Archive for June 1, 2008

Brazil’s Lula Defends Biofuels, Criticizes Oil Speculators

Brazil is the world’s number-two producer of biofuels, which have been widely criticised as exacerbating food shortages and diverting crops away from traditional food uses.

In Rome ahead of an FAO food summit June 3-5, Lula asserted that biofuels from sugar cane — such as that produced in Brazil — “is not a threat to food production” although he denounced those sourced from corn and wheat.

He lashed out at oil speculation, saying “the price of extracting oil does not reach 35 dollar a barrel,” yet by the time it reaches the international market it takes in 128 dollars a barrel.

“It is essential to obtain an oil price that is compatible with the needs of poor countries,” he said.


He’s right.

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Danville, Illinois Biodiesel Plant Purchased

DANVILLE, Ill. (May 15, 2008)—Today, Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC announced it has completed the acquisition of assets of a 45 million gallon per year biodiesel production facility under construction in Danville, Ill. from Biofuels Company of America, LLC. As part of the signed agreement, Renewable Energy Group, Inc. is providing financing in the form of a convertible loan to Blackhawk. Fifth Third Bank is also participating in the financing. In its continued commitment for the Danville facility, the Office of Illinois Governor Blagojevich and the
Illinois Finance Authority are providing financial assistance in the form of a state credit enhancement.

“Renewable Energy Group, Inc. is proud to partner with Blackhawk Biofuels, LLC on the purchase and management of this facility,” said REG’s President, Nile Ramsbottom. “The opportunity to add production capacity for high quality biodiesel from the Blackhawk facility to the REG network is significant. This is an excellent business and growth opportunity for Renewable Energy Group, Inc. and through our investment, demonstrates our continued commitment to, and confidence in, the biodiesel industry.”

Renewable Energy Group, Inc. will manage operations and staff at the Danville facility, procure feedstocks and market the biodiesel through its national distribution channels as part of a management, operations and services agreement with Blackhawk Biofuels. The facility is located adjacent to a soybean crush facility owned by Bunge North America.

The facility was designed to exclusively use vegetable oils, however Blackhawk Biofuels is partnering with Renewable Energy Group, Inc. to upgrade the plant’s process technology to allow for multiple feedstocks to be utilized to produce high quality biodiesel.

“Located on the Indiana/Illinois border, Danville is a strategic location of choice for us to continue building our nation’s biodiesel future,” added REG’s Chief Operating Officer, Daniel J. Oh. “Upgrades to the facility will further enhance the plant’s market advantages. We expect Danville to become a premier facility in the REG network focused on our marketing capabilities in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.” Biodiesel production is projected to begin as early as this fall, Oh added. “As the facility brings on employees for family wage, skilled, green collar jobs, we appreciate Governor Blagojevich’s continued support of this facility and the community.”

Blackhawk Biofuels LLC

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That’s Not Good

We’re currently at the tail end (I hope!) of the dry season and, as so often happens when the coolish afternoon/evening sea breeze hits the warm tropical moisture over land, thunderstorms develops. Unfortunately, all of that electrical discharge near us was not accompanied by any rain that would have doused fires that may be smoldering from the lightening strikes.


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More Illegal Immigrants Choose to Leave U.S., Go Home

There was no one thing that caused Hector Salinas to pack his bags and give up for good on the trials of life as an illegal immigrant in South Florida.

But the reasons he enumerates are echoed by increasing numbers of Latin American immigrants, both legal and not, who appear to be souring on their job prospects and going home:

It was the scant money he made at a menial restaurant job, Salinas said, just enough for food and rent, with barely anything left for his family in Mexico — the reason he came in the first place.

It was the constant fear of being detained by U.S. immigration, especially after the relative with whom he shared a home in West Kendall got stopped while driving without a license. After that, they sold the car and got around with great difficulty on a bicycle.

Finally it was the loneliness. He did not bring his wife and young children, whom he had not seen for 2 ½ years, for fear of the risk of arrest and detention.

”I never lacked for work, but I never felt good here,” Salinas, 43, said in Spanish one recent afternoon, his last in Miami before boarding a plane to Mexico City. “The patrones pay only what they want. You live with very little, and then you’re also alone, and always fearful of arriving at work and having them come looking for you.

“I don’t like living with this uneasiness.”

No hard figures exist, but various surveys and anecdotes from immigrants, their advocates and consular officers in Miami suggest that more Latin Americans are voluntarily heading back home, the apparent result of the U.S. economic downturn and anxiety generated by a federal crackdown on illegal immigration.

