The Tech Revolution Hits Farming

“Let The Robots and iPhones Tend The Crops,” reads the headline in Popular Science, and for good reason: the tech revolution is finally transforming farming:

Since Dorn Cox began automating his 250-acre New Hampshire farm four years ago, he has installed dozens of sensors. Some measure moisture in soil around his squash. Some track temperatures in the greenhouse air around his cucumbers. Others track wind speed and rainfall in segments of field roughly a quarter-acre in size. When something is amiss—temperatures are too high or the soil is too dry—he receives an alert on his smartphone. He also sends out drones to survey his field crops for dryness, soil erosion, and plant health.

Drone vs Cow

“On a farm, there’s a lot going on,” Cox says. “Being able to keep track of it all without having to hire more people is important. It lets you do a better, more efficient job.”

For centuries, farming was an intuitive process.

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Guns, Trump and Mental Illness


Ben Debney writes at CounterPunch:

One of the few people to shamelessly state his true feelings about the recent Oregon school shootings was GOP front-runner Donald Trump, whose comments on MSNBC were not widely circulated beyond that forum for reasons that do not warrant sustained reflection.[1] They did however surface on at least on website, where they were reported in detail.[2]

In this instance we should be grateful that Donald Trump says openly what a lot of people say in private, and those who have to bear the brunt of the stigma against past and present sufferers of mental illness actually have an opportunity to respond directly.

According to the Newsmax website, Trump had said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program that there were ‘already strong laws on the books where firearms are concerned’, but that ‘you’re always going to have problems’ on account of the fact that ‘we have millions of sick people all over the world.’

Since there were ‘millions of sick people all over the world,’ as Trump put it, the Oregon shootings were nothing special.

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GMOs: It’s Complicated

Here’s a tremendous attempt to make sense of the competing science and analysis surrounding GMOs, by Maya Montenegro, a food systems researcher at UC Berkeley, writing at ensia:

The GMO debate is one from which I’ve kept a purposeful distance.

For one thing, it’s an issue that has already garnered more than its fair share of attention. For another, when you consider that many domesticated crops resulted from seed irradiation, chromosome doubling and plant tissue culture — none of which are genetically engineered — the boundaries of “natural” are more porous than they initially appear.

Raw Group Maize Sharply Focused

But I study seed science and policy, in which genetically engineered organisms — more often referred to as genetically modified organisms, aka GMOs — are pervasive, so it’s an issue I cannot ignore. Most recently, the director of a science communications program asked if I could engage her students on a few topics: Is there a scientific consensus on GMOs?

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You can grow new brain cells. Here’s how

Can we, as adults, grow new nerve cells? There’s still some confusion about that question, as this is a fairly new field of research. For example, I was talking to one of my colleagues, Robert, who is an oncologist, and he was telling me, “Sandrine, this is puzzling. Some of my patients that have been told they are cured of their cancer still develop symptoms of depression.” And I responded to him, “Well, from my point of view that makes sense. The drug you give to your patients that stops the cancer cells multiplying also stops the newborn neurons being generated in their brain.” And then Robert looked at me like I was crazy and said, “But Sandrine, these are adult patients — adults do not grow new nerve cells.” And much to his surprise, I said, “Well actually, we do.” And this is a phenomenon that we call neurogenesis.


Now Robert is not a neuroscientist, and when he went to medical school he was not taught what we know now — that the adult brain can generate new nerve cells.Read the rest

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China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans


Jay Stanley, writing for the ACLU:

China is launching a comprehensive “credit score” system, and the more I learn about it, the more nightmarish it seems. China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, “authoritarianism, gamified.” Read this piece for the full flavor—it will make your head spin. If that and the little other reporting I’ve seen is accurate, the basics are this:

  • Everybody is measured by a score between 350 and 950, which is linked to their national identity card. While currently supposedly voluntary, the government has announced that it will be mandatory by 2020.
  • The system is run by two companies, Alibaba and Tencent, which run all the social networks in China and therefore have access to a vast amount of data about people’s social ties and activities and what they say.
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University of Minnesota owes mistreated psychiatric subjects an apology

University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus
I think they owe a little bit more than a paltry apology.

Carl Elliott via StarTribune:

Thanks to a former Fairview Hospital patient with the courage to speak out about his mistreatment, the University of Minnesota is finally ending a controversial research practice. As of last month, the university will no longer test experimental drugs on mentally ill patients who have been involuntarily confined to a locked psychiatric unit under a 72-hour hold (“U halts recruiting of confined patients,” Sept. 26).

Yet instead of thanking the patient who spoke out, or apologizing for recruiting him under coercive conditions, the university has done its best to discredit him.

In July 2007, Robert Huber came to Fairview for help. He was hearing voices and feeling panicked. His treating psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen Olson, used a 72-hour emergency hold to confine Huber to a locked psychiatric unit. Then Olson asked Huber to sign up for a research study testing an experimental drug.

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Trade 4 People

Trade deals should work for the people that they affect – duh!

But it’s amazing how much they don’t – haven’t and won’t.

With the TPP deal now finalized, we ramp up the fight against all these corporate takeovers masquerading as “free trade” deals.


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Male Suicide on Rise as Result of Austerity, Report Suggests

to be or not to be
University of Portsmouth via ScienceDaily:

Young males between the ages of 10 and 24 have committed suicide in growing numbers as a direct result of austerity measures brought in across Europe following the 2009 recession.

According to new research from the University of Portsmouth and Webster Vienna University, more males of all ages are committing suicide in the Eurozone’s poorest countries.

The researchers, Dr Nikolaos Antonakakis and Professor Alan Collins, are urging policy makers to put European citizens’ health before wealth as a matter of urgency.

The research is the first to examine the direct impact of fiscal austerity on suicide rates in the group of countries most affected by the Eurozone crisis — Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Dr Antonakakis, a Visiting Fellow at Portsmouth Business School and an Associate Professor at Webster Vienna University, said: “The Eurozone debt crisis is transforming into a health crisis. Austerity measures were implemented in response to the 2008 global financial crisis and the subsequent Eurozone debt crisis in an attempt to restore confidence, competitiveness and macroeconomic stability.

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