The Billings Outpost

Lactose intolerance hinders milk marketing


By ARI LEVAUX - @arilevaux

The folks behind Got Milk? have been keeping busy. The California Milk Processor Board, which trademarked the famous slogan and accompanying milk-stache, has recently taken to defending its intellectual turf – including an acronym that sounds like milk, which many people first learn about on dirty websites.

OC Weekly reports that a complaint has been filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization, an international body under the United Nations umbrella, against the web domain

This is not the first time the owners of Got Milk? have gone after purveyors of GotMILF-related content (MILF being a popular acronym for hot postpartum female). In 2010 the board sued a T-shirt maker over shirts that read “Got MILF?”

While on its MILF hunt, the California Milk Processer Board itself became the subject of several complaints about false advertising, one of which led to the board being busted by the Federal Trade Commission for claiming that dairy products can treat and prevent obesity. (This claim appeared alongside a white bathing suit-clad, milk-mustachioed Sheryl Crow, among others).

There is a lot to be said about dairy products. They contribute immensely to the cuisines of many cultures, and contain a tremendous amount of calcium. Dairy products are not, however, necessary for human health, survival or well-being.

Consumers and parents should remember this when listening to the urgent spiels of dairy councils and other state and national bodies that are funded by producer check-off fees, and profess to be deeply concerned with you and your children’s health. These groups, headed by Dairy Management Inc. and its puppet the National Dairy Council, have a simple mission: to create demand for milk, on behalf of the supply side.

These groups’ public message focuses on bone health and calcium. Health professionals are privy to an expanded version of this narrative, as they are schooled in how to manage “cultural behavior patterns” like “dairy avoidance.”

A different narrative, with different terms, is used in statements they make to dairy producers, or on public documents like the 990 tax forms. This narrative is more profit-oriented, and uses phrases like “barriers to consumption” and “unmet market.”

One significant barrier to dairy consumption is lactose intolerance, a condition that afflicts various ethnicities differently, hitting blacks, Asians, and Latinos the hardest. Thanks to the pro-milk propaganda that every American is subjected to from infancy on, millions of minority children are being inundated with the idea that they must consume something that makes them feel terrible, or else they’ll grow up weak and fragile.

On Nov. 13, the National Dairy Council held an online seminar titled “Fact or Fiction? Learn the Truth About Lactose Intolerance and Discover Real Life Solutions to Maintaining Good Nutrition.” Its intended audience was doctors, nurses and dieticians, all of whom could all earn continuing-education credit for participating.

The council’s approach to dairy sensitivity is that anyone who thinks they have a problem should see a doctor, and anyone not diagnosed with lactose intolerance should consume three servings of dairy a day or risk the consequences. A medical diagnosis of lactose intolerance involves proof of low lactase activity-lactase being the enzyme that digests lactose in the gut.

Now here’s where things get a little crazy. People diagnosed with lactose intolerance, the presentation argues, should nonetheless continue to consume as much dairy as they possibly can, using strategies like mixing dairy with other foods, or ingesting live enzymes while consuming dairy products.

Andy Bellatti, a dietician and writer at his Small Bites blog, is a fan of plant-based diets. I asked him about the importance of dairy to healthy bones, because he’s been vocal on Twitter about what he considers the industry’s propagation of misinformation.

“The dairy industry loves to push calcium as the only important nutrient for bone health because calcium is the only one it can brag about,” he told me via email. In fact, as Bellatti wrote in a July 2011 post, calcium is but one of several important nutrients for bone health, along with vitamin K and magnesium (which helps regulate calcium absorption). Many non-milk sources of calcium, such as kale and Chinese greens, have great levels of these other bone essentials, he wrote.

“When one considers the array of nutrients required for optimal bone health, it becomes clear that while milk offers a few benefits, it is far from the perfect and complete beverage the dairy industry aggressively markets,” Bellatti wrote.

If so, promoting dairy as the only nutrient necessary for strong bones could actually be a detriment to bone health. Certainly, suing people for selling GotMILF related content isn’t going to help anybody’s bones.

When I first heard about the complaint against, I did what any sensible man would do, and went to the site. I found no MILFs, only a site under construction. I then decided to check out, and what I found there was legitimately disturbing. And worse, it’s directed at kids. is dominated by an image of a chemistry set in a box called the Imitation Milk Kit. Clicking it starts you playing a game called The Science of Imitation Milk, in which the snark runs strong. I’m without space or patience to describe this weird game, but click it if you don’t mind being mildly disturbed.

The ruthlessness with which soy, almond, coconut, and other milk alternatives are thrown under the bus, along with the lactose-intolerant brown and yellow people who depend on them, is shocking.

I’ve known since my 20s that I’m sensitive to dairy products, and can’t handle as much cheese and cream as I would like to eat, for congestive and digestive reasons. I didn’t need a medical diagnosis. I stopped eating it, and noticed how much better I felt.

