Tuesday Roundup: ‘Chicken Ranch’ Owner Dies

Judge dismisses organic farmers' suit against Monsanto • Owner of "best little whorehouse in Texas" dies • Song about Upper Big Branch Mine disaster • Bob Kerrey still fence-sitting on Senate race

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A federal judge has dismissed a suit filed by a consortium of organic farmers against Monsanto. 

The suit, brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, challenged Monsanto’s seed patents. The group wanted the courts to prohibit Monsanto from suing farmers or seed dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto’s patented biotech seed traits.

Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York said that no suits had been filed and that the organic group was engaged in a “transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists.”

The attorney for the organic growers, Daniel Ravicher, said some growers stop growing certain crops in order to avoid conflicts with Monsanto. 

“Her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing,” said Ravicher. “Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers.”

• One of our favorite newspapers, The Fayette County (Texas) Record, is reporting that Edna Milton Chadwell has died. She was 83 and lived in Phoenix. 

Chadwell is known for running the most famous brothel in rural America — heck, in all of America — what writer Larry King called “the best little whorehouse in Texas.” King’s story of Edna Milton’s brothel became a Broadway hit, and the character playing Edna was one of the stars of the show.

In La Grange, Texas, it was just known as the “Chicken Ranch,” a brothel that began just after the turn of the last century.

Edna Milton came to the Chicken Ranch in 1952 at the age of 23, according to the Texas State Historical Association. She soon took over the Chicken Ranch from Miss Jessie Williams. At the time, the brothel was on 11 acres a little outside the city limits of La Grange. Milton bought the Chicken Ranch for $30,000.

Like Miss Jessie, Edna Milton shopped locally, buying from every business in town. She gave to local civic causes and “became one of the town’s largest philanthropists.” During the 1950s, a helicopter from a military base made regular runs to the Chicken Ranch and a visit was part of the freshman routine for students at Texas A&M University.

The Chicken Ranch was immortalized in the ZZ Top classic rock and roller, “La Grange.” See those boys sing here

The Chicken Ranch ran until 1973, when a reporter for a Houston television station, Marvin Zindler, ran a week-long expose on the Texas institution. The governor became involved and the Chicken Ranch was closed. Sheriff T. J. Flourney tried to present Gov. Dolph Briscoe with a petition signed by 3,000 people supporting the Chicken Ranch, but Briscoe wouldn’t meet with the Fayette County official.

Edna Milton married and eventually moved to Phoenix. She talked to writer Jayme Lynn Blaschke (who is writing a history of the Chicken Ranch) about growing up poor in Oklahoma during the Depression and what choices she had: 

“I wanted to be able to work, I wanted to go to school. I wanted a good education, but I knew I would have to work like hell to get that, too. It wouldn’t be just a gift to me, you know. I knew I wanted it. I wanted to be a straight-A student. You know, if I had been, if I’d finished high school, I might’ve gotten a small scholarship or something. That’s what I really wanted to do.”

• The New York Times quotes a news radio station talk show host as saying a divide between rural and suburban students might have contributed to the tragic shootings of students in Chardon, Ohio. 

Since the school is in an entirely urban county, we wonder what he’s talking about.

• Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear writes in Roll Call that 82 people in that state die a month from prescription drug overdoses, more than are killed in highway accidents. “In Kentucky, our medicine cabinets are deadlier than our cars,” Besear wrote. 

• Democrat Bob Kerrey is still deciding whether to enter the Senate race in Nebraska.

Here is Dan Daniels’s song about the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster. It’s entitled “Blankenship Mine.” The CEO of the company that operated the mine was Don Blankenship. 

• The Rural School and Community Trust reports that rural school enrollment more than doubled from 1999 to 2009 in eight states.

Those states with rising rural enrollments are: Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, New Mexico and Florida.

Nationally, enrollment in rural school districts grew by over 22 percent during that time. “This compares with a 1.7% enrollment increase among all non-rural districts,” the Trust reports.

• More people are going to emergency rooms for routine dental problems. That costs 10 times more than preventive care in a dentist’s office.

The number of ER visits for dental problems increased 16 percent from 2006 to ’09.

Shortages of dentist, particularly in rural areas, have contributed to this trend, according to the AP. 

• China can’t meet its people’s demand for corn.

The country will increase its corn imports sevenfold by 2016, to 28 million metric tons. 

• President Obama says he supports plans to build the southern end of the Keystone XL pipeline, the stretch from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Port Arthur, Texas. 

The President has denied a permit for the northern leg, which would bring tar sands oil from Canada south to Cushing. 

• Floods, freezes and drought resulted in a record payout in crop insurance. Crop insurance payments for losses on 2011 crops topped $10 billion. 

 

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