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World Water Day 2015

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March 22  |  climate change, Editorial, global warming, News, Nutrition, Opinion, safe drinking water, water conservation, water preservation, water stewardship  |   Webmaster

World Water Day 2015

World Water Day logo

This year’s theme is Water and Sustainable Development

Visit http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/ for more details.

What does WATER mean to you?  Search #wateris and #WorldWaterDay

 

We spill it, drink it, bathe in it, cook with it, flush it, run it down the drain and the gutter, drench the lawn and wash the car with it.

While we waste perfectly good water and don’t give a second thought, the following statistics should be a sober wake-up call to all of us to be more respectful and conserving of this valuable resource.  Water is truly the lifeblood of our precious earth.

  • An astounding 1,400 children die every day from diseases linked to unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation.
  • Roughly 75% of all industrial water withdrawals are used for energy production.
  • There are 658 million people living without access to water in Africa.
  • By 2035, the global energy demand is projected to grow by more than one-third.
  • Diarrhea caused by inadequate drinking water, sanitation and hand hygiene kills an estimated 842,000 people every year globally, which is 2,300 people per day.
  • 750 million people lack access to clean water, which is over double the population of the United States.
  • 82% of those who lack access to improved water live in rural areas.

The water crisis is the number one global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and the eighth global risk based on likelihood (likelihood of occurring within ten years), according to the World Economic Forum.

The UN says the planet is facing a 40% shortfall in water supply by 2030, unless the world dramatically improves the management of this precious resource.

This is the conclusion reached in the 2015 United Nations World Water Development Report, “Water for a Sustainable World” launched in New Delhi ahead of World Water Day on 22 March.

The theme of 2015 it’s about how water links to all areas we need to consider to create the future we want.

water in hands

Join the 2015 campaign to raise awareness of water and sanitation. You can also contribute on social media though the hashtags #WaterIs and #WorldWaterDay.

World Water Day is marked on 22 March every year. It’s a day to celebrate water. It’s a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It’s a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future.

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day. 22 years later, World Water Day is celebrated around the world every year, shining the spotlight on a different issue.

We invite you to do your own research and see how you can make a difference.  Following is a link to  a short video by the UN to get you started …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1Zwd4B_Zqw

 

 

 

 

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Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

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November 9  |  Case Studies, News, Research, safe drinking water, water conservation, water preservation, water stewardship  |   Webmaster

Which is Safer?

Concerns over drugs, chemicals, and contaminants in tap water has prompted people all over the world to buy bottled water.  Recent studies have shown that 3 out of 10 households in Canada drink bottled water at home.

It’s estimated that 2.4 billion litres of bottled water were sold in Canada alone last year; about 68 litres per capita.  In fact, bottled water sales have surpassed milk and beer sales in North America, representing a $170 billion industry.

tap water bottled water

 

 

 

 

 

 

But is bottled water necessarily safer or healthier?  A recent investigation compiled by CBC News and reported by Kazi Stastna, provides a well-researched 7 point comparison of water quality, health risks, sustainability and impact on the environment.

At Puroxi, we maintain that proper treatment of an existing water source will provide safe, clean, clear, and nutritonal water, as well as many benefits, without affecting the quality and sustainability of our environment.

Please click here to view the CBC report.

 

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Providing Safe Water in a Disaster

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November 9  |  Editorial, Emergency Preparedness, News, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

by Mark Owen – founder CEO of Puralytics
 
Every year, our planet experiences an average of 500 natural disasters (Gutierrez, 2008). While some have minimal impact, others may disrupt our standard of living for days, weeks, or even months- restricting our access to food, medical care, and potable water sources. In a recent report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 32.4 million people were displaced worldwide by natural disasters in 2012 (Activity Report 2012, 2013). In an assessment of all global risks, water crises was the 3rdlargest risk, and the one identified as having the largest impact and the most likely to occur (Jennifer Blanke, 2014).
 

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Figure 1: Aid workers in Tacloban City, Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan bring SolarBags for their own use.

Disaster & Water

In a disaster, electricity is lost and water infrastructure is damaged. Fresh water sources might be polluted with all of the chemical toxins in the region as well as sewage and physical debris. First responders refer to the “Rule of Threes” – 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food/shelter and people will die. In recent disasters, like the Typhoon in the Philippines, the Tsunami in Japan, Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, and the earthquakes in Haiti, for instance, by Day 3 of the crisis, water became extremely valuable – the most expensive water on the planet – flown in by helicopters by emergency medical personnel and first responders, or supplied by desalination systems on battleships in the harbor. In many of these disasters, the water need continued for 3-18 months after the initial disaster had passed, and became the greatest risk of survival.

