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Of Wolves and Men – Barry Lopez

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Of Wolves and Men
Barry Lopez

Genre: Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: May 31, 2016

Publisher: Open Road Media

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


National Book Award Finalist: A “brilliant” study of the science and mythology of the wolf by the New York Times –bestselling author of Arctic Dreams ( The Washington Post ).  When John Fowles reviewed Of Wolves and Men , he called it “A remarkable book, both biologically absorbing and humanly rich, and one that should be read by every concerned American.” In this National Book Award–shortlisted work, literary master Barry Lopez guides us through the world of the wolf and our often-mistaken perceptions of another species’ place on our shared planet. Throughout the centuries, the wolf has been a figure of fascination and mystery, and a major motif in literature and myth. Inspiring fear and respect, the creature has long exerted a powerful influence on the human imagination. Of Wolves and Men takes the reader into the world of the Canis lupus and its relationship to humankind through the ages. Lopez draws on science, history, mythology, and his own field research to present a compelling portrait of wolves both real and imagined, dispelling our fear of them while celebrating their place in our history, legends, and hearts.  This ebook features an illustrated biography of Barry Lopez including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection. “A splendid, beautiful book.” — The Wall Street Journal “Fascinating. . . . A wealth of observation, mythology, and mysticism.” — The New York Times Book Review “Brilliant. . . . A work of intelligence, dedication, and beauty deserving the widest possible attention not only for the sake of wolves but also for the sake of men.” — The Washington Post Barry Lopez (b. 1945) is the author of thirteen books of essays, short stories, and nonfiction. He is a recipient of the National Book Award, the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and numerous other literary and cultural honors and awards. His highly acclaimed books include Arctic Dreams , Winter Count , and Of Wolves and Men, for which he received the John Burroughs and Christopher medals. He lives in western Oregon.     

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Of Wolves and Men – Barry Lopez

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The Impossible Burger wouldn’t be possible without genetic engineering

The Impossible Burger has had a charmed honeymoon period. Crowds of foodies surged into fancy eateries to try it. Environmentalists and animal rights activists swooned. So did investors: Impossible Foods brought in $75 million during its latest investment round.

Now the backlash is here. The activist organizations Friends of the Earth and the ETC Group dug up documents which they claim show that Impossible Foods “ignored FDA warnings about safety” — and they handed them over to the New York Times.

The ensuing story depicted Impossible Foods as a culinary version of Uber — disrupting so rapidly that it’s running “headlong into” government regulators. In reality, Impossible Foods has behaved like a pedestrian food company, working hand in hand with the FDA and following a well-worn path to comply with an arcane set of rules.

So why isn’t this story a nothingburger?

In a word: GMOs. You see, soy leghemoglobin, or SLH, the key ingredient that makes the Impossible Burger uniquely meaty, is churned out by genetically modified yeast. “This is a protein produced with genetic engineering; it’s a new food ingredient,” Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told me when I asked why they’d singled out Impossible Foods.

The company has never exactly hidden the fact that they used genetic engineering, but they haven’t put it front and center either. You have to dig into their “frequently asked questions” to catch that detail — and that’s a recent edit, according to Perls. “When I first looked at the Impossible Foods website, maybe back in March, there was no mention of genetic engineering,” she said. (An Impossible Foods spokesperson disputed Perls’s claim, saying the FAQ has included references to genetic engineering for at least a year, since before the burger’s launch in restaurants.*)

By tiptoeing around this issue, Impossible Foods set themselves up for a takedown by anti-GMO campaigners. These groups monitor new applications of genetic engineering, watch for potentially incriminating evidence, then work with journalists to publicize it. In 2014, Ecover, a green cleaning company, announced it was using oils made by algae as part of its pledge to remove palm oil — a major driver of deforestation — from its products. When Friends of the Earth and the ETC Group figured out the algae was genetically engineered, they pinged the same Times writer. Ecover quickly went back to palm oil.

When I asked Impossible Foods’ founder Pat Brown about the GMO question, he said he didn’t think that battle was theirs to fight. After all, the SLH may be produced by transgenic yeast, but it isn’t a GMO itself. He also pointed out that this isn’t unusual: nearly all cheese contains a GMO-produced enzyme.

But now, Friends of the Earth and the ETC Group have brought their battle to Impossible Foods’ doorstep. (In a blistering series of responses to the New York Times article, the company charged it “was chock full of factual errors and misrepresentations and was instigated by an extremist anti-science group.”) The FDA documents handed over to the Times include worrying sentences like this one: “FDA stated that the current arguments at hand, individually and collectively, were not enough to establish the safety of SLH for consumption.”

