A Report the USDA Doesn’t Want You To See

The USDA commissioned, published and even praised a review that it made available on its National Agricultural Library website last June. As of last Friday, the document is gone and no explanations were provided. The only way to get a copy is from a cached version provided by the Union of Concerned Scientist.

So why was the document removed? The report was assembled by Vaishali Dharmarha, a research assistant at the University of Maryland. It is a summary of research from 63 academic papers and government studies.

The following are just a few of the findings:

  • “Use and misuse of antimicrobial drugs in food animal production and human medicine is the main factor accelerating antimicrobial resistance.”
  • “[F]ood animals, when exposed to antimicrobial agents, may serve as a significant reservoir of resistant bacteria that can transmit to humans through the food supply.”
  • “Several studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on antimicrobial-resistant Salmonella showed that [antibiotic resistance] in Salmonella strains was most likely due to the antimicrobial use in food animals, and that most infections caused by resistant strains are acquired from the consumption of contaminated food.”
  • “Farmers and farm workers may get exposed to resistant bacteria by handling animals, feed, and manure. These exposures are of significant concern to public health, as they can transfer the resistant bacteria to family and community members, particularly through person-to-person contacts.”
  • “Resistant bacteria can also spread from intensive food animal production area to outside boundaries through contact between food animals and animals in the external environment. Insects, flies, houseflies, rodents, and wild birds play an important role in this mode of transmission. They are particularly attracted to animal wastes and feed sources from where they carry the resistant bacteria to several locations outside the animal production facility.”

Canadians Raise $2.9-million in Donation in Just a Week

After a United Nations declaration officially stating two parts of Somalia in East Africa is under a state of famine, and then followed by a wave of media interest and coverage, more of the world is being informed of the dreadful condition that is unfolding in that part of the globe.

And Canadians are stepping up in helping to bring aid to our famine-stricken fellowmen. Although this urge is essentially an innate response, it is helped by the federal governments pledge to match donations within a period of 10 weeks. After just a week, donations are already up at $2.9 million. And it’s still counting.

“The cause may be just, but Canadians need to actually know about it before they are able to donate anything,” said Nicolas Moyer, the coordinator of the Humanitarian Coalition which includes Care Canada, Save the Children, Plan Canada, Oxfam Canada and Oxfam-Quebec

All donations must be given only to recognized Canadian charities that are responding to the famine.

World Population to Reach 7 billion This Year

Global population is expected to exceed 7 billion later this year.

“Although the issues immediately confronting developing countries are different from those facing the rich countries, in a globalized world demographic challenges anywhere are demographic challenges everywhere,” said David Bloom, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“The demographic picture is indeed complex, and poses some formidable challenges. Those challenges are not insurmountable, but we cannot deal with them by sticking our heads in the sand. We have to tackle some tough issues ranging from the unmet need for contraception among hundreds of millions of women and the huge knowledge-action gaps we see in the area of child survival, to the reform of retirement policy and the development of global immigration policy. It’s just plain irresponsible to sit by idly while humankind experiences full force the perils of demographic change,” Bloom said.

Trends in population growth indicate a shift of concentration towards less developed places. This would mean the struggle to provide even basic needs and services to one’s population would continue to increase.

Business Customer Satisfaction with Groupon Only 50%

Groupons are everywhere. Food, travel, cosmetics, recreation and other establishments are running Groupon deals left and right.

So are these establishments getting their money’s worth, meeting their expectations and growing their businesses through these deals?

No information is available regarding repeat business customers so a small survey has been conducted to pulse the small business participants that have actually tried using it once. It appears their motivation to join was driven by curiosity. If that’s the case, Groupon’s market growth can not be sustained with it.

There are 16 confirmed responses from business owners who have offered Groupon deals. Although the number is not a broad sample size, it still offers an insight of how these small companies view the program.

The results in broad strokes:

  • Although 60% of the respondents said their trials were successful, more than half do not want to run another deal again.
  • 40% reported failure
  • Groupon is not necessarily a better strategy compared to its competitors
  • Most respondents said “only a handful” became repeat customers
  • About half of those surveyed would not recommend Groupon to another small business.

2,000 Job Cuts at RIM

Research In Motion, the Canadian company known for its Blacberry devices, has slashed 11 percent of it workforce translating to 2000 job cuts.

Once the dominant leader in its market, RIM is now left with cost-cutting measures as Apple and Android continue to increase their hold on the mobile market.

But there are doubts about whether cost-cutting alone is enough to see through RIM’s decreased financial performance.

According to Charter Equity Research analyst, Ed Snyder, “The problem is you can’t cut your way into growth or market leadership, and while I’m sure there was fat at RIM, the core problem sits squarely with management.”

