A blog by Mel Riser about LifeBoat Permaculture and Solar Villages

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The COW is MAD

The COW is MAD... mad I say as a march hare...

Mad cows, Englishmen, and beef eaters everywhere... Pay attention to this new report.
The following article was linked through the Kurtzweil website*. It raises the possibility that there maybe far more cases of Mad Cow disease present in the human population then previously thought. New studies prove that scientists may have made lower predictions of infection, based on false assumptions.

The disease has such a long incubation period in people, before symptoms appear, that we may not know for sometime the number currently affected. In the US (1), the quick tests for Mad Cow in cattle are frequently 'inconclusive'. Only sometimes are these beasts retested to be shown as positive. Will we have a worse medical disaster in 30 years because our government downplays awareness of Mad cow disease, and the testing process, in order to protect the cattle industry?

Given the length of time it takes for Mad cow to manifest (up to 30 years), is this unconsciously one way to 'take care of' a burgeoning human population, that is growing older? That is a chilling thought, but then the way corporations have been reneging on retirement accounts(2), I have to wonder. Is it possible that it's already known that many people won't need their retirements? NAH, that is just too tinfoil hat.

I have not been able to fathom why so many corporations and large industries seem to work against the interests of the general well being of their species. Perhaps there is an under current rationalization that isn't expressed by corporate decision makers. Something like:

"The world population is growing too big.. People must die, or we risk using up the planet. So don't be over concerned if decisions we make cause the death of some."
But because of the moral and ethical implications of taking such a position, and the knowledge that it would be very very unpopular, it isn't discussed. It might not even be consciously contemplated, but rather be the motivation behind stopping such things as testing for mad cow disease. It might be the under current that allows corporate policy to dump toxic waste into common water, air and land. Experiments with products on mass segments of the population with some known dangers, might not jar the conscience of CEO's, as long as depopulating the planet is an unspoken goal.

With no dialogue, there can be no challenge to such thinking. And of course the knee jerk response to such a possiblity is that "NO one thinks that way." Then it can not be pointed out that the same kinds of things that kill human populations, also kills other species. And that same kinds of things that kill animals, might damage whole eco-systems, so that all life is degraded with unconscious justifications and the refusal to consider sane alternatives. Alternatives like consciously chosen child bearing to reduce populations before they are conceived , instead of the insanity of criminal negligence, mass murder, wars and unending greed.

vCJD may lurk in more people than realised
The deadly human form of mad cow disease, vCJD, may have infected far more people than previously thought, suggests a new study.

The assumption that most people are genetically shielded from the devastating disease could be wrong, said the research published on Friday. But it cautions that the evidence for this remains sketchy.

Variant Creutzfelt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is linked to eating meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad-cow disease. A rogue version of a prion protein proliferates in the brain, leading to distressing mental deterioration, loss of motor control, and eventually death.

After vCJD was first identified in March 1996, some experts calculated it could inflict a death toll in the tens of thousands, especially in the UK, where the outbreak began. But these calculations were swiftly revised downwards to a few hundred or even fewer when it was realised that the toll was rising far slower than expected.

Key variation

At present, the UK has recorded 161 definite and probable cases of vCJD, six of whom are still alive. One reason for optimism about the potential extent of the vCJD epidemic has been the assumption that it is genetic.

All of the deaths have occurred among people with a so-called "MM variation" in part of the prion protein gene, called PRNP, located on chromosome 20. In the white British population, 42% of people have the MM variant.

The rest of the white population have different types – 47% have the MV variation while the remaining 11% are VV. The fact that no MV or VV cases had arisen led many to believe that this was a protection against the rogue protein. Two out of three

But the new study, which appears in the British Medical Journal, places a cloud of doubt over this assumption.

Researchers led by James Ironside at the University of Edinburgh, UK, carried out a DNA analysis of three appendix tissue samples found to carry the mutant prion protein.

The tissues were part of a vast earlier study in which UK labs screened 12,600 appendices and tonsils for the protein in order to get an idea of the spread of vCJD.

Ironside's team say they were extremely surprised to find that two out of their three samples, which tested positive for vCJD, came from people with the VV variant. Neither individual, both aged in their twenties at time of surgery between 1996 and 1999, has the symptoms of vCJD.

Incubation time

But the paper warns against dramatism. It notes that only these two VV samples have so far been identified, and just because a VV individual has the protein does not mean that he or she will go on to develop vCJD.

On the other hand, no one knows how long it takes for vCJD to incubate, which raises the possibility that VV individuals may fall sick years from now. In classic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which occurs in older people, this can take up to 30 years.

And another, as-yet unquantifiable, risk is that VV individuals with the prion may unwittingly pass it on to others through blood donations. In 2004, a person with the MV gene variant was found to be infected with vCJD, but again this individual had no clinical disease.