Making sure I took in enough calcium to compensate for my dairy avoidance was a serious task. I also had to make sure I was getting enough vitamin D and other nutrients that milk is fortified with. I tasted my way through a range of imitation milks before settling on almond milk as my milky fluid of choice. I switched to mayonnaise instead of cheese, and I eat it with meat and vegetables.

And I’m happy to report that the dairy avoiding lifestyle is treating me fine.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 December 2012 15:12

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A cold, frosty, get-rich-quick scheme fails

By JAMES O. SOUTHWORTH - Special to The Outpost

In 1947, 17 years old, I was callow and unhappy with my life. I felt guilty about my personal life, by my lack of schooling, ashamed of our living conditions in the Beet Shack in Park City with no mother to herd me.

I had a ’33 Ford V8 coupe as I had been working on the railroad for a couple of years. The Ford had, I believe, the first V-8 motor. I didn’t like it too well, as at this time I was mostly ashamed of everything.

I had a good friend named Fred Russell who was about my age. Like me, he was a little unhappy with the life he was leading, and we talked about the brand new atomic energy plant that was hiring people at Hanford, Wash.

We decided to take my Ford and go out there and get us a good job and get rich. It was in January and Montana was colder than hell back then. We packed up what we thought we needed and put it in the rumble seat and took along an extra blanket.

This ’33 Ford had what they called a manifold heater. The heat was sort of funneled around the manifold. A little plate on the floorboard let you open or close it by sliding it up or down.

Those heaters worked good in July but left a little to be desired when it was cold. And at 20 degrees below zero, it was zilch. So Fred and I decided to take turns driving 100 miles while one of us would cover up with the blanket and then switch off and the blanket guy would have to drive 100 miles. It did work out, but it seemed a fella was always cold.

We stopped in St. Regis at a little highway restaurant to warm up and get something to eat. Jim Ed Brown was on the juke box singing “Little Jimmy Brown.” It was beautiful and sad, but we were on our way to the adventure of our 17-year-old lives.

Mullen Pass was solid ice. When we were on our way down, the little Ford would actually slide down on the wrong side of the highway on the curves, but two young guys at 17 years who were going to live forever didn’t pay it much mind. We made it through the mountains and hollered at Yakima as we went through and off through the desert sagebrush to Hanford.

We made our way to the headquarters and proudly presented ourselves to these lucky people who were going to hire two fine hands. Lo and behold, the weather was so bad that they told us that they wouldn’t be hiring anybody for about two weeks.


We checked our financial situation, and if I remember right, we had about $30 between us. This was a setback.

We didn’t have enough to get back home, so I came up with a brilliant idea. My older brother, Robert, lived in Oakland, Calif. We could go there and move in with him and perhaps get rich there. I knew Robert had all kinds of money.

So off we went down through Oregon, colder than hell. Taking turns driving, we mostly drove 24 hours a day the whole trip.

Fred was driving when we reached the California line. The sun, of which we hadn’t seen much, was out. The roadside was green and looked wonderful.

Fred said, “Let’s pull over and get some sleep.” It looked so good that we did pull over and “glub,” the Ford sank to the axles in mud. One of us had to stay with the Ford, so I hitched a ride to the next little town and hired a guy to come pull us out. It cost about $15 or $20.

But we were on our way again, perhaps a little gun shy by now. We made it into Oakland, found our way through the city and found my brother’s place.

We stayed a couple of days with him, and Fred and I could see that there wasn’t much available for us there and by now we were a little homesick. I borrowed $50 from Bob.

After we had got out of the mud on the California line, we were stopped by a Highway Patrol officer. He looked the Ford over, mumbling, “Montana license,” and someone in the past had taken the old lights off the Ford and installed sealed beam tractor lights on the front fenders.

They were really good lights, but the way they were put on, the vibration of the vehicle running would slowly push them up into the sky or way down onto the ground. And one of us would have to stop and get out and adjust them again, so we could see down the road.

The Highway Patrolman scratched his head after hearing our tale and told us, “Don’t drive this vehicle after dark in California.”

So we took off from my brother’s place in Oakland, and we were heading home. After traveling quite a while through the day, we were starting up the Sierra Nevada Mountains

It was getting to be dusk. A large highway sign warned us that to pass through these mountains, you had to have chains on. The snow was already a foot or two deep on the sides of the road. I had thrown an old pair of chains in the trunk as an afterthought. We pulled over and went to work putting these chains on.

They were old and busted here and there, but we managed to get them on, adjusted the headlights and took off up the mountain hoping to make it through Bonner Pass.

It started snowing, and the chains we had on were slapping the fenders, making the damndest noise. One of the chains flew off, but we just kept going.

This was a two-lane highway at the time, and we looked closely at the cars coming down for a patrolman. Then the other chain came off, and something told me to stop, get the chain and throw it in the trunk.

We adjusted the lights and again headed up the mountain. Sure enough, here came a Highway Patrolman down the mountain. As soon as we could, we stopped and adjusted the lights as they were in the treetops. We took off and the Highway Patrolman came up behind us with lights on.

