Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cocaine Pulled from Shelves

The FDA sprung into action recently when a beverage called "Cocaine" hit store shelves across the nation. According to a CNN report, the FDA was disappointed in Redux Beverages, makers of Cocaine, for "illegally marketing the drink as a street drug alternative."

Said a Redux spokesman, "we intended for Cocaine energy drink to be a legal alternative the same way that celibacy is an alternative to premarital sex."

With
all the food poisoning problems we had last year, I wonder if the FDA shouldn't be spending their time doing more important things.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal also seems to have a lot of time on his hands these days, he actually had time to issue a statement on this matter, "Our main complaint about Cocaine is its name and marketing strategy seeking to glorify illegal drug use."

Doesn't he have a terror plot to disrupt, or something more important he could be doing?

According to the CNN article, the legal systems of Texas and Illinois are also spending precious time and tax payer money to remove the alcohol, narcotic and nicotine-free beverage from store shelves.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Is Human Morality a Product of Evolution?

This weekend I read a fascinating interview in Discover magazine with Harvard evolutionary biologist and cognitive neuroscientist Marc Hauser. (Sorry, Discover has not posted this interview online yet, but you can read a columnist's take on the piece at the St. Petersburg Times here.) In the piece, Hauser demonstrates how human morality may be a product of evolution, rather than something nurtured by parents or learned in church.

Consider the following example, explained in the Discover interview. If a doctor has five patients that will die if they don't get an organ transplant -- say, a liver, heart, lung and two in need of a kidney -- is it okay for the doctor take a healthy person, dice them up -- thereby killing them -- and distribute their organs to save the lives of the dying five? Most people would say no.

However, if a trolley was barreling down the track, about to hit and kill five people, but you had a chance to flip a switch and divert it to a track that would kill just one person, most people would say that's okay. But why? In both cases, you're exchanging one life for five. Fundamentally, what's the difference?

According to the article in Discover, "there appears to be some kind of unconscious process driving moral judgments without its being accessible to conscious reflection."

One possibility that I came up with is this. In our genetic moral compass, developed through eons of evolution, it's never okay to sacrifice a healthy life for sick ones, no matter how practical the math is on it. Think about that. If you have two groups of primates on the plains of Africa a million years ago, one allows the healthy to be sacrificed for the sick, the other never allows this, which one will survive longer?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Does Your Burger Cause Wildfires?

On ABC World news for Tuesday, I heard this year's wildfire season is supposed to be pretty harsh. I couldn't find a write-up at the recently redesigned ABC News homepage, but I did find this at USA Today.

As far as fire danger, "an average or above-average year is likely," reports USA Today. This follows 2006, the "worst fire season in a half-century." Of course, "summer heat" is a potential factor

That in mind, I thought I'd type a bit on the connection between what we eat and how it affects the earth's temperature.

Last month, the UN quietly released a study identifying "the world's rapidly growing herds of cattle as the greatest threat to the climate," according to
a report at The Independent (UK). As it turns out, livestock crank out 18 percent of all greenhouse gases on earth. The problem there is that gases from livestock are particularly nasty. Methane, for example, "warms the world 20 times faster than carbon dioxide."

Of course, it gets worse. According to the Independent, "Livestock also produces more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world's emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain." Oh, ranching is also cited by the UN Report as the "major driver of deforestation." And in the oceans, pollution from feedlots create "dead zones" where aquatic life, including coral, is wiped out.

The animal "most to blame?" The UN report cites cows (there are an estimated 1.5 billion cattle around the world). But I say, if any animal is to blame, it's the one whose steady appetite for beef has created the massive, global heard and its brutal environmental impact.

Not-so-fun fact: In the Independent article, I learned that it takes 260 gallons of water to create one quart of milk.

And it gets worse: The UN reports "the massive damage done by livestock" will double by 2050 as "demand for meat" climbs.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Warning Flag Raised on Calcium/Vitamin D

A Duke study finds high amounts of calcium and vitamin D in the diet may lead to "greater volumes of brain lesions," reads a Reuters report. I was afraid the news on vitamin D was too good to be true!

The study was performed on 232 elderly men and women. Those with the highest intake of calcium and vitamin D ended up with the most brain lesions. It seems that everyone gets these lesions as they age, but if you're taking a lot of calcium and D, you seem to get more.

But it's not vitamin D doctors suspect is causing the proliferation of brain lesions, it's the calcium. The idea is that calcification of blood vessels can promote the fearsome lesions. However, it's just a theory, said one researcher, "we cannot conclude that calcium or vitamin D caused the brain lesions that we found."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

It's a Great Time to Be a Pot, Cokehead

Reports last week show the potency of pot and cocaine are on the rise. Good news if you're into that kind of thing. But you should never use drugs. Drugs are dangerous. They can cause brain damage (then again, so can migraines).

Anyway, if you're into grass, a University of Mississippi study shows average THC levels are at 8.5 percent, compared to 3.5 percent in 1988. (Read full story from Reuters here.)

As far as blow, if you're into this stuff, there's good news and really good news. First, potency is up, according to the latest DEA numbers. (Read full story at ABC News.) They don't have a percentage, like our friend from the University of Mississippi have for pot, but the DEA says that purity has "trended somewhat toward former levels." Purity levels had been sliding since the US launched its $5 billion Plan Columbia to fight the coke trade. Initially, the plan seemed to be working as cocaine prices rose and purity dropped. But all that has changed. Thus the really good news for coke fans, "retail" prices have dropped by 11 percent since February 2005. Sounds like the DEA needs a new Plan.

For all you fans of marijuana and cocaine, be careful. This ain't your poppa's bag.

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.