"There are compelling reasons why health officials should take notice," said two Canadian specialists, Kumanan Wilson and Maura Ricketts, in a commentary accompanying the latest paper.

"It is conceivable that, having jumped the species barrier (from cows to humans), transmission of the prion within the species becomes easier."

Journal reference: British Medical Journal (DOI: 10.1136/bmj.38804.511644.55)


* The Kurzweil Website:


(1)Mad Cow testing in the US:


Of the 36 million cattle slaughtered in 2004 and put into the human and animal food supply, only 176,468 were tested. In at least three instances U.S. cattle have tested as possibly having mad cow disease on sophisticated “quick tests,” but further testing has led the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to announce the results to be negative. However, the government testing is secretive and suspect. No independent scientists or laboratories have reviewed or confirmed any of the suspected mad cows. Each time the USDA has announced a suspect cow the cattle futures market has been thrown into temporary turmoil, and the industry is pressuring the government to stop announcing suspect animals altogether.
It was private mad cow testing that eventually revealed the presence of the disease in Germany. So it is not surprising that when the Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef company reached an agreement with Japan to sell beef that the company had tested to the Japanese, the USDA, invoking a 1913 law, warned that mad cow testing by private U.S. firms is illegal. Creekstone hoped to save hundreds of company jobs by testing its cattle and reopening its market with Japan.

The first rule of public relations in a crisis is to “manage the outrage.” The December 23, 2003, announcement of a mad cow in the United States resulted in a media feeding frenzy, but a well-prepared and coordinated USDA and industry PR campaign tamed it within weeks. Since then the media has primarily echoed soothing assurances by the secretary of agriculture and various industry-funded third-party voices such as the brilliantly named Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Consequently, most Americans think that the necessary protective measures against mad cow disease have been taken, and there is not the public outcry, such as the one that took place in Europe, which might force the U.S. government to follow Europe’s lead and institute a total feed ban on feeding livestock to livestock, along with extensive animal testing.


(2) retirement 'pyramids' have bases of sand:


It didn’t quite work out that way. Many companies used retirement reserves to buy their own stocks, bidding up their share price and allowing them to take over other firms on favorable terms, especially as mergers and acquisitions gained momentum in the 1960s. The problem was that when companies went bankrupt—especially small firms—the collapse also wiped out the pension funds invested in those companies. Employees of such companies found themselves not only out of work but stripped of the money they thought was being saved up for their retirement.
Congress moved to limit such behavior by obliging corporate pension funds to be run by arm’s-length trustees, although workers were still permitted (and often encouraged) to keep their pensions in the stock of their employers. To further protect workers, Congress created the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) in 1974. All corporate pension plans were required to buy federal insurance, through the PBGC, to protect workers in the event of a failed investment scheme or corporate bankruptcy. The plans themselves were still prone to risk, but at least the pensions would be backed by the government and workers could feel secure about their retirement.[3]

Most companies now offer their employees a broad array of mutual funds instead of just their own stock. In itself this is good common-sense investing practice, and it also protects fund managers from charges of scheming. The other result of this practice is that workers’ fortunes are now tied not just to their own companies but to the market as a whole.

* * * which is where and how we come to both the problem and the scam. While fears regarding the solvency of Social Security are unwarranted, many corporate pension plans—the ones that have been so important in bankrolling the stock-market rise of the past few decades—are themselves threatening to go bust, taking their parent companies down with them. The financial rot already has begun to seep into the airline and steel industries, and the auto sector may be next. (General Motors reports that its current pension obligations add $675 to the cost of every vehicle it produces.)


More on retirement accounts:


The standard 401K is often supplemented by larger employer contributions if the employee agrees to invest in their employer’s stock. That’s the plan Digna Showers chose at Enron. Last year she had $450,000 in her retirement account, today she has $3,000. I doubt she’s going to be buying a new car at her local dealership, or having her house remodeled anytime soon after that. So the car dealer, the salesman, and the hardware store owner won’t be spending as much at the diner, either.
If it was just Enron, maybe the effect wouldn’t be felt so bad in Georgia. But Enron wasn’t the first scandal to come out of the excesses of the 90’s, nor the last.

Sunbeam was arguably the first, having to restate their earnings from 1996 and 1997 to a lower level, reducing the worth of their stock. Then Enron, Xerox, and Microstrategy followed suit, admitting their profits weren’t what they reported for 1997, 1998, and 1999. Enron admitted further fudging for 2000 and the first half of 2001. Worldcom, Rite Aid, Peregrine, and Adelphia are doing the same. All total, over 1,000 publicly traded companies have now revised their books.


(3)There are arguments for 'dramatically reducing human numbers':



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