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Archive for August, 2007

(rBST) Free Milk

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In a press release dated 01 August 2007, Ohio based Kroger states that by early 2008 it will phase out milk from cows that have been injected with the growth hormone rBST. Kroger will require that it’s milk suppliers certify that their cows are rBST free.

rBST (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is a synthetic hormone designed to artificially maintain a cow’s milk production. While Monsanto, the largest producer of rBST, claims the synthetic drug is safe, studies show that cows injected with rBST have a 25% greater risk of clinical mastitis (requiring antibacterial injections to cure) and a 40% increase in the likelihood of being unable to conceive. Monsanto states that there is no scientific difference between milk from treated versus untreated cattle.

rBST increases IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) in cattle, which Monsanto states, is the “only” difference in the milk from cows treated with the synthetic chemical.

Human studies show that elevated IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) levels in humans are associated with breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer, though IGF-1 is normal in the growth of humans.

Interesting is the fact that Monsanto opposes the labeling of milk as “rBST free” stating that it does not change the nutrition, taste or quality of the milk. This may be true. Cows that eat grass have milk that tastes different than does milk from cows that eat ground up animals.

None the less, Kroger’s decision is about market demand. Certainly Kroger is not producing claims one way or the other. Consumer choice is driving the decision and in a market driven society, they are doing what any other retailer would do. Adjust their supplies.

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Ervaring Columbus!

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Marco Bloemendaal has been appointed as the new Director of Convention Sales at Experience Columbus. A Dutch native, his career in the hospitality industry began in Amsterdam in 1993.

This could be the start of something really great for Columbus, as there has been an acute absence of marketing of Columbus outside of the U.S.

Experience Columbus routinely competes (and successfully so, in many respects) for their piece of the U.S. convention business, but has failed to incorporate the benefits of attracting non-North American groups to the city. With the euro at a 1.3:1 ratio against the dollar, and the pound at a 2:1 ratio, the U.S. becomes marketably cheaper for the European visitor.

Let Indianapolis have the national FFA convention. We’ll take the international medical conferences, the international transportation conferences and the international design conferences.

Welcome Mr. Bloemendaal!

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Carlyles Watch(out)

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After a quick lunch at the new Tip Top Kitchen and Cocktails, I decided to pop into Carlyles Watch and have a look at the model. The model is a corner unit on the second floor, overlooking the intersection of Gay and Third. I was delighted to finally go inside, as I’ve watched the project evolve from the hole-in-the-ground, up.

Beautifully appointed, lovely use of materials and a wide array of textures seem to fit together nicely, with of course, a stunning view of the city. I asked to see one of the smaller units, just to get a feeling for how 700 square feet might feel. There was a feeling of spaciousness, much more than I had expected.

I noticed, however, that the bedroom windows, even in the two-bedroom units, were fixed. They didn’t open. I enquired about this and was told that city code necessitated fixed windows. I find this rather odd. There are small windows (or sliding door, depending upon the unit) that open along one wall in the main living space. Natural ventilation made impossible. Even on a cool summer night, it would be difficult to expel the days heat from the unit without the use of mechanical systems. Not very wise from the perspective of energy use.

Intriguing too is the fact that the washer/dryer hook up is not designed for even the smallest stackable unit. Rather, one machine does both, washes and dries. Certainly a unique feature, but it sits below a 50-gallon hot water tank, perched precariously on a metal grate. Nothing like a 600-pound tank lurking above an imported appliance.

Over all, it was disappointing. A stunning building, at a great location, with some design flaws that make spending that amount of money seem a bit foolish.

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A Foot is Worth…

$131, 578 per foot. That’s the estimated cost of rebuilding the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed earlier this week. Minnesota is in the process of rushing $250 million in state funds to replace the 40 year-old 1,900 foot span. In the mean time, hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to redirect traffic on neighboring routes.

Here is a shining example of the costs associated with continued dependence on the automobile, and the role it plays in present-day society. Granted, the bridge played host to more than just the private automobile, though it is safe to say that of the 141,000 vehicles that crossed that bridge daily, the majority of them were cars.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, over 70,000 of the nation’s highway-bridges are in a similar state of repair, with an estimated reconstruction cost of over $188 billion. That’s the equivalent of $2.4 million per highway-bridge, and a likely modest figure, considering the repair time-line would take over 40 years.

It’s also an example of how creating and maintaining infrastructure that favors the private automobile is actually a public subsidy of automobile ownership.

Compare these costs to the cost of Columbus’ proposed streetcar system. At present, the streetcar proposal calls for three lines, with a combined 7.8 miles of track ranging in price from $154-165 million ($4,024 per foot). Obviously bridges are more expensive to engineer and construct than is laying three rail lines, and 7.8 miles of track only begins to reduce the burden, but it is an example of the ineffectiveness of current spending on “transportation”.

Even a bridge that carries a rail line has the potential to decay over time. However, it’s the frequency of use that aids in decay. Reduce the number of vibrations and increase longevity.

Minneapolis has one light-rail line at the moment, but it carries traffic to the south rather than the north. That rail line cannot make up for the loss of this bridge. Consider, however the mitigating impact of a rail line heading north; A long-term investment that would cost far less over time, as well as reduce stress on the current infrastructure.

Those who yell “no subsidy” for a comprehensive transit system seem to be, in fact, the greatest beneficiaries of transportation spending.

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River Cubes

With plans underway for the Scioto Mile riverfront renovation in downtown Columbus, perhaps it’s time to engage more folks in the process and use this as an event for education, conservation and art.

The clever folks in Pittsburgh made cleaning up the river(s) an event for art and discussion. Groups of artists and volunteers pull debris from the river’s edge and sculpt what’s knows as “River Cubes”, which are then placed on public display. Artful sculpture and also points of discussion on water quality, waste management, as well as reminders of inappropriate practices.

From the River Cubes web site:

RiverCubes are catalysts. They do whatever it is they do: surprise, confuse, delight, amuse, offend… They are an intervention into the ‘business as usual’ of waste. They intend to provoke thought and incite action. Footsoldiers in a public education campaign, RiverCubes are slices of time, breadcrumbs along a trail of urban watershed signatures. RiverCubes have work to do – and do their work best by being displayed in proximity to their collection sites. Each RiverCube has a personality drawn from the materials of which it is comprised and the context of its upbringing. Each “cube” has a name, a history, a future, and a story to tell. They tell their stories mutely. We witness and testify, laugh and frown. And take up their work…

While adorning our newest downtown park with rusted junk and twisted metal may not be something we want, long term, it may be the “temporary installation” needed to remind us what happens when we turn our back on the city’s natural elements.

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On a personal note: While bicycling along the river, I once noticed an old safe resting at the river’s edge. It was perched precariously quite a ways from any road or street, and I wondered what events led to the current resting spot.

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