In the first days of such a crisis, bottled water is often flown in and distributed, both for the protection of the aid workers and emergency responders, and for those immediately displaced by the disaster. Stored or supplied bottled water runs out in a few days. Within the first week or so, it becomes impractical to supply water this way, and aid agencies switch to interim disinfection strategies like boiling water, chlorine or iodine tablets. These are able to partially disinfect the water and filters can remove some particulates, but they are not able to remove the chemical toxins that are also in the available water sources. While is it is widely recognized that water must be both disinfected and detoxified to be a safe water source, disinfection only solutions are acceptable for short periods as outbreaks are the largest short term risk.

These minimalist disinfection-only solutions were satisfactory for short term solutions with clear water sources, but as the disaster expands to weeks and months, the shortcomings of these methods become significant. Chemical toxins left in the water from the disaster, like petrochemicals, pesticides, cleaning supplies, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, etc. become a significant threat to health that could impact those affected for years to come. Unfortunately, most people who prepare for a disaster, and most government and aid organization that provide support after a disaster do not have equipment to detoxify the water from these chemical toxins. Water quality quickly becomes the biggest risk after the first days of the crisis, and may continue to be for weeks, months, or even years ahead.

The Puralytics SolarBag is unique in an emergency, because it can both disinfect and detoxify the water, providing safe water that meets US EPA and World Health Organization’s “highly protective” safe water guidelines as shown in Figure 2. Sunlight, even on a cloudy day, activates the nanotechnology coated mesh insert, activating 5 photochemical processes that purify water and reduce or destroy contaminants found in virtually all water sources.

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Figure 2: Comparing different water treatment technologies, only one is able to both disinfect and detoxify the water.

The SolarBag can treat up to 9 liters of water per day and can be reused over 500 times.
It can be stored for 7 years or more, and can be used by anyone, even children, to purify virtually any water source to make safe water. It is also very light to transport – while 1 gallon of water weighs about 8 lbs, 1 SolarBag which can make 500 gallons weighs only 4 ounces. Imagine if the aid organizations passed out SolarBags instead of bottled water or chlorine tablets in the early days of a disaster how many more people would be helped in a time of need.

 Picture1

Figure 3: Planning for an emergency longer than 3 days requires being able to treat water to both disinfect and detoxify the water.

While this patented technology is relatively new and only mentioned in the most recent survival handbooks, it is widely available in stores and online sources. It has also been shipped to over 50 countries, including the recent disaster in the Philippines, being handed out through organizations like Medical Teams International, Relief International, Forward Edge International, and by the Red Cross. Recently Puralytics won the International Water Association’s Global Honour Award for long term use of the SolarBag in rural villages in Africa. For more information on the SolarBag, see the company’s website – www.puralytics.com

 

References

(2013). Activity Report 2012. Geneva: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

Gutierrez, D. (2008). Natural Disasters Up More Than 400 Percent in Two Decades. Natural News.

Jennifer Blanke, e. a. (2014). Global Risk 2014, Ninth Edition. World Economic Forum.

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BC Water Act

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October 19  |  climate change, Editorial, global warming, Latest News, safe drinking water, water conservation, water preservation, water stewardship  |   Webmaster

B.C. Water Act To Regulate Groundwater, Force Nestle To Pay

The provincial government of British Columbia has just passed their new Water Act, after four years of research and consultations with industry, communities, and First Nations to replace outdated legislation from 1909.

The legislation is focused mainly on the allocation of water and large scale users, like Nestle, who have been able to use unlimited supplies of fresh groundwater, without cost, will now be charged a nominal fee.

While this is expected to regulate groundwater consumption, while adding to the provincial government’s coffers, many critics argue that the act does not go far enough.  In fact, environment minister Mary Polak, even admits that the act will not cover off every single aspect of water protection and water use.

Nestle Bottled Water

For a copy of the news articles by Canadian Press and the Globe & Mail, click here.

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Global Warming

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September 29  |  climate change, Editorial, global warming, Latest News, Opinion, Research  |   Webmaster

The Global Warming debated has heated up again, following the recent release of a report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On one side, the climate change deniers emphasize the fact that global warming has remained relatively stable for the past 17 years.  They maintain that this supports the “Hockey Stick” conclusion that global warming has actually leveled off and therefore not expected to increase in the foreseeable future. 

On the other side, the IPCC continues to insist that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and continues despite regional differences, over a time line of 1400 years.  Furthermore, it maintains that we will see far more dangerous and potentially irreversible impacts in the decades ahead, if we do not choose to reduce global carbon emissions. There has never been a greater urgency to act than there is now.

Which side is right?  Well, maybe they both are, in their own way.  As with most heated / controversial topics,  everyone has their own strong opinion and many will strive mightily to affirm their agenda.  As their almost religious fervor develops, there will  undoubtedly be misdirection, cherry-picking, half-truths, outright falsehoods, and even personal verbal attacks.  At the heart of this controversy is the credibility of the IPCC position and agenda, as well as their format for accepted, qualified peer reviews.

