This person does science, reads a lot, and is content.
Every morning, while her girls are still in bed, Irma Rosales makes tortillas for breakfast. She prepares the masa, pats it into little cakes, places them on a flat pan over a charcoal grill.
It’s a scene that’s been repeated in millions of households for hundreds of years, all across Mexico and Central America. But look closely at the tortillas on Irma’s comal and you’ll see something new: little white seeds. They’re amaranth, a crop native to the central valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, where Irma lives. Once, amaranth was a staple of Mesoamerican civilization. Now a Oaxacan nonprofit is trying to bring it back.
The organization is called Puente a la Salud, or Bridge to Health. Irma went to one of its workshops after a doctor diagnosed her daughter Ashly with chronic malnutrition. The doctor was a young man from the city, just out of medical school, doing his nationally mandated year of service in Mazaltepec, Irma’s small town.
“She’s underweight,” he said. “Your daughter is showing symptoms of chronic malnutrition.”
Irma listened as the doctor rattled off the signs: listlessness, depression. And if it wasn’t corrected, long-term brain damage. That hit hard.
Her family wasn’t wealthy, but Irma had thought her girls were okay. Like many people in Oaxaca State—one of Mexico’s poorest—she and her husband are subsistence corn farmers. They eat a typical rural Mexican diet of corn and beans. They are well-off enough to have a chicken, so they have eggs. Every now and then they even have meat.
Everything Irma had done, she had done to make life better for Ashly and her other three children. Like many Oaxacans, she had made a long and difficult illegal journey to the U.S. in hopes of making money to send home. She’d spent five years in Los Angeles with her husband, making jeans in a clothing factory for crappy pay. As often as she could, Irma talked on the phone to her daughter back in Mazaltepec with her husband’s family. Every time they talked, Ashly cried. She’d say, “Mama, when are you coming back?”
Eventually Irma and her husband had enough. The job wasn’t worth splitting the family. They returned home to Ashly and malnutrition.
As she left the clinic where her daughter was diagnosed, Irma saw a flyer for Puente a la Salud, inviting her to a workshop about a grain called amaranth. She decided to give it a shot.
Today, amaranth is rare and expensive, the sort of thing one buys in small bags at American natural-foods stores. Most Mexicans no longer eat it. But before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, amaranth was eaten throughout the highlands of central Mexico and south into the high valleys of Oaxaca State.
Amaranth’s leaves are edible and full of vitamins. The combination of corn, beans and amaranth, whose grain-like seeds can be ground into flour, provides a complete protein, meaning it delivers all the amino acids the body can’t make for itself. The combination is as nutritionally complete as meat.
In the Aztec culture—unfortunately for the history of the Mexican diet—amaranth also had religious significance. It was a favorite food of Huitzilopochtli, the hummingbird-visaged God of War who, legend had it, led the Aztecs out of the country’s northern wastelands to become lords of central Mexico. Amaranth flowers are bright and sweet; hummingbirds love them. Huitzilopochtli, like all the gods of old Mexico, also loved the taste of human blood. A regular diet of sacrifices sustained him and kept the world from falling into darkness.
Every year during Huitzilopochtli’s sacred month, which corresponds roughly with December, Aztec families built little statues of the god in their homes out of puffed amaranth and honey. According to some accounts, they also included blood from human sacrifices. At the end of the month, the statue was carved up and eaten. The people would take the god into them, like Catholics with the host.
To arriving Spanish priests, the practice looked like intolerable paganism. And while not every Mexican used amaranth this way, the Spanish took no chances. Everywhere they went in Mexico, the Spanish tried to eradicate worship of the old gods. Because the amaranth service seemed like a demon mass—and because the Spanish god preferred wheat—the priests did everything possible to end the cultivation and consumption of amaranth.
It’s not clear if anyone missed it. Today, subsistence farms across the country that once grew corn, beans and amaranth now grow only corn and beans.
Amaranth was all but forgotten, surviving only in the highest, most isolated mountain valleys, places the Spanish language and the Catholic faith never penetrated.