Changes on the executive level were also announced. As COO Don Morrison is retiring, the remaining to would assume the additional responsibilites.

“Cost-cutting is unlikely to change the competitive position for the company or accelerate RIM’s revenue growth,” analyst Colin Gillis said.

However, analysts still recognize that cost-cutting is still a necessary step to help the company face its new challenges.

As Debt Negotiations Continue, So Does the Fall of the US Dollar

Amidst debate of increasing the debt ceiling, the value of the US dollar has continued to decrease against it foreign counterparts. Just last week, the US dollar fell to $1.4465 against the euro, and down to $1.6391 against the UK pound.

If a deal to increase the borrowing limit is not made by August 2, the US risks defaulting on its debt.

Meanwhile, fear continues to escalate at the prospect of more debt, causing stock prices to fall.

In Europe, countries are being forced to borrow at higher interest rates. This is despite reaching a deal last week to help solve their debt crisis.

Spain paid an interest rate of 2.519% for a 2.9bn euro short term debt of six months. For the same amount of time, Italy incurred a 2.269% interest.

The US has accumulated a national debt amounting to $14.3tn yet President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner continues to blame each other about not reaching a deal.

It was usually a routine in Congress to vote on increasing debt limits. But without any significant decrease on the budget deficit, Republicans refuse to reach a deal about the debt.

Tallest Solar Tower to Rise in Arizona

In the never-ending quest to find and create more energy to supply the ever increasing demands for sustainable and renewable power, more and more companies are tapping into the unlimited resources of the sun.

There is just no possible way to drain its clean, free and readily available supply of light and heat regardless of how many solar panels collect it.

And so, adding to the growing solar projects being pursued is an Australian company with plans to build its solar tower in Arizona. And it is massive.

At 2,600 feet, it will prove to be the biggest solar energy collector to date once built. To stand just below the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, this structure will make it as the second tallest building the world and twice as tall as the Empire Stage building.

According to company officials of EnviroMission, the project owner, not only will it harness solar power but it will do so with no manpower and very little maintenance for 80 years. It is also projected to generate 200 megawatts of power; enough to provide for 150,000 homes.

“Malleable” Biomaterial Suitable for Soft Facial Tissue Replacements

There is no shortage of materials that can reliably be shaped and molded to replace hard components like bone when doing reconstructive surgery. But suitable replacement for soft tissues, particularly for facial use, is lacking. Those that are available leave much to be desired and are particularly problematic when used for correcting bigger deformities.

But researchers at John Hopkins University developed an injectable biomaterial that is transplantable. This new material can help in rebuilding the usually hard to fix parts. It is half-synthetic and half-biological and is straight-forward to administer, requiring no surgery. It can be shaped after being injected then set in place using green light.

The material is a blend of hyaluronic acid – a biological component already used for tissue replacement – and polyethylene glycol, the synthetic component. It can be plied after injection allowing doctors to shape it to proper form before setting it using green LED light of a specific wavelength.

A Robot Impervious to Landmines

A new remote-controlled robot designed to clear landmines can withstand as much as 17 lbs. of explosives without sustaining any damage.

Made of hardened steel, the Digger DTR D3 has a rotating tungsten hammer up front that digs about a foot into the ground and pulverizes things upon contact; including landmines, but not before detonating them.

The D3 is operated from a safe distance. It features a “V” shaped hull to protect it from damage while reinforced grates cover the air-intakes which might otherwise be vulnerable to shrapnel. It can effectively clear land of all mines while also removing any and all forms of obstructions.

It is not immune to breaking down, however. But the manufacturer has taken great lengths to make the Digger easily repairable. The engine and other internal parts are relatively easy to access. It also provides plans to enable the user to build spare parts themselves. This is quite essential in far locations; which is where you would expect landmines to be in the first place.

Graphene, ‘Super Paper’ is Stronger Than Steel

What is two times harder, six times lighter, ten times stronger than steel and totally recyclable? Graphene, that’s what. These advantages produce a next-generation material that can greatly improve aviation, automotive and other heavy industries by decreasing fuel requirements, and therefore, pollution.

The University of Technology in Sydney, Australia revealed a new type of graphene nano paper. To make it, t he process involves milling and purifying raw graphite in a chemical bath. This step reshapes its molecular structure that makes it able to be pressed.

The resulting sheet has “excellent thermal, electrical and mechanical properties – including excellent hardness and flexibility,” the researcher said.

For years, car and plane makers have taken advantaged of modern aluminum processing technology to make their vehicles lighter. Incorporating graphene materials into these products would only result in much lighter machines.

There is much supply of this raw material in Australia and the researchers appreciate the increase in demand of graphite from the industry.