Nevertheless, no one can dispute the facts that polar ice caps are melting and that the world’s oceans are getting warmer, thus setting up even more change for climate patterns around the world.

We urge you all to do your own independent research and make your own informed conclusions.  We have listed some recent links below, to get you started.

http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/press_information.shtml#.Ukh8F3_NmNg

www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5-SPM_Approved27Sep2013.pdf

http://scienceblogs.com/significantfigures/index.php/2013/09/27/what-does-the-2013-ipcc-summary-say-about-water/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/28/ipcc-climate-change-deniers

http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/09/27/un-climate-change-report-dismisses-slowdown-in-global-warming/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2420783/computers-got-effects-greenhouse-gases-wrong.html

http://www.colby.edu/sts/controversy/pages/ipcc_controversy.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_controversy

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-27/global-warming-s-slower-pace-hardens-views-on-need-to-act.html

 

 

 

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Another Ban on Water Fluoridation

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August 19  |  Case Studies, Latest News, Reports, Tests, safe drinking water  |   Webmaster

Israel Court Rules To Stop Water Fluoridation in 2014, Citing Health Concerns

It seems that almost the entire world is now realizing the health consequences of poisoning the water supply with fluoride. Most developed nations, including all of Japan and 97% of western Europe, do not fluoridate their water. Israel will now be added to that list in 2014. This begs the question as to when the west will wake up from their unscientific beliefs and embrace the irrefutable evidence that ingestion of fluoride is of no benefit and actually a detriment to human health.

Biological Effects of Sodium Fluoride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For more information on this article visit: 

http://preventdisease.com/news/13/081113_Israel-Court-Rules-To-Stop-Water-Fluoridation-in-2014-Citing-Health-Concerns.shtml

http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/israel-court-rules-to-stop-water-fluoridation-in-2014-citing-health-concerns/

Additional information on our site about the health effects of water fluoridation can be found here: http://www.puroxi.com/reports-case-studies

We invite you to do your own research and make an informed decision:

http://www.fluorideaction.net/issues/health

http://preventdisease.com/news/09/022709_fluoride.shtml

http://www.fluoridealert.org/

 

 

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Importance of Water for Poultry

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May 7  |  Case Studies, Farm, News, Newsletters, Poultry, Reports, Tests, Research  |   Webmaster

We have many articles and studies on our website about the importance of water for health; both for us humans, as well as for our animals and livestock.  All life forms depend on water; in fact, after air/oxygen, it is the single most important factor to sustain life!  You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. So it only stands to reason that the quantity, and especially quality of water, should be taken seriously.

However, water is not only a key ingredient to sustain life, it is also an important nutrient to maintain key bodily functions and the immune system. It is a critical agent to:

  • help dissolve minerals and nutrients making them accessible to the body
  • carry these nutrients and oxygen to all of the cells in the body

  Water also serves the body in many other critical areas, including:

  • protecting the body’s tissues and organs
  • moistening tissues in mouth, eyes, and nose
  • regulating body temperature
  • lubricating joints
  • helping to flush out waste products through kidneys and liver

In addition to the important factors listed above, water also plays a key role in preventing disease, for all humans and animals.

Following is a recent report by scientists at the University of Georgia, focusing on poultry.

The importance of water

Factors affecting water consumption, water quality and management tips are reviewed by Brian D. Fairchild and Casey W. Ritz, Extension Poultry Scientists at the University of Georgia.

 

Water is a critical nutrient that receives little attention until a problem arises. Not only should producers make an effort to provide water in adequate quantity, they should also know what is in the water that will be flowing through the water lines to be used in evaporative cooling systems and consumed by the birds.

Water Functions

Water is needed for bird consumption, reducing air temperature (including evaporative cooling pad and fogging systems) and facility sanitation. Broilers consume approximately 1.6 to 2.0 times more water than feed on a weight basis. Water is a critical nutrient in bird metabolism and nutrition. From a physiology perspective, water consumed by the bird is used for nutrient transportation, enzymatic and chemical reactions in the body, body temperature regulation and lubrication of joints and organs.

There is a strong relationship between feed and water consumption, therefore, water can be used to monitor flock performance. Many of the electronic controllers in poultry houses have the ability to monitor daily water consumption and have inputs for multiple water meters. This would allow a water meter to be installed separately on the lines supplying water to the front and rear of the house. Bird uniformity between the front and back of the house can be monitored using water consumption. Water consumption will be greater in the area of the house that has more birds. When birds are not distributed evenly between the front and back of the house it increases the competition for feed and water space. This, combined with the extra heat from excessive numbers of birds, can reduce bird performance.

water poultry figure 1

Figure 1. Water consumption in a tunnel ventilated broiler house

Factors Affecting Water Consumption

There are several factors that affect water consumption:

Bird age: Water consumption increases with age but decreases as a percentage of body weight.

