Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two important Tech stuff

The first one is by Notion Ink's Adam Tablet - in (a slate type touch screen computer) stepping up to Apple's iPad. Technical specs look sound, whether that translates into customer acceptance is to be seen - why I like this is due to its low power consumption ebook reading - paper saver, in addition to being a full computer - a laptop /PC replacer. Added to that unlike Apple, Adam runs on Linux! not any proprietary profit oriented software

The second is even more important is a clean energy company Bloom Energy unveiled their solid oxide fuel cell technology based distributed power generator which can produce electricity at the consumer's site - thus avoiding all electrical losses - induction loss, transmission loss, etc. Customers seem to be happy as the system does produce electricity as promised

Similarly at a rural level microbial fuel cell (fuel cells using simple gobar-cow dung) can revolutionise lighting with LED lighting. All you need is a liter or two of cowdung and you get lighting for about 2-3 hours nonstop in the night or recharge a mobile phone batteries... looks really promising.

Another one is a thin film solar technology - where one can stick the solar cell like a plastic sticker into any flat surface. There are many such technologies - which we seldom come to know of. Due to our inability to spend time for knowing such stuff or sheer ignorance.

Well some thought I'm against Tech, actually not - I'm one of the feeble voices of appropriate technology. Hopefully human beings don't destroy nature and we live long enough to witness all these technologies take shape and gets into our mainstream life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

GMO - GM/GE Foods and the "Educated"

Its unfortunate that the so called educated community is divided in these issues. Many of them take the so called scientists and their fraudulent reports /media reports (PR) as true and defend their arguments without any basis and none seem to have any real-life experiences.

It is to be noted that a fully operational Microbiology /Genetics lab costs millions of Dollars to setup. In addition the cost of Gene sequencing, splicing and R-DNA (recombination DNA) research (?) costs millions to do... So it is easily evident that the MNC companies who claim to be seeds /bio-tech companies, spent millions to create these seeds, are they doing this for their own benefit or remove global poverty or poverty in India? - (this question itself is laughable as everybody knew the fact)

All these so called Agriculture companies are actually Chemical companies. Some are famous for making Chemical weapons - the so called WMDs. One is particularly famous for Agent Orange (a serious "human-cide") used in Vietnam war to kill thousands of Vietnamese, another one is yet to pay the damages for Bhopal disaster. They are now suddenly saviours, seed companies into promoting 'sustainable agriculture' (it is fashionable to use such terms as none understands the meaning) and reap huge profits from seed sales and herbicide sales. (the GM crop /plant is modified to be resistant to the patented herbicide sold by the GM Seed company - double profit - seed sales & herbicide sales)

Why a rush now when the pesticides and agricultural chemicals are selling well?. Protecting the future for the shareholders and investors. As Organic farming slowly spreading everywhere due to the consistent failures of chemical farming witnessed by everyone. More importantly eroding pesticide sales and profits as these pesticides are manufactured by everyone unlike the GM/GE herbicide resistant seeds and corresponding herbicides

One important point to be noted is that no GM crop can grow without Herbicide. Which is an equally dangerous chemical compound like pesticide and a proven Carcinogenic substance (cancer causing chemical). So it is all about selling some patented "cide" (chemical) and making money and not really about sustainable life-promoting agriculture. The following paragraph is taken from Cancer prevention society - gives you the highlights of herbicide

"The herbicide atrazine, extensively used in the U.S. on cornfields and lawns, while banned in most European nations, is the most common pollutant in rainwater, snow runoff, ground water and drinking water. A series of epidemiological studies over the last decade have incriminated atrazine as a cause of non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma, prostate and ovarian cancer, while atrazine has also been shown to induce breast cancer in rodents, and endocrine disruptive effects (27). Against this background of NCI's silence is the April, 2002 headline news following publication of evidence that atrazine induces multiple sex organ abnormalities in frogs at levels in water as low as 0.1 parts per billion"
- From: Cancer Prevention Council, US National Cancer Institute

Commercially motivated dishonest reporting of the so called scientists employed by MNC giants can't be termed as research and particularly we the concerned consumer shouldn't fall for this ploy as well as has the right to know

Thus it is our basic duty to look at all claims of corporates, scientists and also consultants with a fresh view without any prejudice. Thus we can easily understand that Genetic Modification /Genetic Engineering or Bio Technology (what ever be the glorifying name used for this technology) essentially violates not just the core chambers of a life-form (physically crossing nuclear membranes) but the conscious-choice principle that is part of living nature's essence and also the right of every life-form (we certainly don't have any right in this regard)

We fail to recognize that Seeds and food systems are primarily the property of the communities for thousands of years, they are the custodians of it. None has the right to interfere in this tradition which has been preserved for several years and in which humanity depends on. Yet the rulers the so called protectors are least interested in defending our food sovereignty, food safety and food security.

Though the Environment minister has issued a moratorium on one GM Crop (Bt-Brinjal), Government is planning to bring out a more draconian act (BRAI Act 2010) through which anyone who questions GM/GE technology, food safety can be silenced /jailed - our government is so fast with respect to catching concerned social workers, civil societies but not terrorists or anti-nationals

It is now left to us to defend and protect our rights for safe food and environment. Lets us draw inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi to fight the new breed of oppressors.

