share of national income of the top 1% doubled to 20% through 2016, while the bottom 50% saw its share decline from 20% to 13%. In Western Europe, in contrast, the top 1% share grew from 10% to 12%, and the bottom 50% declined from 24% to 22%. Figure E8 shows that the share of wealth (as opposed to income) rose for the top 1% in the USA from 22% in 1980 to 39% in 2014. The report is on:
    http://wir2018.wid.world/

    For those of you with really limited time go to the review of key findings from the report in a New York Times article from 12/14/2017:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/14/business/world-inequality.html

    • The second major recommendation is to pull up The Equality of Opportunity Project website, and look at the second chart on the home page that provides the support for the first sentence of these notes. To quote, “Our work shows that children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90% to 50% over the past half century.” One of the Project Directors is Raj Chetty and a podcast on Freakonomics Radio expands on his research on the American Dream: there is a link to the podcast in the second paragraph of the item on Project Motivation next to the chart. You can either listen to the 40 minutes of the broadcast, or for the time-challenged, try reading the on-screen transcript instead. To save even more time read a summary of his key points below:
    Young kids who move out of a high-poverty neighborhood do much better later on in life because of several factors:
    – Residential integration.
    – Income inequality.
    – Family influence.
    – Social capital.
    – School quality.
    The investment in moving these children is repaid to society by the income taxes they pay back on the higher earnings they eventually make as adults.
    The website is:
    http://www.equality-of-opportunity.org/

    Chetty is also working on a project using Facebook data to help understand better the causes of inequality:
    https://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/19/facebook-inequality-stanford-417093

    The Brookings Institution has Chetty in 14 Charts on this site:
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/social-mobility-memos/2018/01/11/raj-chetty-in-14-charts-big-findings-on-opportunity-and-mobility-we-should-know/

    • A third suggestion is to read the key points from the IPPR report titled Managing Automation which is mainly about the UK economic outlook in this area, but contains on page 17 chart 1.6 using data from the McKinsey study cited below indicating that 60% of occupations in the USA consist of activities that are 30% automatable. (Does that mean that 18% of those jobs will disappear?) It also states that occupations with zero chance of being automated include psychiatrists and legislators! The executive summary on pages 2 to 5 is a quick read, but section 2 on pages 24 to 30 covers their forecast for the growth of inequality due to automation. The potential loss of wages associated with automating activities is estimated as $1.1 trillion in the USA.
    https://www.ippr.org/files/2018-01/cej-managing-automation-december2017.pdf

    • The fourth recommendation is to review the key findings of a McKinsey Global Institute study titled A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity. Pages ii to iii provide a quick summary. The subsequent executive summary is on pages 1 to 3, and for those with perseverance the full report covers an additional 16 pages of analysis and opinion.
    https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Global Themes/Digital Disruption/Harnessing automation for a future that works/MGI-A-future-that-works-Executive-summary.ashx

    • For the fifth reference point, if you still have the time and energy, have a look at the debate on Intelligence Squared from October, 2014, Income Inequality impairs the American Dream of Upward Mobility. Again, you can download a transcript to read in a shorter time than listening takes – 1:44 hours – and it will also save you having to listen to the self-centered moderator. Note that the motion was judged to have failed by their scoring system, but a majority of the audience ended up supporting it.
    https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/income-inequality-impairs-american-dream-upward-mobility

    • And for those with even more stamina here is a selection of newspaper articles to browse on this subject:
    From the New York Times 2/28/18: The Unmet Promise of Equality:
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/28/opinion/the-unmet-promise-of-equality.html

    As the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, the powerful are feeling optimistic because of waning worries about populism and global economic growth.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/22/business/davos-world-economic-forum-populism.html

    From The New York Times: Open Societies Under Siege. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. That is why he will be hard to dislodge.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/26/opinion/open-societies-under-siege.html

    Hidden in the middle of this article is McKinsey’s estimate that “roughly half of all jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years.” Increased expenditures on training and development of people is suggested as the answer to the problem.
    From The New York Times: How C.E.O.s Should Spend Their Tax Cuts. Bonuses are nice, but the best investment is in training your employees.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/08/opinion/ceo-tax-cuts.html

    From The New York Times:The Redemption of Chris Hughes. The Facebook co-founder’s rise was meteoric. He argues that the same forces that helped him succeed have made it harder for others. In a new book, “Fair Shot,” he proposes a bold solution.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/21/books/review/chris-hughes-facebook-fair-shot.html

Current Affairs Discussion – GMO’s – February 15, 2018

Discussion Leader: Gary Banks

The IQ2 Debate is an excellent introduction to the subject. (One debater is Rob Fraley from Monsanto – I used to work with him)  Spoiler alert – the Pro GMO side won by 28%.

Genetically modified (GM) foods have been around for decades. Created by modifying the DNA of one organism through the introduction of genes from another, they are developed for a number of different reasons—to fight disease, enhance flavor, resist pests, improve nutrition, survive drought—and are mainly found in our food supply in processed foods using corn, soybeans, and sugar beets, and as feed for farm animals. Across the country and around the world, communities are fighting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Are they safe? How do they impact the environment? Can they improve food security? Is the world better off with or without GM food?

For The Motion
  • GM crops have been safely in our food system for nearly 20 years. There are currently no known harms or risks to human health.
  • GM crops benefit farmers and the environment by increasing crop yields, reducing the use of pesticides, and reducing the need for tillage.
  • Food security will be improved through the development of crops that can fight disease, resist pests, improve nutrition, and survive drought.
Against The Motion
  • The current regulatory system does not adequately assess the safety of GM crops and we cannot be sure of what the long-term effects of consumption will be.
  • The environmental threats include the possibility of cross-breeding with other plants, harm to non-target organisms, and decreased biodiversity.
  • The world already grows enough food to feed everyone, but it doesn’t get to the people that are hungry. Genetic engineering moves focus away from public policy solutions.

https://www.intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/genetically-modify-food

 

Set of Short Articles from Harvard University These are terrific.
Introduction:Words from the editors:
We all have strong opinions about what we eat and how it affects our health, and with such a large portion of land dedicated to growing our food, many are also concerned about the environmental impacts of feeding billions of people. For this reason, the discussion about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food is a highly politicized topic. When we started this project, we had heard a lot about GMO foods, but much of it seemed to come from people with a mission: the agrotech companies and food safety advocates. As scientists, we believe that the best way to really understand an issue is to go back to the primary sources. So we started with a list of questions we had about GMOs, and we asked members of our scientific community to do just that. This Special Edition is a presentation of what we found.