After the usual procedure, he says, “Where are your chains?”

I said, “Oh, officer, sir, we had them on, but they came apart. I showed him the broken one that I had thrown into the trunk.

“Well,” he finally said, “you are leaving California with this pile of junk.”

And we were near the pass and the Nevada line. He said, ”Go on and don’t bring that vehicle back to California.”

“Oh, thank you, kind sir,” I said. And we were off through the pass and down the mountain, slipping and sliding. Nevada was cold and dry.

We made good time. When we got up out of Idaho Falls, the weather was getting much colder and when we reached West Yellowstone, it was near 30 below.

We were so cold that we pulled up in front of a hotel lobby. It was about 1 a.m., no attendant, real nice and warm. We settled down in a couple of plush chairs and were dozing there till about 6 a.m. We didn’t want to get arrested for vagrancy, so we went to the Ford and lo and behold, the Ford wouldn’t start.

It was the first and only time that old beat-up hummer had failed us. We talked a guy into giving us a pull and the Ford cracked right off, and down the road we went. We were only gone about seven or eight days.

Did we learn anything? Possibly.

I knew it was good to be home with my dad, brother and sisters. And my dad had gotten a little smarter, but he got real smart when I went into the service the following year.

I guess I had this itch and it wouldn’t go away: I had to go out “there.”

James O. Southworth lives in Billings and plays in the band Southbound.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 18:28

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Fiscal cliff debate could hurt Montana seniors


By JOY BRUCK - AARP Montana State President

As the debate in Washington rages over how to avoid the fiscal cliff before the Jan. 1 deadline, some lawmakers are using Social Security and Medicare as bargaining chips.

Among the proposals under consideration by legislative leaders is an effort to reduce the Cost of Living Adjustment or “COLA” that is regularly made to Social Security benefits.

The proposal on the table would change the way the COLA is calculated by moving to a “chained consumer price index” or chained CPI. The proposal is complex, but the result is easy to understand – this change would cut benefits to current and near retirees across the nation by $112 billion over the next 10 years.

How would that COLA change affect Montana retirees and their kids and grandkids? The math is staggering – this one seemingly small change would cut benefits to retired Montanans by almost $390 million over the next decade.

For thousands of older Montanans living on fixed incomes, the chained CPI is not the minor “tweak” that some say it is. Instead, it’s a significant benefit cut that will make it harder for Montana’s elderly to make ends meet.

The proposal assumes that when the cost of something you normally buy goes up, you will substitute a lower-cost item. This theory falls short since many seniors spend much of their money on prescription drugs, utilities and heath care costs that keep going up, but that don’t have a lower-cost substitute. When you look at the numbers, it is easy to see how harmful this change could be.

According to the Census Bureau, Montana has a greater percentage of its citizens relying on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their income than any other state in the nation. More than 139,850 Montana seniors rely on Social Security. Of those, 63.2 percent or about 88,385 Montanans count on Social Security for at least half of their income.

The average Social Security benefit paid to a retiree in Montana is $1,116 per month. This modest amount keeps more than 71,000 older Montanans out of poverty and allows many thousands more to live their retirement years independently and with peace of mind.

AARP believes Montanans have earned their Social Security by paying in every paycheck and they deserve a thoughtful, open debate about how to strengthen the program, not a last minute deal that will hurt seniors and their kids and grandkids.

Another harmful proposal being discussed in Washington is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. This proposal would take away guaranteed health coverage from younger seniors, increase costs for existing seniors and shift costs onto employers and our state.

Currently, 144,658 Montanans are enrolled in Medicare. If Congress were to raise the Medicare eligibility age, in the future about 20,470 Montanans would be left without health care coverage – forcing them into the private insurance market at considerable expense – estimated at over $2,000 per year. In addition, a Kaiser Family Foundation study concluded that removing the youngest and healthiest older Americans from the Medicare risk pool would increase premiums for those remaining in the Medicare program.

Instead of making shortsighted changes to Medicare, Washington needs to work to lower health care costs throughout the health care system.

AARP believes Montanans and all Americans deserve responsible solutions to Medicare and Social Security, not a short-sighted deal that will hurt all of us. That’s why we’re fighting to stop harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills. To join our fight and have your say about the future of Medicare and Social Security, go to

Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 18:19

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Flu cases on the rise

Local and state public health officials are reporting an increase in influenza activity and reminding all Montanans that it is not too late to vaccinate.

“Influenza season typically peaks in February and can last as late as May,” says Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Anna Whiting Sorrell. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated now.”

Each year, millions of people are infected with influenza, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and thousands die from its complications.

Public health officials stress that every Montanan aged 6 months and older should receive the influenza vaccine each year.

The influenza vaccine is available in two forms: a shot and a nasal spray. The nasal spray is for use in healthy people ages 2 to 49 years who are not pregnant.

Those at greater risk include:

Children younger than 5 years old, but especially children younger than 2 years old.

