It’s been more than a decade since scientists first raised an alarm about arsenic levels in rice—an alarm based on the realization that rice plants have a natural ability to absorb the toxic element out of the soil.
Since then study after study has confirmed that rice products contain more arsenic than those of any other grain. In response, consumer health advocates have pushed for regulatory agencies to set a safety standard for rice (more on that story in my forthcoming feature story in the October 2013 issue of Discover).
China, a high rice-consumption country, has already moved to do so. The World Health Organization is currently taking comments on a proposed safety standard. And last year—in a somewhat grudging response to pressure from activist groups in this country—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it was also studying the issue.
Waiting for Regulation
And studying and studying, apparently. Although the FDA released some data on arsenic contamination of rice last fall—in direct response to a comprehensive report on the issue from Consumers Union researchers—the agency has yet to provide any further information or to set a deadline on when it might set a protective limit.
In frustration, public health researchers at Consumers Union and the attorney general of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, last month wrote to the FDA asking why the agency was moving so slowly to protect American consumers, underlining the point that the agency’s preliminary results found the taint of arsenic in pretty much every rice product tested.
In the weeks since then the FDA has neither budged nor attempted to clarify the situation for the public. A story on the subject by the Chicago Tribune noted that when queried the FDA refused to provide any information (my experience with this agency, by the way). And the USA Rice Federation insisted, “no arsenic related health effects from eating rice are known” (also my experience with the association).
However those assertions—and the agency’s apparently reluctant approach—may need revising: A study released last week has shown the first direct link between rice consumption and arsenic-induced genetic damage.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has rejected Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) request to establish a Select Committee to investigate the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11. In a strongly worded letter delivered to the former GOP presidential hopeful on Friday, Reid rebuked Republicans for politicizing the killings and baselessly claiming that the Obama administration is engaged in a cover-up of the incident. ‘I refuse to allow the Senate to be used as a venue for baseless partisan attacks,’ Reid wrote, noting that several committees in the House and Senate are already investigating the tragedy.
Earlier this week, McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), held around the clock press conferences and media appearances insisting that U.N. Ambassador misled the public when she described, five days after the attacks, the incident as a ‘spontaneous attack’ inspired by an anti-Islam video. McCain and Graham promised to block Rice should she be nominated to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State; Ayotte said she would consider the nomination.
President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.
Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.
Condoleezza Rice never addressed President Obama by name, but the former secretary of state delivered a sharp rejection of his foreign policy tonight, charging that the White House had forsaken past and potential allies, leaving the world to wonder, “Where does America stand?”
“When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question,” she told the Republican National Convention, “the world is a chaotic and dangerous place.”
Rice picked up on a theme laid out earlier tonight by Sen. John McCain who warned that “if America doesn’t lead, our adversaries will, and the world will grow darker, poorer and much more dangerous.” Rice criticized the president for taking a backseat to NATO during the battle for Libya and not doing more to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
“We cannot be reluctant to lead,” Rice told fellow Republicans, who welcomed her to the stage with enthusiastic applause. “And you cannot lead from behind. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality, that our leadership abroad and our well-being at home are inextricably linked.”
“Our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve because peace really does come through strength,” said Rice, who was secretary of state in President George W. Bush’s administration.
Turning to concerns that a growing deficit could undermine American influence abroad, she focused on China.
“Just consider this,” she said. “The United States has ratified only three trade agreements in the last few years and those were negotiated in the Bush administration. China has signed 15 free trade agreements and is in the progress of negotiating as many as 18 more. Sadly we are abandoning the field of free and fair trade, and it will come back to haunt us.”
Allies…adversaries…failure to lead…free trade agreements…blah blah blah. If only Obama had captured or killed OBL.
A sovereign citizen leader and purported Rabbi was arrested after a standoff with police in Arizona, after he failed to appear in court to face charges for a $1.3 million money laundering scheme.
According to a press release from the FBI, Shawn Rice had barricaded himself in a residence in Seligman, Arizona on Thursday with his wife and two children, and refused to come out. After several hours of negotiating with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, Rice eventually did come out and was arrested without incident.
Rice had previously been indicted in March 2009 for conspiracy to commit money laundering and 30 counts of money laundering. Federal officials said the most recent arrest was over his failure to appear in court in connection with those charges, the The Daily Courier reports.
“After his arrest and initial appearance on these charges, Rice was released pending further court proceedings,” said Special Agent Patrick S. Turner. “Rice subsequently failed to appear at four separate court proceedings.”
Rice is also facing a weapons charge.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Rice is what’s called a “guru,” the closest thing the sovereign citizen movement has to a leader. He also purports to be a lawyer and a Rabbi.
Human serum albumin from transgenic rice could ease shortages of donated blood.
One can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, but new research suggests that a bit of transgenic tweaking may make it possible to squeeze blood—or at least blood protein—from a grain of rice. In a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe rice seeds that can produce substantial quantities of a blood protein called human serum albumin, or HSA.
HSA is in high demand around the world, both for its role in drug and vaccine production and for use in treating patients with severe burns and other serious conditions such as haemorrhagic shock and liver cirrhosis. The primary source of therapeutic HSA is donated human blood. To overcome limitations caused by blood shortages and contamination of donated blood by viruses, researchers worldwide have been working to create functional HSA either synthetically, with the help of yeast and bacteria, or in transgenic organisms such as cows and tobacco.
In China, which has suffered from HSA shortages and contaminated blood supplies, the idea of using an abundant crop like rice to supplement or even supplant the current albumin supply is an attractive one. “We could ease demand for HSA and reduce the potential risk of spreading viruses in blood plasma. That’s what prompted me to do something like this,” says Daichang Yang, a plant biotechnologist at Wuhan University, China, who led the research.
Researchers from the United States, the Philippines and the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) looked at the impact of rising daily minimum and maximum temperatures on irrigated rice production between 1994-1999 in 227 fields in China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
They found that the main culprit in cutting rice yields was higher daily minimum temperatures.
“As the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop,” said Jarrod Welch of the University of California, San Diego, and lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
“Up to a point, higher daytime temperatures can increase rice yield but future yield losses caused by higher night-time temperatures will likely outweigh any such gains because temperatures are rising faster at night,” Welch said.
Rising temperatures in the past 25 years have already cut rice yields at several key growing locations by 10-20 percent.
The loss in production is expected to get worse as temperatures rise further towards the middle of the century, said Welch.
Russia is apparently on-board now. China and India have to come on board, as this report makes clear. The U.S. has rightly been wary of the tendency of some nations to promise everything and get around to nothing, something we’ve seen in the wake of the Kyoto accords already. But at this point, there’s a real chance that if we too sign on to an emissions reduction treaty, it’ll be observed all around.
Never in a million years would I have guessed this. Seriously, the headline looks like something you’d see from The Onion.
Construction workers in ancient China used sticky rice to make a super-strong mortar for city walls and other structures that even withstood earthquakes. Chemists now have discovered the ingredient in sticky rice that made the mortar so strong.