Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's in your Urine?

Monsanto is spending millions to defeat Prop 37, which would require labeling of Roundup Ready, Genetically Modified (GMO) foods in California. This is huge because if labeling is required in CA, so goes the nation. The FDA does not require outside studies of GMO foods. Studies are done in the hen house by the fox, and all of them so far have been short term studies. Below is a link to information about longer term studies, the results of which are quite apparent. 

Rats with tumors

Get Out The Vote: Prop 37, California's GMO Labeling Initiative, Could Mean Change For The Entire Country

What are GMOs
"Roundup Ready Crops (RR Crops) are genetically engineered crops that have had their DNA altered to allow them to withstand the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient of Monsanto's herbicide Roundup). They are also known as "glyphosate tolerant crops." RR crops deregulated in the U.S. include: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, sugarbeets, and alfalfa. When planting Glyphosate Tolerant crops, a farmer can spray the entire crop with glyphosate, killing only the weeds and leaving the crop alive. However, one concern with the heavy use of glyphosate on RR crops is that it will lead to the development of glyphosate resistant weeds (sometimes referred to as "superweeds").[1] One variety of RR Corn, NK603, was linked to tumors in rats by a 2012 study.["
More about glyphosate in an excellent article
"The amount of glyphosate found in the urine was staggering, with each sample containing concentrations at 5 to 20-fold the limit established for drinking water."

What I found really thought provoking about the article is that Roundup kills more than just weeds in cornfield. "Glyphosate radically affects the metabolism of plants in a negative way. It is a systemic poison preventing the formation of essential amino acids, leading to weakened plants which ultimately die from it." But what about the necessary flora in our guts? GR
The small print: There is a dissenting opinion by Steven Salzberg in Forbes magazine:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2012/09/24/does-genetically-modified-corn-cause-cancer-a-flawed-study/ Salzberg tears this study up, while including the following statement about one of the researchers:
"Joel de Vendomois, is a homeopath, with a “Homeopathy and Acupuncture Diploma”, a double dose of quackery in a single degree."  

Personally, I'm going to come down on the side of caution and vote for Prop 37. If nothing else, I want the right to decide for myself if I want Monsanto's Roundup in my food, or killing off the lovely, hard-working flora in my stomach. GR

p.s. I would love to hear from my readers in Europe on this subject.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Humane Society update: It only gets weirder

The date for the public meeting with the Humane Society has been changed to Oct. 18th, 5:30 - 7:30 at Town Hall.


Frankie and Mow have been cat-napped.

On July 10th and again on the 18th, I did blog posts about Mow, previously advertised as strictly an indoor cat, becoming part of the Shelter's "barn cat program."  This does not include an actual barn or any other safe-haven, but that didn't stop the Shelter's director, Sharon Felkins. from evicting Mow and Frankie (an extremely friendly cat) from the Shelter to join the 15 or so cats she has deemed to be feral. Food and water are placed outside for them, but they otherwise fend for themselves in the woods surrounding the Highway 20 facility.

Believe it or not, when Frankie and Mow were discovered missing, the Shelter filed a theft report with the Sheriff's department. This is a small town, but we still have issues with gangs, drug abuse, meth labs, spousal abuse, pot farms, and petty larceny, but apparently that didn't stop law enforcement from giving the disappearance of two 'feral' cats the highest possible priority--starting with a call on one of the Shelter's volunteers, 78 year old, Lizette Weiss. 

Dear Sheriff, For the record, I don't have the cats and don't know who does.

This is a portion of the letter to the editor Lizette wrote.

September 4, I had an unpleasant visit from a sheriff's deputy . . . who accused me of stealing cats from the Humane Society's shelter. His manner was intimidating and threatening. I told him that I knew the two cats in question: Frankie and Mow, both females. I truthfully said I do not know who has the cats. (I) invited him into my home and introduced him to my cat. I also told him it was inhumane to release domestic cats into the (woods) to be preyed upon by . . . wild animals and for them to prey on the birds in the forest. The officer told me he would not stop looking until those cats were found and that the person who stole the cats would go to jail.

I have volunteered at the Shelter for more than a year and a half to socialize cats who are waiting for homes. I have been quite dependable, coming every Monday unless I was ill or out of town. I have told staff about problems I found with the cats (worms, coughs and upper respiratory illness, skin conditions, hairballs and cats throwing up for unknown reasons). 

