Friday, January 9, 2009

The Debate over Bees and Seedless Crops.

As we generally learn in primary school, bees collect pollen to make honey, and cross-pollinate the flowers they visit. Bees are so important to agriculture, that California law provides for "regulations necessary to minimize the hazard to bees, while still providing for the reasonable and necessary application of pesticides toxic to bees to blossoming plant."(1)

A legal battle, however, is now taking flight in central California challenging the role of the bees, as in the birds and the bees. Growers of many crops, in and out of California, hire beekeepers, in the fashion of nomads of the nation, to bring in bees for crop pollination.(2) The beekeepers need the pollen for the bees to make honey so this is one of nature's win-win symbiosis.

Some citrus and melon growers, however, raise seedless fruit, for which consumers will pay a premium to enjoy, but which happens only if the bees do not pollinate the fruit. Pollination causes seeds, so at contest, then, is that the seedless crop growers do not want bees around their crops, but other growers and the beekeepers want them present.

Caught in the middle are the bees, who besides the income role of pollination and honey, are suffering from colony collapse, a bee disorder of undetermined cause that results in death of 10% to 90% of a bee colony.(3) A bee ban would aid citrus growers, but cause hardship to other crop growers, and decrease the livelihood of the bees.

Mediation efforts have so far been unsuccessful. The State of California is proposing notice regulation to encourage beekeepers to move their hives during pesticide spraying.(4) Unfortunately, this soft-touch of the debate does not include the voice of the consumer, so I'll add my two-bits worth.

First, I enjoy honey - a lot. Honey improves toast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and of course, baklava is not baklava without honey and nuts. And yes, I enjoy seedless fruit. I had three seedless tangerines the morning of the day before I read about the issue. But then, watermelon seed-spitting contests are futile without large seeds, so who needs seedless watermelons?

In the balance, is the cost of a resolution. The bee-side forces suggest that the seedless growers place nets over the trees. A fair solution, except that trying to net over 31,000 acres of growing trees to block out bees would require fishing-trawler-style nets, and thousands of hours of effort, or a lot of helicopter time. In addition, the small net matrix might affect photosynthesis of the plants, which requires a balance of sun and water.(5) Those of us from northern latitudes are familiar with the effect of reduced sunlight, which results in smaller plants and crops. Consumers are less likely to pay more for less, especially in this economic condition.

The seedless camp has suggested that beekeepers reduce the number of bees, which in turn, reduces the distance that the bees travel. In this way the bees would be less likely to enter seedless orchards. One option is for growers to change crops, but this is also expensive and time-consuming, especially in the face that some growers recently switched to seedless crops after the market premium made its glowing sunrise.(6)

In reality, the consumers will lose this battle over seedless crops, nuts and the bees. The price of something, if not everything, will rise. From this viewpoint, two options are present.

One is to do nothing. If growers are successful in raising seedless crop prices due to losses, then growers would accommodate losses by increasing seedless acreage, which they would likely would do anyway to earn the premium. On the other hand, the economy may drive premium purchases down anyway, so the reduction in yield will help keep prices up.

Another option, and I'll admit to proposing it only if it is popular, is to provide for a minor subsidy to seedless growers who lose seedless crops to bee incursion. A penny or two honey bottle (t-word) or a nut package (t-word) would aid seedless growers in expenses to keep growing seedless crops. Overall, however, my economic background and arguments suggest that the first proposal seems the better solution.

So, and I hate to admit it, the notice regulation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture may be the best solution. The beekeepers will either move or reduce their hives, as the seedless growers want, or the bee-favoring growers will pay to compensate the beekeepers for their pesticide losses. The seedless growers already get a market premium for their product, so any bee incursion loss is either de minimis, or gets accounted for in the market premium.


