Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday's Food For Thought

Let's make you hungry fir$t:

"Marijuana dispensary licenses to the highest bidder?" by Kay Lazar Globe Staff  July 24, 2016

The phenomenon, which some called pay-to-play, is not typically seen with marijuana licensing in other states, and will drive up the costs of doing business while siphoning money from the dispensaries that could be used to lower prices for needy patients, advocates said.

That's your government at the local level that cares so much about you.

But local leaders contend the negotiations and lucrative contracts are needed to ensure their municipalities have the money to deal with unforeseen problems from dispensaries. They say the true costs for allowing these businesses, such as extra traffic and the need for additional police services, are still unknown. 

That they can then give to corporate concerns seeking tax subsidies or breaks.

Four years after voters approved marijuana for medical use, just six dispensaries have opened, while 174 other applications inch through the process. Advocates for medical marijuana say protracted negotiations over escalating contract costs are a prime culprit for the delays.

We all know the state and their authorities that didn't want this have dragged their feet. It's made me turn around on the issue. It's my most regretful vote ever, and I will vote no on recreational. Screw sick and suffering people in pain.

The licensing process in Massachusetts requires a marijuana company to submit a letter from a municipality stating that residents do not oppose a dispensary in their midst.

The requirement was intended to give cities and towns a say in the process.

“I am not aware of another state that has such a hard line as Massachusetts” in requiring the community letter in the licensing process, said Adam Fine, a Boston attorney whose law firm, Vicente Sederberg, has helped marijuana companies across the country with licensing issues.

Hey, we are number one!

In other states, Fine said, state regulators grant a license, and then municipal officials are able to address concerns about traffic and security through local zoning and permitting.

Michael Cutler, a Northampton lawyer who has represented patients and companies in marijuana-related cases, said payments to municipalities drive up the cost of treatment.

“Whose hide does this money come out of? The costs are passed on to the patients,” he said.

Aside from marijuana dispensaries, casinos, and waste landfill businesses, host agreements are not typically used in Massachusetts, according to Geoffrey Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

“They are generally put in place for uncommon, regulated industries, not something like a pharmacy, but something that is more unusual than that, like medical marijuana, where it is a restricted substance,” Beckwith said.

Several municipal leaders said the prices they set in their agreements were intended to cover extra police or other services needed at the dispensaries. But Fine and other attorneys said the ante has surpassed that benchmark.

“There has never been a police incident at one of these [six open dispensaries], and they carry less drugs than a CVS, but cities and towns say it will take extra police,” Smith said.... 

I smell a potential location for a crisis drill going live! 

I must be smoking something -- or not!


It's none of my business

Now what was I going to do?

"Complex jobs, social ties help ward off Alzheimer’s, study finds" by Tara Bahrampour Washington Post   July 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — Work that involves complex thinking and interaction with other people seems to help protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, according to research presented Sunday at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference in Toronto.

Two studies looked at how complex work and social engagement counteract the effects of unhealthy diet and cerebrovascular disease on cognition.

One found that while a ‘‘Western’’ diet (characterized by red and processed meats, white bread, potatoes, prepackaged foods, and sweets) is associated with cognitive decline, people who ate such food could offset the negative effects and experienced less cognitive decline if they also had a mentally stimulating lifestyle. 

What? That's what I (and others) have been saying for years.It's the chemicals in the land, water, and air that are responsible for so many maladies these days.

Occupations that afforded the highest levels of protections included lawyer, teacher, social worker, engineer, and doctor; the fewest protections were seen among people who held jobs such as laborer, cashier, grocery shelf stocker, and machine operator.

I've been unprotected until I took up blogging?

‘‘You can never totally forget about the importance of a good diet, but in terms of your risk of dementia, you are better able to accommodate some of the brain damage that is associated with consuming this kind of [unhealthy] diet,’’ said Matthew Parrott, a post-doctoral fellow at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, who presented the study.

Oh, no! Like a fool, I trusted the corporate food supply for years. 

Now I'm finding out that in addition to coffee giving me cancer, the pork and corn diet being promoted across the airwaves is helping to destroy the mind. 

In another study, researchers found that people with increased white matter hyperintensities, or WMHs — white spots that appear on brain scans and are commonly associated with Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline — were able to better tolerate WMH-related damage if they worked primarily with other people rather than with things or data.

It's never good to be white anymore.

Occupations involving ‘‘mentoring’’— such as social worker, physician, school counselor, psychologist, and pastor — were considered most complex, said Elizabeth Boots, a research specialist at the University of Wisconsin and the study’s presenting author.

