Post office closings and mail-in ballots • Nitrites in California drinking water • Chastising an angry governor • Labeling genetically-engineered foods
According to the U.S. Election Commission, one in five voters cast mail-in ballots in 2010. Hannah Dreier, reporting for AP, writes that the planned closings of some “223 processing centers and thousands of post offices, adding to the 153 centers and 965 post offices that have closed since 2008” could effectively disenfranchise some rural voters, imperil the security of ballots, and delay election results by as much as five days.
“’We just have to have a moratorium through this presidential year to avoid disastrous consequences,’ said California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who wrote a letter last week to the postmaster general urging a halt to the closures until after the November election. ‘I’m asking for a time-out.’”
The next round of post office and processing-center closures is due in August.
• “We’re going to kick your ass and send you out of the state.”
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman had these harsh words for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), as he spoke before a group of cheering cattlemen last week in Lexington, NE. Heineman has portrayed the HSUS as a “leftist” organization” that is “anti-agriculture”
The Humane Society has been working with the Nebraska Farmers Union and other livestock producers, a dialogue that has proven amazing to many and appalling to some, like the governor. Since Heineman’s inflammatory comments, both the Humane Society and John Hansen, president Nebraska Farmers Union, have publicly objected and asked the governor to back down.
“I urge you to get off your soapbox,” Jocelyn Nickerson, the Humane Society’s state director, wrote the governor. “Face the fact that a discussion about animal welfare in agriculture is not only appropriate but necessary.
“When major corporations, including McDonald’s and Burger King, and so many others, base procurement decisions on animal welfare, do you really want farmers in Nebraska to stand in place and not make adjustments related to consumer attitudes and the best available science?”
• Nitrite pollution is imperiling the drinking water of five rural California counties, among the most agriculturally productive in the nation, according to a new study from the Food & Environment Reporting Network.
Nitrite levels, which have risen dramatically since the advent of synthetic fertilizers, “have been linked to thyroid cancer, skin rashes, hair loss, birth defects and ‘blue baby syndrome,’ a potentially fatal blood disorder in infants.”
The study reports “rural residents are at greater risk because they depend on private wells, which are often shallower and not monitored to the same degree as public water sources.”
Today, the state’s Central Coast water board meets to consider new ag regulations.
• According to federal court records, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed that a Wyoming Indian tribe may kill two bald eagles for religious purposes. The Northern Arapaho Tribe had charged that an earlier refusal to issue such a permit violated tribal members’ religious freedom.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service a few years ago prosecuted a Northern Arapaho man who killed a bald eagle without a permit for use in the tribe’s annual Sun Dance.”
• Ten U.S. Senators and 45 members of the House of Representatives have petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
“Japan, Australia, China, Russia, Brazil and 15 European countries are among those requiring labeling for GE foods,” but thus far not the U.S.
• The Cabin in the Woods, a horror film from Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, opened Friday at the SXSW film festival in Austin, Texas.
According to Jake Coyle of AP, “Normally, you would expect a film about five college kids who travel to a remote country cabin far from cell service to summon fright from being disconnected, stuck in a rural backwater.
“Instead, the cabin is quickly revealed to be exceptionally high-tech and therein lies the horror to come. Escaping the network is futile.”
Tell that to all the mortified (if not horrified) Yonderites with dial-up!