Pregnant women.

• People with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease.

• People 65 years and older

It’s also important to get the vaccine if you care for or live with anyone at greater risk. It is especially important for those caring for infants younger than 6 months to get vaccinated because infants less than 6 months old cannot be vaccinated.

Getting the influenza vaccine is more convenient than ever. Vaccines are available from your doctor, local health department, and at many retail pharmacies. The annual vaccine supply continues to grow, so everyone who wishes to can get the vaccine.

Please remember: the influenza vaccine is the single best way to prevent influenza and its serious complications.

For more information about influenza or the influenza vaccine, talk to your doctor or nurse, visit or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 18:14

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Stroke cases common

Public Health and Human Services

Each week, Thomas Mulgrew, a neurologist at St. Peter’s Hospital, sees approximately two new acute stroke cases. From his practice alone, more than 100 families in Lewis and Clark County are affected by stroke each year.

Since cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) is the No. 1 cause of death, and stroke is the leading cause of long-term adult disability, the impact on stroke victims and their families can be life-changing. Only about 10 percent of stroke survivors recover almost completely, according to the National Stroke Association.

“People may know that stroke is a brain attack that can cause death, but they don’t realize it is also a foremost reason for people to be placed in a nursing home,” said Dr. Mulgrew.

Preventing lasting disability from stroke can depend on receiving immediate treatment.

“It is critical to initiate medical treatment right away if someone has signs of a stroke,” said Dr. Mulgrew. “The sooner a person gets to the hospital, the better the patient does.” Calling 9-1-1 immediately can help ensure fast treatment.

Effective treatments can help treat stroke and reduce the risk of disability. At St. Peter’s Hospital, the most common treatment is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) delivered by IV. This is an enzyme found naturally in the body that helps dissolve blood clots. Most strokes are caused by a clot that starves brain tissue of blood flow and oxygen. The Food and Drug Administration strongly recommends that tPA be given within three hours from the time symptoms begin, so any delay can make the patient ineligible for the drug.

Since time is the most decisive factor for tPA treatment to be used, Dr. Mulgrew makes it clear that calling 9-1-1 is the fastest way to receive the best medical treatment for stroke. The ambulance crew will alert the stroke team at St. Peter’s. After intensive care and recovery, a team concentrates on a stroke survivor’s needs in physical and occupational therapy. For many of those who get fast treatment, rehabilitation may be much less extensive.

DPHHS encourages everyone to use this “Stroke Test” to help identify the signs of an oncoming stroke:

Ask the person to smile. Does one side droop, look crooked or not move?

Ask the person to repeat a sentence. Are the words inappropriate or slurred?

Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm seem to drift or not move?

If yes to any of these tests, call 911 immediately.

To learn more about stroke, visit or call 1-888-478-7653).

Last Updated on Friday, 14 December 2012 18:12

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Try local stores for Black Friday shopping, too


For The Outpost

American Express and other national money lenders have come up with a new way to get you to whip out the plastic: Green Saturday. After hitting the box stores on Black Friday, shop at small businesses, they urge.

Bah, humbug! The only thing small about locally owned retail stores is their square footage. Buy from your neighbors and you’ll receive super-sized service and personal attention, along with a plethora of gifts picked especially with Billings shoppers in mind.

So skip the Black Friday feeding frenzy at the big box stores that now threatens to take over Turkey Day itself. The following sample of local retailers selling everything from chocolates to saddles will help you get started.

The Billings Outpost says thanks to its fellow small businesses and you, our readers, for support through the years. Happy Holidays!




• Barjon’s Books. 221 N. 29th St. 252-4398. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Flying wish papers. Write this wish on paper and it flies in the air. 15 wishes for 10.95. $18.95 for 50.

• Al’s Bootery. 1820 First Ave N. 245-4827. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Selling both western and work boots. Buy a gift certificate.

• Bottega Clothing, Bottega Baby, 2814 Second Ave. N. 248-9078. Open Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thirty percent off the entire store, plus many other specials.

• Desmonds Men’s Store. 2819 Second Ave N. 245-4612. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Better men’s wear.

• Gypsy Wind. 202 N. 29th St. 252-2007. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. A true boutique: women’s clothing, antiques, collectibles, an eclectic mixture.

• Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters. 123 N. Broadway. 245-2248.

• Marcasa Clothing. 100 N. Broadway (406) 256-5585. Contemporary men’s and women’s clothing. Look for surprises on Friday.

• Montana Vintage Clothing. 112 N. 29th St. 248-7650. 10-530. Check out the new store.

• NeeCee’s. 2821 Second Ave N. 248-1722. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Twenty percent off storewide from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 15 percent off from 2-4 p.m., and 10 percent off until 6 p.m.

• Good Earth Market. 3024 Second Ave. N. 259-2622. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Environmentally friendly gifts: scarves, stockings, hats, ornaments. Fresh roasted nuts. Special order gift baskets.

