Scientists have suspected for a while that like many substances, pesticides affect children and adults differently. It stands to reason: Kids have less mass to absorb chemicals, and their organs are still developing. But it's hard to figure out exactly how toxins interact with children's bodies—or how dangerous they are.

Some encouraging news: A team of U.C. Berkeley researchers  pinpointed an enzyme—called paraoxonase—that helps the body break down organophosphate pesticides. They found that until children reach age seven, they don't have nearly as much of the enzyme as adults do:

Although it has been known that newborns have low levels of the paraoxonase enzyme, it was previously believed that paraoxonase concentrations reached adult levels by 2 years of age.

This assumption was based on one earlier study of 9 children. Now a new study of 458 children followed from birth to age 7 shows that paraoxonase levels continue to increase steadily until age 7. At age 7, the average paraoxonase level in children was similar to, but still lower than, adult levels.

The bad news: Organophosphates are cheap, and this mosquito season, an inexpensive pesticide will look awfully appealing to financially strapped cities.


 

 

A study by a Spanish economist showing that as many as 20 jobs are lost for every “green job” created, has been criticized by the Spanish government as being “simplistic” and “reductionist” and based on “non-rigorous methodology.”

The study (here in pdf) by associate professor Gabriel Calzada, who has received funding from a variety of corporations including ExxonMobil, has been sited frequently by GOP members of Congress in opposing cap-and-trade provisions in a federal climate bill — most recently by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on green jobs held this morning (July 21, 2009).

Looking exasperated following Crapo’s comments, Committee Chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced into the record an evaluation by the Spanish government that takes the Calzada report to task.

The government document includes this letter sent on May 20th to Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) from Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Spain’s Secretary of State for Climate Change, expressing the official Spanish government view of the Calzada paper. It’s available here in it’s original form as a pdf file.

A second part of Boxer's submission is a document produced by the government of Navarra, a small region in northern Spain that the journal Nature dubbed, "one of the world's wind-energy giants."

As the Navarra report shows, Calzada has the story backwards.

Sixty-five percent of the electricity used in Navarra comes from renewable sources -- primarily wind -- built over the last twenty years. Over those years, the region went from having the highest unemployment rate in Spain to having the lowest rate, today.

"Under President Obama's leadership," the report concludes, "the United States' decisive support of renewable energies...will aid in rapidly overcoming the current economic crisis..."

The full Navarra report can be downloaded here (pdf).

Still, just because Calzada's methodology have been slapped-down and his links with global warming deniers exposed, don't expect the GOP faithful to stop quoting him. The study is harder to kill than Rasputin.

Last October, we reported what the New York Times has now discovered—something we've all probably suspected, but had little hard data to go on: that driving a car while yakking or texting on an electronic device is an extremely risky proposition. And that the hands-free laws many states have enacted are of little value, a politically expedient solution that is unlikely to save lives, but lets lawmakers seem to be doing something without incurring the wrath of the powerful cell phone industry.

The moving story by Mother Jones contributor Myron Levin involved the plight of the Teaters, a Michigan family whose 12-year-old (pictured) was killed by a chatting motorist, and his father's determination to get some answers. The driver, Levin reported, "had clear skies and good visibility. She was sober. And yet she had failed to process a whole string of visual cues. To Dave Teater, this made no sense at all—so he began to do some research." Key to Levin's story was the quashing, by top Transportation Department officials, of an extensive report on cell-phone driving risks that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) had intended to make public.

Get your Chimichurri Chicken Wrap on! That's the message of a new Jamba Juice website that blatantly rips off the late, great comic strip Get Your War On. It's got the familiar clip-art office drones, but they're no longer ranting profanely about the murderous absurdities of the Bush years and the depredations of global capitalism. Instead, these guys just want to "capitalize on a Gobble'licious Sandwich." GYWO creator David Rees, rightfully annoyed, has declared "No Juicetice, No Peace!" But he also gets that there's not much he can do about a big company appropriating appropriation from the cool kids. His advice to his supporters:

Pray. Pray for the destruction of the Temple of Juice. No, seriously? Just remember that most corporations are lame, and most advertising/marketing agencies are lame, and this kind of lame, dispiriting appropriation happens all the time. Just always keep that thought somewhere in your head. And drink wine instead of juice.

Though I'm kind of wondering if Rees didn't plant the seeds for the Jamba "tribute" site with his penultimate strip in January. Did this...

...get some ad team thinking it would be clever to answer with this?

F-22 Fail

The Senate has voted 58-40 to cut off funding for the F-22.  There's still more to come on this, both in the Senate and in conference, but it's promising news.  The case against the F-22 was pretty rock solid, and if the funding cutoff had failed it would have meant that, basically, it's impossible to cut anything in the Pentagon budget.  Score one for common sense.

Oh, the faded awesomeness of 1979, the year that Mother Jones ran a 12-page feature on America's "psychic renaissance," that string bikinis were in style, and that the California Parks and Recreation Department relaxed its policy on public nudity. It's the 30th anniversary of 1979 this year--a year that this writer turned three--and California has a message for you folks who are still livin' it: Hippie, put your clothes on.

Yesterday, a state appeals court ruled that California parks officials can prohibit nudity on any state beach. The state's laissez faire nudity policy had been challenged last year when Parks Director Ruth Coleman imposed a booty ban at Southern California's popular Onofre beach. Now of course, Onofre bathers will be using a little less suntan lotion.

