Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Seed sales spring up

...This spring, sales at Landreth are “up 75 percent over last year,” said Barbara Melera, a former venture capitalist who bought the company in 2003. Moving between the shelves of bulk seed containers in her warehouse in New Freedom, Pa., she pointed out varieties that are almost sold out: Detroit Dark Red beets, Danvers Half Long carrots, Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach. She had no kale or a popular beet variety, Lutz. “We have a modest amount of beans left.

Seed producers and merchants across the United States are reporting the same phenomenon of crazy demand and even some shortages, especially of staples like beans, potatoes and lettuces. Sales of seed packets picked up last year and have grown significantly again this season, which runs from January to June.

Industry observers attribute the boost in sales to a concern for food safety following outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisonings and a desire by consumers to be a part of the local food movement. Michelle Obama's new vegetable garden at the White House may also be inspiring people, they said.

But the primary reasons, they speculate, are the recession, income loss and the need for people to lower their grocery bills by growing their own.

In late April, Greg Frandano, a 35-year-old bartender, ripped up part of his lawn to extend his vegetable garden in the rear yard of his brick Cape Cod in Falls Church, Va. “We hardly buy any produce when things are cooking,” he said, as he worked composted leaves into the clay soil before planting. He started the garden four years ago and has enlarged it every spring since to feed his family of four.

At four community gardens in Reston, Va., coordinator Deana Demichelis said the wait list for 250 plots has climbed to 140 names, a backlog of about three years. “New gardeners are begging to get in because of the recession and the fact they can save money growing their own food,” she said. ...

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New initiative traces the beginning of species' life on Earth

Scientists and nonscientists now have easy access to information about when living species and their ancestors originated, information that previously was difficult to find or inaccessible. Free access to the information is part of the new Timetree of Life initiative developed by Blair Hedges, a professor of biology at Penn State University, and Sudhir Kumar, a professor of life sciences at Arizona State University. The Timetree of Life project debuted this week with the simultaneous release of a major online resource called "TimeTreeWeb" (http://www.timetree.org), and a book titled "The Timetree of Life" (Oxford University Press), which is written by a consortium of 105 experts on specific groups of organisms and is edited by Hedges and Kumar. Nobel laureate James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, comments in his foreword to the book, "I look in wonder at The Timetree of Life, at the breadth of life that it covers, and the extraordinary data presented in it." 

"The ultimate goal of the Timetree of Life initiative is to chart the timescale of life -- to discover when each species and all their ancestors originated, all the way back to the origin of life some four billion years ago," Hedges said. Many researchers long have studied the times of origin of individual species in order to piece together a Tree of Life, but now the Timetree of Life project provides a synthesis of the time-calibrated Tree of Life, in addition to adding much new information from previously unpublished scientific studies.

"The TimeTreeWeb tool belongs to a new genre of resources that lets anyone easily mine knowledge previously locked up in technical research articles, without needing to know the jargon of the field," said Kumar.  "For example, if you type in 'cat' and 'dog,'" Hedges said, "the program will navigate through the timetree of life to the point where the cat and dog species split, and it will find all the studies bearing on that divergence. Within a few seconds, you will learn that your pet cat and dog diverged in evolutionary time about 50 to 60 million years ago."

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'Everyone's a pagan now'

From morris dancers in mirror shades to green activists getting in touch with their spiritual side, paganism is going mainstream. Cole Moreton reports on a new national faith

The Guardian - 22 Jun, 2009

Look out, here come the pagans. It's late May in central London and a man dressed as a tree, a witch in a velvet robe and a woman pretending to be a raven with a long black beak are dancing through the streets of Holborn, with several hundred others, moving to the rhythm of a dozen loud drums. They could wake the god of thunder with their noise but it's OK, the people at the back with the broadswords and shields are followers of Thor. This is a parade to celebrate pagan pride, and it would be wise not to get in the way.

"We are moving into a new time," says the leader, brandishing a huge set of antlers. "We are becoming more accepted. Paganism is reasserting itself."

Who is going to argue? Her name is Jeanette Ellis and she looks like the figurehead of a mighty galleon, cleavage pushing up out of a medieval dress (although her bottom half is mostly foliage). Ellis has been organising parades for more than a decade. "There has been such a dramatic change," she says, "in the way we are perceived."

Paganism is casting its spell over more people now than ever before in the modern age. There are said to be a quarter of a million practising pagans in this country, double the number of a decade ago.