The articles here start from the basics: what foods are genetically modified, and how long have we been doing this? We next look at the GMO foods available now: how does eating GMOs affect organ toxicity and allergies? And what’s the health impact of the pesticides that we use on GMO crops? We also asked about the environmental effects of growing Roundup Ready and Bt crops, and the potential for GMOs to have an unintentional effect on genetic diversity. We looked at legal and policy issues—how does the patenting process affect companies and farmers? How are GMOs regulated in the US and in Europe? How have GMOs changed farming culture? And finally, we took a look at the future of GMOs: How can GMOs help us to fight world hunger and nutritional deficits in the developing world? And what technologies will we see in the next wave of genetically engineered crops?

So, did we find that GMOs are good or bad? The answer is complicated. The overwhelming majority of scientific evidence suggests that eating food with genetically modified DNA has no effect on human health, but there is also ample evidence that some GMOs have negative environmental impacts, such as the creation of superweeds. And while GMOs have not yet been wildly successful in providing solutions to an ever-growing global population and changing climate, there are certainly promising technologies in the works. It seems to us that GMOs have the potential to do great good, but in order for this to happen, research must proceed conscientiously, with consideration of the environmental risks of introducing engineered plants into our farms. But that’s just our opinion—we encourage you to put aside what you think you know about GMOs and read on to develop your own.

August 10, 2015.

GMO’s and our Food – Table of Contents

How to Make a GMO

The Long History of GMO Technology

Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity

Insecticidal Plants

Why Round-Up Ready Crops Have Lost Their Allure

Nothing to Sneeze at: the Allergenicity of GMOs

GMOs and Pesticides: Helpful or Harmful?

Will GMOs Hurt My Body? The Public’s Concerns and How Scientists Have Addressed Them

The Patent Landscape of Genetically Modified Organisms

GMOS IN MY LIFETIME: HOW GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS HAVE TRANSFORMED RURAL AMERICA

Same Science, Different Policies: Regulating Genetically Modified Foods in the U.S. and Europe

Not Your Grandfather’s GMOs: An Interview with Dr. Dan Voytas

Epigenetics in Plant Breeding: Hard Science, Soft Tool

Feeding the World One Genetically Modified Tomato at a Time: A Scientific Perspective

Good as Gold: Can Golden Rice and Other Biofortified Crops Prevent Malnutrition?

Glyphosate,
aka Roundup,  Wikipedia article about its history and chemistry.  Key point – It has low toxicity because glyphosate inhibits the EPSPS enzymes of different species of plants and microbes at different rates.  EPSPS is produced only by plants and microbes; the gene coding for it is not in the mammalian genome.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate

Bacillus thuringiensis, aka Bt. A naturally occurring soil bacterium used in organic farming. Some GMO’s, specifically corn, have been engineered to contain specific Bt proteins. Hence, they have built-in insect resistance. It was news to me that only certain strains of Bt have insecticidal properties. Further, that specific proteins can target specific insects. The article describes how they contain a crystalline protein that destroys the digestive tract of the insect.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacillus_thuringiensis

We aren’t as genetically pure human as we’d like to think. Genes move between species both naturally (e.g. virus’s and bacteria to animals) and by targeted genetic engineering. The reason genes can be moved is, at the genetic level, all life has a lot in common.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgene

No-Till Farming and Herbicide Resistant Crops
Widely practiced by farmers and highly recommended by the USDA, no till farming is enabled by GMO’s.
In the spring, weeds will begin to grow on any field. The farmer plows to turn the weeds under –
not to loosen the soil for seeds.  There is an undeserved romance about plowing.  In fact, it is really bad thing to do to land.  Plowing:

  • disturbs the remaining roots of last year’s crop holding soil which leads to wind and water erosion.
  • destroys the habitat provided by the stubble from last year’s crop.
  • disturbs the biome essential to healthy soil.
  • takes capital (specifically a powerful tractor), fuel and labor.
  • the heavy tractor compacts the soil.
  • releases stored carbon into the atmosphere

The farmer then plants the crop.  But

  • weeds will immediately start to regrow.  Some from natural distribution, others from last year’s seeds turned up by the plowing.
  • weeds are more aggressive and will choke out the crop.
  • at least once, and maybe more, the farmer uses another set of equipment for inter-row harrowing.   this works best for fields with deep seeded crops and shallow seeded weeds.

Once the crop is established it will choke out the weeds.

Practicing no-till:

  • in the spring, at precisely (remember that word) the right time and in precisely the right quantity the farmer sprays the field with a herbicide – usually glyphosate.  Weeds are killed, not just turned under.
  • the equipment is much less expensive than that required for plowing.
  • stubble residue, stubble roots, and biome are not disturbed.
  • the crop is planted using a seed drill.  The Indians at Plymouth had it right – a seed drill punches a hole in the ground and drops in the seeds.

But as with a plowed field, weeds will regrow and eventually choke out the crop.  The framer can’t use glyphosate again as it will kill both the weeds and the crop.  However, if the crop is genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate the field can be sprayed with glyphosate and only the weeds will be killed.   Like with inter-row plowing, once the crop is established, it will choke out the weeds.

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/11/30/saving-money-time-and-soil-economics-no-till-farming

 

Regulation

It is important that government regulators thoughtfully oversee GMO’s.  They must be scientifically capable as the technology is complex and ever changing.   One hopes they are data driven and not pro or con GMO zealots.  That isn’t always the case as the European laws were written without the input of their scientists.