The religious purge of amaranth succeeded, but the priests and farmers who banished it wrecked the rural Mexican diet along the way. Without amaranth, it was no longer possible for farming families—too poor to own animals—to get all the protein they needed.
“Sitting on a dirty straw mat on the parched ground of southern Afghanistan, Masooma sank deeper inside a giant black shawl. Hidden from view, her words burst forth as she told her side of what happened to her family sometime before dawn on March 11, 2012.
According to Masooma, an American soldier wearing a helmet equipped with a flashlight burst into her two-room mud home while everyone slept. He killed her husband, Dawood, punched her 7-year-old son and shoved a pistol into the mouth of his baby brother.
“We were asleep. He came in and he was shouting, saying something about Taliban, Taliban, and then he pulled my husband up. I screamed and screamed and said, ‘We are not Taliban, we are not government. We are no one. Please don’t hurt us,’” she said.
The soldier wasn’t listening. He pointed his pistol at Masooma to quiet her and pushed her husband into the living room.
“My husband just looked back at me and said, ‘I will be back.’” Seconds later she heard gunshots, she recalled, her voice cracking as she was momentarily unable to speak. Her husband was dead.
Masooma, who like many Afghans uses only one name, defied tribal traditions that prohibit women from speaking to strangers to talk to The Associated Press while — half a world away — the military prepares to court-martial a U.S. serviceman in the killing of her husband and 15 other Afghan civilians, mainly women and children.
The AP also interviewed other villagers about the case, all of whom are identified by the U.S. Army as witnesses or relatives of witnesses. They included a sister and brother who were wounded and two men who were away during the killings and returned to find wives and children slain. The sister and brother told AP how they tried to run away and hide from a soldier with a gun, only to be shot — and see their neighbors and grandmother killed.” (Read on)
1. Shahara, now 3, sits tucked inside the shawl of her mother, Masooma, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Saturday, April 20, 2013 as Masooma recalls the night she says a U.S. soldier killed her husband and attacked her children in a southern Afghanistan village. Masooma says the soldier grabbed Shahara’s pony tails and shook her head violently after killing her father.
2. A girl plays at her home on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
3. Zardana, 11, sits as she talks in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Monday, April 22, 2013 about a pre-dawn last year when a U.S. soldier burst into her family’s home. Zardana said her visiting cousin saw the soldier chasing them and ran to help, but he was shot and killed. “We couldn’t stop. We just wanted somewhere to hide. I was holding on to my grandmother and we ran to our neighbors.”
4. Naseebullah, fourth from left, plays with his sisters and cousins at the cousins’ home on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
5. Masooma sits with her children at her brother-in-law’s house on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Saturday, April 20, 2013. In an interview, Masooma recounted the events of pre-dawn March 11, 2012 when a U.S. soldier rampaged through two villages killing 16 people, including her husband. U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales of Lake Tapps, Washington, is accused of the killings.
6. Mohammed Wazir, left, and his only surviving son, Habib Shahin show pictures or their slain relatives during an interview in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Monday, April 22, 2013.
7. Three girls play hide and seek at their home on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
[Credit : Anja Niedringhaus/AP]
The media fixates on the overall size of student debt. But where you go to school, whether you graduate, and what kind of job you get later may matter much more.
Read more. [Images: FRBNY Consumer Credit Panel]
In Cisco’s Classroom Of The Future, Your Professor Is Just An Illusion
New telepresence software could let you take a class from anywhere and appear as if you’re in the classroom.
Full Story: FastCoExist
Cool. Yet, is it really cool? —Wright
Cool and not cool at the same time.
This kind of technology has tremendous possibilities, and not just for education. But sticking to education, it has the potential to have cross-institutional collaborations and make learning much more dynamic. Imagine if I could bring in a guest lecturer without having to fly him/her in. Imagine if two professors from different institutions could collaborative teach a course together, giving their students a shared experience. Imagine if students in China, the US, and Brazil could take a course on globalization simultaneously. That’s really cool.