That would make them more numerous than Buddhists (of which there are 144,500, according to the 2001 census) and almost as numerous as Jews (259,000) - and it doesn't even allow for the growing tribe of unofficial, instinctive pagans such as my friend Cath, who planned to celebrate the summer solstice in the early hours yesterday by "going out into the garden at dawn and just tuning in". At Stonehenge at least 30,000 people were expected to watch the sun rise in the company of the druids who see themselves as practising the ancient faith of pre-Christian Britain. For them, the sun is symbolic of one aspect of the "universal force which flows through the world and which can be encouraged to flow through us", according to Philip Carr-Gomm, founder of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and author of the new Book of English Magic. The druids are only a small part of modern paganism, which encompasses a bewildering number of traditions or "paths", but central to them all is this idea of a divine force inherent in nature. It is an individualistic faith that encourages each person to respond in their own way, so you don't have to be a druid, or belong to any kind of order at all.

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Climate emergency: Thousands march for action across Australia

On June 13, 2009 thousands of people around Australia rallied for action on Climate Change, calling for 100% renewable energy by 2020 and demanding that Australia must make the shift from fossil fuels to wind, solar and other available renewable technologies. Rallies were held in capital cities around Australia, with people siting down outside Kevin Rudd's city office in Sydney and a sitdown protest in front of the Melbourne Town Hall where the Victorian State ALP conference was ocurring.

In Sydney more than 2000 people gathered to hear speakers then marched to Kevin Rudd's city office for a symbolic sitdown protest. NSW greens MP Lee Rhiannon told the protest "The Australian Greens will oppose the CPRS legislation because the target is not ambitious enough. The world is on red alert, urgent action is needed to rein in runaway climate change now. The prime minister needs to recognise that baby steps is not what is needed, we need the giant leap to a zero emissions future. We know that achieving that is not going to come with the carbon pollution reduction scheme - that's a scam." according to a report in the Age.

In Hobart, 1200 people gathered in the rain and heard Greens Senator Christine Milne say that the Rudd Government's carbon emission scheme needs to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2020 or the Greens would vote against the scheme in he Senate.

Several hundred people attended a rally in Perth. About two hundred people protested in Brisbane where the rally heard from members of the Pine Rivers Climate Action Network, the Greens, the St Johns Wood Sustainability Group and the Queensland secretary of the Electrical Trade Union, Peter Simpson.

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U.S. revisits Afghan battle rules

Yochi J. Dreazen reports for the Wall Street Journal:

The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan is finalizing a far-reaching change in tactics that will generally require U.S. troops taking fire in populated areas to break contact rather than risk civilian casualties, military officials said.

Exceptions will be made when the lives of U.S. and allied personnel are in danger.

The rules being crafted by Gen. Stanley McChrystal are the clearest indication yet of how the new U.S. command team in Afghanistan plans to reduce civilian fatalities, a cause of public anger against U.S. efforts there.

Military officials in Kabul said the "tactical directive," to be released this week, came in response to incidents such as one last month that killed dozens of civilians. Under the new rules, the incident's deadliest strikes wouldn't have been authorized.

"We don't want another Granai," a senior military official in Kabul said, naming the village where last month's incident occurred. "The tactical gains simply don't outweigh the costs."

U.S. officials said the rules were designed to reduce the use of bombs, missiles and other heavy weaponry in populated areas. They will require U.S. forces that come under fire from militants operating out of houses and other buildings that may contain civilians to end the engagement and leave the area, officials said.

The restrictions could force commanders to be more cautious in the mission-planning stage and eschew operations likely to require operations in populated areas, according to an officer serving in Afghanistan.

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Police State: Arrested for asking a policeman for his badge number


Police footage of Emily Apple and Val Swain being arrested by surveillance officers after asking for their badge numbers at the Kingsnorth climate camp last year. The two women speak to Paul Lewis from the Guardian about their arrest, imprisonment and official complaint.

Story in The Guardian.

Links:
Fit Watch
Fit Watch are a fluid group of people who have come together to resist and oppose the tactics of the Forward Intelligence Teams (cops who harass protesters).


NETCU Watch

NETCU, WECTU and NPOIU: Britain’s Secretive Police Force (PDF report)

The role of NETCU, WECTU and NPOIU – The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit,
The Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit, and
The National Public Order Intelligence Unit
– all parts of a private organisation (ACPO) that is exercising public functions in relation to policing policy
– can be seen from two extreme points of view:
groups working on policy and in a policing support role to protect the public; or, under the guise of countering “extremism”, developing policies to crack down on campaigning groups in a way that could be seen as the kernel of what could ventually become a truly “secret” police force.
This report examines what NETCU, WECTU and NPOIU are, and poses the question as to whether private organisations working unaccountably outside of the mainstream police service are compatible with the operation of a free, open and accountable society.

Google
 

image from http://www.spitting-image.net

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