FDA
https://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GEPlants/default.htm

USDA
https://www.usda.gov/topics/biotechnology/biotechnology-frequently-asked-questions-faqs

EPA
https://www.epa.gov/regulation-biotechnology-under-tsca-and-fifra/epas-regulation-biotechnology-use-pest-management

WHO
http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/

National Academy of Sciences
New technologies in genetic engineering and conventional breeding
are blurring the once clear distinctions between these two cropimprovement
approaches. While recognizing the inherent difficulty
of detecting subtle or long-term effects in health or the environment, the
study committee found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks
to human health between currently commercialized genetically engineered
(GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive
cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops.
GE crops have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers
in early years of adoption, but enduring and widespread gains will depend
on institutional support and access to profitable local and global markets,
especially for resource-poor farmers.
https://www.nap.edu/resource/23395/GE-crops-report-brief.pdf

Cornell Alliance for Science – the GMO debate is over
https://allianceforscience.cornell.edu/blog/mark-lynas/gmo-safety-debate-over

 

GMO’s Globally

https://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/eu.php

https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/

Also see article in the Harvard series above: Same Science, Different Policies: Regulating Genetically Modified Foods in the U.S. and Europe

Some African countries have barred GMO food aid based, I think, on the notion that if it’s too dangerous for Europeans it must be too dangerous for Africans and African lives are just as valuable as European ones. Set against that is malnutrition in many of these countries and the availability not only of US-raised food aid but also better harvests in Africa. It’s a lively debate:
GMO’s in Africa

 

Retail

Here’s a report from the buyer at Whole Foods, which is committed to labeling but discusses how difficult it is to ensure transparency. Clearly their Millennial customer base wants to avoid GMO products as noted below.
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/stakeholders/downloads/2015/coexistence/Errol-Schweizer.pdf

Why I don’t buy organic – Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensavage/2016/03/19/why-i-dont-buy-organic-and-why-you-might-want-to-either/#50ac5c5969c3

Why organic food costs more:
https://www.thebalance.com/reasons-organic-food-costs-more-2538165

Organic does not mean healthy:

So Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is good but not necessarily good for you. It non-GMO and uses eggs from cage free chickens. But a half cup contains 160 calories, 45 from fat, and not much else.
https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/pb-dough-moophoria

Retained Identity 

Retained Identity (RI) is a system where an agricultural product is tracked from field to the consumer at a detailed level.  It supersedes labelling. Already, food must state the country of origin may say “Organic”, “Non-GMO” and “Free Range” though those terms can be fuzzy.  Food must state its ingredients but not where those ingredients came from. (Think of the scandals in China.) Food must also state nutritional information. Better than nothing but still superficial.

Already, organic farming requires detailed record keeping of all inputs (fertilizers, pesticides), land maps, and supply chain records.

Food does not have to specify the seed variety or the pesticides that were used to grow it.

Many restaurants, markets and groceries promote “know your local farmer” with pictures of kindly farmers you want to grow your food. At the Stone Barn you can meet the pig or lamb you are about to eat (no thanks). All good.

But some food processing is better done at industrial sites where sanitation, testing and handling is controlled. Even organic farms cannot slaughter their own animals and I worry about local food trucks. And of course not all food can be sourced locally.

Block Chain (Jim – note I finally worked block chain into Current Affairs) is a promising technology to implement Retained Identity – essentially a rigorous lot control system.

Food Security in the Supply Chain

 

 

Organic vs. GMO

From the USDA:

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/organic-agriculture/organic-market-overview.aspx

https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/natural-resources-environment/organic-agriculture/

NPR Story – Organic Pesticides: Not An Oxymoron
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2011/06/18/137249264/organic-pesticides-not-an-oxymoron

From Scientific American:
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

From Genetic Literacy:

GMO’s Globally https://gmo.geneticliteracyproject.org/FAQ/where-are-gmos-grown-and-banned/ 

 

Using GMO’s to produce drugs and other products

From the FDA:

What is a biological product?

Biological products include a wide range of products such as vaccines, blood and blood components, allergenics, somatic cells, gene therapy, tissues, and recombinant therapeutic proteins. Biologics can be composed of sugars, proteins, or nucleic acids or complex combinations of these substances, or may be living entities such as cells and tissues. Biologics are isolated from a variety of natural sources – human, animal, or microorganism – and may be produced by biotechnology methods and other cutting-edge technologies. Gene-based and cellular biologics, for example, often are at the forefront of biomedical research, and may be used to treat a variety of medical conditions for which no other treatments are available.

How do biological products differ from conventional drugs?

In contrast to most drugs that are chemically synthesized and their structure is known, most biologics are complex mixtures that are not easily identified or characterized. Biological products, including those manufactured by biotechnology, tend to be heat sensitive and susceptible to microbial contamination. Therefore, it is necessary to use aseptic principles from initial manufacturing steps, which is also in contrast to most conventional drugs.

Biological products often represent the cutting-edge of biomedical research and, in time, may offer the most effective means to treat a variety of medical illnesses and conditions that presently have no other treatments available.

Below is an article from the NYT’s 1/2/18. A Danish company Novozymes, has discovered enzymes that clean clothes in cold water, in less water, using less chemicals and removes stains better. All good.

To make commercial quantities of the enzyme economically researchers started with an enzyme from soil bacteria in Turkey, and modified it through genetic engineering to make it more closely resemble a substance found in cool seawater.

Next, they found a way to mass produce the enzyme. Novozymes implanted the newly developed product’s DNA into a batch of microbial hosts used to cultivate large volumes of enzymes quickly and at low cost. The enzymes were then “brewed” in large, closely monitored tanks before being sold.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/business/energy-environment/climate-change-enzymes-laundry.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fbusiness&action=click&contentCollection=business&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

 

Politics, Fake News, Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt

A question from the audience in the IQ2 debate referenced above was wicked.  She asked the Con team ” If the the scientific consensus and the regulators say GMO’s are safe, what would it take to change your mind?”  Implied answer is they will nver change their mind.  The irony is, many of the anti GMO people are exasperated by people who deny human caused climate change in the face of equally strong scientific consensus.

Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-oppose-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/

With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science
With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science
General article on agriculture:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/3-big-myths-about-modern-agriculture1/

 

Precision Agriculture – It might be the best way forward

Precision Ag is farming every square meter optimally.

  • First the farm is digitally mapped.  The soil is tested for nutrients and composition.  Streams and lakes are  noted.
  • When planting season nears weather, temperature, moisture and weeds are monitored.
  • On precisely the right day, the farmer begins field management.  A Terragator Sprayer has on-board GPS and the capability to distribute 8 channels of product continuously over a field.  Digital instructions are downloaded.  The mix of pesticides and nutrient can vary so each square meter of land get just what it needs – no more, no less.  This helps  prevent overuse and pesticide resistance.
  • Some products may be restricted to avoid lakes and streams.  The sprayer will automatically turn off near those areas and keep a digital record to prove compliance.
  • For corn, a Deere seed drill can continuously vary the number and spacing of seed plantings based on digital maps.
  • As the crop grows, specific treatments are applied.
  • At harvest, a GPS enabled Deere Harvester can continuously measure yield and quality of the harvest.  Of course, the results are digitally recorded and added to the farmer’s field database.

Organic farming requires this already though records are not available to consumers.

Precision Agriculture

 

The genetic genie isn’t going back in the bottle.

  • Since life began 3 billion years ago it has depended on natural mutations and selection of the fittest to evolve.
  • About 30,000 years ago there were still only natural mutations but man started to influence selection by selecting that goat or barley plant that seemed more desirable.
  • For the last 150 years man has found ways to increase the number of mutations through x-Rays, chemicals, and the like.  These were random mutations.
  • In the last few decades scientists have used more direct techniques to add genes to a cell.   These include a shotgun blast of DNA coated gold dust and using viruses to a carry a gene into a cell.
  • Very recently CRISPR technology allows the direct editing of DNA without introducing material from other organisms.
  • It appears inevitable that genetic engineering will eventually lead to creating  new or highly altered life from base molecules.    It’s “just” chemistry.

Knowing precise genetic vulnerabilities of disease, weeds and insects enable highly targeted solution with less collateral damage.

Meanwhile natural mutations and selection continues.  Bacterial and viruses are evolving rapidly.  They aren’t malevolent but the results can be an existential threat to human survival.  Consider the Spanish flu, small pox,  HIV, bubonic plague, …  Since antibiotics were discovered in the 1930’s many bacteria have become resistant.  We don’t have good drugs for viruses.  It’s an arms race and genetic engineering is a powerful weapon.

Specific to agriculture, there are threats to our food supply.  Population growth is straining the agricultural system to produce more and better food.  Arable land is limited – and possibly declining due to erosion, climate change and mismanagement.   Creating more farm land by clearing forests creates major problems.  Disease and pests are an evolving threat.

We would hope that the universities and companies doing genetic engineering will be responsible.  In case they aren’t we need even smarter regulators to help them be responsible.   The public has an obligation to understand genetic engineering to make informed choices and set thoughtful policy.  This is a global issue.

 

Agriculture – An Integrated Solution

Agriculture is an industry that is ripe for big data. In fact, some companies and organizations are already big data repositories. With onboard GPS and sensors, satellites and sampling data from every square meter of farm land, every day can be captured.

  • Soil type, nutrients, and microbiome
  • Weed and insect insect problems
  • Seed varieties and planting method
  • Fertilizer, herbicide and insecticides applied – rate and date
  • Plowing, mowing, harrowing and other mechanical treatments
  • Irrigation
  • Weather – moisture and temperature
  • Harvest date(s)
  • Yield and attributes of the crop

Collect this data over time to show the effects of crop rotation.

Applying analytics this data will optimize the output of the farm with the least amount of treatment.  The data would show certain seed varieties are recommended for this year for this land.  The may or may not be genetic engineered.

We recently heard from a speaker that it makes no sense to take drugs for a problem until diet and lifestyle solutions have been fully implemented.  Farmers can first attempt to farm using minimally intrusive pest control.

These data sharing programs have all been voluntary to date.  However, a case can be made to treat pesticides as pharmaceuticals.  That is, even though it is your body you can’t go the drug store and buy an antibiotic.  Most wouldn’t know what to buy or the dose.  Do-it-yourself medicine is unthinkable.   Why is it any different for farm land – even if you own it?

For agriculture a farmer who had a problem would call a crop consultant (doctor) and they would prescribe a certain treatment (drug) and application (dosage).  The farmer would take the prescription to the ag supplier (drug store) for fulfillment.    There might be a followup to make sure the problem has been solved.

The crop consultant would also police abuse.  Pest resistance is caused by overuse.  Wrong treatment, wrong rate, wrong timing is wasteful economically and damaging to the environment.

As a homeowner most of us are a county mile from scientific management of our yards.  We wouldn’t dream of polluting the Sound but yard run off is a problem.  Have you had your soil tested?  Exactly what type of fertilizer does your yard need?  When you put down crab grass preventer or broadleaf weedkiller do you really need it?  Was it done at the right time?  Is setting the dial on your spreader at “4” for the whole yard correct?    Or was it because Scott’s Turf Builder Plus 2 was on sale at Home Depot and it is “recommended” to apply in early spring?  So you have brown spots.  Might be grubs so you buy Grub Ex.   Despite the label it only works at a certain time and there are many reasons for brow spots.

An article by Robert Fraley whom you saw in the IQ2 debate.
https://monsanto.com/innovations/research-development/articles/farm-innovations/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I read this last year.  Great book.   You’ll need that college biology course to fully understand it.  But to truly be informed about GMO’s you need to understand genetics.  Gary

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Emperor of All Maladies–a magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: What becomes of being human when we learn to “read” and “write” our own genetic information?The extraordinary Siddhartha Mukherjee has a written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant, and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history, and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices. Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family–with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness–cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation–from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Thomas Morgan to Crick, Watson and Rosa Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome. As The New Yorker said of The Emperor of All Maladies, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or “write” the human genome, The Gene is a must-read for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.