• Montague’s Jewelers. 2810 Second Ave. N. (406) 294-9370. 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Jewelry designed by award-winning artist Gregg Ruth. Storewide discounts of up to 70 percent.

• Brockel’s Chocolates. 117 N. 29th St. 248-2705. 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Unique, handmade chocolates and candies. Create your own assortment.

• Global Village. 2720 Third Ave. N. 259-3024. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Creches and ornaments from around the world.

• Mitchell Golf. 3007 Montana Ave. 245-8691. 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Bonus for purchase of a $100 gift certificate: one hour of simulator time, a $28 value.

• Montana Leather Co. 2015 First Ave. N. 245-1660. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Leather, belts, finished saddlery goods, deerskin gloves made in Montana.

Oxford Hotel Antiques. 2411 Montana Ave. 248-2094. 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Vintage costume jewelry. Records. Retro ’50s furnishings and Christmas ornaments. Toys.

• Rand’s Custom Hats. 2205 First Ave. N. 259-4886. Handmade, custom felt hats, to your specifications. Miniature hat gift certificates for Christmas.

• Paula’s Edibles. 2712 Second Ave. N. 655-0865. 8 a.m. until the parade ends. The signature piece: chocolate-dipped cinnamon Santas.

• Yesteryears Antiques. 256-3567. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. An antiques mall, now expanded, with dozens of dealers and also consignments.


• Apricot Lane. 1603 Grand Ave. Suite 100. 839-9360. 8 am to 6 p.m. Free gift for first 100 customers. Something for everyone. Wide price range.

• Buffalo Chips Indian Arts and Crafts. 327 S. 24th St. W. 656-8954. 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. One-of-a-kind jewelry, turquoise.

• Copper Colander. 2440 Grant Road. 294-9628. 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday only, 30 percent off everything on the 100-foot gadget wall, plus other in-store specials.

• Montana Cycling & Ski. 824 Shiloh Crossing Blvd. 534-0430. 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Everything for winter sports and cycling.

• The Spoke Shop. 1910 Broadwater Ave. 656-8342. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.. On special, Socks Guy socks. Buy one, get one free.

• The Base Camp. 1730 Grand Ave. 248-4555. 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Black diamond power stretch gloves. $12.95. Lorpen merino wool socks, adult light or medium weight, and for kids, all half price.

• Jason’s Clothing for Men. 2564 King Ave. W. 655-4300. 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Jason’s offers holiday bucks. Every customer receives from $25 to $65 off.

• Broadwater Mercantile Antiques. 1844 Broadwater Ave. 652-4590. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Storewide discounts of up to 50 percent off.

• Montague’s Jewelers. Rimrock Mall. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Selected group of items from 40 percent to 70 percent off. Western Montana loose sapphires.

• Chalet Market 327 24th St. W. 656-6600. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Many Made in Montana products, including buffalo salami.

Last Updated on Saturday, 24 November 2012 13:22

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Organic food study misses point about pesticides


By ARI LEVAUX - @arilevaux

The way headlines broke around a recent Stanford study comparing organic and conventionally grown foods, you’d think organic had been left for dead.

The New York Times, for example, announced that “Stanford Scientists Cast Doubt on Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce.” Maybe the doubt was inferred from the meta-study’s lukewarm synopsis: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Now wait a minute. It’s true that ideologues can attribute positive benefits to whatever they want, but organic food has never been seriously touted as more nutritious or vitamin-rich than conventional food. Nor is it the cure for HIV, or the preferred food of unicorns.

Organic has always been defined by what it isn’t, and its first rule of organic food is that it’s free of things like “pesticide residues” and “antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” The study confirms what organic supporters have long purported to be the case: organic food is less adulterated by things you don’t want in your food.

The organic watchdog group Cornucupia Institute called the Stanford study “biased” in a Sept. 12 press release, which also raised questions about the study’s funding. Several of the authors are fellows and affiliates of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute, which has received funding from big-ag companies including Cargill.

The study synthesized the results of 237 previously conducted studies that had compared nutrient and pesticide residue levels in organic and conventional food. While residue levels were compared with the EPA’s allowable levels (they mostly complied), Cornucopia complained that it did not discuss any of the specific dangers posed by pesticides, such as a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics that found children with organophosphate pesticides in their systems were more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Another organophosphate pesticide is chlorpyrifos, also poses a risk to the brains of children, especially via prenatal exposure. Once widely used as a residential roach-killer, chlorpyrifos was banned for home use by the EPA in 2001. The chemical is still permitted for agricultural use on fruit trees and vegetables, and is known by its Dow trade name Lorsban. According to the EPA, 10 million pounds of it is applied annually in the U.S.

The regulation of chlorpyrifos, like that of most chemicals, has not been consistent over the years. It is now more strictly controlled than it used to be, and it’s possible that someday it will be more heavily regulated than it is today.

