Anarchist journalist jailed

Freelance video journalist Joshua Wolf will be spending the dog days of summer—and maybe then some—in a federal prison cell in Dublin after the order of U.S. District Judge William Alsup at a court hearing last week. When Wolf refused to hand over portions of his video footage from a 2005 anarchist protest in San Francisco to a federal grand jury, federal prosecutors asked that he be jailed. Alsup granted the request, telling Wolf, according to media reports, “The purpose of this is to get you to change your mind.” Wolf could remain locked up until next summer when the grand-jury term expires.

The San Francisco Police Department and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force want the footage because, they claim, it might reveal who vandalized a police car at the protest. Wolf’s attorney and the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, argued that the newshound was protected by the First Amendment-anchored journalist’s privilege, which shields reporters from government-compelled disclosure of material acquired in the course of newsgathering.

Attorney Rochelle Wilcox, one of the authors of the ACLU brief, said she was surprised that Alsup ruled on the case without considering the First Amendment argument or even bothering to review Wolf’s videotape. “We think [that] would have made a difference and shown that the government’s claims really are tenuous and that Mr. Wolf’s First Amendment rights are implicated here,” she told SN&R. An appeal of Alsup’s ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is pending.

—Stephen James

New process sucks life out of bugs

“Squish!” and “Phoom!” go bugs under compression and decompression of a new consumer- and Earth-friendly method of ridding pests from harvested produce.

A team of UC Davis researchers, led by Manuel Lagunas-Solar, placed fresh fruits and veggies like apples, grapes and asparagus in a chamber and put in and sucked out carbon dioxide, generating cycles of high and low pressures. Changes in pressure create compression and decompression forces that “damage, destroy and deform” insects’ respiratory systems. Insects, from eggs to larvae, pupae and adults, ultimately suffocate and die.

The process, called metabolic stress disinfection and disinfestation, or MSDD, also kills harmful microbes like E. coli, staphylococcus and salmonella by throwing off the balance between carbon-dioxide and oxygen concentrations. MSDD creates high levels of carbon dioxide and low levels of oxygen. This is bad news for the post-harvest pest population, which is largely composed of microbes, insects and mites that require certain levels of oxygen for vital functions. MSDD disrupts oxygen use and poisons cells with carbon dioxide.

But plants live to breathe another day.

The produce has a higher threshold for all that stress and retains quality as measured by factors like acidity, color and texture. Only soft-tissue fruits like raspberries and blackberries seemed manhandled—they became a little soft, a little juicy. But Lagunas-Solar said he can adjust MSDD to accommodate these fruits.

MSDD is a residue-free process that is safe for humans and the environment. The two chemicals involved, ethanol gas (used as an antiseptic and then removed) and carbon dioxide, are what Lagunas-Solar called “natural chemicals.” Humans produce carbon dioxide when they breathe, and ethanol may be formed from lactose in human milk. For extra environmental kudos, ethanol and carbon dioxide are both recyclable.

On the other hand, methyl bromide, a pesticide currently used by farmers and food processors, destroys the ozone layer. The Environmental Protection Agency is working to phase out methyl bromide use completely, but a lack of feasible fumigation alternatives has compelled the EPA to issue “critical use” exceptions for agriculture.

The next step for MSDD will be a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to validate effectiveness on specific pests and crops. According to Lagunas-Solar, MSDD is safe, practical and economically competitive for large-scale use. He said MSDD is “a combination of simple concepts. We combined principles related to function and structure to create an effective and rapid process for insect death and microbial inactivation.”

Bugs beware.

—Donna Lee