Letter from America 25th December

Hi Guys and Gals,

How does this compare with Alberto Contador’s problems? A report has just been published by the American Food and Drug Administration that US raised animals consumed some 29 million pounds of antibiotics during the year 2009. This report came in response to a 2008 law requiring the federal government to collect and disseminate information on antibiotic use in live stock as part of the animal User Fee Act. Farmers feed the medications to animals they raise for market in an effort to prevent disease from spreading among flocks of poultry and herds of live stock living in crowded and often unsanitary conditions. The medications also promote faster growth in many animals. The use of these medications is controversial because they are used to counter the effects of raising livestock in conditions that are unhealthy and widely considered cruel. They also represent a major public health concern as well. The widespread administration of antibiotics to prevent infections in animals has made those same antibiotics less effective in fighting off disease in animals and in humans. The American Medical Association this summer called “antibiotic resistance a major public health problem” and called on the Obama administration and Congress to address it. Not much chance of that with all the other problems Congress has at the moment. It is not Spain, Clenbuterol is not an antibiotic and has not been mentioned but it makes you wonder.

The Manatee or Sea Cow of which I have written before is a protected species and just to prove how protected Florida Power & Light are spending some $5 million to keep them warm. Some sixty years ago FP&L built a power plant at Cape Canaveral on the Indian River a typical coastal power station. It used as much as 700 million gallons of lagoon water each day to cool its internal plumbing which raised the water’s temperature by about twelve degrees before returning it to the internal waterway. It was not long before the manatees used it as a meeting place and have been gathering there for some decades as the coastal waters cooled down. Normally when caught this far north they have a good chance of dying from the cold and on January 14th of this year a total of 957 were spotted at the Cape Canaveral plant. However after sixty years the power plant was decommissioned, was dismantled and is to be rebuilt over the next four years. The industry and Florida Power & Light felt an obligation to keep this endangered species alive since it was humans who altered their behaviour in deciding to stay north instead of returning to the warmth of South Florida. So FP&L installed a prototype heating system last year at its Riviera Beach power plant and with the lessons learned are installing four heaters at its Cape Canaveral site, testing began in October. The heaters are connected to pumps and plumbing that discharge warm water into a canal just off the river that is about the size of two football fields and has an average depth of twelve feet. Manatees arrived by the hundreds when the testing began even though the river was still relatively cozy and are still waiting for it to be turned back on! This will cost FP&L some $5,500 per hour to heat this 60,000sqft bath tub to protect the manatees and give them, under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, protection from prosecution. The big question is what happens next when the new plant is phased out and replaced by improved methods of power generation that don’t discharge warm water? In the meantime the authorities are becoming concerned with the current cold spell. Already in January of this year 699 manatees died largely due to the severe cold we had back then. So far this month there have been no deaths attributed to the cold but it is still early in the season. Also there is further cold weather due next week which is due to spread as far south as the Everglades and the Florida Keys.

Last Wednesday as a result the Manatee article we visited DeLeon State Park where we had been told that a family of five manatees had just arrived to take advantage of the warmer spring waters. On arrival we had lunch in the Old Spanish Mill Restaurant which features home made breads and where you can cook your own pancakes made from stone ground flours. These are American type fluffy pancakes, each table has a hot plate and you are given a very generous portion of pancake batter together with all the goodies, blueberries, butter, maple syrup etc. All good fun but we had booked a boat ride that did not realistically leave us time to do all that so opted for the less exciting blt together with some good black coffee. The one hour boat ride, which included a naturalist guide, took us along the Spring Garden Run that eventually joins the St John’s River and we passed through the Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. At the beginning we saw the manatees close to the spring head where the waters were 71 degrees Fahrenheit. There were a number of alligators out sunning themselves but these are fairly common in Florida although these were a much darker colour than those we have seen previously. During the trip we saw a number of herons, egrets, ibis, coots and ducks while at one stage a pair of ospreys flew overhead. The park itself is very interesting. It has been established that the area was inhabited some 6,000 years ago by carbon dating two old dug out canoes that was found in last spring. The State of Florida purchased the property and it became DeLeon Springs State Park in 1982.

Trust that Father Christmas met all your wishes and expectations as yet another year has passed. We look forward to 2011 with the hope for better weather together with a year of pleasant and enjoyable cycling. May the New Year be a Happy and Healthy one for all of you.

Bryan Staples

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