But based on my experience in higher education, I know exactly how administrators will choose to use this technology: As a cost-saving device. Imagine 21st century technology being used to replicate static learning models. That’s basically the model. Let’s take one professor (perhaps someone with a great “brand” behind him/her) and have this person give lectures accessible to hundreds or thousands of students, on the cheap. The model presumes little interaction, little ability to discuss, and demands passive learning. You’ve taken 21st century technology and recreated the 19th century lecture and mashed it together with the early 20th century correspondence course. At some point, what distinguishes a “course” like this from a (carefully) curated series of TED talks? Or an audio (or, rather, video) book?
I currently teach a hybrid course that involves about half of my students being in another room at another (satellite) campus. Here’s the problem with that experience, and what is lost in the process: When I taught “intro to comparative” (POL 102) I mixed in lectures with small group discussions with in-class simulations with group projects. The dynamic nature of the class (strengthened simply by my being there) soon meant that we were all engaged in discussions. Because I am not there at the satellite campus, I can’t do any of the above (although I did try one group projects, with some success). If I do the interactive things with the students in front of me, I’m being grossly unfair to the other students. The simple and fair solution is to offer a “standardized” format to all students. This means lectures. And because the technology hasn’t really caught up to the vision, it means I have two choices: 1) Stand still and deliver a lecture or 2) Provide a voice-over for my PowerPoint presentation. I can’t do both. The screen is either on me or the PowerPoint (except for the students in my presence, who do get to see both me and the PowerPoint).
This produces two problems: If my presences as an instructor is reduced to a static lecture, with few (if any) questions, then the students would benefit more from my being able to carefully prepare, edit, and polish those lectures. Instead, I’m essentially giving about 27 live, differently scripted performances (that’s about one full television season, which also uses 50 minute blocks, except without any of the writers, editors, postproduction). If I focus on the PowerPoint presentation (which I did this semester), then the problem remains. Wouldn’t a carefully edited and polished video slideshow be better than a live PowerPoint presentation? In either case, a “taped” version of my lecture/slideshow would allow students to rewind, review, etc.
This semester, I even had two satellite campuses, with one single student at the third campus. That meant this student had absolutely zero interaction with any classmates. Other than the fact that this was a live performance, structurally this wasn’t any different from someone coming in on a set schedule to watch a one-hour program on a small screen in front of him. In the age of DVRs, we don’t even do that for quality television.
Don’t get me wrong: On the whole, my students (yes, including the satellite students) are pretty good. I’m not an easy grader (I do give a good number of Fs). But a lot of my students do seem to enjoy the course (or so they tell me) and they do well on most of the materials (and they’ve gotten progressively better each semester, I might add). The support staff that runs these “hybrid” classrooms is superb, and I would certainly flounder without them.
But let’s be honest. This is not teaching at its best. Perhaps it does provide better “access” to education (but so does Wikipedia, TED, etc.—and all without charging any tuition). But it puts the instructor in a pretty narrow straightjacket. Despite all the technology around me, I know that in that classroom I do my worst teaching. Don’t get me wrong. I try. I try really, really, really hard.
Perhaps some day the technology will overcome these obstacles. But it will require thinking about how these technologies can make learning truly more collaborative. Not how they can replicate the 19th century lecture and package it like a 20th century correspondence course.
Couple people recently have referred to the expectation that autistic people could never have romantic relationships, or couldn’t consent to sex, and it struck me as really weird. One person was told by a psychologist that they’d be diagnosed as autistic, except for the relationship because that can’t happen. And I started wondering where this comes from.
It turns out, it appears to be a side-effect of Autism Speaks propaganda; no one is surprised. Basically, they are teaching people that autistics can’t have relationships, and that “sexual education” for autistics involves preventing sex.
My guess is this is part of the general drive to eradicate us by any means available.