In fact, the EPA announced in July that it plans to require reductions in chlorpyrifos application rates and apply additional rules designed to protect children and other bystanders from exposure in agricultural applications and others. The agency expects to make a final decision in 2014, with implementation to follow sometime after that. Until then, families in rural towns where farm workers live will continue to expose their children to doses of a neurotoxin that we’re pretty sure will soon be illegal.

Chlorpyrifos has recently been found to stunt development more in males than females. A study conducted in New York City and published in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology found that while both boy and girl IQ scores were lower following exposure, boys’ brains were especially affected.

The study used umbilical cord blood drawn at birth to assess exposure levels in babies born before and after the EPA’s 2001 ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos, and as expected exposure levels dropped following the ban. It isn’t known why boy brains are more vulnerable to the chemical - part of the picture may be that boy brains seem to be more sensitive at young ages in general.

Lead, for example, also affects infant boy brains more adversely. Also, studies done with rats show that chlorpyrifos lowers testosterone, which in humans could lead to a drop in male IQ, as the hormone is crucial to male brain development.

Clearly, we’re still learning about the effects of chlorpyrifos on people, not to mention untargeted organisms like amphibians, or the ecosystems these creatures belong to. Chlorpyrifos is just one of more than 1,400 pesticides regulated by the EPA.

While the danger of any given pesticide is constant, how it’s regulated is changeable. Unfortunately, lobbyists and political appointees who might be neither concerned nor educated about pesticides can have undue influence over if, when, and how they’re used. Given our slowly evolving scientific understanding of pesticide chemicals, and the glacial pace of political change, the Stanford study results support the idea that eating organic reduces exposure to things we may someday realize are bad for us, as well as things that we now know are bad, like chicken and pork contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Had the Stanford study shown higher nutrient levels in organic food, you could be sure the organic industry would be parading those results like the Greeks dragging Hector’s body around Troy. But if differences in nutrient content is what we want to look for, in my opinion we should compare nutrient levels of food grown on small, crop-diverse family farms with food grown in large monocultures.

The Stanford study compared the nutrient levels largely between organic factory farms and conventional factory farms. I’d like to see factory farm versus family farm. Practices common on small, integrated farms – like composting, crop rotation, and mulching – tend to build richer-than-average soil. It would be interesting to compare nutrition levels in small farms that do these things with large farms that don’t.

Still, nutrient levels are just one part of the debate on sustainable and fair agriculture. To many in the sustainable-food movement, factory-farmed organic, such as what you get at Whole Foods, is an imperfect compromise. As a wise farmer once told me, “most Big Organic food is still grown by exploited brown people on massive monocultures – just without chemicals.”

The Stanford report concludes with the kind of self-contradictory statement that embodies the general confusion the study has generated. The evidence does not suggest marked health benefits from consuming organic versus conventional foods, although organic produce may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and organic chicken and pork may reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In other words, organic isn’t any better, but it might be less worse. Well, alright. But if the Stanford team’s idea of health includes pesticide residues and antibiotic resistant bacteria in my system, I’d hate to meet its criteria for sick.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:23

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American Lung Association

November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Month. COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the United States (behind heart disease and cancer) and kills more than 120,000 American each year. It includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, lung diseases characterized by an obstruction to airflow that interferes with normal breathing.

More than 12 million people are diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million are likely to have the disease and not know it.

In recent years, more women than men have died from COPD. The death rate among women has nearly tripled from 1980 to 2005.

In Montana it is estimated that 47,115 people have COPD. The number of people with COPD is increasing and diagnosis can help treatment and management of the disease. Signs and symptoms of COPD include:

• Constant coughing, sometimes called “smoker’s cough.”

• Shortness of breath while doing everyday activities.

• Producing a lot of sputum (also called phlegm or mucus).

• Feeling like you can’t breathe or take a deep breath.

• Wheezing.

These symptoms are often ignored or dismissed as normal signs of aging, or of being out of shape, which explains why so many people remain undiagnosed.

Although COPD can’t be cured, people at risk of COPD, especially current and former smokers with COPD symptoms, should consult their physicians about a simple breathing test called spirometry in order to diagnose the disease.

With approximately one in five Americans over the age of 45 suffering from COPD, it is likely that we each know someone who has the symptoms. The primary cause of COPD is the inhalation of cigarette smoke. Other causes include exposure to occupational dust particles and chemicals, as well as a rare genetic mutation called Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency.

There are treatment and resources available for those diagnosed with COPD. If diagnosed with COPD, the American Lung Association is ready to help with information and support for those with COPD and their loved ones.

We are here to help people with COPD quit smoking, learn personal management techniques, improve communication with their doctor, and become more physically active, which along with the proper medication, can make a big difference in one’s quality of life.

Once diagnosed:

• If you’re a smoker – quit now! The American Lung Association has a Freedom from Smoking on-line program to

• Take any medicine you’re prescribed exactly as instructed. If you are having problems, talk with your healthcare provider about possible solutions.

• Get active! Keep as physically fit as possible and discuss pulmonary rehabilitation with your physician. Pulmonary rehabilitation can help you rebuild strength and reduce shortness of breath.