Since the Humane Society released these cats into the wild, there has been a flurry of letters to the editor on this subject. The e-mail circuit has been kept busy with ideas for making the Humane Society more open to the community and to suggestions for democratizing its operations. This is particularly important since the group receives $2500 a month in taxpayer funds from the City of Fort Bragg, leases public land where the shelter is located for $1 a year, receives City dog license fees, and enjoys many thousands of dollars of donations from the public. The public also supports the organization by shopping at its resale shop -- The Ark.

On September 10, I went to the shelter for my regular stint socializing cats. First I found two dogs running unleashed in the area holding the outside cats' feeding station. So much for taking care of the outside cats, euphemistically called 'barn cats' by the shelter (although there is no barn for them to find safety in). After I signed in, Sharon Felkins, the Humane Society director, told me I was no longer welcome at the shelter and to leave immediately and never come back. I asked her why and she said, "You are a troublemaker."  I also asked her who made that decision and she told me the board of the Humane Society (only one of whom I have ever met) voted unanimously. There is no way to know if this is the case as the staff has a long history of being 'veracity challenged.'

She said she had called the Mendocino Sheriff to report the two outside cats had been stolen and had given them my name and address. I told her that I did not appreciate being called a thief and that she had no right to do so and had overstepped the bounds of normal behavior. One has to wonder why the Sheriff would feel an animal abandoned to its fate in the wild could be 'stolen'.  

I left the shelter when Sharon Felkins (picked up the phone to call) the Mendocino Sheriff to have me forcibly removed. I left for my own health and mental well-being . . . (but) of equal importance, I feel that public safety personnel are a very scarce resource. I feel this resource was being employed in a frivolous manner to assert one person's sense of importance.

The Humane Society, as a 501(c)(3) charity, has a board of directors that currently has 6 regular members four of whom are two married couples. Sharon Felkins and Alberta Cottrell also serve on the board. (It is highly) irregular to have two paid employees serve on a policy board since their work is overseen by the board.  It is like having a boss boss herself. This is a situation that . . . has led to an abuse of power. The board could have a total of eleven 'regular' members which would make it more representative of the area it serves and less like a 'private club.'

The Mendocino Coast Humane society is not a small operation. They reported to the IRS on their 990 form for the year 2010 submitted this past February that they had a total revenue of $477,000 and assets of just under $789,000. For this small community, this is quite a large charity. Yet the Humane Society keeps asserting that it is a private organization and they certainly strive to keep their meetings and deliberations private. As near as observers can tell they have not held a public meeting in more than nine years. When questioned they assert that the last meeting they held, the public complained and criticized (them). You think?!

I wish I had a solution.  I feel sad that the cats, who craved my attention when I visited, no longer have . . . volunteers to pet, groom and play with them.  In good conscience, I could never recommend the shelter as a place to volunteer as it is hostile and unpleasant to spend time there if one is at all sensitive to normal human interactions.  Simple things such as saying "hello" and "thank you" to a visitor are in short supply.  There is no sense of collaboration with the volunteers and woe beware the individual who disagrees with any decision or points out a problem situation.

I could have written about these problems months ago but did not because I know good hearted people are trying to come up with ways to make the Humane Society more humane. Frankly, with the present leadership, I doubt it is possible.

Lizette Weiss
Fort Bragg

(According to the Sheriff's log, animal welfare advocate, Carol Lillis, also received a visit from a Sheriff's deputy on Sept. 4th, but was not home to receive him.)


In a P.S.
Below is a copy of an email from Sharon Felkins in response to a query about the availability of 3 'feral' cats that the Stanford Inn wants to adopt. Sharon told Carol Lillis, and a second individual who inquired, that the 3 cats were MCHS property and that they were unavailable.  Clearly not understanding why cats living in the woods were unavailable for adoption, Carol contacted a board member who told her that "all MCHS cats indoors and out were available for adoption, and that it was their mission to adopt out animals." When Carol asked for confirmation that the cats were available, she was told by that same board member that she would meet with Sharon on Friday (the 14th) and would confirm by the same afternoon. When Carol didn't hear back, she again emailed to express the Stanford Inn's continued interest in the 3 cats, and was told that those cats, all three--the exact same cats--had been adopted. I (GR speaking) have it on good authority that, as of yesterday, those same three cats are still in the woods. I find it hard to believe that Sharon, and the other board members, carry such animosity toward Carol that they would prefer to let animals, with an opportunity to be adopted, continue to suffer the perils of life in the forest, but that seems to be the case.

