365 days of gratitude

August 20, 2018

The bunch of daffodils I was given yesterday is brightening the scullery and giving me the scent of spring while I’m doing the dishes.

The flowers are a gift which has kept on giving all day and I’m grateful for them.


Word of the day

August 20, 2018

Kinase – an enzyme that catalyzes the transfer of phosphate groups from high-energy, phosphate-donating molecules to specific substrates; an enzyme that adds phosphate groups (PO43) to other molecules.


Rural round-up

August 20, 2018

Big US beef index job for AbacusBio – Sally Rae:

Dunedin-based agribusiness consulting company AbacusBio is rebuilding the selection indexes for the American Angus Association, the world’s largest beef cattle society.

AbacusBio partner Jason Archer, who has specialised in beef cattle throughout his career, was thrilled the company was chosen for the work.

The association has more than 25,000 members across the United States and Canada and the scale of the industry was “unbelievable”,  Dr Archer said.

In fact, the work that was being done by AbacusBio meant it affected billions of dollars’ worth of production.

Often, breed societies had selection indexes balancing all the traits that were being measured, and those indexes were both a selection tool and also became “a bit of a benchmark” when evaluating bulls, he said. . . 

Walk On history ‘pretty amazing Kiwi story’ – Sally Rae:

The establishment of Walk On is a “pretty amazing Kiwi story”, new chief executive Mark Davey says.

The  company, founded by young entrepreneur Lucas Smith, produces blister protection products using soft merino wool.

It has appointed Dr Davey as its first chief executive as part of an initiative to carry the momentum of Walk On’s initial domestic success into international markets.

Walk On had secured a national distribution deal with outdoor and adventure sports multi-channel retailer Torpedo 7 and was also available in 10 retail stores nationally, Dr Davey said. . . 

Milking it: NZ’s milk price: Who’s getting rich? Susan Edmunds:

New Zealand milk prices are “astoundingly high” – and we might have supermarkets to blame, one marketing expert says.

Bodo Lang, head of department at the University of Auckland Business School, said the price paid by New Zealanders stood out internationally.

“Particularly when considering that New Zealand is home to one of the world’s largest dairy companies, Fonterra. The problem, however, is not restricted to milk. Other dairy products too have, in comparison with other industrialised nations, exceptionally high prices.”

He said a litre of fresh milk in Germany was selling for the equivalent of $1.51, compared to $2.37 in New Zealand. . . 

Milking it: ‘Micro differences’ between brands. Why are some customers happy to pay a premium? – John Anthony:

Craig Prichard remembers when milk tasted very different from region to region.

“Milk in Taranaki where I grew up was different to the milk in Napier,” Prichard said.

The Massey associate professor, and sheep milk specialist, said things like climate, pasture and production methods used to greatly change the taste profile and characteristics of milk.

“That’s largely disappeared.” . . 

Rural land value a shrinking influence for a bank loan – Andrea Fox:

Banks’ rural credit decisions will increasingly depend on sustainable farming practices, not land value, says the country’s biggest rural lender ANZ Bank.

Commercial and agriculture managing director Mark Hiddleston said ANZ’s credit decisions have for some time been based more on farm performance than the traditional 65 per cent land-to-value ratio and that model looks likely to increase in use.

Also due for change he believes is the banking sector’s use of “a lot of averages”. . . 

Horizons proposes plan change that will get farms compliant – Laurel Stowell:

In an effort to get intensive farms legally consented, Horizons Regional Council is proposing to change numbers on the maximum nitrogen they can leach in its controversial One Plan table.

The matter was discussed at a strategy and policy committee meeting on August 14, and councillors agreed to a three-staged approach.

Last year the Environment Court told the council it must refuse consent to farmers unable to restrict nitrogen leaching to totals in the One Plan’s Table 14.2. The totals were taken from a version of Overseer, a computer system for estimating the amount of nitrogen leaching through soil. . . 

 

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Jury or science?

August 20, 2018

Monsanto has been ordered to pay $US 289m to a man who claimed herbicides containing glyphosate had caused his cancer.

Bayer, the parent company of Monsanto, has dismissed the claims.

A Californian jury said Monsanto should have warned users about the dangers of its Roundup and RangerPro weedkillers.

Bayer completed its $66bn takeover of Monsanto in June.

A Bayer spokesperson told the BBC the two companies operate independently. In a statement the company said: “Bayer is confident, based on the strength of the science, the conclusions of regulators around the world and decades of experience, that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer when used according to the label.” . .