• Educate yourself. Trained health professionals are available on the American Lung Association help line (1-800-LUNG-USA) and online support at

• Get Support. Controlling COPD is easier as a team effort. Ask for and get support from those who love you. Ask your doctor or respiratory therapist if there is a Better Breathers Club or support group in your community.

• Clean air will help your ability to breathe. Make sure indoor and outdoor air quality is at healthy levels by checking wood smoke, pollution and other environmental factors.

You can advocate for strong Clean Air Act standards by participating in a national call-in day to President Obama on Dec. 4 (call (202) 456-1111) or find out information about sending in comments about a strong particulate pollution standard on the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air page at

Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 10:21

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Hunting season poses dilemma for hunter

By ARI LeVAUX - @arilevaux
ari-hunting 2colful
Photo by Ari LeVaux - Moral quandary or just good eating? Hunters have to decide.

The difference between hunting and shooting animals Hunting animals can mean a lot of things, from freezer filling to sport killing. As a meat hunter, I’m looking for a year’s worth of protein, with or without antlers. Hunting season is a beautiful, invigorating part of my annual routine that gets my ass up and outside early and often. While I don’t hunt for the thrill of killing, the post-kill posing or for big racks, as a hunter I’m lumped together with everyone else who shoots guns at animals.

I don’t mind being associated with the interior decorators and stuffed-animal collectors, assuming the trophy hunters in question actually eat their meat. But I’m less into being grouped with those who shoot “varmints,” or supposed pest animals, for fun, and other practitioners of sport killing. Perhaps “animal shooting” would be more descriptive than hunting of what they do.

But semantics can’t change the fact that I shop at the same gear stores as the sport killers, and we share space at the range and in the field as well. We respect each others’ safety by following safe shooting etiquette. I’ll even listen politely at the gas station if some proud killer has a story to tell. A friend who took me on my first elk hunting trip is a varmint hunter. We had a great time together, but remained worlds apart with regard to how we really feel about shooting animals.

A seldom-discussed divide exists in the hunting community between those who hunt because they enjoy shooting at living targets, and those who hunt despite the killing part. There are also those who hunt as part of their overarching obsession with guns-after all, shooting at real, living things is what guns were designed for. In my experience, however, very little time spent hunting is spent actually killing. You can hunt hard for days or even weeks and come up empty, and I’m OK with that. It’s part of the process. And even when you are successful, the kill itself is about as fast as a speeding bullet.

Trophy hunters can at least decorate their homes with skulls, fur and bones, and bask in their glory. But with sport killers, generally, as soon as one animal is down it’s onto the next, like a gambler sitting at a slot machine.

Varmint hunters can generally shoot as many animals as they want, since the targeted animal is a legally ordained pest. Prairie dog hunters will drive hundreds of miles to explode the little critters with high-powered long-range rifles.

In fact, “explode” doesn’t do justice to what happens to a prairie dog hit with a .50 BMG (a very large bullet). “Vaporize” is closer to the point, like when a ripe peach collides with a baseball bat. The movie “Killing Coyote” has amazing footage of prairie dogs being instantaneously replaced with red mist by the slug of a high-caliber rifle.

I’m a rifle hunter, but not a lover of guns. But while I don’t love of guns, I do love my Ruger .270. It’s one of my most sacred possessions and best friends, and the annual journey we take together has given me some of my life’s best moments, as well as many freezers full of the best meat there is.

Medical research has found several benefits to wild game, as distinct from feedlot-raised livestock, but many of these discoveries have yet to permeate standard dietary practices. You’ve probably seen endless reports linking red meat to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other such so-called diseases of civilization. But until very recently, few of these studies have distinguished between an Oscar Meyer wiener and Wilbur the pig, never mind Bambi.

A 2010 Harvard School of Public Health meta-study found a clear correlation between diseases of civilization and processed red meat, but the correlation with unprocessed meat was weak. The take-home message, not surprisingly, is that whole cuts of meat are better for you than meat that’s been adulterated in all sorts of ways.

But in the Harvard study, both the processed and unprocessed meats were status-quo grain- and soy-fed cattle grown on feedlots. By contrast, wild game is the ultimate unprocessed meat, from the ground up. These animals consume no processed feeds, which in addition to their questionable main ingredients can also contain anything from antibiotics to candy to concrete mix.

While I wait for scientific consensus on the relative health benefits and risks of wild game versus livestock, I’m going to continue to follow my gut and eat game. It feels right, it tastes good, and the tidbits we have learned thus far are encouraging.

From an environmental standpoint, hunting your own is one of the few defensible approaches to eating meat. Growing food to feed livestock, we all know, is a terribly inefficient use of land and water. Now that humans have killed off most deer predators and replaced much of their habitat with farmland full of tasty crops, deer populations have exploded like rats in the city. Taking your share does farmers a favor.

