Video of his talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2nNhHalFY
Video of his talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP2nNhHalFY
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.
Discussion leader: Bryan Hooper
IQ2 Debate:Income Inequality Impairs The American Dream Of Upward Mobility
If the American dream is dying, is it the result of income inequality? Or is disparity in income a red herring where more complex issues are at play?
In 2016, the highest-paid employee of the State of California was Jim Mora, the head coach of U.C.L.A.’s football team. (He has since been fired.) That year, Mora pulled in $3.58 million. Coming in second, with a salary of $2.93 million, was Cuonzo Martin, at the time the head coach of the men’s basketball team at the University of California, Berkeley. Victor Khalil, the chief dentist at the Department of State Hospitals, made six hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars; Anne Neville, the director of the California Research Bureau, earned a hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars; and John Smith, a seasonal clerk at the Franchise Tax Board, earned twelve thousand nine hundred dollars.
I learned all this from a database maintained by the Sacramento Bee. The database, which is open to the public, is searchable by name and by department, and contains precise salary information for the more than three hundred thousand people who work for California. Today, most state employees probably know about the database. But that wasn’t the case when it was first created, in 2008. This made possible an experiment.
The experiment, conducted by four economists, was designed to test rival theories of inequity. According to one theory, the so-called rational-updating model, people assess their salaries in terms of opportunities. If they discover that they are being paid less than their co-workers, they will “update” their projections about future earnings and conclude that their prospects of a raise are good. Conversely, people who learn that they earn more than their co-workers will be discouraged by that news. They’ll update their expectations in the opposite direction.
According to a rival theory, people respond to inequity not rationally but emotionally. If they discover that they’re being paid less than their colleagues, they won’t see this as a signal to expect a raise but as evidence that they are underappreciated. (The researchers refer to this as the “relative income” model.) By this theory, people who learn that their salaries are at the low end will be pissed. Those who discover that they’re at the high end will be gratified.
The economists conducting the study sent an e-mail to thousands of employees at three University of California schools—Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Los Angeles—alerting them to the existence of the Bee’s database. This nudge produced a spike in visits to the Web site as workers, in effect, peeked at one another’s paychecks.
A few days later, the researchers sent a follow-up e-mail, this one with questions. “How satisfied are you with your job?” it asked. “How satisfied are you with your wage/salary on this job?” They also sent the survey to workers who hadn’t been nudged toward the database. Then they compared the results. What they found didn’t conform to either theory, exactly.
As the relative-income model predicted, those who’d learned that they were earning less than their peers were ticked off. Compared with the control group, they reported being less satisfied with their jobs and more interested in finding new ones. But the relative-income model broke down when it came to those at the top. Workers who discovered that they were doing better than their colleagues evinced no pleasure. They were merely indifferent. As the economists put it in a paper that they eventually wrote about the study, access to the database had a “negative effect on workers paid below the median for their unit and occupation” but “no effect on workers paid above median.”
The message the economists took from their research was that employers “have a strong incentive” to keep salaries secret. Assuming that California workers are representative of the broader population, the experiment also suggests a larger, more disturbing conclusion. In a society where economic gains are concentrated at the top—a society, in other words, like our own—there are no real winners and a multitude of losers.
“That moment changed everything for me,” Payne writes, in “The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die.” Although in strictly economic terms nothing had happened—Payne’s family had just as much (or as little) money as it had the day before—that afternoon in the cafeteria he became aware of which rung on the ladder he occupied. He grew embarrassed about his clothes, his way of talking, even his hair, which was cut at home with a bowl. “Always a shy kid, I became almost completely silent at school,” he recalls.
Payne is now a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He has come to believe that what’s really damaging about being poor, at least in a country like the United States—where, as he notes, even most people living below the poverty line possess TVs, microwaves, and cell phones—is the subjective experience of feeling poor. This feeling is not limited to those in the bottom quintile; in a world where people measure themselves against their neighbors, it’s possible to earn good money and still feel deprived. “Unlike the rigid columns of numbers that make up a bank ledger, status is always a moving target, because it is defined by ongoing comparisons to others,” Payne writes.
Feeling poor, meanwhile, has consequences that go well beyond feeling. People who see themselves as poor make different decisions, and, generally, worse ones. Consider gambling. Spending two bucks on a Powerball ticket, which has roughly a one-in-three-hundred-million chance of paying out, is never a good bet. It’s especially ill-advised for those struggling to make ends meet. Yet low-income Americans buy a disproportionate share of lottery tickets, so much so that the whole enterprise is sometimes referred to as a “tax on the poor.”