 

 

 

 

g

Current Affairs Discussion – Affordable Housing – January 18, 2018

Discussion Leader: Bob Baker

Factors in developing initiatives for affordable housing- DMA discussion Thursday are:

1. Economics
2. Politics
3. Welfare
4. Efficiency
5. Legal Issues
6. Fairness

Darien

Application to the Heights in Darien:
http://theheightsdarien.com/apply/

National

HUD Rental Assistance:
https://www.hud.gov/topics/rental_assistance

National Affordable Housing:
https://nationalaffordablehousing.com/apply-section-8-housing-state/?utm_source=EE-1&utm_campaign=NationalAffordableHousing

https://nationalaffordablehousing.com/?utm_source=BB-Desktop&utm_campaign=NationalAffordableHousing&utm_medium=All&utm_content=Ad-4&utm_term=Text-12

Typical Percentages for Household Budgets – Budgeting Money
https://budgeting.thenest.com/typical-percentages-household-budgets-3299.html

Connecticut
Our own Evonne Klein is CT Commissioner of Housing:
http://www.ct.gov/doh/site/default.asp

Section 8-30g has been used in town to override local zoning rules to add affordable housing.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2017/rpt/pdf/2017-R-0013.pdf

https://www.hud.gov/topics/rental_assistance/phprog

Section 8 Housing In Connecticut And HUD Low Income House Rentals
https://section-8-apartments.org/states/connecticut-state.html?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Search_CT_Geo_Section%208%20Apartments&utm_term=%2Bsection%20%2B8%20%2Bincome%20%2Blimits&utm_content=Income%20Limits%20-%20BM

NY Times Magazine, Jan 27, page 53
“New York is facing an affordable-housing crisis.”
“Of the roughly 2300 apartments in…the project, about 700 will be reserved for lower-income tenants. The first 105 affordable units were recently made available at monthly rents ranging from$590 to $964: 87,000 people entered the lottery for them.

NY Times Jan. 8. Business section. “Homeowners want a Say Past Their Lot Lines” [ zoning regulations raise home prices]
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/upshot/zoning-housing-property-rights-nimby-us.html?_r=0

Denver Has a Plan for Its Many Luxury Apartments: Housing Subsidies – WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/denver-has-a-plan-for-its-many-luxury-apartments-housing-subsidies-1515412800

Affordable Housing Resources | Texas Health and Human Services
https://hhs.texas.gov/doing-business-hhs/provider-portals/resources/promoting-independence/affordable-housing-resources

This posting on “food stamps” in CT. is in contrast to how assistance for housing is administered.
http://portal.ct.gov/DSS/SNAP/Supplemental-Nutrition-Assistance-Program—SNAP/Eligibility

National Affordable Housing – Section 8 Help and Resources
https://nationalaffordablehousing.com/?utm_source=BB-Desktop-Spy&utm_campaign=NationalAffordableHousing&utm_medium=All&utm_content=Ad-1&utm_term=Text-1

How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Connecticut
https://nationalaffordablehousing.com/apply-section-8-housing-state/how-to-apply-for-section-8-housing-in-connecticut/

Connecticut Section 8 Housing | Section-8-Housing.org
https://section-8-housing.org/Connecticut?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Search_CT_Kwd_Section%208&utm_term=section%208%20housing%20connecticut&utm_content=Housing%20-%20EX

Learn about Homeownership Vouchers (Section 8 Homeownership Vouchers)
https://nationalaffordablehousing.com/homeownership/

Web Notes – HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8

http://www.aei.org/publication/americas-affordable-housing-crisis-challenges-and-solutions/

http://theweek.com/articles/733689/how-fix-affordable-housing-crisis-big-governmentstyle

Gary here. I just read this in preparation for our discussion. Gates and Obama have it on their suggested reading list. It is about people at the very bottom. Depressing – extremely difficult to find solutions.

From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “genius” Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality–and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Moscow Nights : the Van Cliburn Story : How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War by Nigel Cliff, July 11, 2018

Gripping narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic story of a remarkable young Texan pianist, Van Cliburn, who played his way through the wall of fear built by the Cold War, won the hearts of the American and Russian people, and eased tensions between two superpowers on the brink of nuclear war.

In 1958, an unheralded twenty-three-year-old piano prodigy from Texas named Van Cliburn traveled to Moscow to compete in the First International Tchaikovsky Competition. The Soviets had no intention of bestowing their coveted prize on an unknown American; a Russian pianist had already been chosen to win. Yet when the gangly Texan with the shy grin took the stage and began to play, he instantly captivated an entire nation.

The Soviet people were charmed by Van Cliburn’s extraordinary talent, passion, and fresh-faced innocence, but it was his palpable love for the music that earned their devotion; for many, he played more like a Russian than their own musicians. As enraptured crowds mobbed Cliburn’s performances, pressure mounted to award him the competition prize. “Is he the best?” Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev demanded of the judges. “In that case . . . give him the prize!”

Adored by millions in the USSR, Cliburn returned to a thunderous hero’s welcome in the USA and became, for a time, an ambassador of hope for two dangerously hostile superpowers. In this thrilling, impeccably researched account, Nigel Cliff recreates the drama and tension of the Cold War era, and brings into focus the gifted musician and deeply compelling figure whose music would temporarily bridge the divide between two dangerously hostile powers.

 

Recommended by Gary Banks

James Baker Obituary, November 18, 2017

James M. Baker, husband of Katharin Harvey Baker passed away Saturday November 18th at Atria Assisted/Senior Living in Darien. Born on December 12, 1921 in New York City, he was the son of James A. and Lavinia Baker.