The jury ruled against the company but courts, and juries,  aren’t equipped to determine scientific facts:

I could write many lengthy posts about why that ruling is wrong. I could talk about the numerous scientific studies that failed to find evidence that glyphosate causes cancer (e.g., this large, long-term cohort study with over 50,000 participants that wasn’t funded by Monsanto and failed to find an association between glyphosate use and cancer among farmers [Andreotti et al. 2017]). I could talk about the well-established fact that the toxicity of glyphosate is quite low. I could talk about the fact that multiple well-respected scientific bodies have examined the evidence and concluded that it does not suggest that glyphosate causes cancer. I could also talk about how the one dissenting scientific report (i.e., WHO’s IARC report) cherry-picked their evidence and reached a conclusion that has been widely criticized by the scientific community. Plenty of other pages have, however, already done all of those things, so I won’t spend more time on them here. Rather, I want to discuss why trials like this one are inherently problematic. Citing court rulings is an extremely common tactic among science deniers (anti-vaccers do it all the time), but it is not a logically valid tactic because courts don’t determine what is and is not a scientific fact.

Courts and juries might be well equipped to deal with legal matters but whether or not glysophate causes cancer isn’t a matter of law, it’s a matter for science.

The first major problem is simply that juries don’t consist of experts in the relevant scientific field. As I’ve talked about before, science is complicated. It takes years of carefully training, study, and hands-on experience to learn everything that you need to know to be able to properly evaluate scientific evidence. The notion that an untrained jury is going to master that over the course of a trail is absurd. . . 

A court pits two opposing sides against each other. It is an adversarial system which aims to find the plaintiff guilty or not, it is not designed to determine what is scientifically valid and what is not.

. . . Which conclusion seems more reliable to you? The one that was arrived at by experts spending months carefully and systematically examining all of the available evidence, or the one that was arrived at by non-experts basing a decision on a comparison of two extremely biased representations of the evidence? I think that the answer to that is pretty obvious.

To be clear here, I’m not saying that scientists are infallible or that the conclusions of scientific organizations are definitive statements of reality. That would be an appeal to authority fallacy. Rather, my point is that the courtroom system is fundamentally flawed and unreliable for determining scientific facts. The fact that a jury decided that X causes Y is completely and 100% irrelevant in any scientific debate. It has no bearing on reality, and you would be crazy to trust it instead of relying on numerous high-quality studies and reviews and meta-analyses of those studies that were systematically assembled by teams of experts. Whether or not something is a scientific fact has to be determined by actual research, and a jury’s opinion about that research is irrelevant.

Scientists aren’t saying there is no risk at all form using glysophate but study after study has concluded that if used as directed it is safe.

Monsanto will appeal. In the meantime farmers and their advisors are concerned about the implications if more  glysophate bans are imposed.

THE LEADER of one of Australia’s peak grain grower bodies has said if Australia were to follow the Brazilian lead and suspend the use of the herbicide glyphosate it would ‘send the industry back to the 1980s’.

Andrew Weidemann, Grain Producers Australia chairman, said a glyphosate ban could send total Australian grain production back to around 25 million tonnes.

Over the past 10 years, according to official Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) data the total Australian winter crop has averaged around 41 million tonnes.

“A ban on glyphosate would be a disaster agronomically,” Mr Weidemann said.

“Our conditions suit the use of glyphosate perfectly, it allows us to conserve moisture in our long hot summers without the need for cultivation.

“We know that cultivation degrades our soils but without glyphosate we’ll have to go back to it as a form of weed control.”

LaTrobe University farming systems researcher James Hunt said the environmental costs of a glyphosate ban would be huge. . . 

Low and no-tillage systems conserve soils and soil moisture. They are a much greener option than conventional cultivation but they won’t work without efficient weed killers like Roundup.

As is too-often the case, emotion has trumped science on glysophate and its environmental benefits lose out to unsubstantiated greenwash.

The cost of that will be paid for by soil degradation, lower crop yields and more expensive food.

Although, the company could try this:


Quote of the day

August 20, 2018

Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal that the reader recognises as his own. Salvatore Quasimodo  who was born on this day in 1901.


August 20 in history

August 20, 2018

636  Battle of Yarmouk: Arab forces led by Khalid ibn al-Walid took control of Syria and Palestine , marking the first great wave of Muslim conquests and the rapid advance of Islam outside Arabia.