What I wrote in 2009 on Swine-flu in another blog...

I was living in Hong Kong during SARS epidemy in 2003 and witnessed the entire sequence of events during the spread and mutation of the SARS virus and the entire epidemy. (SARS is actually a strain of Pneumonia and not Influenza - which is a more severe form of respiratory disease). At that time mostly Chinese got infected and not Indians - an Indian doctor working in Prince of Wales hospital in Sha Tin, Hong Kong confirmed the same. (This was the hospital from where the SARS spread out for the first time and many doctors got killed due to infection and also in some cases of side-effects of medication). SARS originated in a Pig /Swine Farm (factory farm).

In a similar note H1N1 or Swine Flu also spread out from a Swine Farm where the swines or pigs were injected with heavy doses of antibiotics and given unhealthy animal feeds (GM and/or grown with heavy pesticides, herbicides).

The main differences between the pandemic of SARS and H1N1 are
1. Travel warnings were issued by almost all countries to Hong Kong /China during SARS epidemic. - No such travel warning were issued against travel to Mexico /Southern US particularly by India due to the fear of US economic might. US is where the pandemic spread widely and over thousands of people are infected and hundreds of deaths have occurred already. (This particular epidemy spread from the pig farm of the US pork giant Smithfield Foods factory in Mexico)

2. WHO announced that Ribavirin (a medicine believed to help treat SARS infection) is not so much effective for preventing the infection but the pharmaceutical company owned the copyright of Ribavirin was relatively small (less than US $ 1 billion revenue). Similarly Tamiflu is also ineffective against prevention of the infection; However Governments all over the world bought and stock piled billions of doses of Tamiflu.

The company owned Tamiflu is multi-billion dollar giant 'Roche' and Roche made sure that they sold billions of tablets and made a lot of money - their share prices have been going up steadly ever since H5N1 (Bird Flu epidemic). Roche in the past have known to bend rules in many countries. Recently Philippines and UK governments have accused Roche of monopolizing Tamiflu production and creating an artificial scarcity. In India 1 strip (10 tablets) of Tamiflu casts around Rs. 1800 - Rs. 3000 in black market.

3. There are several warnings against administering Tamiflu to children between age group 1-14 due to the adverse reactions and severe Hepetitic & Neurological side effects.

4. In the case of SARS some people died even without getting admitted to hospitals. But in the case of Swine flu nobody is reported to be dead outside the hospital. This made me think why many people die only in hospitals ? Was it due to the severity of doses and the side effects?? or due to the disease ? - there seem to be not much public information available from credible sources in terms of the virus mutation, how it progresses inside a human body and how it affects various organs and at what stage. Can death be prevented at an advanced stage if so at what stage and what type treatment to be given, etc.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control in US), Tamiflu may not be able to treat Flu type A strains. Swine-flu strains include Type A as well as Type C, so administering Tamiflu for H1N1 Type A is ineffective. Information on which type of Swine-flu is prevalent and where each type is prevalent, such data are not being published regularly by Health departments.

Note there are a lot of preventive methods as well as alternative health-care methods (including the one published by Times of India recently) are available for Swine-flu

Data-centers, what we don't know...

Recently opened (2009) Microsoft's data-center in Chicago was build with 2,400 tonnes of copper, 3,400 tonnes of steel, 26,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 190 miles of conduit (water ways/pipes)- housing over 2000 servers in first phase. Keeping everything cool is made possible with 7.5 miles of chilled water piping. Even with all its power saving techniques, the first phase of the data-center can scale to 30 megawatts of critical power requirement and millions of gallons of fresh water everyday.

Businesses and investors place a huge premium on where the facilities are located, picking locations close to supplies of power, water and other key ingredients. About 70 per cent of a facility's economics and running costs are determined before even one breaks ground.

Despite the high costs of labor, real-estate, etc. can you guess why the data-center was setup in Chicago?. Simple... any data-center needs enormous amounts of fresh water to cool and sustain operations at less than 12 degree Celsius, that too data-center needs a lot more due to the energy inefficient, bulky (but fast) PC based servers. The location (Chicago) being near to the five lakes ensures continuous water availability in addition to sub-zero temperatures in winter. Even though labor costs are high in US, Chicago in particular, no where else such a 'business-friendly-government' (read 'business-controlled-government') exist other than US to protect the interests of Businesses. Businesses can easily shift its operations to any place in the world where resources are plenty... whereas a farmer can't even dream such a thing.

If one data-center needs so much water and electricity to run - then you can imagine how much water and energy is required to run 1000s - California houses 1000s of data centers - no wonder US West coast is a desert - Reminds me of Fritz Schumacher's "Small is beautiful"

May be its time to stop blowing the trumpet whenever there is a so called "technological advancement" - every bit of so called "growth" has also its negative side - which we are either not aware of or choose to ignore. Again reminded me of "Appropriate technology" from "Small is beautiful". Including me many hailed the advancements in Bio-technology a decade back now the same is cleverly used by businesses to control world's food, clothing and medicine supplies.

All these Data centers are used by us the bloggers and surfers. Thus it is our duty to be prudent users of information exchange. There is already information overload everywhere for which again we are the ones responsible. We keep forwarding unnecessary mails and forwards to anyone and everyone increases unnecessary traffic across the globe.