Environmental temperature/heat stress: Birds consume more water as temperature increases. One of the main ways birds regulate body temperature is by evaporating water through the respiratory system during panting. As birds pant, water is lost and needs to be replaced in order to maintain body-water balance. Water consumption can double and even triple during periods of heat stress. Water consumption in broilers increases approximately seven per cent for each degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature.

A study at the University of Georgia examined the relationship of feed consumption to water consumption of seven consecutive flocks on a commercial broiler farm. As temperatures increased, the water consumed per pound of feed consumed also increased (Table 1).

 water poultry table 1

Water temperature: Several studies have examined the effects of providing cool water to birds during hot weather. In most of these studies, water temperature has improved the performance of broilers and layers. Any water temperature below the body temperature of the bird will be beneficial. The water consumed will help dissipate body heat and aid the bird in body temperature regulation. However, it is very difficult to cool the water significantly when moving the water hundreds of feet down a house.

Electrolytes: During periods of potential heat stress, many producers supplement drinking water with electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that can be found in the blood and are important for normal cell function and growth. Electrolytes, as the name implies, help regulate nerve and muscle function by conducting electrical signals from nerves to muscles.

Electrolytes are also important for the acid-base balance of the blood and fluid retention. Some of the electrolytes found in blood plasma include sodium (Na), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), chlorine (Cl), bicarbonate (HCO3) and sulphate (SO4). The addition of the electrolytes not only replenishes those depleted during heat stress, but also stimulates water consumption. When the results of these are added together (electrolyte intake and increased water consumption), the mortality due to heat stress can be reduced.

Lighting programs: Light is another environmental factor that can influence bird water consumption. Birds will not drink if they are not eating and vice versa. During dark periods, the birds rest and as a result, they do not consume water. The exception is long dark periods. In dark periods exceeding eight hours, it is not unusual to see some water consumption register on the water meter. In operations that utilize lighting programs, two distinct water consumption peaks can be observed. The first peak is just after the lights come on (dawn) and the second is just prior to lights turning off (dusk).

The correlation of water consumption with feed intake and many environmental factors indicate its importance in bird metabolism and body function. Efforts should be made in all poultry operations to ensure that adequate and unlimited access to water is provided. Failure to do so will result in reduced feed intake, poor egg production, reduced growth and reduced feed efficiency.

water poultry figure 2

Figure 2. Lighting influences water consumption

Water Quality

While water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen molecules (H2O), it is a universal solvent and as a result can contain many minerals and compounds. The only sure way to get pure water is to use distillation or other treatment methods to remove dissolved minerals and compounds. This can be expensive considering the volume of water a typical broiler farm consisting of four or more houses would consume. Water treatment should be done based on the results of water quality analysis. While poultry drinking water does not have to be pure, heavily contaminated water is undesirable.

Water composition varies with geographical region as the nature of the geological makeup changes. Water contamination can occur if surface water drains into the well. All farms should submit water samples to a qualified laboratory for testing to establish a baseline for water quality. This will help producers determine if and what water treatment might be warranted.

Water quality should be of concern to all poultry operations. Poor water quality may interfere with digestion and subsequent bird performance. The effectiveness of vaccines and medications administered through the water lines could be reduced when water quality is poor. Water contaminants could create equipment problems that would either restrict the amount of water available for consumption or the effectiveness of the evaporative cooling and fogging systems. Reduced water consumption or cooling capacity may have detrimental effects on both growth and reproduction. Poor water quality could also result in leaky water nipples inside the house, which will wet litter and lead to increased ammonia production. Poor litter quality and high ammonia can result in reduced performance and livability.

Standards for water quality should include factors that affect taste, solid buildup within water systems and toxicity. Factors that should be observed for poultry production include, but are not limited to those listed in Tables 2 and 3.

water poultry table 2

Many of the water quality standards for poultry drinking water were originally developed from those for human drinking water. Few of the standards recommended today are based on research utilizing broiler or layers.

Recently, a series of studies has been conducted examining the effects of iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), nitrates (NO3) and pH levels in drinking water on poultry performance. The results of these studies have found that very high levels of Fe, Mn and NO3 do not impact broiler health. In those studies no differences in performance were noted due to 600ppm of Fe, 600ppm of NO3 and 20ppm of Mn.