If FDA officials say your company hasn’t done enough to convince them that a new ingredient is safe, aren’t you supposed to pull it off the market?

That’s not how it works, said Gary Yingling, a former FDA official now helping Impossible Foods navigate the bureaucracy. In the United States, it’s up to the companies themselves to determine if an ingredient is safe. Impossible worked with a group of experts at universities who decided that the burger was safe in 2014. SLH, it turns out, grows naturally in the roots of soy plants, and the proteins in the burger look a lot like animal proteins — a good indicator of safety.

Impossible could have stopped there: Companies, however, can ask the government to weigh in on their research. Sometimes, the FDA asks for more information, which is what happened with Impossible Foods. It’s not unusual for the FDA to determine it can’t establish the safety of a new ingredient — it’s happened more than 100 times, with substances like Ginkgo biloba, gum arabic, and Spirulina. The FDA has called for more information in about one in every seven of the ingredients companies have asked it to review.

In the case of SLH, the FDA suggested more tests, including rat-feeding trials. Impossible Foods has finished these tests, and academics who have studied the new data confirmed that it’s “generally recognized as safe.” Next, Impossible Foods will bring the new evidence back to the FDA, Yingling said.

Each new innovation creates the potential for new hazards. We can block some of those hazards by taking precautions. But how high should we put the precautionary bar?

Impossible Burger could indeed pose some unknown hazard. We just have to weigh that against the known hazards of the present — foodborne diseases in meat, greenhouse gases from animal production, the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in farms, and animal suffering. These are problems which Impossible Foods is trying to solve.

There are other companies trying to solve these problems. (Friends of the Earth notes that “the success of non-animal burgers, like the non-GMO Beyond Burger, demonstrates that plant-based animal substitutes can succeed without resorting to genetic engineering.”) But it’s not yet clear that any of these companies — including Impossible Foods — will be successful in just generating a profit, let alone in replacing the global meat industry. No one knows which startups will pan out. And we’ll probably need to try and discard lots of new things as we shift to a sustainable path.

Trying new things can be risky. Not trying new things — and staying on our current trajectory — is even more risky.

*This story has been updated to include a response from Impossible Foods about when references to genetic engineering first appeared in its FAQ.

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The Impossible Burger wouldn’t be possible without genetic engineering

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Utility companies knew about climate change for decades, too.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Utility companies knew about climate change for decades, too.

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An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – Al Gore

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An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Your Action Handbook to Learn the Science, Find Your Voice, and Help Solve the Climate Crisis

Al Gore

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $12.99

Publish Date: July 25, 2017

Publisher: Rodale

Seller: Rodale Inc.


The follow up to the #1 New York Times bestselling An Inconvenient Truth An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a daring call to action, exposing the reality of how humankind has aided in the destruction of our planet and groundbreaking information on what you can do now. Vice President Al Gore, a leading expert in climate change, combines cutting-edge research from top scientists around the world with photos, personal anecdotes, and observations to document the fast pace and wide scope of global warming. He presents, with alarming clarity and conclusiveness, that the fact of global climate change is not in question and that its consequences for the world we live in will be disastrous if left unchecked. Follow Vice President Gore around the globe as he tells a story of change in the making and offers real actionable steps that you can take to help reverse the damage. This riveting and thought-provoking book is a must-have for everyone who cares deeply about our planet.

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An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – Al Gore

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

Climate change is rapidly altering the region, and less sea ice means more ships are lining up to traverse its remote waters. “It’s what keeps us up at night,” Amy Merten, a NOAA employee, told the New York Times. “There’s just no infrastructure for response.”

Cargo ships and cruise liners are already setting sail, and the Trump administration is clearing the way for oil rigs to join them.

Canada, the U.S., and Russia have an agreement to help each other during emergencies, but the U.S. only has two functional heavy icebreaker ships, and rescue efforts would likely have to rely on other commercial ships being nearby.

To top it all off, the head of the Coast Guard, Paul Zukunft, says the U.S. is unprepared to deal with an Arctic oil spill. Zukunft pointed out the difficulty in cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill, which had much more favorable conditions.

“In the Arctic, it’s almost like trying to get it to the moon in some cases, especially if it’s in a season where it’s inaccessible; that really doubles, triples the difficulty of responding,” the head of the Navy’s climate change task force told Scientific American.