Jim is survived by his wife, four children and their spouses, Heidi Scheckler husband Thomas of Norwalk, Eric Baker and his wife Mary of Minnesota, Duncan Baker and his wife Lupe of Nebraska and Lorna Young and her husband Todd of Norwalk. James has 5 grandchildren, Samuel and Roger Scheckler, Drayton Baker, A.J. and Jessica Hernandez, Peter and Lila Young and one great-grand son, Gracyn Hernandez.
Jim attended Kings School in Stamford and the Gunnery Prep School in Washington, Connecticut where he enjoyed playing tennis and hockey.

During World War II, James served his country in the Navy with the rank of First Class Petty Officer, performing the duties of a sonar technician from 1942-1945.
In preparation for a life long career in architecture, James attended the Pratt Institute and Columbia University. As an architect, Jim was employed by William H. Hall Associates in New York, as well as other firms in New York and Fairfield County.

Jim married his wife Katharin in 1953. They were active members of St. Bartholomew’s Church and the Community House Club. After the birth of their third child in 1960, the family moved to Darien where the fourth child was born.

James was an active member of St. Luke’s Church and one of his many contributions was as an architectural consultant for construction and renovation projects there. Jim was an avid sailor and enjoyed sailing several sloops through the years with his family and friends. Jim was a Power Squadron instructor. He was a member of both Norwalk and Ischoda Yacht clubs. Hockey was another sport Jim had a passion for, coaching his two sons in their youth then playing for the Darien Winter Club where he was known as “Animal”. He also played in a few of Charles Shultz’s senior hockey tournaments in California. Jim volunteered for “Meals on Wheels” for years delivering meals to seniors in Stamford.
The family would like to thank those who cared for Jim with such great patience at Atria in his final days. A special thanks goes out Nicole Martin Smith.

Visiting hours are on Thursday, January 11, 2018 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM at Edward Lawrence Funeral Home, 2119 Post Road in Darien. A memorial service and celebration of Jim’s life will be held on Friday, January 12, 2018 at 11:00 AM at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1864 Post Road in Darien.
Contributions may be made in his name to “Person to Person”, 1864 Post Road, Darien, CT 06820 or Meals on Wheels” of Stamford, 945 Summer Street, Stamford, CT 06905.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of James Baker, please visit our Tribute Store.

NYC Christmas Light Walking Tour, Dec 12, 2017

Christmas Lights Walking Tour New York City
Taylor Strubinger will lead a walking tour of New York City’s world-famous Christmas trees and department store windows,  Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

“We will take the 8:36 a.m. train from Darien and the 8:39 a.m.train from Noroton Heights,” said Taylor. “We usually try to sit in the forward railroad cars.

“At Grand Central Station, we will gather at the information desk underneath the clock before starting out,” he said. “No reservations are necessary. If the weather is inclement, we will not go.”

Contact: Taylor Strubinger at tstrubinger@snet.net or phone (203) 952-6423.
The Christmas trees include Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park.

Elephant Company : the Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke, May 9, 2018

J.H. “Billy” Williams always had an affinity for animals. So, when he responded to job offer with the East India Company to work with logging elephants his family wasn’t surprised, though worried that he had already come back from World War I in one piece, would he be so lucky with India? Not only did he find his calling with the elephants in India, Billy and his elephants became war heroes. At the onset of World War II, Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own “Hannibal Trek.” Billy Williams became a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them, but his story has since been forgotten. Part biography, part war story, and part wildlife adventure, Croke delivers an utterly charming narrative and an important, little-known piece of the legacy of World War II.

 

NYT’s Book Review: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/13/books/review/elephant-company-by-vicki-constantine-croke.html?_r=0 

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, April 11, 2018

The mysterious Jay Gatsby uses his fabulous wealth to create an enchanted world fit for his former love, Daisy Buchanan, now married to Tom. Daisy, though, is a romanticised figment of his own imagination, and the extraordinary world that he creates is equally illusory. He gives lavish, legendary parties where the guests and gate-crashers enjoy free-flowing champagne and cocktails and carefree hospitality. But a more sinister reality begins to break through, as idealized romantic figures prove to have human frailties and selfish motivations, and the grandiose world of Gatsby’s creation crumbles and disillusion turns to tragedy.

 

 

 

From wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby

 

From Vanity Fair:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/05/hitchens200005

 

From The New Yorker

Why “The Great Gatsby” Endures

Richard Brody

Imagine the character of James Gatz, North Dakota boy of big dreams and limited prospects, as he could have been written by a big-shouldered writer whose lifelong specialty, perhaps his most distinctive literary merit, was the depiction of natural energy yoked to ambition, put into action, and embodied in worldly accomplishment—Theodore Dreiser. His trio of novels from 1912 through 1915—“The Financier” and its sequel, “The Titan,” both about the rise, fall, and rise of the Philadelphia broker and philanderer Frank Cowperwood; and “The ‘Genius’,” about Eugene Witla’s rise from raw boy to artist and immoralist—skirt the sentimental mode of the bildungsroman to get into the tough, sinewy details of power and its mighty clashes. The very transformation of the seventeen-year-old Gatz into Gatsby, “in the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty,” would have been a big story—the mere connection of the prodigal farm boy’s mercantile impulses and precocious aesthetic visions would have filled a chapter or two. And his five years of work “in a vague personal capacity” for the crude potentate Dan Cody, for whom “he was in turn steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and even jailor,” could have been a third of a big book: “He was left with his singularly appropriate education; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man.”

The chronology of Gatsby’s subsequent backstory invites more invention: as a poor officer stationed in Louisville in 1917, Gatsby met and loved Daisy Fay. He shipped out in 1918, and, while he was away at war, Daisy met the wealthy Tom Buchanan, married him in June, 1919, and gave birth to their daughter, Pammy, in April, 1920. Meanwhile, Gatsby “did extraordinarily well in the war. He was a captain before he went to the front and following the Argonne battles he got his majority and the command of the divisional machine guns.” Fitzgerald, who had been in the Army but never saw active duty, doesn’t make much of Gatsby’s combat experiences, which would have made for another few chapters of grim and gruesome knowledge.