Work involving taking instructions or helping was considered least complex. The study, conducted by the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, focused on people who were cognitively healthy but at risk for Alzheimer’s.

‘‘By showing that cognitive reserve is already at work early in the disease process, we believe this could have potential implications for early intervention, such as identifying those with potentially lower reserve and suggesting ways to boost that reserve in some way,’’ Boots said.

She said it could be possible for those with lower reserve to implement more complex skills into their daily lives.

The studies support previous findings that more stimulating lifestyles are associated with better cognitive outcomes later in life, and bolster the importance of intellectual engagement, said Ronald Petersen, director of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging and the Mayo Alzheimer’s Research Center.

‘‘Physical activity has been reasonably well-documented, but with intellectual activity the data get pretty soft . . . these two studies speak to that,’’ he said. ‘‘What it may mean is the development of Alzheimer’s Disease or cognitive change with aging need not be a passive process; you can do something about it.’’


And here I thought it was the pot-smoking that was the trouble.

Related: Sunday Globe Leftovers 

Here is another one:

"Field of genes: Cultivating biopharma, bio-ag links" by Robert Weisman Globe Staff  July 23, 2016

When a senior executive from drug giant Bayer AG visited Boston last month, he wanted to talk not about biotechnology, but bio-agriculture, a growing field focused on the use of gene science and organic materials in farming and food production.

Among the stops made by Adrian Percy, head of research and development for Bayer Crop Science, was Flagship Ventures, a Cambridge firm that is investing part of its new fund in bio-agriculture.

Bayer’s big bio-ag business — it accounts for nearly a quarter of the German company’s $45 billion in annual revenue — is unusual in the pharmaceutical business. Even though gene editing and the microbiome have applications in both the human and plant worlds, companies typically focus on one or the other, not both.

See: Burnt to a CRISPR

Maybe you can send it back.

The same is true for investors that help startup companies get off the ground. Venture capitalists in the Boston area have long focused on biotech drug development, which is natural, given that the region is a global life-sciences hub.

Well, at least you know where your pension went and why tuition is so damn expensive.

Their reasons for avoiding bio-agriculture range from lack of expertise to a continued public resistance to bioengineered foods, notably in Europe, that makes it difficult to gauge demand and scale businesses.

“A lot of the investors that were focused on pharma in the past are realizing that ag is sexy and there are technologies in biopharma that can be applied to ag,” said Percy.

That's why all the surplus pork and corn is being dumped on the AmeriKan consumer.

Flagship is making bets on everything from enabling technologies to bioinformatics with agricultural applications. “We have an active interest in the bio-ag space,” said Ignacio Martinez, a partner at Flagship, which has helped create and fund more than three dozen biopharma startups.

They are front companies so that the loot can be broadly distributed.

Flagship has invested in Indigo Agriculture Inc., a Charlestown startup that is working on engineering water-efficient crops. The company last week said it had raised a fresh round of $100 million in financing, bringing the total to more than $150 million.

Yes, folks, there is money out there, just not in your pocket.

Another startup, Cibo Technologies, was hatched by Flagship VentureLabs in Cambridge, the venture firm’s in-house incubator.Cibo has yet to be publicly launched, but it is working on ways to boost the efficiency of farming while reducing its environmental impact. “We need to grow more food because of climate change,” Martinez said.

Warming helps food production. according to the history books.

Polaris has made four investments in bio-ag dating back to 1998, but its only current portfolio company is AgBiome Inc., based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, which is developing products that reduce farming risk and improve crop yields.

“Lenders have to be very careful about entering this industry. It seems like an adjacent field because the technology is tantalizingly similar. But to be successful, you really have to understand that the businesses and the markets are very different, ” said Amir Nashat, the firm’s managing partner who has worked with the bio-ag startups.

A small cluster of bio-ag startups, or companies that make enabling technology, has taken root in the Boston area. Five are housed in Greentown Labs, a Somerville incubator best known for clean tech. Among them are Grove Labs — a 20-person company that builds aquaponic systems, complete with LED lighting, for growing fruit, vegetables, and herbs at home — and Raptor Maps Inc., which makes drone-empowered analytics to collect data for optimizing crop development.

One wonders how human beings were able to grow food all these years.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for more efficient use of resources in agriculture,” said Greentown Labs chief executive Emily Reichert.

Ginkgo Bioworks, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff operating out of South Boston, is developing a roster of “bio-products” that include organic pesticides.

Welcome to the factory of the future.

