pharmcorn

New era of super-produce may be upon us

monsanto-frankenfoods

In a windowless basement room decorated with photographs of farmers clutching freshly harvested vegetables, three polo-shirt-and-slacks-clad Monsanto execu­tives, all men, wait for a special lunch. A server arrives and sets in front of each a caprese-like salad—tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, lettuce—and one of the execs, David Stark, rolls his desk chair forward, raises a fork dramatically, and skewers a leaf. He takes a big, showy bite. The other two men, Robb Fraley and Kenny Avery, also tuck in. The room fills with loud, intent, wet chewing sounds.

Eventually, Stark looks up. “Nice crisp texture, which people like, and a pretty good taste,” he says.

“It’s probably better than what I get out of Schnucks,” Fraley responds. He’s talking about a grocery chain local to St. Louis, where Monsanto is headquartered. Avery seems happy; he just keeps eating.

The men poke, prod, and chew the next course with even more vigor: salmon with a relish of red, yellow, and orange bell pepper and a side of broccoli. “The lettuce is my favorite,” Stark says afterward. Fraley concludes that the pepper “changes the game if you think about fresh produce.”

Changing the agricultural game is what Monsanto does. The company whose name is synonymous with Big Ag has revolutionized the way we grow food—for better or worse. Activists revile it for such mustache-twirling practices as suing farmers who regrow licensed seeds or filling the world with Roundup-resistant super­weeds. Then there’s Monsanto’s reputation—scorned by some, celebrated by others—as the foremost purveyor of genetically modified commodity crops like corn and soybeans with DNA edited in from elsewhere, designed to have qualities nature didn’t quite think of.

So it’s not particularly surprising that the company is introducing novel strains of familiar food crops, invented at Monsanto and endowed by their creators with powers and abilities far beyond what you usually see in the produce section. The lettuce is sweeter and crunchier than romaine and has the stay-fresh quality of iceberg. The peppers come in miniature, single-serving sizes to reduce leftovers. The broccoli has three times the usual amount of glucoraphanin, a compound that helps boost antioxidant levels. Stark’s department, the global trade division, came up with all of them.

“Grocery stores are looking in the produce aisle for something that pops, that feels different,” Avery says. “And consumers are looking for the same thing.” If the team is right, they’ll know soon enough. Frescada lettuce, BellaFina peppers, and Bene­forté broccoli—cheery brand names trademarked to an all-but-anonymous Mon­santo subsidiary called Seminis—are rolling out at supermarkets across the US.

But here’s the twist: The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren’t genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same tech­nology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn’t mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark’s division is drawing on Monsanto’s accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor.

And that’s a serious business advantage. Despite a gaping lack of evidence that genetically modified food crops harm human health, consumers have shown a marked resistance to purchasing GM produce (even as they happily consume pro­ducts derived from genetically modified commodity crops). Stores like Whole Foods are planning to add GMO disclosures to their labels in a few years. State laws may mandate it even sooner.

But those requirements won’t apply to Monsanto’s new superveggies. They may be born in a lab, but technically they’re every bit as natural as what you’d get at a farmers’ market. Keep them away from pesticides and transport them less than 100 miles and you could call them organic and locavore too.

Please read the full article here  WIRED.com

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Smoke-A-Bowl XLVIII?

Smoke-A-Bowl XLVIII?

Super Bowl XLVIII

Denver Broncos (Colorado) vs Seattle Seahawks (Washington)

The only two states in America (and 2 of only 3 places on earth) where cannabis is not only legal but have a “budding” legal system for growing and selling will face each other in the Super Bowl.

Go Broncos!….wait…Go Seahawks!…Wait, who is playing again??? Time to smoke a “bowl”. May your pipe always be full – the4519

Meth is offered as casually as a cup of tea, in North Korea

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YANJI, China — After the North Korean coal mine where she worked stopped paying salaries, Park Kyung Ok tried her hand at business.

Buttons and zippers, candy and dried squid, fabric, plastic tarpaulins, men’s suits and cigarettes.

“I sold just about everything,” said Park, 44.

But it wasn’t until she started hawking methamphetamine in 2007, she said, that she was able to earn a living.

Methamphetamine, known as orum, or “ice,” is a rare commodity manufactured and sold in North Korea, where most factories sit idle, the equipment rusted or looted. The North Korean government once produced the drug, and others that are illicit in the West. Resourceful entrepreneurs have since set up their own small facilities, and evidence suggests that they are distributing the drug beyond the nation’s borders.