It should be noted that the water lines were thoroughly flushed between studies and that particulates that result from high Fe and Mn levels can lead to equipment problems such as leaky nipples and clogged fogging nozzles. Broiler performance is more likely to be affected by improper equipment function rather than bird health due to high concentrations of these substances. Poor water quality can lead to increased microbial growth (such as iron bacteria) and biofilm build-up.

water poultry table 3 Water Management Tips

Conduct water tests

Each farm should have its well water tested. Water quality can change during periods of heavy rain or drought and additional water tests during these periods will ensure that water lines continue to deliver adequate water volume for both the birds and the cooling systems. County agents can provide more information on the tests available, provide information on fees for testing and submit samples to the Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratory at the University of Georgia.

Change filters regularly

Sediment and other particulates can cause leaky water nipples that can have negative effects on litter quality. Clogged filters restrict water flow to the drinker and cooling systems. In some cases, simple cartridge filters may not be adequate, such as for water with high iron. In those cases, other water treatments will need to be considered.

Flush water lines regularly

A high–pressure flush should be performed on water lines between each flock and after adding supplements through the medicator, e.g. vaccines, medications, vitamins, electrolytes, etc.

Plan ahead before treating water

Before implementing water treatment or sanitation programs, consult your county agent to ensure that contaminants in your water will not react negatively and cause the water system to become clogged.

References

Batal, A.B., B.D. Fairchild, C.W. Ritz and P.F. Vendrell, 2005. The effect of water manganese on broiler growth performance. Poultry Sci. 84 (Suppl. 1.).

Bell, D.B., 2002. Consumption and quality of water. In: Commercial Chicken Meat and Egg Production. D.D. Bell and W.D. Weaver, eds. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Norwell, MA. p411-430.

Carter, T.A. and R.E. Sneed, 1987. Drinking water quality for poultry. PS&T Guide No. 42, Extension Poultry Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC.

Dozier, D.A., M. Czarick, M.P. Lacy, and B.D. Fairchild, 2002. Monitoring water consumption on commercial broiler farms: Evaluation tool to assess flock performance. Poultry Sci. 80:154 (Suppl. 1.).

Fairchild, B.D., A.B. Batal, C.W. Ritz and P.F. Vendrell, 2006. Effect of drinking water iron concentration on broiler performance. J. Appl. Poultry Res. 15:511-517.

May, J.D., B.D. Lott and J.D. Simmons, 1997. Water consumption by broilers in high cyclic temperatures: Bell versus nipple waterers. Poultry Sci. 76:944-947.

Pesti, G.M., S.V. Amato and L.R. Minear, 1985. Water consumption of broiler chickens under commercial conditions. Poultry Sci. 64:803-808.

Schwartz, D.L. Water Quality. VSE, 81c., Penn. State Univ. (mimeographed)

Waggoner, R., R. Good and R. Good, 1984. Water Quality and Poultry Performance. Proceedings AVMA Annual Conference, July.

For more information about water quality studies, reports, resources, and solutions, please contact us or your local OxyBlast dealer:  CONTACT PAGE


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Mad Cow (BSE)

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April 30  |  Beef, Editorial, Farm, food safety, Latest News, Livestock, Opinion  |   Webmaster

There has been a lot of media attention on the recent discovery in California of a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological  and eventually fatal disease of cattle; its symptoms are similar to a disease of sheep, called scrapie. BSE has been called “mad cow disease.”  Scientists say the disease is spread through feed that contains brain or spinal cord tissue from infected animals. People can get it from eating products containing such tissues, including head cheese. However, since 1997, feed made from mammals has been banned from cattle rations, and high-risk materials such as brains have been kept from the human food supply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This recent case is not typical. It was found in an older animal and  it was never destined to be part of the human food chain. The California cow tested positive for so-called atypical BSE, which the Agriculture Department said isn’t generally associated with an animal consuming infected feed. Such cases can occur spontaneously in older animals, according to the department.  There have been many criticisms about how the FDA handled the communication of this particular discovery, but the main point here is that the system worked.

Once again, we remind our readers to do their own research and examine all sides of the issue before forming their own opinion, instead of accepting the media hype and adding to the rumor mill, which tends to blow everything out of proportion.  Let’s not propagate more uninformed doomsday panic like we had with LFTB (aka “pink slime”).

For those interested, following are links to news stories, editorials, and opinions from various sides of the issue, to help you develop an informed and intelligent perspective.       – ed.


http://usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-26

http://www.whsv.com/home/headlines

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/

http://www.cbsnews.com/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/24/

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Social Media Responsibility

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April 23  |  Editorial  |   Webmaster

The vast knowledge available on the internet, combined with  the ability to interact instantaneously with social media is an incredible, powerful technology.  But as with any advancement in science and technology, this comes with certain risks and responsibilities; it is definitely, the proverbial double-edged sword.  Nowadays, anyone with access to a computer can broadcast their opinions or agenda and find like-minded individuals to champion their cause or to jump on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately, since this is an open access technology, there is no way to validate or verify much of the information or misinformation posted, especially on personal blog sites.