Dr. Vandana Shiva: the “GOLDEN RICE” hoax - when public relations replaces science to promote a technology for creating Vitamin A deficiency
May 15, 2013
Golden rice has been heralded as the miracle cure for malnutrition and hunger of which 800m members of the human community suffer. Herbicide resistant and toxin producing genetically engineered plants can be objectionable because of their ecological and social costs. But who could possibly object to rice engineered to produce vitamin A, a deficiency found in nearly 3 million children, largely in the Third World?
As remarked by Mary Lou Guerinot, the author of the Commentary on Vitamin A rice in Science, one can only hope that this application of plant genetic engineering to ameliorate human misery without regard to short term profit will restore this technology to political acceptability. Unfortunately, Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology.
The problem is that vitamin A rice will not remove vitamin A deficiency (VAD). It will seriously aggravate it. It is a technology that fails in its promise. Currently, it is not even known how much vitamin JA the genetically engineered rice will produce. The goal is 33.3% micrograms/100g of rice. Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD.
Since the daily average requirement of vitamin A is 750 micrograms of vitamin A and 1 serving contains 30g of rice according to dry weight basis, vitamin A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance. Even taking the 100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of the RDA.
In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day. This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitaminA needs through “Golden rice”.
This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it.
Besides creating vitamin A deficiency, vitamin A rice will also create deficiency in other micronutrients and nutrients. Raw milled rice has a low content of Fat (0.5g/100g). Since fat is necessary for vitamin A uptake, this will aggravate vitamin A deficiency. It also has only 6.8g/100g of protein, which means less carrier molecules. It has only 0.7g/100g of iron, which plays a vital role in the conversion of beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A found in plant sources) to vitamin A. Superior Alternatives exist and are effective.
A far more efficient route to removing vitamin A deficiency is biodiversity conservation and propagation of naturally vitamin A rich plants in agriculture and diets.
The following is a list of sources rich in vitamin A which are used commonly in Indian foods. (microgram/100g)
(Amaranth leaves) Chauli saag= 266-1,166 -
(Coriander leaves) – Dhania = 1,166-1,333
(Cabbage) Bandh gobi = 217
(Curry leaves)-Curry patta = 1,333
(Drumstick leaves)-Saijan patta1 = 283
(Fenugreek leaves)-Methi-ka-saag = 450
(Radish leaves)-Mooli-ka-saag = 750
(Mint)-Pudhina = 300
(Spinach)-Palak saag = 600
(Pumpkin (yellow))-Kaddu = 100-120
(Mango (ripe))-Aam = 500
(Jackfruit)-Kathal = 54
(Orange)-Santra = 35
(Tomato (ripe))-Tamatar = 32
(Milk (cow, buffalo))-Doodh = 50-60
(Butter)-Makkhan = 720-1,200
(Egg (hen))-Anda = 300-400
(Liver (Goat, sheep))-Kalegi = 6,600 - 10,000
Cod liver oil = 10,000 - 100,000
In spite of the diversity of plants evolved and bred for their rich vitamin A content, a report of the Major Science Academies of the World - Royal Society, U.K., National Academy of Sciences of the USA, The Third World Academy of Science, Indian National Science Academy, Mexican Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences - on Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture has stated, Vitamin A deficiency causes half a million children to become partially or totally blind each year.
Traditional breeding methods have been unsuccessful in producing crops containing a high vitamin A concentration and most national authorities rely on expensive and complicated supplementation programs to address the problem. Researchers have introduced three new genes into rice, two from daffodils and one from a microorganism. The transgenic rice exhibits an increased production of beta-carotene as a precursor to vitamin A and the seed in yellow in colour. Such yellow, or golden rice, may be a useful tool to help treat the problem of vitamin A deficiency in young children living in the tropics.
It appears as if the world’s top scientists suffer a more severe form of blindness than children in poor countries. The statement that “traditional breeding has been unsuccessful in producing crops high in vitamin A” is not true given the diversity of plants and crops that Third World farmers, especially women have bred and used which are rich sources of vitamin A such as coriander, amaranth, carrot, pumpkin, mango, jackfruit.