Gatsby, returning stateside after five months in a program at Oxford reserved for American officers, spent three years doing the things that made him fabulously wealthy—bootlegging, maybe some gambling, maybe some shady financial dealings, maybe some oil business—and doing it apparently by design, in the hope of impressing and wooing Daisy. That’s the business part, and the intersection of an entrepreneur’s wiles and a gangster’s ruthlessness—two realms of bold, precise, intrepid maneuvering—would make for another meaty third of a book. By the time Daisy Buchanan reëntered the picture, she would already have been receding from it, because it’s inconceivable that such a Dreiserian hero—a fiercely self-willed yet violently circumstance-buffeted man who employed his enormous vital energy in such a wide and tough range of activities—could win his fabulous East Egg mansion while suffering no greater scar on his soul than the rejection of a débutante whom he had “taken… under false pretenses” of being her social equal.

Of course, Dreiser was an intensely sexual but unromantic novelist, whose view of society was essentially biological; he understood the human varieties of animal energy to be the force of change—to be what makes life interesting, even beautiful. For Dreiser, the physical rendering of mental and visceral forces—even when the result is appalling—is the very definition of beauty. That’s just the opposite of Fitzgerald’s interest, which was in social life and its poetic implications—its poetic failings—and in the contrast between the imperatives of the world and the vast dreams and inner visions that reality can never rival, despite mad and desperate attempts to realize them.

Dreiser was fascinated by effort; Fitzgerald thought of money as manna that falls upon the chosen whose very sense of grace carries them breezily through life. That’s why Gatsby remains a cipher in the book. For Fitzgerald, it sufficed that Gatsby was rich, the “how” of it the work of a destiny that marked his brow and to which the entire world was compelled to pay homage and to yield. Daisy’s failure to yield to it thoroughly—and Gatsby’s own gracelessly pathetic exertion on its behalf—are the cankers that burn through the story and turn it tragic, though Fitzgerald always elevates the shattered romantic perfection of nature’s true aristocrats and heroes.

Fitzgerald’s mythologizing of the social whirl, his casting of American types as archetypes, his framing of psychology as destiny, of style as divine grace, captured its moment. He offered glamour along with compassion and consolation, a sense of sad magic along with the expansive glow of romance. It took a few decades for “The Great Gatsby” to take root because it awaited another age of postwar prosperity—albeit one that was growing a conscience, a sense of self-doubt, of introspection and guilt that a noirish 1949 adaptation of “Gatsby” shows. The novel was adapted again in 1974, when a shambling era in thrall to the natural self began to rummage through the past in search of style.

And it’s back now, in another glittering age of incommensurable inequality, where, as my colleague George Packer recently wrote, “The fetish that surrounds Google Glass or the Dow average grows ever more hysterical as the economic status of the majority of Americans remains flat.” “Gatsby” exults in the grand, lustrous brightness, in the irresistible allure and cavalier freedom of wealth, even as it reveals its reckless—or overmeditated—menace. But it doesn’t lionize the exertion itself, which, in the wrong hands, runs the risk of veering into a Randroid hymn to supposedly self-made captains of industry. “The Great Gatsby” is, above all, a novel of conspicuous consumption—not even of appetite but of the ineluctable connection between wealth and spectacle. The central story of that storied age is slender, sleek, and graceful, neither depicting effort nor bearing its marks.

Long before the novel found its enduring place in American letters, it was already a movie, one made by a character of real-life myth of whom Fitzgerald wrote in one of his final stories. “Citizen Kane” is richer in the spirit of true expansiveness and dubious grandeur, of exorbitant pomp, mad desire, and incurable need than any direct adaptation of the book has been; it wouldn’t have taken more than a few tweaks to turn the young Orson Welles, playing the young Charles Foster Kane, into the cinema’s ultimate and definitive Gatsby.

I’m impatient to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s version; his own deflective opacity was at its most effective in another elusive role, that of Frank Abagnale, Jr., in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can.” And Pammy Buchanan would be nearly ninety-three. Perhaps Baz Luhrmann persuaded Olivia de Havilland or Joan Fontaine to make a return in an epilogue that would bring the novel briefly into the present day. I’ll report back.

The “Fresh Air” book critic investigates the enduring power of The Great Gatsby — “The Great American Novel we all think we’ve read, but really haven’t.” Conceived nearly a century ago by a man who died believing himself a failure, it’s now a revered classic and a rite of passage in the reading lives of millions. But how well do we really know The Great Gatsby? As Maureen Corrigan, Gatsby lover extraordinaire, points out, while Fitzgerald’s masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully comprehend its power. Offering a fresh perspective on what makes Gatsby great-and utterly unusual-So We Read On takes us into archives, high school classrooms, and even out onto the Long Island Sound to explore the novel’s hidden depths, a journey whose revelations include Gatsby’s surprising debt to hard-boiled crime fiction, its rocky path to recognition as a “classic,” and its profound commentaries on the national themes of race, class, and gender. With rigor, wit, and infectious enthusiasm, Corrigan inspires us to re-experience the greatness of Gatsby and cuts to the heart of why we are, as a culture, “borne back ceaselessly” into its thrall. Along the way, she spins a new and fascinating story of her own

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick, March 14, 2018

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, and Brendan Gleeson, and directed by Ron Howard.The ordeal of the whaleship Essex was an event as mythic in the nineteenth century as the sinking of the Titanic was in the twentieth. In 1819, the Essex left Nantucket for the South Pacific with twenty crew members aboard. In the middle of the South Pacific the ship was rammed and sunk by an angry sperm whale. The crew drifted for more than ninety days in three tiny whaleboats, succumbing to weather, hunger, disease, and ultimately turning to drastic measures in the fight for survival. Nathaniel Philbrick uses little-known documents-including a long-lost account written by the ship’s cabin boy-and penetrating details about whaling and the Nantucket community to reveal the chilling events surrounding this epic maritime disaster. An intense and mesmerizing listen, In the Heart of the Sea is a monumental work of history forever placing the Essex tragedy in the American historical canon.