One explanation for this is that poor people engage in riskier behavior, which is why they are poor in the first place. By Payne’s account, this way of thinking gets things backward. He cites a study on gambling performed by Canadian psychologists. After asking participants a series of probing questions about their finances, the researchers asked them to rank themselves along something called the Normative Discretionary Income Index. In fact, the scale was fictitious and the scores were manipulated. It didn’t matter what their finances actually looked like: some of the participants were led to believe that they had more discretionary income than their peers and some were led to believe the opposite. Finally, participants were given twenty dollars and the choice to either pocket it or gamble it on a computer card game. Those who believed they ranked low on the scale were much more likely to risk the money on the card game. Or, as Payne puts it, “feeling poor made people more willing to roll the dice.”
In another study, this one conducted by Payne and some colleagues, participants were divided into two groups and asked to make a series of bets. For each bet, they were offered a low-risk / low-reward option (say, a hundred-per-cent chance of winning fifteen cents) and a high-risk / high-reward option (a ten-per-cent chance of winning a dollar-fifty). Before the exercise began, the two groups were told different stories (once again, fictitious) about how previous participants had fared. The first group was informed that the spread in winnings between the most and the least successful players was only a few cents, the second that the gap was a lot wider. Those in the second group went on to place much chancier bets than those in the first. The experiment, Payne contends, “provided the first evidence that inequality itself can cause risky behavior.”
People’s attitude toward race, too, he argues, is linked to the experience of deprivation. Here Payne cites work done by psychologists at N.Y.U., who offered subjects ten dollars with which to play an online game. Some of the subjects were told that, had they been more fortunate, they would have received a hundred dollars. The subjects, all white, were then shown pairs of faces and asked which looked “most black.” All the images were composites that had been manipulated in various ways. Subjects in the “unfortunate” group, on average, chose images that were darker than those the control group picked. “Feeling disadvantaged magnified their perception of racial differences,” Payne writes.
“The Broken Ladder” is full of studies like this. Some are more convincing than others, and, not infrequently, Payne’s inferences seem to run ahead of the data. But the wealth of evidence that he amasses is compelling. People who are made to feel deprived see themselves as less competent. They are more susceptible to conspiracy theories. And they are more likely to have medical problems. A study of British civil servants showed that where people ranked themselves in terms of status was a better predictor of their health than their education level or their actual income was.
All of which leads Payne to worry about where we’re headed. In terms of per-capita income, the U.S. ranks near the top among nations. But, thanks to the growing gap between the one per cent and everyone else, the subjective effect is of widespread impoverishment. “Inequality so mimics poverty in our minds that the United States of America . . . has a lot of features that better resemble a developing nation than a superpower,” he writes.
Rachel Sherman is a professor of sociology at the New School, and, like Payne, she studies inequality. But Sherman’s focus is much narrower. “Although images of the wealthy proliferate in the media, we know very little about what it is like to be wealthy in the current historical moment,” she writes in the introduction to “Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.”
Sherman’s first discovery about the wealthy is that they don’t want to talk to her. Subjects who agree to be interviewed suddenly stop responding to her e-mails. One woman begs off, saying she’s “swamped” with her children; Sherman subsequently learns that the kids are at camp. After a lot of legwork, she manages to sit down with fifty members of the haut monde in and around Manhattan. Most have family incomes of more than five hundred thousand dollars a year, and about half have incomes of more than a million dollars a year or assets of more than eight million dollars, or both. (At least, this is what they tell Sherman; after a while, she comes to believe that they are underreporting their earnings.) Her subjects are so concerned about confidentiality that Sherman omits any details that might make them identifiable to those who have visited their brownstones or their summer places.
“I poked into bathrooms with soaking tubs or steam showers” is as far as she goes. “I conducted interviews in open kitchens, often outfitted with white Carrara marble or handmade tiles.”
A second finding Sherman makes, which perhaps follows from the first, is that the privileged prefer not to think of themselves that way. One woman, who has an apartment overlooking the Hudson, a second home in the Hamptons, and a household income of at least two million dollars a year, tells Sherman that she considers herself middle class. “I feel like, no matter what you have, somebody has about a hundred times that,” she explains. Another woman with a similar household income, mostly earned by her corporate-lawyer husband, describes her family’s situation as “fine.”
“I mean, there are all the bankers that are heads and heels, you know, way above us,” she says. A third woman, with an even higher household income—two and a half million dollars a year—objects to Sherman’s use of the word “affluent.”
“ ‘Affluent’ is relative,” the woman observes. Some friends of hers have recently flown off on vacation on a private plane. “That’s affluence,” she says.
This sort of talk dovetails neatly with Payne’s work. If affluence is in the eye of the beholder, then even the super-rich, when they compare their situation with that of the ultra-rich, can feel sorry for themselves. The woman who takes exception to the word “affluent” makes a point of placing herself at the “very, very bottom” of the one per cent. “The disparity between the bottom of the 1 percent and the top of the 1 percent is huge,” she observes.
Sherman construes things differently. Her subjects, she believes, are reluctant to categorize themselves as affluent because of what the label implies. “These New Yorkers are trying to see themselves as ‘good people,’ ” she writes. “Good people work hard. They live prudently, within their means. . . . They don’t brag or show off.” At another point, she observes that she was “surprised” at how often her subjects expressed conflicted emotions about spending. “Over time, I came to see that these were often moral conflicts about having privilege in general.”