Following is a well-balanced article, which sums up the pros and cons, of the technology that we all take for granted today.

Social media make rumor mill faster, not smarter

And it makes a difference in politics as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube open the door to disinformation.

By RICK MONTGOMERY  The Kansas City Star

Admit it. Sometimes you’re part of the social-media problem, spreading news and views you find online without knowing if the information is good.

Rumors and misinformation, granted, are ancient parts of discourse. But this is an election year, and social media platforms have turned the rumor mill into a supercharged rumor turbine, something that can be electronically manipulated and monitored. And that changes the political game.

Researchers will be closely watching how it plays out, especially through Twitter.

That’s because they can. The open platform is enabling scientists to build computer models that help them see how misinformation travels.

“What makes social media different is that we have much easier ways of tracking how rumors spread,” said Jonah Berger at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies “social epidemics.”

What worries many experts — even some ardent defenders of free speech — is that bad information that moves fast enough and far enough, through the power of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, has the potential of warping the democratic process.

A well-crafted lie that goes viral the week before an election could affect outcomes.

That’s the dark side of social media — “there’s more libel, more defamation, more urban myths and harmful information getting out,” said David L. Hudson Jr., of the First Amendment Center, a think tank that advocates the tenets of our first freedoms. “I don’t like to sound like a censor, I’m for free speech. But I am concerned about this open spreading of rumors … and the rushing to judgment.

“We’re approaching a sobering realization that this new, revolutionary media does come with some dangers.”

Political campaigns this year will pour record sums — perhaps 10 percent of their resources — into establishing a presence in social media, which strategists view as both an opportunity and a potential curse. Some experts envision races hinging on the campaign errors, misstatements and smear tactics that rivals engineer to go viral.

When Twitter or YouTube push the propaganda, “it all becomes public … which I think is a good thing,” said Jeff Roe of the political consulting group Axiom Strategies, headquartered in Kansas City.

Using social media is free, making it a no-brainer communication tool — not only for groups that seek to propagate their version of a story, but to the tens of millions of Americans on the receiving end. But Roe doesn’t see it as a great bargain:

“Statements made in error that go viral can be very expensive to a campaign” when it needs to fight back.

The technologies of new media turn everyone who uses them into news sources, blasting out information, with attached links, in one click.

“There’s a certain ego that goes with being the first to hear something and share it, whether it’s true or not,” said Eric Melin of Spiral16, an Overland Park consulting firm using 3-D imagery to chart the circuitous paths of attack tweets, damaging rumors and viral tales that spring from social media.

It may be a truth, a half-truth or the early stage of a hoax — the finger found in Wendy’s chili went viral in Facebook’s early days before police exposed it as a scam.

This urge, this snap reflex to share a rumor in an instant, has a name: FOMO — fear of missing out, or being the last in your network to know.

Berger of the Wharton School has found that news on the Internet is most apt to go viral when it touches extreme emotions — like laughter or anger. Both are kryptonite to businesses and organizations, including political campaigns, that are trying to project honest, everyday values.

In politics, “grass roots” is everything. But social media platforms have given rise to a new strategy to watch out for: the “Astroturf campaign.”

It’s designed to look like the online conversations of regular people when it’s really spawned by insiders shooting automated messages they hope will catch fire.

Among those watching for this will be Indiana University computer scientist Filippo Menczer, whose research team first tracked Astroturf campaigns in the 2010 elections.

“Everyone’s doing it — fake tweets and fake accounts” in an effort to attract real-life Twitter followers into the discussion, he said.

And the wide-open nature of social media makes manipulation all the more tempting. Interactive service providers such as YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are effectively immune from lawsuits, thanks to a 1996 federal law.

“This is the wild west,” Menczer said, “where there’s no control whatsoever of social-media content.”

Friend to friend

It’s hard to knock what social media have achieved so far.

They’ve been credited with empowering the previously powerless, liberating peoples from oppressive regimes, exposing bad behavior among public officials.

(Some of that behavior was related to social media, such as the sharing of sexually explicit photos that drove U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat, out of office.)

The instantaneous, friend-to-friend-to-friend magic of the platforms, however, also fueled swine-flu scares in 2009, when Kansas City-area schools had to respond to false rumors of outbreaks.

Even if the technology allows information — and misinformation — to spread in a flash, it allows countless users to fact-check and verify just as quickly, said Kevin Bankston of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit that promotes free, unfettered expression on the Web.

“It’s always been that a lie will make itself halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on,” Bankston said. “Today, the social media turbocharges that process…

“Still, this access we all have to knowledge and instantaneous sources of information is a good thing for humanity.”

The old-fashioned forms of media put out bad information, too. It was The New York Times, after all, that erroneously declared U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords dead from a shooting in Arizona — an embarrassment the newspaper attributed to a reporter bypassing editorial checkpoints to rush copy to the Web.