This is the final paragraph in Sharon's email to Carol Lillis:
I do not expect, want, or need a reply to this email. There have been too many negative statements made about MCHS that have come from SOS and volunteers of SOS. I think its best that you not plan on being a volunteer at MCHS anymore. Thank you for all you've done and continue to do with SOS.
Shelter Director
Mendocino Coast Humane Society

(S.O.S. formerly Support Our Shelter - Mendocino County Animal Care Services Fort Bragg, provided toys, treats, medical care beyond that which the county could provide. After Animal Control closed, they changed their name to SOS - Networking for Mendocino Coast Companion animals. They raised funds for surgery & got a grant to help a dog named Valen in need of a very expensive surgery. Valen had been left in need of surgery for quite some time because funds at MCHS were low and S.O.S was told, there was no money to help him. They also arranged for transport to and from UC Davis. More recently, they raised funds for Dime's surgery as well.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Bee Bake

I love gee whiz biology--that moment when you discover something amazing that you never knew existed.

Last week a friend in Miami called to tell me that a colony of honey bees had taken over a small storage unit in her garage. We've all heard how threatened honey bees are, and how dire the consequences to our food supply if we lose our best pollinators.

My friend has a grandson who is allegeric to beestings, so she started calling to find someone to remove the bees. At every turn she was told the bees would have to be destroyed. "They might be the africanized bees." (I've since checked this out and can find no government mandate requiring the destruction of bee colonies: No federal mandate, no Florida state mandate, nor in anything in Dade County, where she lives. However, that's what she was told.)  She rightfully insisted that if they were Africanized bees, she'd probably be dead. (She opened the storage container, saw the swarm and slammed it shut. That would have been a call to arms for  "killer" bees.)

According to my very reliable source, Africanized bees and the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) are the same species. The difference is in disposition--a zone of tolerance for having their busy work disturbed. The European honey bees (our species is from Europe) have a high tolerance; Africanized have very little.

"They react to disturbances ten times faster than European
honey bees, and will chase a person a quarter of a mile."

However, my friend refused to take the destruction of the bees as an answer; she kept calling and finally found someone to move them to a new home. While he was setting up he told her about how hornets will invade a honey bee hive and wipe it out, biting the heads off the much smaller bees. (There is a YouTube video about everything, but the one I found wasn't very good.) But here's the gee whiz part, I found this video of how some honey bees protect themselves against this kind of invasion. It's totally cool. Enjoy.

 When I was in Baja a few years ago there was a swarm of bees in the bushes on the trail to the camp bathrooms. It looked just like this. In addition, the only source of freshwater for the bees was the sink where we washed up in the morning and brushed our teeth. I was so proud of all of us. We shared the sinks with them, and tolerated each other, and I was lucky enough to see the moment when they suddenly departed.
This is a temporary swarm of bees
A hornet. Note the thread-waist.
Yellow jackets are a species of hornet
Hornet's Nest


I'm headed out to turn my compost pile.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Mother's Cat

Between my cat Risty's death and a friend's illness, I've been thinking about grief lately. I wrote this when my mother was sick.
                  My Mother’s Cat