Whatever its source—envy or ethics—the discomfort that Sherman documents matches the results of the University of California study. Inequity is, apparently, asymmetrical. For all the distress it causes those on the bottom, it brings relatively little joy to those at the top.
As any parent knows, children watch carefully when goodies are divvied up. A few years ago, a team of psychologists set out to study how kids too young to wield the word “unfair” would respond to unfairness. They recruited a bunch of preschoolers and grouped them in pairs. The children were offered some blocks to play with and then, after a while, were asked to put them away. As a reward for tidying up, the kids were given stickers. No matter how much each child had contributed to the cleanup effort, one received four stickers and the other two. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children shouldn’t be expected to grasp the idea of counting before the age of four. But even three-year-olds seemed to understand when they’d been screwed. Most of the two-sticker recipients looked enviously at the holdings of their partners. Some said they wanted more. A number of the four-sticker recipients also seemed dismayed by the distribution, or perhaps by their partners’ protests, and handed over some of their winnings. “We can . . . be confident that these actions were guided by an understanding of equality, because in all cases they offered one and only one sticker, which made the outcomes equal,” the researchers reported. The results, they concluded, show that “the emotional response to unfairness emerges very early.”
If this emotional response is experienced by toddlers, it suggests that it may be hardwired—a product of evolution rather than of culture. Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, outside Atlanta, work with brown capuchin monkeys, which are native to South America. The scientists trained the monkeys to exchange a token for a slice of cucumber. Then they paired the monkeys up, and offered one a better reward—a grape. The monkeys that continued to get cucumbers, which earlier they’d munched on cheerfully, were incensed. Some stopped handing over their tokens. Others refused to take the cucumbers or, in a few cases, threw the slices back at the researchers. Like humans, capuchin monkeys, the researchers wrote, “seem to measure reward in relative terms.”
Preschoolers, brown capuchin monkeys, California state workers, college students recruited for psychological experiments—everyone, it seems, resents inequity. This is true even though what counts as being disadvantaged varies from place to place and from year to year. As Payne points out, Thomas Jefferson, living at Monticello without hot water or overhead lighting, would, by the standards of contemporary America, be considered “poorer than the poor.” No doubt inequity, which, by many accounts, is a precondition for civilization, has been a driving force behind the kinds of innovations that have made indoor plumbing and electricity, not to mention refrigeration, central heating, and Wi-Fi, come, in the intervening centuries, to seem necessities in the U.S.
Still, there are choices to be made. The tax bill recently approved by Congress directs, in ways both big and small, even more gains to the country’s plutocrats. Supporters insist that the measure will generate so much prosperity that the poor and the middle class will also end up benefitting. But even if this proves true—and all evidence suggests that it will not—the measure doesn’t address the real problem. It’s not greater wealth but greater equity that will make us all feel richer. ♦
I have attached this report and recommend chapter 2 on inequality as reading for 3/25 for the group.
As the World Economic Forum convenes in Davos, the powerful are feeling optimistic because of waning worries about populism and global economic growth.
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.
Zuckerberg will use the trove of data on Facebook to research Inequality
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The farmer then plants the crop. But
Once the crop is established it will choke out the weeds.
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.
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.
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.
Cornell Alliance for Science – the GMO debate is over
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
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.
Why I don’t buy organic – Forbes
Why organic food costs more:
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.
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.
Organic vs. GMO
From the USDA:
NPR Story – Organic Pesticides: Not An Oxymoron
From Genetic Literacy:
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.
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
With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science
With G.M.O. Policies, Europe Turns Against Science
General article on agriculture:
Precision Agriculture – It might be the best way forward
Precision Ag is farming every square meter optimally.
Organic farming requires this already though records are not available to consumers.
The genetic genie isn’t going back in the bottle.
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.
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.
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.
Discussion Leader: Bob Baker
Factors in developing initiatives for affordable housing- DMA discussion Thursday are:
5. Legal Issues
Application to the Heights in Darien:
HUD Rental Assistance:
Typical Percentages for Household Budgets – Budgeting Money
Our own Evonne Klein is CT Commissioner of Housing:
Section 8-30g has been used in town to override local zoning rules to add affordable housing.
Section 8 Housing In Connecticut And HUD Low Income House Rentals
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]
Denver Has a Plan for Its Many Luxury Apartments: Housing Subsidies – WSJ
Affordable Housing Resources | Texas Health and Human Services
This posting on “food stamps” in CT. is in contrast to how assistance for housing is administered.
National Affordable Housing – Section 8 Help and Resources
How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Connecticut
Connecticut Section 8 Housing | Section-8-Housing.org
Learn about Homeownership Vouchers (Section 8 Homeownership Vouchers)
Web Notes – HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.”