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Thursday, May 22,2014

In case you missed it

IN N.C. IT WOULD BE A FELONY TO REVEAL WHAT’S IN FRACKING FLUID 

Just how far will the lobbyists for the oil and gas industry go to prevent the public from knowing exactly what chemicals are used in the process of hydraulic fracturing? Look no further than North Carolina, where a bill in the state Senate seeks to charge individuals with a felony if they disclose trade-secret information about fracking chemicals, EnergyWire reports. Anyone talking about what’s in fracking fluid could face months in jail and potential fines. Fracking fluid is largely water and sand, but also contains proprietary mixes of chemicals such as ethylene glycol, borate salts and isopropanol, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The bill would require that North Carolina’s state geologist maintain a record of the chemical information to disclose to emergency workers. But fire chiefs and doctors, for instance, would only be able to obtain information about the mysterious chemical recipes if there’s an emergency. Meanwhile, environmental groups in that state that oppose fracking, noting that pollution levels are already too high, are struggling to be heard by state politicians.

SECOND LIFE FOR CHICKENS? OR THE MATRIX?

In the film The Matrix, humans are living in a simulated reality. They think they’re walking the streets of a city, but that’s only projection from a virtual reality simulator. The humans are actually sealed in pods, in unconscious stasis, while their robot overlords use the bodies to generate energy. While this antiutopian future is at least a few generations away for humans, it could be just over the horizon for the chickens that provide the meat and eggs we consume. Austin Stewart, an assistant professor at Iowa State University, has created a virtual reality universe for chickens called Second Livestock. Yes, that’s a play on the Second Life virtual reality game where people become oddball avatars and socialize and flit about. The Second Livestock chickens in cages are fitted with chicken-sized VR helmets that the professor claims makes them feel like they are living the fanciful life of something like a free-wheeling Colorado prairie chicken. Do the chickens like it? Is VR chicken life even better than domestic free-range? Since chickens only talk in cartoons, the professor doesn’t seem 100 percent sure. He writes online: “We have consulted with experts to understand what the optimal virtual environment would look like for each animal and have tailored our environments to allow our birds to have a fulfilling existence.” Ultimately, we bet, chicken wing and scrambled egg consumers will be the ones to decide if that’s true.

OPRAH’S TELLURIDE STANDOFF Oprah Winfrey wants to be Colorado’s newest resident but so far she’s off to a rather rocky start with the neighbors. Her mansion that’s planned for Telluride will block access to hiking trails that neighbors have used for decades, according to retired physicist Charles D. Goodman, who has filed a lawsuit. “I don’t care if Oprah is a neighbor, but if she is going to cut off access to trails, I don’t find that acceptable,” Goodman, 86, tells The Denver Post. Winfrey’s Yellow Brick Road company is named in the suit along with Mountain Village and property owners who earned a cool $10 million for selling the land. A spokeswoman for Oprah’s company has vowed to work with neighbors and to grant them “reasonable access” to some of the land, but that seems like PR spin to Goodman who says access was already granted long ago, after negotiations in 1989 with the U.S. Forest Service, which was at the time his next door neighbor. When the Forest Service traded the land to Telluride Ski Co., access to trails continued, even after the land was sold for home sites. Then suddenly, “one month before Oprah closed on the property, the rights of way disappeared entirely,” Goodman’s attorney alleges.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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