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Warren Buffett is driving truckloads of money into electric companies.

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Headstrong – Rachel Swaby

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Headstrong
52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World
Rachel Swaby

Genre: Reference

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: April 7, 2015

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Fifty-two inspiring and insightful profiles of history’s brightest female scientists. In 2013, the  New York Times  published an obituary for Yvonne Brill. It began: “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job, and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” It wasn’t until the second paragraph that readers discovered why the  Times had devoted several hundred words to her life: Brill was a brilliant rocket scientist who invented a propulsion system to keep communications satellites in orbit, and had recently been awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. Among the questions the obituary—and consequent outcry—prompted were, Who are the role models for today’s female scientists, and where can we find the stories that cast them in their true light?        Headstrong  delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

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Headstrong – Rachel Swaby

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A battle royale has broken out between clean power purists and pragmatists.

Two years ago, a paper came out arguing that America could cheaply power itself on wind, water, and solar energy alone. It was a big deal. Policy makers began relying on the study. A nonprofit launched to make the vision a reality. Celebrities got on board. We named the lead author of the study, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson, one of our Grist 50.

Now that research is under scrutiny. On Monday, 21 scientists published a paper that pointed out unrealistic assumptions in Jacobson’s analysis. For instance, Jacobson’s analysis relies on the country’s dams releasing water “equivalent to about 100 times the flow of the Mississippi River” to meet electricity demand as solar power ramps down in the evening, one of the critique’s lead authors, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, told the New York Times.

Jacobson immediately fired back, calling his critics “nuclear and fossil fuel supporters” and implying the authors had sold out to industry. This is just wrong. These guys aren’t shills.

It’s essentially a family feud, a conflict between people who otherwise share the same goals. Jacobson’s team thinks we can make a clean break from fossil fuels with renewables alone. Those critiquing his study think we need to be weaned off, with the help of nuclear, biofuels, and carbon capture.

Grist intends to take a deeper look at this subject in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

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A battle royale has broken out between clean power purists and pragmatists.

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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Homo Deus

A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $17.99

Publish Date: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Harper

Seller: HarperCollins


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods. Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together. The average American is a thousand times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century—from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus. With the same insight and clarity that made Sapiens an international hit and a New York Times bestseller, Harari maps out our future.

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Homo Deus – Yuval Noah Harari

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Trump Abroad: Big Talk, Not Much Big Action

Mother Jones

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Here’s a headline in the LA Times this morning:

Is this really true? I’m not so sure. What Trump demonstrated was big talk far more than big action. He signed a $110 billion weapons deal with the Saudis that was only a hair different from what Obama had agreed to. He announced a bunch of new business that would have happened with or without him. He supported the Saudi war in Yemen, but Obama did too. He visited all the usual places in Israel, just like Obama. He asked NATO countries to spend more on defense, just like Obama did. He played games with our Article 5 commitment, but afterward his aides made clear that nothing had changed.

Rhetorically, of course, Trump was very different indeed. Obama may have given the Saudis nearly everything they wanted, but Trump explicitly said he didn’t care about their human rights abuses. John Kerry worked endlessly on a peace deal in Israel, but he did it quietly. Trump blared his commitment to PEACE at every opportunity. Obama pushed our NATO allies to spend more on defense, but Trump gave a loud public speech about it.

Rhetoric matters, for good and ill, but the truth is that Trump’s rhetoric wasn’t accompanied by much in the way of action.1 In terms of what the US actually plans to do, there really hasn’t been much change so far.

1The biggest substantive difference is the possibility of US withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement. However, Trump hasn’t announced his decision about that yet.

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Trump Abroad: Big Talk, Not Much Big Action

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Kushnergate Update: Was It Really All About Syria?

Mother Jones

Here’s an interesting new tidbit on the Jared Kushner front. The New York Times account of Kushnergate says that the reason Kushner wanted to set up backchannel comms to Russia was so that Michael Flynn could hold private conversations about Syria. The Times didn’t characterize their sources for this information, but it turns out it was people providing Kushner’s side of the story. So why didn’t this detail make it into the Washington Post story?

So these sources said Kushner was setting up a channel to talk about Syria, which sounds fairly benign. But they refused to allow themselves to be quoted even as “sources close Kushner” or somesuch. So the Post passed.

Obviously this makes a difference. If the Syria story is Kushner’s alibi, it means a lot less than it would if it came from some relatively neutral source who happened to know what was going on. Discount it accordingly.

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Kushnergate Update: Was It Really All About Syria?

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