But only the Wild West of social media could deliver the following fake report on the @foxnewspolitics Twitter page.

@BarackObama has just passed. The President is dead. A sad 4th of July, indeed.

A hacker had infiltrated the Fox News account, which had 36,000 followers, and began posting several reports of Obama having been assassinated in Iowa.

The fraudulent posts first appeared in the hours after midnight last Independence Day, and though FoxNews.com quickly spotted the hoax, the news network had to wait hours for Twitter to respond to Fox’s request to reclaim the account.

Delays at Twitter kept the bogus news displayed past dawn.

Earlier this month, the FBI and New York Police Department opened an investigation into a potential terror threat after several digitally enhanced images of the New York skyline appeared on an Islamic terrorist group’s online forum. The graphic carried a caption, “Al Qaeda coming soon again in New York.”

Terrorist organizations commonly weave empty threats into social media. The “coming soon” graphic is likely another one, said Steve Stalinsky of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, which monitors the Web activity of terrorist groups. But could a flurry of idle threats lead to a “cry wolf” complacency that puts America at greater risk of a real attack?

“The Taliban has several Twitter accounts and they’re very social-media savvy,” Stalinsky said. “YouTube is totally infested with Jihadi propaganda … Why is this allowed to happen?”

Most social-media platforms will flag or remove hate speech and deceptive spam when such material is brought to the service provider’s attention. Twitter early his year announced it will restrict offensive content “in countries that have different ideas about the contours of economic freedom.”

The company cited the examples of France and Germany, which ban pro-Nazi content.

Gone viral

Recent cases of social-media causes gone viral underscore the benefits of the public platforms as well as the drawbacks.

Last month, the hottest video in the history of YouTube turned out to be artful spin, the story of an east African conflict almost two decades older than YouTube itself.

The “Kony 2012” mini-documentary nonetheless seemed fresh, credible and urgent to Twitter and Facebook users, who shot out links to the half-hour video, from friend to friend, until it drew more than 25 million views.

The clip elicited public horror and a supportive U.S. Senate resolution for the “invisible children” of Uganda, youngsters abducted and enslaved as soldiers by rebel leader Joseph Kony.

Foreign-policy experts eventually pointed out that Kony hadn’t been stirring much trouble and hadn’t even been seen in Uganda for several years. Donating money to help the country capture him, as the viral video implored, might not be such a wise thing, traditional news sources reported.

An online petition campaign launched by a Texas mother set off alarms over a ground-beef additive dubbed “pink slime.” The cheap, finely textured filler has been served up on school lunch trays, diner counters and kitchen tables for decades, and it’s treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill bacteria.

The federal government and some food-safety groups say pink slime is safe. But the public outcry was virulent enough to shut down some meat factories and drive grocers to clear their shelves of ammonia-treated beef.

Many school districts, bowing to online petitions, pledged from here on to serve only the more expensive, slime-less beef.

As with “Kony 2012,” the pink slime controversy raised awareness and triggered citizen action in ways once unimaginable. But food without the additive will require more cattle, and industry groups say the public will pay more to stock school cafeterias.

David B. Schmidt, president of the International Food Information Council, issued an online statement:

“Something is seriously out of kilter in our communications environment when safe food products and proven technologies can be torpedoed by sensationalist, misleading, yet entertaining social media campaigns. We should all take several steps back and remember the critical thinking skills we were taught in school.”  (We totally agree!  -ed.)

Defenders of unregulated social media, and there are plenty, counter: We were also taught democracy in schools. If not for throngs of Facebook friends and everyday tweeters, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat, may never have introduced a labeling bill to at least let consumers know when they’re buying pink slime.

Choice.org — the petition site that gave rise to the pink-slime crusade (and also sharpened national attention on the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin) — removes discriminatory causes and postings that call for violence. Website spokeswoman Megan Lubin said those cases were rare: “Most everyone is responsible when using” the open platform.

“It was the first time in history that more than 1 million comments were generated on a food petition at the FDA,” said Sue McGovern, spokeswoman for the Just Label It Campaign. “The exact number was 1,149,967 … It’s those mammoth, historical numbers that Washington, D.C., is taking a look at” in the viral age.

Tracking tweets

Some contend the best way to thwart the dangers of social media is to fight fire with fire — better technology.

The U.S. government is pushing to detect online persuasion campaigns and to develop “counter-messaging” software against “adversaries (who) may exploit social media and related technologies for disinformation,” according to a Pentagon statement to The Wall Street Journal.

“It’s an arms race,” said disinformation sleuth Menczer of Indiana’s Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research, recipient of a $2 million Defense Department grant. “We may develop better detection tools only to see political and commercial interests invest in beating these tools.”