(1) Cal. Food & Ag Code S 29102(a).
(2) Tangerine growers tell beekeepers to buzz off, Tracie Cone, Associated Press, 1/9/2009,
(3) See e.g., Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service, Last Modified: 05/29/2008.
(4) Tangerine growers tell beekeepers to buzz off, Tracie Cone, Associated Press, 1/9/2009,
(5) Scientists Decode How Plants Avoid Sunburn, ScienceDaily, July 20, 2006,­ /releases/2006/07/060720094251.htm.
(6) Tangerine growers tell beekeepers to buzz off, Tracie Cone, Associated Press, 1/9/2009,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Detecting Targeted Email Scams – The New Phishing

The souring of the global economy has in a two-factor way encouraged the growth and success of three new email and internet scams known as targeted scams. These scams are called targeted scams because the phishing form sent generally not only contains the name of a legitimate company of which you are familiar, but also contains your personal name. In addition, the email, letter, website or pop-up page so closely copies a real one that detection of the scam is almost not possible until you've been 'had.' This blawg will identify to the lay-user and busy professional ways to identify these scams before becoming a victim.

As evidence of the growth of the success of the new spam email, both the American Bar Association (1), and the esteemed publication, American Banker (2), recently sent out memorandums warning their professionals of these new and ingenious scams. In addition, a user of the online network, recently posted a warning about domain name owners receiving emails pretending to 'warn' the domain name owner of a registration problem. (3). The responses indicated that this is a common occurrence. This author has received similar scam letters.

The first factor in the success of these scams, is that the spam emails are more convincing than ever, as is discussed below. The second factor, is that the victim lacks good anti-spamware, or fails to recognize the email as spam. An apparent ancillary factor may be that with anti-spamware in place, the victims were perhaps are paying less attention in looking for scams. Regardless, the number of successful scams is rising.

The new scams, however, do share traits with their less complicated brethren. We'll first review the scams noted by the ABA, American Banker, and the domain name scam, and relate them to common scam forms, along with ways to detect the scams.

For legal professionals, the ABA warned of usual phishing and spoofing emails, and of an interesting, and yet bizarre set-up that makes the "Nigerian scam" (4) seem like child's play. In a targeted scam, the email pretends to be from a legitimate company seeking assistance in receiving payment from another person. What makes the scheme so peculiar, is the email may provide for a fee agreement, confidentiality agreement, etc., and so seems completely legitimate. Once the 'paperwork' is finished, the attorney receives a check (maybe even a cashiers check), along with a separate request from the seemingly legitimate company asking for a quick transfer of the funds, less the attorney's fee. Complying with the client's request, however, proves to be costly when the lawyer learns that the check is phony, and that the contact and wire transfer information had nothing to do with the legitimate company.

Some people may already be familiar with this scam from emails promising a person to work at home as an escrow agent, or 'representative,' of a sort, and earning a "commission" by receiving checks and then sending on the funds. As with the "Nigerian scam," either the check is not good, or the goods are poor quality, or never shipped. Either way, the representative is left alone to explain the scam to the police.

American Banker, on the other hand, directed it's warning to computer professionals. In its memorandum, American Banker said that computer professionals who handle domain name registration were receiving letters advising them to change information about a domain name. The change would, in effect, allow the sender to hijack the domain name. While we would hope that the computer professionals would be alert to the scam, they are busy people too, and sometimes details get missed.

This brings us to the third scam, which may involve a domain name, or more often a financial account. In this scam, the email or letter warns the recipient of a problem that must be immediately resolved. For domain name owners, the alleged problem is often that someone else is trying to register the recipient's domain name, or that the domain name is going abandoned for some reason, and that the recipient must pay the letter sender immediately to avoid losing the domain name. In other cases, the financial account will be locked or closed unless action is immediately taken.

In reality, a close look at the email or letter will reveal one or two, if not more, scam clues. If the letter addresses a domain name issue, the letter sender is likely NOT the same company with whom the domain name was last registered. As with the Nigerian scam, the funds are not spent to your benefit.

