Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, February 19, 2021

While the world’s agricultural-industrial complex has yielded a neverending bounty of super-sized vegetables, studies show that bigger is not better:

Today’s vegetables might be larger, but if you think that means they contain more nutrients, you’d be wrong. [Biochemical researcher Donald R.] Davis writes that jumbo-sized produce contains more “dry matter” than anything else, which dilutes mineral concentrations. In other words, when it comes to growing food, less is more…

Less studied, though, is the “genetic dillution effect,” in which selective breeding to increase crop yield has led to declines in protein, amino acids, and as many as six minerals in one study of commercial broccoli grown in 1996 and ‘97 in South Carolina. Because nearly 90% of dry matter is carbohydrates, “when breeders select for high yield, they are, in effect, selecting mostly for high carbohydrate with no assurance that dozens of other nutrients and thousands of phytochemicals will all increase in proportion to yield.”

And not only is this jumbo produce bulkily-bereft, it’s also prematurely-picked:

Thanks to the growing rise of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, modern crops are being harvested faster than ever before. But quick and early harvests mean the produce has less time to absorb nutrients either from synthesis or the soil, and minerals like potassium (the “K” in N-P-K fertilizers) often interfere with a plant’s ability to take up nutrients. Monoculture farming practices — another hallmark of the Big Ag industry — have also led to soil-mineral depletion, which, in turn, affects the nutrient content of crops.

A lot of this comes off as a veiled pitch for the organic-food lobby. Maybe the agro-cultured stuff isn’t all bad. For instance, however lacking that “dry matter” vegetable fiber is, I’m guessing it’s a better option than eating junk food, and it’s filling.

But from a personal perspective, I’ve found that I actually prefer the smaller-sized organic versions of fruits and vegetables, precisely because they come in easier-to-handle units. Sometimes, a store-variety red delicious apple is just too damned big and filling for me to consider eating it as a mere snack; but its significantly-smaller organic counterpart is usually just the right size for a pick-me-up nosh. That it’s also more nutritionally dense is a bonus.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 10:35pm
Category: Food, Science
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The U.S. Department of Commerce may seem like just another anonymous Cabinet-level of Federal bureaucracy, but its role in overseeing the Census Bureau may be fueling the controversy over Republican Judd Gregg’s recent withdrawal as President Obama’s Secretary nominee:

The parties have been at loggerheads for years over how to conduct the census. Most everyone agrees that the traditional method — mail-back surveys and door-knocking follow-ups — fails to count millions of Americans. Democrats argue that the solution is to use statistical sampling models to extrapolate figures for the uncounted people. If minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are the most likely to be undercounted, then such sampling would presumably benefit the Democrats.

Republicans, for their part, argue that statistical sampling is unreliable and that the Constitution mandates an actual count. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, that under current law, sampling techniques could not be used to reapportion House seats from one state to another. But some experts still believe that it could be used in drawing district lines within the states, and to determine money flows.

And since the Constitutionally-mandated “enumeration” is scheduled for 2010, whoever runs Commerce will have a big say on which headcounting method is used — assuming the White House doesn’t muscle its way directly into the process.

Since the undercounting of the above-cited underclasses is the chief issue, allow me to advance (tongue-in-cheekily) a modest proposal that not only would make Jonathan Swift proud, but also is rooted in Constitutional language:

Restore the original “three-fifths of all other persons” portion of Article I, Section 2, and apply it to whatever figure is determined via statistical sampling. So the presumed missing persons would be counted and added to the totals — but only partially. Democrats would see a population boost that would partially represent the formerly invisible demographics, and Republicans would be assuaged by a 40 percent tempering of that increase.

True, restoring this Constitutional clause would require an Amendement — specifically, one that repeals at least part of the 14th Amendment. But hey, small price to pay to get closer to real-time population numbers, right? Besides, the original three-fifths formula was devised as a compromise measure, so its return would again be in the spirit of compromise.

No need to point out that those original “other persons” being fractionalized were slaves; nor what that would imply about the latter-day three-fifthers, should this little scheme come about. As long as the numbers add up!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 09:11pm
Category: Comedy, Politics, Society
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Yesterday while walking around Manhattan isle, I encountered not one, but two instances of the familiar New York Yankees team logo displayed upside-down, as pictured above (next to the regular version, for comparative purposes).

Well, they weren’t exactly as pictured above. In both cases, the logo was on articles of clothing (a winter cap and a sweatshirt), and the people wearing them had chosen to turn those articles inside-out. So what was on display was the reverse-stitching of the logo, in its mirror-imaged form. It actually looked unusual enough that, both times, it took me a few seconds to recognize exactly what I was looking at. The first time around, in the case of the cap, the weird outlines of the reversed “NY” put me in mind of some kind of Klingon alphabet symbols

Anyway, I’m sure that both cases, the effect was unintentional. Still, I’d like to imagine that this flipping of the Yankees imagery was some kind of silent protest, conscious or not, in response to the ‘roid-raging Alex Rodriguez scandal. In similar spirit to flying an upside-down flag.

Probably not. But why not make it so? I say, any Bronx Bombers fan pissed off enough over A-Rod’s a-roid situation should reverse out their Yankees cap, tshirt, and other merchandise and walk around with it in full view. It’ll be non-committal way of showing off displeasure.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/19/2009 11:57am
Category: Baseball, Fashion, New Yorkin'
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