The hardest hit appear to be those in agricultural, construction, food processing and service jobs in which many immigrants work.

In South Miami-Dade, even before the winter growing season came to an end, many farmworkers from Mexico and Central America were leaving for home.

”They can’t find work,” said Elvira Carvajal, a volunteer at the Florida Farmworkers Association in Florida City. “Then there is fear in the community because of immigration raids. . . . What are they going to do? A lot of people are opting to leave.”

At the Nicaraguan consulate in West Miami-Dade, the number of Nicaraguan citizens applying for tax exemptions to move their household goods back has risen significantly, said Consul General Luis Martinez. Many are men who found construction work has dried up.

”At least in Nicaragua, they can figure something out to make a living without the fear of getting detained,” Martinez said.

A 2007 U.S. Department of Homeland Security report found that the number of permanent legal residents entering the country last year from South and Central America dropped by a quarter. That followed a big increase from 2005 to 2006.

A recent survey of Latin American immigrants by the Inter-American Development Bank highlights their malaise: 81 percent said it was more difficult now than a year ago to get a well-paying U.S. job. More than a quarter said they were considering going home in the next few years. And 68 percent said anti-immigration sentiment was a major problem — almost double the percentage who said so in 2001.


Not everyone agrees the trend is clear-cut. A consular official in Miami said many Brazilians are going home — some unwillingly, because deportations have increased, and others drawn by an economic revival at home.

”But every day more people are arriving,” said consular official Paulo Amado.

One difference, he said: Those coming to stay increasingly have work visas, in part in response to U.S. immigration enforcement.

Hundreds of Brazilians have returned in recent months to Governador Valadares, an area in the southeast of the country.

Sociology professor Sueli Siqueira, who interviewed hundreds of the returnees, found that 43 percent left the United States because they weren’t satisfied with their earnings. About 28 percent had been deported. ”The cost-benefit of this experience of migration stopped being positive,” Siqueira said, “and they began thinking about coming back.”

The departures are evidence that the Bush administration’s decision to tighten the screws on enforcement is paying off, say proponents of stricter immigration laws.

Several states passed their own laws, from tighter employment verification requirements to authorizing local police to act as immigration agents.

Passage of similar laws in Georgia, coupled with a construction slowdown, prompted Salinas to join a relative in South Florida.

”That’s the whole point of enforcement, to change the climate, to make it as hard as possible for you as an illegal alien, so you can’t just melt away into the shadows,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington group favoring sharp curbs on immigration.

But the crackdown’s critics say it has mainly succeeded in spreading fear among the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country without solving the underlying problem.

Source: Miami Herald

Apparently I’m supposed to feel really, really BAD that illegal aliens are just going to pack up their bags and leave because the government is going to (gasp of horror!) enforce the law occasionally. Can you BELIEVE the audacity of these law enforcement officers that will cite people for driving without a driver’s license? (How about for no insurance, or being unable to read the traffic signs that are in English, but I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother round of issues.)

(Checking emotions.) Well, after digging waaaaaay down deep for some sort of emotional well of sadness and despair about illegal immigrants leaving town, I have to admit that it just ain’t there. Vaya con Dios, y’all or, barring that, just vaya.

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Teacher Dies Minutes After Finishing 36 Year Career

MOLINO, FL (AP) — An elementary school teacher retiring after a 36-year career died of a heart attack moments after saying goodbye to her final class for the summer.

Sharon Smith, 57, died Friday on the way to a hospital according to her niece, Doreatha Jackson. Smith was a fourth grade teacher at Molino Park Elementary School, where she had worked since 1972.

Principal Alice Woodward said students had not been gone more than five minutes before Smith complained of shortness of breath and an ambulance was called.

Source: First Coast News

If you’ve been putting off things that you want to do until your retirement, you might want to rethink that strategy.

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Hyperbaric Chamber Therapy at a St. Petersburg Home

Five mornings a week, the sick and injured make a pilgrimage to the living room of a lighting fixture salesman.

Babies, shaken, nearly drowned or robbed of air at birth. Men with macular degeneration. Women who have suffered strokes.

They travel from Bosnia and Canada, Kansas and New York, Tampa and New Port Richey to drink in the air from a pair of hyperbaric chambers parked beside a tan leather couch.