The Library has a copy of the movie.

Side read: Moby Dick

 

 

 

 

 

One of the greatest American novels finds its perfect contemporary champion in Why Read Moby-Dick?, Nathaniel Philbrick’s enlightening and entertaining tour through Melville’s classic. As he did in his National Book Award–winning bestseller In the Heart of the Sea, Philbrick brings a sailor’s eye and an adventurer’s passion to unfolding the story behind an epic American journey. He skillfully navigates Melville’s world and illuminates the book’s humor and unforgettable characters—finding the thread that binds Ishmael and Ahab to our own time and, indeed, to all times. An ideal match between author and subject, Why Read Moby-Dick? will start conversations, inspire arguments, and make a powerful case that this classic tale waits to be discovered anew.

 

This is one of the most perilous adventure tales ever. Unbelievable – but true. I understand that business schools use it to teach crisis management. Gary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Essex sailors knew their Latitude but not their Longitude. This is a short, interesting book on the subject.   Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that “the longitude problem” was the thorniest scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land. Thousands of lives and the increasing fortunes of nations hung on a resolution. One man, John Harrison, in complete opposition to the scientific community, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea, something no clock had ever been able to do on land. Longitude is the dramatic human story of an epic scientific quest and of Harrison’s forty-year obsession with building his perfect timekeeper, known today as the chronometer. Full of heroism and chicanery, it is also a fascinating brief history of astronomy, navigation, and clockmaking, and opens a new window on our world.
Longitude by Dava Sobel

This is pretty extraordinary. The film was made in 1916 and this was narrated in 1964 by a New Bedford historian who actually sailed on this ship, the Viola.   Two parts.  By Charles Salman’s
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWA4HDFASAo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_qebW9vLzI

Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton, February 14, 2018

A revolutionary new appraisal of the Old West and the America it made

The open range cattle era lasted barely a quarter-century, but it left America irrevocably changed. These few decades following the Civil War brought America its greatest boom-and-bust cycle until the Depression, the invention of the assembly line, and the dawn of the conservation movement. It inspired legends, such as that icon of rugged individualism, the cowboy. Yet this extraordinary time and its import have remained unexamined for decades.

Cattle Kingdom reveals the truth of how the West rose and fell, and how its legacy defines us today. The tale takes us from dust-choked cattle drives to the unlikely splendors of boomtowns like Abilene, Kansas, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We venture from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakota Badlands to the Chicago stockyards. We meet a diverse array of players—from the expert cowboy Teddy Blue to the failed rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt. Knowlton shows us how they and others like them could achieve so many outsized feats: killing millions of bison in a decade, building the first opera house on the open range, driving cattle by the thousand, and much more. Cattle Kingdom is a revelatory new view of the Old West.

 

From Delancy Place:

THE BIRTH OF THE AMERICAN COWBOY — 1/08/18

Today’s selection — from Cattle Kingdom by Christopher Knowlton. In the mid-to-late 1800s, some 10 million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, the largest forced migration of animals in human history. It was the birth of the American cowboy:

“Cattle had been trailed from Texas to Missouri as early as 1842 and to California as early as 1854. … Although the maps depicting these routes suggest an orderly branch network of roads, on the ground the paths taken were often circuitous, as the drovers needed to provide water and grass for the cattle along the way. This meant following rivers and creeks and tracing the routes of old Indian and buffalo trails. The earliest endpoints were the railheads of the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific railroads, which were gradually extending their tentacles of track westward, now that the Civil War was over and capital was available for their expansion.

“But nothing about this trail-driving scheme turned out to be quite as easy as it looked on paper. The first challenge: a cattle drive required horses, but the freely roaming mustangs needed to be roped, corralled, and broken by a skilled broncobuster. It typically took five to six days to properly break a wild mustang. And to trail cattle north, a journey that could take three to six months, drovers needed four or five horses per cowboy.

“The second challenge: the behavior and temperament of the wild Texas Longhorn itself. … It was a challenge for cowboys to round up these wild cattle. Texas Longhorns hid in the brush during the day and did most of their foraging at night. Only briefly in the summer, when the tor­menting mosquitoes were out in force, did they spend the daylight hours in open areas, where they hoped to find a breeze. Most of the time the cowboys were compelled to ride into the thorny brush to flush the cattle out. But a cow with a young calf was prepared to gore a horse to defend her offspring, and the longhorn bull was no­toriously ornery: ‘sullen, morose, solitary, and pugnacious;’ as one cattleman put it. ‘The longer he lived, the meaner he became.’ …

“Once a herd was assembled, the profit-seeking Texan faced his most grueling challenge: the trail drive itself, since railroads throughout the South had been badly damaged during the Civil War and had never ventured far into Texas. … It required a minimum of eight men to drive a thousand head of cattle. The trail boss usually rode a few miles ahead, scouting out water holes and good places to graze the herd. The cook followed on the mess, or chuck, wagon. …

“Two cowboys were positioned at the point of the herd and two along each swing, or flank. The two most junior cowboys brought up the rear and were known as drag riders. Their job was to keep the slow and lame cattle moving along. They were constantly sub­jected to dust and spatterings of the herd’s manure; they took the full brunt of its noxious odors. … [One] staple of the diet was ‘son-of-a­-bitch stew,’ concocted from leftover cattle parts such as the heart, testicles, and tongue.

“On a good day, a trail drive could cover fourteen or fifteen miles, usually with a break at midday for lunch. The greatest threat facing the drovers was a stampede. It didn’t take much to spook the jumpy longhorns: lightning, the appearance of a wolf, the snap of a towel. …

“In the spring of 1867, some 35,000 head of cattle headed up the trails; the next year, 75,000; the year after that 350,000; and in 1871, some 600,000. The great migration of Texas Longhorns, the largest forced migration of animals in human history, had begun in earnest. In all, some ten million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, accompanied by half a million horses and some 50,000 cowboys.”

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