Day: March 20, 2007


NC House Smoking Bill passes committee

Updates on the smoking bills I mentioned last week….

Bill Would Extinguish Indoor Smoking Statewide ::

Dismissing North Carolina’s heritage as a tobacco state, a House committee on Tuesday passed a far-reaching indoor smoking ban.

The Judiciary Committee passed the ban by a 9-4 vote. The measure would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces in North Carolina, including bars and restaurants. The rules also would apply to private clubs, except those with nonprofit or tax-exempt status.

The measure would be complaint-driven — local health departments would act on complaints from the public — and violators would first receive warnings.

“This was a significant and important event to advance the public’s health in North Carolina,” said Dr. Leah Devlin, director of the state Division of Public Health.

But critics of the legislation, House Bill 259, pointed out that it faces an uphill battle on the House and Senate floors.

“What they really want is a complete prohibition of indoor smoking in North Carolina,” said state Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. “We all know smoking is nasty and dangerous. The question is whether, in a free society, you let people do some things that are nasty and dangerous.”

Some opponents said passing the bill could set the stage for similar bans inside personal vehicles and homes.

You want to smoke and you own the building. Is it really that bad for the public?” asked state Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Robeson.

Yes Paul and Ronnie, not only did you construct a straw man, you blew smoke on it, gave it lung cancer, tortured it with cigarette butts and finally set it on fire. Sheesh, what asses.


From Laura Leslie, WUNC (our local NPR affiliate) reporter who maintains a reporter’s blog at WUNC

Under the current version of the bill, which isn’t available on the web just yet, only NON-profit clubs could allow smoking – like the Elks Lodge, for example.

So for the standard nightclub or bar, smoking would be banned.

Hope it helps – and thanks very much for reading!!

So, that’s a lot of progress on the house bill, making it very close to the senate bill.


Do primates believe in God? They seem to have morals!

I had a conversation with a colleague over lunch a few years back, really nice guy and good friend, very religious. Somehow, the topic of my religion came up and I happened to mention that I was not much of a believer in any kind of supreme being. He was silent for a little while, trying to digest the fact that someone he liked and respected (me!) had just outed himself as the spawn of satan. He then asked me where I got my values from if I did not believe in God. I explained to him that just like him, I got mine from my parents, from school, society, friends, etc., in fact, one source less than he got his from! (a slight variant on the “I believe in one god less than you do” schtick!) I also explained to him that I thought a lot about my value system, I made ethical and moral judgements all the time just by thinking, reading and listening to other people. He seemed unconvinced, thanked me for my honesty, and we proceeded to talk basketball after that (Go Heels!).

Long ramble notwithstanding, I had known a little bit about this primate research previously, but happened to read a well written NY Times article about primates and “morality” (don’t like that word, but can’t seem to find a better one).

Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior – New York Times

Some animals are surprisingly sensitive to the plight of others. Chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days

Biologists argue that these and other social behaviors are the precursors of human morality. They further believe that if morality grew out of behavioral rules shaped by evolution, it is for biologists, not philosophers or theologians, to say what these rules are.

Hmm, they must believe God, because without religion, there is no morality, right?

I am not convinced that this “morality” was a naturally selected behavior rather than a by-product of evolution (the article references a critic as making this point too), nevertheless, it is fascinating.

Powerful Story of Environmental Racism

I have nothing to say, just read and weep.

A Well of Pain –

She has had cervical polyps. Another of her daughters, Holt-Orsted’s sister, has had colon polyps. Three of Holt-Orsted’s cousins have had cancer. Her aunt next door has had cancer. Her aunt across the street has had chemotherapy for a bone disease. Her uncle died of Hodgkin’s disease. Her daughter, 12-year-old Jasmine, has a speech defect.

They believe trichloroethylene, or TCE, is to blame for it all. The carcinogen leaked from the county landfill, just 500 feet away, and contaminated the Holts’ well water. That fact is undisputed. For years, the family drank that water, bathed in that water, cooked in that water — and had no clue that it might harm them.


In that box, she found letters and documents indicating that Tennessee environmental and water officials had concerns about the possibility of TCE appearing in the Holt’s well water as early as 1988. The Holts’ well was left untested for nine years while TCE problems in the wells of white families were tended to with haste, the records showed.

Even more…

Meanwhile, the toxin also showed up at high levels in a spring and several wells in 1993 and 1994. The white families at those sites were immediately told to stop using the water. And tests were conducted repeatedly all around the landfill — but not at the Holt well.


Tuesdays With Turtles – Hometown Edition

I grew up in Chennai and worked with the Students’ Sea Turtle Conservation Network in the mid ’90s. It’s nice to see an article on them in the city’s biggest newspaper.

The Hindu : Tamil Nadu / Chennai News : Olive Ridley hatchlings go home

CHENNAI: Scores of newborn Olive Ridley turtles entered their natural habitat — the sea — under the watchful eyes of conservationists at Elliots Beach, Besant Nagar, here early on Sunday. Conservationists said nearly 75 eggs hatched on Sunday alone and most of the young ones were safely released into the waters. But about 25 eggs reportedly did not hatch and some were stillborn. Volunteers of the Students Sea Turtle Conservation Network (SSTCN) annually collect Olive Ridley turtle eggs from the Besant Nagar coastline upto Neelankarai, a fishing village beyond Tiruvanmiyur. The eggs are then taken to a hatchery at Oorurkuppam, a fishing village located behind the Theosophical Society premises. It takes 45 days for the young ones to hatch.

In Chennai, and most of South India, the adult sea turtles are not poached, only the eggs. Also, it is not possible to just secure the nest with “do not poach” notice! So the eggs need to be relocated to a hatchery where they’re re-buried. For more on sea turtle “management” in India, I would suggest visiting Kartik Shanker’s excellent website.