The center he directs has a website, Truthy.indiana.edu, that monitors the Twittersphere to detect how political groups take advantage of it.

The Truthy project spotted suspicious patterns in the 2010 elections. Several Twitter accounts created simultaneously — along with Web links launched the same day — gave the illusion of real people having conversations. In fact, they were dummy accounts automatically tweeting and re-tweeting each other.

Followers of those accounts would get the sham tweets and be directed to Web sites resembling news organizations, Menczer said. Some of the reports would accuse a campaign’s opponent of backing legislation such as health reform and cap-and-trade proposals for personal gain.

Once the strategy goes viral and a topic, or “meme,” is followed — with Menczer’s computers tracing common hash tags, URLs and repeated phrases — digital images of the activity do resemble a biological virus.

But tracking this tangle of tweets, links and retweets back to the original source can be difficult, giving political campaigns deniability if confronted about the schemes.

In the 2008 Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate, Wellesley College scientists P. Takis Metaxas and Eni Mustafaraj detected a pattern of “Twitter-bombs” against Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate.

During the week leading up to the vote, the researchers noted a spike in Web searches that directed users to a disproportionate flurry of tweets smearing Coakley. The social-media traffic built enough for Google to tag the race a “trending topic,” and Republican Scott Brown scored a surprise victory.

The race in Massachusetts “was the first election in which social media absolutely changed the conversation,” said Mustafaraj, who noted the anti-Coakley tweets carried morsels of truth.

“In order for these things to spread, it can’t be a complete falsehood,” Mustafaraj said. “You hope that other media will pick up on the story.”

In time, other research shows, a social-media falsehood finds ways to die. Tracking the tweets from the zone of an earthquake that devastated Chile in 2010, computer analyst Barbara Poblete discovered that accurate reports from victims traveled faster and farther than did the false rumors.

Melin, of Overland Park’s Spiral16, notices the same: Bad information has ways of correcting itself, a phenomenon that social media defenders attribute to the collective wisdom of crowds.

“It does seem to actually work in the end,” he said. “Believe it or not.”

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410 or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2012/04/21/3569194/social-media-make-rumor-mill-faster.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

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Veterinary Group Reaffirms Support for Antibiotics Use

Comments Off on Veterinary Group Reaffirms Support for Antibiotics Use
April 23  |  antibiotics, Beef, Dairy, Editorial, Farm, food safety, Immune System, Latest News, Livestock, Nutrition, Pork, Poultry, Research  |   Webmaster

While there are many sides and opinions to this ongoing debate, we are in full agreement with the following article. As stated in the AVMA statement, it  supports the prudent use of antibiotics: “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.” 

In other words, prudent use of antibiotics and other microbial products, should be made only when necessary, and not indiscriminately in feeds or in any other attempt to prevent illness and disease.  As medically and scientifically proven, the over-exposure to antibiotics eventually increases our resistance to them, thus diminishing their effectiveness and leaving us even more susceptible to infection and disease.  The key here is the definition of “productive uses” and the need for more direct involvement of the AVMA in advising and regulating the use of antibiotics and antimicrobials.

As mentioned in previous posts, any wide-encompassing and long-term policies should be “based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.” (sic)  (as evidenced by the recent uproar of LFTB).

Following is the full text of the statement by the American Veterinary Medical Association …

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reaffirmed its support of the responsible use of antibiotics in food animals after a federal court ruling demanded that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) start proceedings to withdraw approval of certain uses of antibiotics used in food production.

United States Magistrate Judge Theodore H. Katz ruled March 22 that the FDA must start proceedings to withdraw approval of what the FDA currently refers to as “production uses” of penicillins and tetracyclines in food-producing animals. As part of the withdrawal process, manufacturers of the products can request hearings to allow them to provide scientific evidence that the production use of antimicrobial products does not pose a threat to public health.

“The AVMA acknowledges the growing concern regarding antimicrobial use and resistance in animals and people, and supports the judicious use of antimicrobials to maximize public and animal health benefits while minimizing risks,” says AVMA Chief Executive Officer Ron DeHaven. “The judicious use of antimicrobials plays a key role in preserving the health of our nation’s food animals and the safety of our nation’s food supply. Many agree that there is a need for greater veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals, and the AVMA is currently working with the FDA to develop practical means to increase this veterinary oversight.”

DeHaven cautions, however, that any decision to withdraw approval or ban any antimicrobial uses should be based on solid science and risk-based assessment, and not on anecdotal reports and speculation.

“It is crucial that safe and effective antimicrobials remain available for use in veterinary medicine to ensure the health and welfare of animals and, consequently, the health of humans,” DeHaven says. “The AVMA will continue to work closely with the FDA to formulate a sound, science-based strategy to deal with this complex issue.”

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 82,500 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. For more information about the AVMA, visit www.avma.org.


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