Is the nudity fight a last gasp of California's hippie heyday? Public perceptions of naked bathers probably haven't changed much since the late '70s, but Gen Xers with kids might not be keen to share the beach with a bunch of proudly shriveled senior citizens. Still, the ruling doesn't apply to land owned by the National Park Service, which has preserved the freedom to bare it all. As the poet Emma Lazarous might say: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of hairy naked dudes, yearning to breathe free. . .

Above: Vintage Mojo cover. How sexy are these folks now?

 

 July has been a month of tough choices for everybody:  summer unemployment is soaring and several states are still struggling to balance their budgets. But even amid the chaos, at least one oft-overlooked element of society is suffering more than usual. As it turns out, July has been especially rough for the nation's zoo animals. 

The Los Angeles Zoo (home of Gracie the great escaping ape and Ruby, the elephant whose retirement home is nicer than your Nana's) paid out $3,281 to the USDA in wrongful death settlements involving Gita the elephant and Judeo the chimpanzee, who both died under mysterious circumstances while in the zoo's care, it was reported Tuesday. The Zoo said both cases were freak accidents (Judeo died after being bitten by a rattlesnake) and paid the fine without admitting wrongdoing. 

 

Smiling triumphantly, I opened the front door only to stare straight down the barrel of a police 9mm. I don't think I said a word. Just slowly put my hands in the air. Let the officer cuff me and put me in the cramped backseat of his cruiser.

The scene was Emeryville, California. It was 1993, and I had just entered an unlocked upstairs window to gain entry to the residence where my companion was house sitting. We'd accidentally locked the keys inside. The neighbors didn't know that, though. They just saw an unfamiliar white man trying to get in. Eventually, I was released, upset and humiliated to be treated like a criminal, but I knew better than to get righteous on a police officer. As I'd learned the hard way four years prior, that's a losing game.

Editing Sarah Palin

Vanity Fair sics its edit staff on Sarah Palin's rambling, sophomoric resignation speech and creates a sea of ink.

As the healthcare debate plays out, we're all getting to see in real time the fundamental political contradictions that make it so hard to get anything done.  The big lesson learned from the Clinton debacle of 1994 is that people who currently have insurance from their employer don't want it touched.  Ditto for senior citizens covered by Medicare.  So Democrats are making sure they aren't touched: in fact, they're repeating like a mantra that if you like the insurance you have now, you can keep it.  No one's going to take it away.  No one's going to so much as look at it crosseyed.

Fine.  But two-thirds of the country already has health insurance through their employer and another big chunk are on Medicare.  If these aren't going to be touched, then why should they care about healthcare reform?  In particular why should they be willing to pay higher taxes for something that won't help them out in any way?

No reason, really.  So instead Dems are promising to increase "access" and cut costs.  The former is basically welfare and gets only anemic support.  The latter is not only unproven, but doesn't do much to excite most people anyway.  Sure, they'd like it if their copays went down, but mainly they just want healthcare and they don't care how much it costs.  Mickey Kaus comments:

1) As is so often the case, overpolling seems to blame....I suspect [Obama aides] saw what they wanted — and they wanted to focus on costs. It's possible to take polls that show something very different2) Is "access" the right word to test-as opposed to "security"? "Access" makes it sound as if you are focusing on the problem of the uninsured — i.e. charity, to many middle class Americans — as opposed to security for everyone. If they polled "access," that may have stacked the deck from the start; 3) "Maybe" they "overcorrected from the Clinton model"? Maybe?

I sympathize with the Obama folks.  How do you promise to leave most people alone and also convince them to support major change?  It's a tough nut.  And putting aside whether the Obama team overcorrected or not, it's still true that "security" didn't get the job done for Clinton.  So what's the answer?  In a nutshell, fearmongering.  Like so:

Rather than overall cost....the selling point of national healthcare is freedom from the endlessly gnawing problems of our current jury rigged system. For example: HMOs that make it hard to see a specialist. High and rising copayments. Fear of losing coverage if you lose your job. Long waits for non-urgent care. New (and usually worse) healthcare coverage every time your HR department is told to find a cheaper plan.

And more: Small businesses that have a hard time attracting good employees because they can't afford to offer health coverage. Big business that are on the verge of bankruptcy because of skyrocketing health costs. Lack of choice in physicians because you're limited to whichever medical groups have signed contracts with your company's insurance carrier. Losing your longtime family doctor because your company switches insurance carriers and you can only see doctors on your new carrier's approved list.

And yet more: Fear that preexisting conditions won't be covered if you take a new job. The risk of financial ruin if someone in your family has a truly catastrophic illness. Crowded emergency rooms that have essentially become clinics of last resort for the poor. Being forced to go on strike year after year because your employer relentlessly tries to gut your healthcare benefits every time your union contract gets renegotiated. 43 million people who lack health coverage of any kind.

Reducing healthcare costs ought to be a goal of any national healthcare plan, and a truly national plan is probably the only way we'll ever accomplish that. But that's not the way to sell it. Freedom from fear, freedom from pain, and freedom of choice are the ways to sell it.

Fine.  I'm cheating.  That was me a couple of years ago.  But I still think it's the right sales pitch.  And even if it's not as highminded as Obama might like, it has the virtue of being true.  For most people, healthcare reform isn't so much about insuring their health now as it is about insuring their health tomorrow.  If they understood just how precarious that is, they'd be a lot more enthusiastic about healthcare reform today.