It is also untrue that vitamin A rice will lead to increased production of beta-carotene. Even if the target of 33.3 microgram of vitamin A in 100g of rice is achieved, it will be only 2.8% of beta-carotene we can obtain from amaranth leaves 2.4% of beta-carotene obtained from coriander leaves, curry leaves and drumstick leaves. Even the World Bank has admitted that rediscovering and use of local plants and conservation of vitamin A rich green leafy vegetables and fruits have dramatically reduced VAD threatened children over the past 20 years in very cheap and efficient ways. Women in Bengal use more than 200 varieties of field greens. Over a 3 million people have benefited greatly from a food based project for removing VAD by increasing vitamin A availability through home gardens. The higher the diversity crops the better the uptake of pro-vitamin A.
The reason there is vitamin A deficiency in India in spite of the rich biodiversity a base and indigenous knowledge base in India is because the Green Revolution technologies wiped out biodiversity by converting mixed cropping systems to monocultures of wheat and rice and by spreading the use of herbicides which destroy field greens.
In spite of effective and proven alternatives, a technology transfer agreement has been signed between the Swiss Government and the Government of India for the transfer of genetically engineered vitamin A rice to India.
The ICAR, ICMR, ICDS, USAIUD, UNICEF, WHO have been identified as potential partners. The breeding and transformation is to be carried out at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack and Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and University of Delhi, South Campus. The Indian varieties in which the vitamin A traits are expected to be engineered have been identified as IR 64, Pusa Basmati, PR 114 and ASD 16.
Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has been identified as “God father” to ensuring public acceptance of genetically engineered rice. DBT & ICAR are also potential partners for guaranteeing public acceptance and steady progress of the project.
Genetically engineered vitamin A rice will aggravate this destruction since it is part of an industrial agriculture, intensive input package. It will also lead to major water scarcity since it is a water intensive crop and displaces water prudent sources of vitamin A.
The first step in the technology transfer of vitamin A rice requires a need assessment and an assessment of technology availability. One assessment shows that vitamin A rice fails to pass the need test. The technology availability issue is related to whether the various elements and methods used for the construction of transgenic crop plants are covered by intellectual property rights. Licenses for these rights need to be obtained before a product can be commercialized. The Cornell based ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application) has been identified as the partner for ensuring technology availability by ensuring technology availability by having material transfer agreements signed between the representative authority of the ICAR and the “owners” of the technology, Prof. I. Potrykus and Prof. P. Beyer.
In addition, Novartis and Kerin Breweries have patents on the genes used as constructs for the vitamin A rice. At a public hearing on Biotechnology at U.S. Congress on 29th June 2000, Astra-Zeneca stated they would be giving away royalty free licenses for the development of “Golden rice”.
At a workshop organized by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Dr. Barry of Monsanto’s Rice Genome initiative announced that it will provide royalty-free licenses for all its technologies that can help the further development of “golden rice”.
Hence these gene giants Novartis, Astra-Zeneca and Monsanto are claiming exclusive ownership to the basic patents related to rice research. Further, neither Monsanto nor Astra - Zeneca said they will give up their patents on rice - they are merely giving royalty free licenses to public sector scientists for development of “golden rice”. This is an arrangement for a public subsidy to corporate giants for R&D since they do not have the expertise or experience with rice breeding which public institutions have.
Not giving up the patents, but merely giving royalty free licenses implies that the corporations like Monsanto would ultimately like to collect royalties from farmers for rice varieties developed by public sector research systems. Monsanto has stated that it expects long term gains from these IPR arrangements, which implies markets in rice as “intellectual property” which cannot be saved or exchanged for seed. The real test for Monsanto would be its declaration of giving up any patent claims to rice now and in the future and joining the call to remove plants and biodiversity out of TRIPS. Failing such an undertaking by Monsanto the announcement that Monsanto giving royalty free licenses for development of vitamin A rice like the rice itself can only be taken as a hoax to establish monopoly over rice production, and reduce rice farmers of India into bio-serfs.
While the complicated technology transfer package of “Golden Rice” will not solve vitamin A problems in India, it is a very effective strategy for corporate take over of rice production, using the public sector as a Trojan horse.