917  Battle of Acheloos: Tsar Simeon I of Bulgaria decisively defeated a Byzantine army.

1000  The foundation of the Hungarian state by Saint Stephen.

1083  Canonization of the first King of Hungary, Saint Stephen and his son Saint Emeric.

1391 Konrad von Wallenrode became the 24th Hochmeister of the Teutonic Order.

1672  Former Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelis were murdered by an angry mob in The Hague.

1778 Bernardo O’Higgins, South American revolutionary, was born  (d. 1842).

1794  Battle of Fallen Timbers – American troops forced a confederacy of Shawnee, Mingo, Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi warriors into a disorganised retreat.

1804  Lewis and Clark Expedition: the “Corps of Discovery”, exploring the Louisiana Purchase, suffered its only death when sergeant Charles Floyd died, apparently from acute appendicitis.

1858 Charles Darwin first published his theory of evolution in The Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London, alongside Alfred Russel Wallace’s same theory.

1866 President Andrew Johnson formally declared the American Civil War over.

1882 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow.

1888  Mutineers imprisoned Emin Pasha at Dufile.

1901 – Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian novelist and poet, Nobel Prize laureate, was born (d. 1968).

1904 – The New Zealand Free Lance printed a J.C. Blomfield cartoon in which a plucky kiwi morphed into a moa as the All Blacks defeated Great Britain 9–3 in the first rugby test between Motherland and colony. This may have been the first use of a kiwi to symbolise the nation in a cartoon.

First use of kiwi as unofficial national symbol?

1909 – Alby Roberts, New Zealand cricketer and rugby player, was born (d. 1978).

1923  Jim Reeves, US country music singer, was born  (d.1964).

1926 Japan’s public broadcasting company, Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai (NHK) was established.

1927 Yootha Joyce, English actress, was born  (d. 1980).

1927  – Peter Oakley, English soldier and blogger was born (d. 2014).

1940 The New Zealand Shipping Company freighter Turakina was sunk by the Orion 260 nautical miles west of Taranaki, following a brief gun battle – the first ever fought in the Tasman Sea. Thirty-six members (some sources say 35) of its largely British crew were killed. Twenty survivors, many of them wounded, were rescued from the sea and taken prisoner.

Turakina sunk by German raider in Tasman

1940 In Mexico City exiled Leon Trotsky was fatally wounded with an ice axe by Ramon Mercader.

1941 Dave Brock, British musician and founder of Hawkwind, was born.

1941 Slobodan Milošević, President of Serbia and of Yugoslavia (d. 2006).

1944 Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was born (d. 1991).

1944  – 168 captured allied airmen, accused of being “terror fliers”, arrive at Buchenwald concentration camp. The senior officer was Phil Lamason of the RNZAF.

1944 The Battle of Romania began with a major Soviet offensive.

1948 Robert Plant, British Musician (Led Zeppelin), was born.

1955 In Morocco, a force of Berbers  raided two rural settlements and killed 77 French nationals.

1960 Senegal broke from the Mali federation, declaring its independence.

1974 Amy Adams, American actress, was born.

1975  NASA launched the Viking 1 planetary probe toward Mars.

1977 NASA launched Voyager 2.

1979  The East Coast Main Line rail route between England and Scotland was restored when the Penmanshiel Diversion opens.

1982 Lebanese Civil War: a multinational force landed in Beirut to oversee the PLO’s withdrawal from Lebanon.

1988  ”Black Saturday” of the Yellowstone fire in Yellowstone National Park.

1988 – Iran–Iraq War: a cease-fire was agreed after almost eight years of war.

1989 The pleasure boat Marchioness sank on the River Thames following a collision, 51 people were killed.

1989 The O-Bahn in Adelaide, the world’s longest guided busway, opened.

1991  August Coup: more than 100,000 people rallied outside the Soviet Union’ss parliament building protesting the coup aiming to depose President Mikhail Gorbachev.

1991 Estonia seceded from the Soviet Union.

1993 The Oslo Peace Accords were signed.

1997  Souhane massacre in Algeria; more than 60 people were killed and 15 kidnapped.

1998 The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Quebec couldn’t legally secede from Canada without the federal government’s approval.

1998 The United States military launched cruise missile attacks  against alleged al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and a suspected chemical plant in Sudan in retaliation for the August 7 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

2008 – Spanair Flight 5022, from Madrid to Gran Canaria, skids off the runway and crashes at Barajas Airport. 146 people are killed in the crash, 8 more died afterwards. Only 18 people survived.

2012 – A prison riot in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas killed at least 20 people.

2014  – Seventy-two people were killed in Japan’s Hiroshima prefecture by a series of landslides caused by a month’s worth of rain that fell in one day.

2016 – 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself at a Kurdish wedding party in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


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