The second scam clue is more common, in that domain name is somehow different from the registered domain name. For example, we are used to seeing domain names like,, or In one scam form, the domain name may include a couple of extra letters at the end, such as,, or In this case, the '.cn' means that the domain name is registered in China. Similarly, the end letters '.ru' stand for Russia, '.ca.' is Canada, and so forth, for the well-over 200 country codes called top level domain names. If you have a world-wide business, you might want to register these domain names in those countries, just as did Nikon, KFC, and Coca-Cola. If you do not plan to have a world-wide business, why worry about it? (5)

Another form of the second scam clue includes a familiar company name, with other words in the domain name. One example is In this case, the email seems to be from paypal, but is in fact, directed to a website called, which is NOT You can see the difference from a link on paypal's website, such as All the special code is AFTER the '.com.' There are even examples of the two scam forms appearing together, such as one I received to immediately go to a website with a true link of:
This one has both a Russian registered domain name, and a phony domain name.

The second scam form is more likely to appear in an email, as it is easier to hide, which brings us to the third way to discover a spam email, which is to look at the true link in an email.

This clue is a little more difficult to detect, as the email reader has to find the way in which the email program shows the true link in an email. For many email programs, you can simply place the cursor over the link show in the email, then look at the lower left corner of the program window. For example, in one case, I received an email saying there was a disputed transaction, and that I should click on the link, which looked like this:

In the lower left corner of the program window, however, the true link was shown, which was As noted above, the website, "" is not the same website as "" In other words, caveat lector (reader beware).

Not all email programs readily show the true link and it is possible to block display of the web address from the lower left corner of the email or browser. In such a case, you may be able to determine the true link by opening the Properties command in the menu. You may need to click a Details tab and then Message Source to see the actual web address. This is tedious in some cases, but is at least, safe. The safest way, of course, is to visit the web site as you usually do, and look for a message or alert on the website.

Safe Browsing.

(1) "Three Internet scams and solutions lawyers should know about," Your ABA, American Bar Association, November 2008,
(2) "Data Hackers Shift to Phishing for Domain Name Credentials," American Banker, January 2, 2009,
(3) "Solicitations mails .. from china claiming to be a domain name registration authority," Intellectual Property Professionals, 1/ 5/2009, (Registration and login may be required.)
(4) Nigerian scam,, 9/6/2003,
(5) This is not to suggest ignoring possible foreign trademark protection. The interested reader is encouraged to contact the author or other competent trademark authority for more information.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cell phones, Radiation and Cancer

Cell phones, Radiation and Cancer

A few months ago, a "prominent-cancer-doctor-warn[ed]-about-cellphones" and the risk of brain cancer. (1). To avoid worldwide panic, the modern person should be better informed. First, cellphones are not high-powered radio transmitters. The power output of cellphones in the U.S. has been regulated by law to about the strength of a night-light or holiday LED decoration.(2). Second, as the doctor states, "the evidence about a cellphone-cancer link remains unclear." Third, other incriminating statements clearly point to heavy use (30 hours per month), if not extreme use (50 hours per month) of headside cellphone use.(3)(4).

On the flip side is that radio waves are in use to cure cancer.(5)(6)(7)(8)(9). Thus, there is a certain irony that radio waves both cause and cure cancer.

Another problem with modern living cancer scares is confusion over the causative agent. Uninformed people confuse radio and microwave energy with nuclear radiation. See (10)(11) but compare (12). Radio waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum of radiation. See e.g., (13). The danger, however, is not in the length of the wave as asserted by some, (14), but rather in the amount of energy received by the body. See e.g.,(15).

Cooks and electricians can vouch for the danger of heat and electrical sources, see e.g.,(16), neither of which we think of as "radiation" per se, but both of which are also part of the electromagnetic spectrum of radiation, heat as infrared radiation, and electricity as beta radiation, (15). Radio waves, such as emitted by cellphones, have the lowest energy, (13), although there are conflicting reports that even AM transmitting towers are dangerous to children, (17)(18). Another popular thought, albeit somewhat discredited, is that high-voltage transmission towers also cause cancer.(19).