“Plants are at war with insects and they naturally have ways of repelling pests,” said Ginkgo chief executive Jason Kelly. “What we’re doing is moving the genes that are in the plants into yeast and growing out the yeast to produce a chemical that becomes the pesticide.”

I was wondering how long it would take the war pre$$ to frame the issue that way, and while pestilence is a problem, it's always been an organic function. 

What these guys are claiming to be organic is anything but! 

The spirit of Orwell is very busy these days.

The company recently struck a partnership with industrial bioproducts giant Amyris Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., to jointly develop, produce, and commercialize more than 70 products based on engineered microbes for the industrial, health, and personal care markets. They range from industrial lubricants and jet fuel to fragrances and nutritional ingredients.

Ginkgo recently raised $100 million in funding, from West Coast and New York investors. Kelly said he has talked with Boston investors, but thinks they are still “being myopic” about bio-ag.

“We didn’t get any Boston investors,” he said. “They’ll take a meeting with us and then they’ll say, ‘Why are we talking?’ They’re completely missing the boat on the potential of bio-ag and synthetic biology.”

Bayer’s Percy says that because Greater Boston is a hub for biopharma innovation, he sees bi-ag as a natural extension for the area’s fast-growing life-sciences industry.

“Even if the Boston area isn’t known for agriculture, there are so many things going on here that apply to agriculture that we feel like we have to have a presence here,” Percy said.

Bayer spends about $1.1 billion a year on ag-related research and development. Its crop science business, with $11 billion in annual revenue, would grow substantially if the company succeeds in its $62 billion takeover bid for Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company. Monsanto, based outside St. Louis, initially rejected the offer.

The two companies are negotiating. A deal, if it occurs, might prompt other large drug companies to seek their own footprints in bio-agriculture and spur more cross-pollination between the fields.

It's Seriou$ bu$ine$$, and would it not need approval from the U.S. government?

Among the areas ripe to develop as adjacent sectors is digital agriculture, farming technologies that let growers better monitor where different crops are planted in their fields, gauge the depth and spacing of seeds, and identify when and where to apply fertilizers.

“There’s more technology in the modern tractor than there was in the first lunar landing craft,” Percy said. But he added that there’s still room for plenty more.

“The goal is to let farmers maximize the yield of the fields,” he said.

Tell that to the families of all the Indian farmers that have committed suicide thanks to lesser yields.


I'm so glad that the people and cla$$es that are feasting at our expense are looking to serve us:

"Investors bet $100m on Indigo’s crop growth technology" by Curt Woodward Globe Staff  July 21, 2016

One Boston company thinks it can alter that microscopic mix to create super crops that can thrive in stressful conditions. And investors are paying attention, staking Indigo Agriculture Inc. with a fresh financing round of $100 million.

The investment, announced Thursday, will bankroll research projects and hiring at Indigo, which recently moved into a 65,000-square-foot facility at the former Hood dairy plant in Charlestown.

The company has planted its first crop, a type of cotton that requires less water than conventional cousins, on more than 50,000 acres in the United States. It expects to introduce a variety of water-efficient wheat later this year.

Although its exact methods are confidential, Indigo said it creates new blends of naturally occurring microbes that can influence how plants grow. Those microorganisms aren’t modified before they’re applied to a seed, setting the company apart from crop improvements based on genetic engineering or chemical treatments, chief executive David Perry said.

“Nobody orders more herbicide with their salad,” Perry said. “We have the potential to change that paradigm, where we’re both improving the farmer’s profits and doing it in a way that’s better for the consumer and the planet.”

There was a time about ten years ago when I would have bitten into that with great gusto. Now I no longer believe that from anything in my pre$$ because there is always $ome ulterior motive to the agenda-pushing altrui$m.

Tarah S. Sullivan, an assistant professor at Washington State University, questioned how much Indigo will charge for its innovations, especially given the benefit advanced crops could have in poor areas.

“This kind of thing is going to be the most useful in developing nations, where they don’t have money for fertilizers,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to need it everywhere to feed the planet. But in developing nations, they don’t have access to the kinds of things we have here.”

Indigo hasn’t disclosed pricing yet, but has said it would only charge farmers for using its plants if their crop yields increase.

Indigo’s expansion also comes amid greater consumer skepticism toward industrial and scientifically modified food products.

Sales of organic products — mostly food — have grown from less than $20 billion in 2006 to $43.3 billion in 2015, according to the Organic Trade Association. Meanwhile, Congress recently approved legislation mandating national labeling of food with genetically modified ingredients. Those standards would not apply to Indigo’s plants, Perry said.