Last month, five alleged drug smugglers — Chinese, British and Thai men among them — appeared in federal court in New York, extradited from Thailand in a plot to smuggle 220 pounds of crystal meth to the United States. They said that their product originated in North Korea.

A Harvard University researcher, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, has tracked 16 drug busts from 2008 to the present in China involving crystal meth from North Korea in quantities of up to 22 pounds.

“Meth is a product you can make in bathtubs or trailers,” Greitens said. “You have a wide range of people involved in production and trafficking.”

Park, a bantam-size woman who tittered nervously when recounting her own audacity, said she got into the meth business fresh from a divorce, while struggling to support her children and a disabled sister in Hoeryong, a hardscrabble mining town of 130,000 on the Chinese border.

Park used to travel to another North Korean city, Chongjin, to buy meth that she would carry back hidden in a candy box. She would sell it behind the counter at a bicycle parts store at the public market. Hidden among the spare parts were metal plates, burners and other drug paraphernalia.

She usually paid the equivalent of $15 for a gram of high quality product, which she would then cut with cheaper meth and divide into 12 smaller portions to resell for a few dollars’ profit.

“It was just enough money that I could buy rice to eat and coal for heating,” said Park, who was interviewed recently in China and, like most North Korean defectors, used an assumed name.

North Koreans say there is little stigma attached to meth use. Some take it to treat colds or boost their energy; students take it to work late. The drug also helps curb appetites in a country where food is scarce. It is offered up as casually as a cup of tea, North Koreans say.

“If you go to somebody’s house it is a polite way to greet somebody by offering them a sniff,” said Lee Saera, 43, of Hoeryong, also interviewed in China. “It is like drinking coffee when you’re sleepy, but ice is so much better.”

Despite its draconian legal system, North Korea has long been easygoing about narcotics use. With analgesics scarce, opium paste is commonly sold for pain relief. Marijuana (called “mouth tobacco”) is legal and frequently grown at home to be mixed in with rolling tobacco.

Methamphetamine is a synthetic drug that was first developed in Japan in the late 19th century, made from chemicals such as ephedrine and distributed as a stimulant.

Through the 1990s, the North Korean government ran the production of opium, meth and other drugs for Office 39, a unit raising hard currency for late leader Kim Jong Il, according to narcotics investigators. But the North Korean government has largely gone out of the drug business, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.

When the North Korean government controlled the business, the drugs were strictly for export. Privatization made the drugs more widely available within North Korea. North Koreans say meth first appeared on the streets around 2005 and that it came from Hamhung, the onetime center of the nation’s pharmaceutical and chemical industry, and thus a city filled with unemployed scientists and technicians. The industry then spread to Chongjin and the capital, Pyongyang.

“North Korean people learn fast to reuse their skills,” said Kim Yong Chol, 58, a truck driver who fled North Korea in August.

Meth was ideal for budding North Korean entrepreneurs because it could be cooked in small “kitchen laboratories,” with chemical precursors readily available across the border in China, which has laxer control than many other countries.

The finished product finds its way back across the border, carried by smugglers who also traffic in cellphones, DVDs and cash.

Sensitive about their traditional political ties with the communist country, the Chinese don’t often complain publicly about North Korean drugs and Chinese news reports do not mention the neighboring nation. “The stories would often say they arrested somebody named Kim from the border of a foreign country, so you could figure it out,” Greitens said.

In Yanji, a Chinese border city of 400,000, the number of drug users increased nearly 47 times from 1995 to 2005, according to a paper published in 2010 by Cui Junyong, a professor at the Yanbian University School of Law in China.

“Smuggling of North Korean drugs into China hurts the health of the province and the region and endangers the stability of the region,” Cui wrote.

The case in a New York court last month involved a gang reportedly working out of Thailand and the Philippines. The drugs never reached the United States, but samples provided to undercover agents proved to be 99% pure, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

Those arrested said they were the only remaining providers from North Korea.

“The NK government already burned all the labs. Only our labs are not closed,” a Chinese citizen who was one of the gang reportedly boasted to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Because of the purity of the meth seized by the DEA, experts believe it might have been stockpiled and left over from the days when the North Korean government ran the drug manufacturing. The drugs produced by private entrepreneurs are of lower quality, according to Greitens.