The actual danger, as this former medical technician, then nuclear engineer now patent attorney is well-aware, is in whether the energy is enough to harm the DNA or RNA in the nucleus of the cells of the body.(20). If you can, in a prolonged exposure, fry an egg on a hot sidewalk, think of what happens to our brains next to a continuous stream of many hours electromagnetic radiation. Consequently, the correct viewpoint is not that cellphones are dangerous, but that prolonged exposure is dangerous.

The astute reader will realize, however, that our environment is awash in radiation in many forms. Besides cellphones, our homes, offices and outdoors are bathed in electromagnetic radiation from and to cellphones and to our AM and FM radios, televisions, from satellite broadcasts such as XM, Sirius and GPS signals.

Another ignored cancer risk is high-altitude living as well as traveling by air. As stated by one Stanford University authority, "[b]ackground radiation exposure for a person living in a brick house in Denver, Colorado is approximately three times larger than the exposure of a person living in a wooden home in Palo Alto, California."(21). Frequent flyers, who tend to double-dip as cellphone-using bodies, might particularly be at risk, in that a mere two-hour flight doubles a person's daily radiation exposure.(22). At those levels, one cross-country flight is a week's worth of ground-level radiation.

In summary, do not believe everything the sound bite harps on, but in a society that purports to care for its children, "people should take precautions, particularly for children."(1).

For more information, the EMFacts Consultancy, founded in 1994 by Don Maisch, has produced a wide range of reports and papers dealing with various health issues related to human exposure to Electromagnetic Radiation.(23).

(1) Prominent Cancer Doctor Warns About Cellphones, The New York Times, Tat Parker, 7/24/2008,
(2) Information On Human Exposure To Radiofrequency Fields From Cellular and PCS Radio Transmitters, FCC, Office of Engineering and Technology, last reviewed/updated 12/11/08, The regulations are posted at
(3) Comment 107, "2000 to 3000 minutes per month,"
(4) Comment 108, thirteen years of heavy use,
(5) Radio waves used to destroy cancer,
(6) Radio Waves Fire Up Nanotubes Embedded in Tumors, Destroying Liver Cancer , M. D. Anderson News Release 11/01/07,
(7) Patient Becomes Unlikely Inventor Of Cancer-Fighting Technology, David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/3/2007,
(8) The Kanzius Machine: A Cancer Cure? CBS News, 7/20/2008,
(9) Combination Of Radio Waves With Pharmacologically Active Substances, United States Patent Application 20070184020 A1,
(10) Comment 4,
(11) Comment 36,
(12) Comment 14,
(14) Comment 18,
(17) Radio-frequency radiation exposure from AM radio transmitters and childhood leukemia and brain cancer, Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Aug 1;166(3):270-9. Epub 2007 Jun 7. "Brain cancer and infantile cancer were not associated with AM RFR."
(18) AM Towers Fingered as Cancer Cause, Radio World, Randy J. Stine, 11/21/2007,
(19) Exposure to power-frequency magnetic fields and the risk of childhood cancer. UK Childhood Cancer Study Investigators, Lancet. 1999 Dec 4;354(9194):1918-9,, "This study provides no evidence that exposure to magnetic fields associated with the electricity supply in the UK increases risks for childhood leukaemia, cancers of the central nervous system, or any other childhood cancer."
(21) Radiation, Stanford University National Accelerator Laboratory, Last update: 10/31/2008,
(22) Natural Radiation Hazard at Aircraft Altitudes, NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center, Updated: October 1, 2007,
(23) EMF Health-effect Research, Don Maisch,

Welcome to grpblawg

grpblawg will not consistently follow the nature of a law blog, but each article will typically have a kernel of a legal aspect. Similarly, although my Master's degree is in Intellectual Property, grpblawg will often be on topics outside of patents, copyrights, trademarks and other forms of intellectual property. grpblawg may use analogies and cases from intellectual property. At times, grpblawg may publicly present analysis and views on issues presented in another form to a private individual or group.