A grandmother with pulmonary hypertension sits in one chamber, cradling a grandson born too early. In another, a stepfather with heart problems holds a baby shaken by her biological father.

There are no doctors here. Some people are here against doctor’s orders. But it’s free, and talk of tiny miracles spill out as parents wait to enter the chambers with their sick children.

The mother of a shaken baby tells how, after two treatments, her daughter’s clenched fists opened. A man whose eyesight was almost gone says he can see.

Mark Fowler runs this hyperbaric operation out of his home. He is a prophet in Selama Grotto, a Masonic organization similar to the Shriners that tries to help children with cerebral palsy. His grandson has cerebral palsy.

“I’d think within 70 to 90 treatments, her seizures will stop,” Fowler tells the father of a 2-year-old girl with seizures. “That’s just a guess. I can’t promise you anything, but I can promise you that she’ll be better. Everyone who comes here has a better quality of life. And seizures are almost always a walk in the park.”

• • •

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been around for centuries but it was most commonly used for diving injuries. The Food and Drug Administration now approves of its use for 14 different conditions, from gangrene to cyanide poisoning.

But many doctors prescribe it for “off-label” conditions, such as cerebral palsy, cancer, strokes and multiple sclerosis, to the chagrin of others in the medical community who don’t think it’s been studied enough.

Dr. Allan Spiegel is one of the believers. The neurologist has a steel hyperbaric chamber at his clinic in Palm Harbor. Hospitals typically have this type of chamber, which cost $100,000 to $200,000 and reach higher pressures levels.

“We’ve had people with strokes nine to 10 years out, who were unable to move their arms and legs, get up and walk,” Spiegel said. “We’ve had people with no vision at all gain their vision.”

But the treatments can be expensive, $200 to $500 an hour in a clinic, and as much as $1,500 in a hospital. With insurance companies not covering many of the treatments, many people are turning to portable polyethelene chambers like the ones in Fowler’s living room, which can run about $20,000 apiece.

Dr. Paul Harch, a board-certified hyperbaric and emergency medical physician with a practice in New Orleans and Chicago, said an estimated 6,000 portable chambers are in living rooms and clinics around the country. Football players use them after games. Some movie stars have them. They are typically low pressure and can’t be elevated beyond four pounds of air per square inch.

“You need a prescription (to get a chamber),” said Harch, author of The Oxygen Revolution, “but there’s a real underground market for them.”

• • •

When Fowler is not managing the constant flow of people in his living room, he travels the state selling decorative lighting fixtures and home accessories to retail stores.

His daughter, Shannon Fowler, 33, takes over when he’s gone.

Their household is not unlike many others. Shannon gets her three kids ready in the morning. She takes her son, Cyriz, who has cerebral palsy, to the bus stop in his wheelchair just as the first people arrive to use the chamber.

Selama Grotto, the St. Petersburg chapter of the Grottos, bought the first portable hyperbaric chamber six years ago for $21,000.

Cyriz, now 7, was one of the first to use it. At the time, his seizures came three a minute. Within weeks of using the chamber they disappeared, and he began to eat without his feeding tube for the first time.

Fowler was a member of the organization at the time and today is in charge of members in an area that covers roughly the lower half of Pinellas County.

Back then, Selama Grotto prophets transported the chamber from home to home for weeks at a time. But Fowler soon realized that more children could be treated if they came to him.

More chambers followed, a second in his living room, one in the home of a Tampa couple with an autistic child who had seizures, another in Pinellas Park for stroke victims.

A white board in Fowler’s office keeps the hourly schedule of both hyperbaric chambers in his Lakewood Estates home. Sometimes the family sees as many as 16 people a day.

The first to arrive one day recently was Lorelei, a child from Rome, N.Y., shaken at birth by her biological father. The 5-year-old’s feet were stiff as her mother’s boyfriend plucked her out of her stroller and entered the chamber through a zipper at the top.

It was her 31st time in the chamber, and her mother, Renee Morgan, has noticed improvement.

Lorelei is happier, and her clenched fists have relaxed. She hasn’t thrown up once, and she can sit on her mother’s hip. She started eating spoonfuls of applesauce for the first time.

“She’s able to move herself around a little bit,” said Morgan, 22, who stayed at Ronald McDonald House for the month she was here. “Before, she’d lay there all day. For us that’s a really big step.”

• • •

Inside the hyperbaric chamber, a boy named Chance nestles in the arms of his mother, Lainie Armstrong. Her black T-shirt says: HEROES CAN BE SMALL.

