Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, March 1, 2003day link 

picture Paul Stamets is a mushroom prophet. Well, he's an expert on fungi and mycelia - the underground networks of which mushrooms are the fruits. And he has apparently made many interesting discoveries, particularly concerning the capabilities of mycelia to clean up polluted soil. He calls it 'mycoremediation'. There is a nice article, originally from Whole Earth Magazine.
A couple of years ago Stamets partnered with Battelle, a major player in the bioremediation industry, on an experiment conducted on a site owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation in Bellingham. Diesel oil had contaminated the site, which the mycoremediation team inoculated with strains of oyster mycelia that Stamets had collected from old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. Two other bioremediation teams, one using bacteria, the other using engineered bacteria, were also given sections of the contaminated soil to test.

Lo and behold. After four weeks, oyster mushrooms up to 12 inches in diameter had formed on the mycoremediated soil. After eight weeks, 95 percent of the hydrocarbons had broken down, and the soil was deemed nontoxic and suitable for use in WSDOT highway landscaping. By contrast, neither of the bioremediated sites showed significant changes.

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 Nader on Patents
Wired prints a few words from Ralph Nader about the U.S. Patent system.
"The United States spends more than $1 billion annually to examine patents. Despite this expenditure, the Patent Office has become a glorified diploma mill, routinely granting rights that should never have been issued. The patents wouldn't stand up in court, but they're expensive to litigate. So why are we forcing developing countries to follow our lead when we don't do a good job ourselves? [...]

The system protects two groups: software companies with weak products who use patents to harass competitors, and patent lawyers. The ease of getting patents makes it economically attractive to abuse the system in a number of unpleasant ways. People obtain patents and then ask businesses to pay licensing fees that are cheaper than the cost of mounting a legal defense. Also, firms are wary of investing in new products for fear they will be ambushed by an infringement claim that may or may not be valid but will cost millions in legal fees."

[ | 2003-03-01 23:59 | 1 comment | PermaLink ]  More >

 Resignation of a diplomat
Career diplomat John Brady Kiesling has sent his letter of resignation to Secretary of State Colin Powell. It is well worth reading, as this is a person of integrity who's speaking the truth.
"The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?"

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