I always thought the Pruett women sounded like dreadful people. But my mother, for a reason it took me decades to discover, thought well of them.
            In the mid 1920s, the Pruett women were a curiosity in my mother’s town of Shenandoah, Iowa. They rarely left their house, which was a block from my mother’s on an elm-lined street. The curtains remained drawn in all seasons and only the wind made any use of the swing on the front porch.
            It was the “Roaring ‘20s,” but the Pruett women dressed as if untouched by time. In all the years since Mr. Pruett died, the only change they made from a year of wearing black, was to wearing gray—long, gray dresses with starched white collars buttoned to the throat. They wore their hair in tight buns, concealed by unadorned bonnets. When they left the house, they did so with the mother in the lead and her daughters clamped to her elbows, their heads held high, eyes straight ahead, lips drawn down into fine lines of secret disapproval. They went about their business knotted together so tightly, my mother told me, you couldn’t have split one off with a scalpel.
            I first heard the story of the Pruetts when I started school. There was a beautiful little girl in my class with thick red hair. She already knew her alphabet and could read a little, had both her front teeth and was the teacher’s pet. I didn’t like her and, at 6, found that hiding her crutches before recess compensated for my unremarkable start in first grade. Our teacher called my mother and Momma rolled out the Pruetts.
            The little girl had polio, she told me, and though she wore braces on both legs, she needed crutches. While I was growing up whole and normal and ignorant of the alphabet, this poor girl was confined to a bed with nothing better to do than practice her letters. From now on, she scolded, I was never to tease, or make fun, or do anything to make life more difficult for anyone. Think of the poor Pruetts, she said, it might have been just one person’s unkindness, one act of cruelty that caused the Pruett women to withdraw. They may have closed out the world, not because they really wanted to be isolated, but because hiding was preferable to risking the pain of exposure. I was never, she warned me, to be the one who caused a heart to slam shut.
            When I was 22, the boy I was in love with died in a plane crash. For the next three months, I left my apartment only to go to work. I stopped answering the phone calls of friends trying to lure me out, and ate canned Franco American spaghetti every night for dinner.
            Grief is a good thing, my mother said, if it helps heal the heartbreak, but if you are going to use it to become a martyr, then you need a bun and a bonnet and starch in your collars.
            When my mother was a girl in Shenandoah, people walked after Sunday supper, talked to their neighbors, and exchanged niceties. But when they passed the Pruetts’ house, they fell silent, and their eyes were drawn to the curtained windows and empty swing as if they might glimpse an unguarded moment: see the mother take a pie from the oven, spy a daughter at a dresser brushing her hair.
            On one such Sunday, my grandparents and my mother came out for their walk to find a crowd had gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Pruetts’.
            The mother and her two daughters were in their front yard. The older daughter was at the bottom of their porch steps next to a freshly dug mound of dirt. Her hair, long and full and blond, had come loose from its bun and hung over her shoulders and down the front of her dress, which was stained at the knees with dirt. She held a spade at her side. The other arm was thrown across her eyes.
            The mother and the younger daughter were on their knees by the mound. The daughter’s hands covered her eyes and she wept loudly. Her mother had crumpled into a gray heap, as if she’d been crushed and cast beside the pile of dirt. Her wispy gray hair hung in long thin strands.
            My mother and her parents joined the gape-mouthed neighbors at the edge of the Pruetts’ yard. My mother said, Mrs. Pruett saw them first, straightened and composed herself enough to pull her youngest daughter close and smooth her hair, then turned, her face glistening in the afternoon light. “It’s our cat,” Mrs. Pruett said, lifting her hands, palms up to the gathered congregation. “It’s our cat,” she sobbed.
            The neighbors nodded, bowed their heads, and went away. After that day, the people of Shenandoah spoke when they saw the Pruetts out. And the Pruetts began to respond.
            My mother told me this story long before my boyfriend died, before I’d had any experience with grief. She explained that Mrs. Pruett asked her neighbors to understand, and they did. Their loss was personal; grief is universal.  
I was in my forties, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She still managed to laugh occasionally, get her hair done, and play bridge with her friends, but I could see in her eyes, she thought only of the cancer.
            “Try not to think about it, Momma,” I said one day when she forgot what she was saying and stared off into space. “Think of other things.”
            She looked at me, tears welling in her eyes, and took my hand. “Try to understand, honey, this is my cat.”

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Hospice Cat

Oscar the Cat

This is Oscar, nicknamed the Hospice Cat. He was adopted by the medical staff as a kitten and his home ever since has been on the third floor of the nursing home with the dementia patients at the Steere House Nursing Center in Providence, Rhode Island. Oscar isn't necessarily a very friendly cat; he bit a doctor and often hisses at patients he passes in the hall, but he is such a reliable predictor of a patient's imminent passing that the nursing staff will call in the family when they find Oscar curled up in bed with a patient. Born in 2005, Oscar had accurately predicted 25 deaths by the time he was 2.
From an article by Catharine Paddock
in the Medical News Today
"Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who is experienced at treating terminally ill patients, said that Oscar can predict who is going to die more accurately than the staff.
She became convinced of Oscar's "skill" while treating a patient who had stopped eating, was breathing erratically and her legs had started to look blue. She thought the patient was near death. But although Oscar called in to see her, he did not stay in the room.

As Teno later found out, that was 10 hours before the patient actually died, and the nurses told her that Oscar came back to sit with the dying patient 2 hours before she finally passed away. This was Oscar's 13th accurate prediction.

There is a commendation wall plaque at the nursing home, awarded to Oscar by a local hospice agency. The plaque reads: "For his compassionate hospice care, this plaque is awarded to Oscar the Cat."
"A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat."
David M. Dosa.
NEJM Volume 357:328-329, July 26, 2007, Number 4

Click here to read the Article.
While researching this, I discovered this book written by Dr. Dosa.
Making Rounds With Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat, written by Dosa, an assistant professor of medicine and community health at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School, was published by Hyperion 2010. The book recounts the stories of families who got to know Oscar and his unique ability. Dosa hopes that in reading Oscar’s story, readers also will learn more about terminal dementia and end-of-life care.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Green with Envy

This week simply got away from me, but while looking for something to blog about I came across this video a friend sent me, and decided it would be enough just to wish you a safe Labor Day weekend.

by Andy Rouse

 and some beautiful wildlife shots