Hunted meat is the only meat I want to eat. Pulling the trigger may not be my favorite part of preparing the daily meal, but neither is doing the dishes. It’s all part of the package of eating well.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:38

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Scientists looking at changes in Antarctica ice

Photo by Jay Rotella, MSU Bozeman A mother Weddell seal with her pup in front of Mt. Erebus in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. The tagged mother and pup are both part of MSU’s long-term study of population dynamics in Weddell seals in Erebus Bay, Antarctica.By EVELYN BOSWELL - MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Montana State University ecologists who have returned to Antarctica for another season had to adapt to dramatic changes in the sea ice last year.

Now they have published a paper that says the Weddell seals they monitor had to deal with some dramatic changes in ice in recent years, too. In fact, the seals handled the adverse conditions well and suffered less than the Emperor penguins in that region.

The paper was published Sept. 26 in the international journal, “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.”

Lead author was Thierry Chambert, a doctoral student supervised by co-authors Bob Garrott and Jay Rotella in the MSU ecology department. Rotella and Garrott have just received a National Science Foundation grant for $867,272 that will extend their long-term study by five more years.

Last year, the researchers encountered unusually thin ice that was three feet thick instead of the usual 12 to 16 feet, Garrott said. Large cracks and active breaks threatened snowmobile travel. As a result, the faculty members and students moved their base camp to a safer spot and set up emergency camps around their study area. When they couldn’t cross the ice on snowmobiles, they flew by helicopter.

In the course of their work, Rotella said the researchers saw how the Weddell seals faced their own challenges from massive icebergs that broke off and dramatically changed sea-ice conditions in a number of recent years.

Using data from 29 years, the team was able to compare seal numbers, as well as rates of pup production and adult survival, from before, during, and after the iceberg event, to learn how the seals fared.

The number of seals they observed and the number of pups that were born during the peak of the iceberg event were down to unprecedented low numbers, but monitoring showed that, “the seals, in fact, handled the event quite well,” Rotella said.

He explained that the seals were able to maintain high survival rates by lowering their breeding efforts during the years of iceberg presence. They tended to avoid breeding colonies when sea-ice conditions were particularly unfavorable.

The Emperor penguins, however, continued their normal activities during the worst of the iceberg event. The result was dramatic with dying penguins, as well as breeding failures, Rotella said. He noted that moving ice crushed eggs and even some adults at the peak of the iceberg event.

Exhaustion and starvation might also have been an issue for penguins that walked across the ice from open water to their nesting colonies.

“These results reveal that, depending on their ecology, different species can suffer different impacts from an extreme environmental disturbance,” said Rotella, the new leader of the Weddell seal study.

“The results also reveal the importance of having long-term data to evaluate possible effects,” Rotella continued.

“Without the data, we couldn’t have known whether this extreme environmental event had extreme consequences for the seals or not. Fortunately for the seals, it did not. We learned that the seals were quite capable of riding out the massive changes in ice conditions as long as they didn’t persist too long.”

Rotella said the relationship between thinner ice and icebergs is outside of his field of expertise, but he said that ice provides protection from predators like orcas and leopard seals. It also serves as a platform for Weddell seals in the first few weeks of their lives when they have little fat for staying warm in the water and can’t swim well yet. When the ice is thinner, predators have better access to the breeding areas used by penguins and Weddell seals for rearing their young. It is also easier for storms to shatter the ice sheets and for the area to have open water.

No one knows what this season will bring for sea-ice conditions, but the MSU researchers said they hope it isn’t a repeat of last year.

“That was very challenging,” Garrott said. “We really don’t know what the ice conditions are like this year until we get down there.”

This year’s field season runs from about Oct. 10 to mid-December, with Rotella going down for the first half of the season and Garrott for the second half. Mary Lynn Price, a video journalist who has joined the group for the past two seasons, will be there for three weeks in the middle, with her stay overlapping Rotella’s and Garrott’s.

Price will again produce a variety of videos and other materials that will be available to the public. For more information, go to the video blog at and the YouTube channel at

This will be the 45th season for the study that Garrott and Rotella took over around 2001 from Don Siniff at the University of Minnesota. Initiated by Siniff, the study is one of the longer running animal population studies and the longest marine mammal study in the southern hemisphere. It not only focuses on changes in the Weddell seal population, but it yields broader information about the workings of the marine environment. The study incorporates information on sea ice, fish, ecosystem dynamics, climate change, and even the Antarctic toothfish, which is marketed in U.S. restaurants as Chilean sea bass.

The MSU study concentrates on pups and adult breeding females that live in the Ross Sea, which is the most pristine ocean left in the world and the only marine system whose top predators – including the Weddell seal – still flourish.

The researchers start the season by weighing and tagging every pup when it’s about two days old. Later in the season, they visit every colony in their study, collecting genetic samples and recording every tag they find. Weddell seals are relatively gentle for being a top predator in the ecosystem, but they can weigh over 1,000 pounds and have a set of teeth like a bear’s, Garrott has said in the past.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:32

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