It is unclear how serious the North Korean government is about cracking down on the drug trade, or if it is merely trying to reassert control over a lucrative business. Lee, released in 2011 from a North Korean labor camp where she was sentenced for illegal border crossing, said that of 1,200 inmates, up to 40% had been arrested for trafficking meth.

Park, the self-described former dealer from Hoeryong, said, “If you are caught once or twice, with only a small amount like me, you can get away with it if you have connections. But a third time, you will be in real trouble.”

She said she soured on the meth trade after a few years. In her inminban, the neighborhood committee by which North Korean society is organized, there were two or three people who were serious meth addicts.

“Mostly men, they would get crazy and fight with knives,” Park said.

She was distraught when her teenage daughter admitted she sniffed meth to concentrate on her studies.

“I was doing bad things because everybody else was doing bad things,” Park said.

She quit the meth trade in 2009, she said, and left North Korea the following year in hopes of rebuilding her life.

BY BARBARA DEMICK

January 27, 2014, 6:00 a.m.

Hat tip:  LA Times

nfl, weed, goodell

Super Bowl XLVIII aka Marijuana Bowl, Stoner Bowl, Doobie Bowl

If all goes as oddsmakers have predicted, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks will win the conference championship games on Sunday and gear up for what will be a Super Bowl for the ages.
Not because of the talents that will be going head to head, but the first ever Marijuana Bowl? That’s something you don’t hear every day.
These two teams represent the major cities in Colorado and Washington, the only states that have legalized recreational marijuana. Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that if this ends up being the matchup for the Super Bowl, it will be featuring “the two most pro-cannabis-legalization cities in the US.” He joked that the game should be renamed “The Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.”
The legalization hasn’t been a free-for-all among everyone though.
doobie bowl, super bowl, weed, cannabis, denver broncos, seattle seahwaks, pot

When Jan. 1 came around and Colorado opened its pot shops, it was legal to buy and use the drug on the state level. However, it is still illegal for NFL players who live in the state to use marijuana because it violates the drug policy under the current collective bargaining agreement. The same will go for Washington when their pot doors open this spring.

The NFL is getting pressured by lobbyists to stop penalizing players for smoking pot, saying it could be helpful for getting through concussions and other injuries.

The lobbyists are also calling attention to the fact the league is fond of the alcohol industry, such as their relationship with Anheuser-Busch. They pitch Bud Light as the “proud sponsor of the NFL” and even had some ads in rotation showing Budweiser and Bud Light bottles going head-to-head in what they called a “Bud Bowl” game.

Mason Tvert, spokesperson for the pro legalization Marijuana Policy Project in Denver thinks there are more important topics to be discussed instead of getting drowned out in all the beer ads. “Hopefully there will be a break in the beer commercials for some discussion about marijuana laws,” he said.

A 48-foot-wide billboard was put up in September by the organization next to Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High, insisting that the NFL needs to “stop driving players to drink” and the “safer choice” for athletes was actually pot. A petition was launched by the group in efforts to get NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to change the league’s marijuana policy.
Steve Fox, who works for a marijuana-industry law firm in Denver, wonders since the National Hockey League only tests for performing-enhancing drugs, why can’t the NFL do the same? He could have a point since marijuana is not a drug that gives any player a physical edge.

“It won’t be long before it’s unique to have two teams in the Super Bowl that haven’t made marijuana legal,” Tvert said.

For the states where marijuana is outlawed completely, they’ve actually had a difficult time in the postseason. The Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals all come from states that have not decriminalized pot. Go figure.

“If you noticed, the more marijuana-friendly localities really kicked butt,” Fox said. “I don’t know what it really means in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a nice bit of karma if nothing else.”

Pot legalization in a state making teams more successful? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Original article here

Hand Sanitizer Cocktails? Jackass alert!

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) – Police have charged a man with stealing 12 bottles of hand sanitizer from a central Pennsylvania hospital, so he could mix it with orange juice and drink it for the alcohol it contained.

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The Altoona Mirror reports 51-year-old Lee Ammerman has been mailed a summons requiring him to surrender Feb. 5 on charges of theft and receiving stolen property.

Police say an employee at UPMC Altoona hospital saw Ammerman steal a bottle of sanitizer by hiding it in an arm sling he was wearing in October.

Police say Ammerman returned to steal more sanitizer twice in December.

Police say they confronted Ammerman who acknowledged stealing the sanitizer, telling police “I mix the liquid with orange juice.”

The hospital is seeking about $80 in restitution.

Ammerman doesn’t have a listed phone or an attorney listed in court records.

Hat tip to :  http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com