Congre$$ did that as a favor to indu$try to undercut harsher state laws.

The Alaska Permanent Fund, which manages that state’s oil royalties, led the investment in Indigo.


When are the kids scheduled for a sit-in like at the schools?!!

It was joined by previous investors, including Cambridge’s Flagship Ventures, which incubated Indigo and led previous fund-raising rounds totaling $56 million.

The company has about 80 employees, and expects to end the year with more than 100, Perry said....

Yeah, that will solve the massive unemployment and underemployment problem. Probably fill 'em with an H1-B.


Don't worry, the Globe will sustain you:

"Sustainable development: a new kind of globalization" by Jeffrey Sachs   July 19, 2016

The Sustainable Development Goals pour scorn on the once-popular idea that “greed is good” by emphasizing that an American society (indeed any society) built to last must look beyond greed to honesty, solidarity, and sustainability. And the SDGs offer up some practical benchmarks to measure progress. The implications for the United States are eye-opening.

While all countries have a ways to go to achieve sustainable development, the United States has much farther to go than many other countries. Each country’s state of sustainable development can be scored on a set of detailed indicators measuring poverty, nutrition, health care, education, income, jobs, gender equality, gaps of rich and poor, environmental pollution, and other specific standards for the 17 SDGs. I recently participated in the first-ever such effort to measure global progress toward the SDGs by producing an SDG Index that covers 149 countries and 77 indicators.

According to the new SDG Index, the United States ranks 25th in the world in the progress toward the SDGs, far ahead of the world’s poorest countries but also far behind the world leaders. The world leaders in sustainable development are the Scandinavian countries: Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, ranking first, second, and third, respectively. Northern European countries account for the remaining top 10. Canada also far outpaces the United States, ranking 13th, and Australia ranks 20th.

The SDG rankings reflect deep and instructive differences between the United States and the SDG leaders in how our societies tick and the quality of life that we enjoy. The Scandinavian economies (and Northern European countries generally) have much lower maternal and infant death rates, higher life expectancy, longer vacation times, and a far lower inequality of income. Sweden’s homicide rate is around one-seventh of America’s and its incarceration rate is roughly one-tenth. Compared with Americans the countries leading in sustainable development are also happier, with much higher ratings of self-assessed “life satisfaction.”  

Even the world’s SDG-leading countries have their work cut out for them in order to achieve sustainable development. In order to stop human-caused climate change, for example, every high-income country has yet to shift energy production from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) to low-carbon renewables (such as solar and wind). Two of the Sustainable Development Goals call for the shift to low-carbon energy, and the SDG Index will help to track that progress country by country in future years.

It sounds like a good idea; however, Carter put the solar panels up 40 years ago and solar and wind are a fraction of energy sources still. Seems like it was designed more as a tax write-off,  and despite all the hot air surrounding global warming, coal and oil still have a vice grip.  It's all a big show to get you to fork over a carbon tax to the underwriters who will save the world.

And why is the U.S. war machine being left out of the polluting discussion?

What makes the SDGs especially important is that they are far more than just another political concept or utopian ideal. They are specific, time-bound goals (to the year 2030) that have been agreed to by every UN member state, including the United States. 

Ah, it's part of the New World Order or Agenda 21 or whatever!!

Of course, international agreements don’t guarantee international action, yet the SDGs offer at least the chance for a global-scale effort to set things in a better direction. They respond to Pope Francis’ call in his encyclical Laudato si’ “to think of one world with a common plan.”

The elite globe-kickers sure do, and so I'm told did Hitler!

This week at the United Nations, 22 governments are presenting to the world their initial efforts to achieve the SDGs. The United States, no surprise, is not among these first 22 countries. We are understandably absorbed in, and distracted by, the presidential campaign.

That's what it's for.

Yet despite the current distractions, let’s work toward the United States sharing the SDG stage at the UN in one year’s time, when the SDGs will once again be reviewed. No matter who is elected in November, America will still be on the wrong track and in need of a change of direction. Our problems today go well beyond short-term politics, to the very question of our national objectives and our cohesion as a society. As the rest of the world is recognizing at the highest levels of religion, politics, business, and civil society, the concept of sustainable development offers us the chance to put the world on a more prosperous, fair, and sustainable path....

For who, and why have those same people spent the last 30 years aggrandizing wealth to themselves while impoverishing so many around the planet?


Want something to wash all that down?

NDU: A sparkling new era for time-tested Polar

Maybe you would like something stronger

Can I see ID, please?

UPDATE: Marijuana candy sends two teens to hospital