Chance, 2, clutches a tiny stuffed lamb and squirms. As the pressure inside the chamber builds to about four pounds of air per square inch, Chance’s little ears begin to pop — about the equivalent of ascending in an airplane. But he’s used to it.

“The first few times, he cried really bad,” says Armstrong, 37, as Chance peers out of a side porthole. “So we would back (the pressure) off and not do it so quickly, and after four or five times we had no problems.”

She tries to put a tiny mask on him to pump oxygen-rich air into his lungs, the equivalent of receiving about 80 percent pure oxygen. He pushes it away.

Finally, he lays his head on her thigh, his eyelashes flutter and he’s asleep. She places the mask on his face and gazes at him.

“I’d do anything within reason for Chance,” she says. “I jokingly say if someone said to put butterfly wings on his forehead every day for two weeks, I’d do it.”

Chance was born three months premature, at 1 pound, 15 ounces. Doctors told Armstrong he would likely be mentally retarded, have no use of his arms and have problems with his heart, lungs and kidneys.

The single mother, who had Chance by artificial insemination, has tried everything to help him catch up. Back home near Wichita, Kan., where they live with her mother, she gave up her job as a coordinator of high school special-education programs after he was born. She drives Chance to nine different therapies a week.

The boy has been painting acrylics with his fingers and toes since he was a year old. In March, he held his first gallery opening and sold 80 acrylics, raising $6,000 to get to Fowler’s house in St. Petersburg for a month’s worth of free hyperbaric therapy.

Now days away from leaving, Armstrong can’t say enough about the chamber. The boy who had never slept through the night has done so five times since he arrived in St. Petersburg. His legs seem sturdier, and he can stand up and take a step. And he’s talking more, even in four-word sentences, something he’d never done before.

Could the success be Chance’s natural development?

No, says Armstrong. It’s as if his development was suddenly fast-forwarded during the past few weeks. It’s been so successful, she’s trying to figure out how to get a chamber for their home back in Kansas.

Source and more information:

I believe that if a family member had a condition that *might* be helped by this, I’d happily put off purchase of a new vehicle in order to buy one. Something to think about, anyway.

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Hurricanes and the Jacksonville Area

A Category 1, or minimal, hurricane brings sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph with higher gusts. Power outages would become widespread as large tree limbs and uprooted trees with weak root structures fall on lines. Some wind damage to signs, roofs, screened-in patios and carports would occur. Storm surge flooding of 4 to 5 feet above normal tide levels would affect areas within a couple of blocks of the ocean, as well as in lower areas along the Intracoastal Waterway and St. Johns River and its tributaries. Some low areas in Mayport and Blount Island might also be flooded.

As winds reach 96 to 110 mph, or Category 2 intensity, tree damage increases and there would be more direct wind damage to roofs, windows and patios, especially in mobile homes. Storm surges between 6 and 8 feet begin to flood portions of downtown Jacksonville and other areas along the St. Johns River. Coastal flooding would be more significant, especially from Ponte Vedra Beach southward through St. Augustine. Some evacuation of the immediate coast will be needed. Hurricane Dora in 1964 caused Category 2 conditions in Northeast Florida … the last storm to bring full hurricane conditions to the area.

Storms reaching Category 3 strength are considered major hurricanes and a direct strike is very serious. Coastal areas near the landfall point could see sustained winds as high as 111 to 130 mph. A substantial number of large and small trees would be uprooted, with many homes suffering structural damage. Mobile homes could be destroyed. Extensive evacuation of coastal areas will be required as storm surges of 9 to 12 feet would inundate much of the area along and east of the Intracoastal through Duval and St. Johns counties. Downtown flooding would be significant in Jacksonville as the St. Johns River floods many areas on both sides of its banks. St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach would also experience substantial flooding.

By the time winds reach Category 4 speeds of 131 to 155 mph, or Category 5 if they go above that, extensive structural damage is likely. Extensive evacuation of coastal areas up to 5 to 10 miles inland will be required, due to storm surges of 13 to 18 feet or higher. Fortunately, there have been no instances of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane directly striking Northeast Florida since records have been kept.


The NE Florida coastline is usually protected by ridges of pressure that steer Atlantic hurricanes out to sea or up into the Carolinas. We usually get battered by strong tropical storms with gusts to hurricane force that entered Florida as a hurricane on the gulf coast side. There can be (and are) widespread power outages and property damages from fallen trees.

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