Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

feel goodToday I decided I would stop on my way to work and get a cup of coffee at my local Starbucks. This is not something I do on a regular basis – I was in the mood.

I pulled up to the speaker, ordered, and pulled forward; I was the third car in line to the window. The line progressed quickly and I watched as the car in front of me stopped at the window. The guy in the car started to hand the girl at the window his card and stopped. Obviously, there was some conversation. She handed him his beverage, they completed his transaction, and he pulled forward.

I moved up to the window and as I did I noticed that the guy in the car ahead of me was waving at me. At me? Didn’t make sense. I looked behind me to see if he was waving at someone behind me. The guy in the vehicle directly behind wasn’t even looking. Hmm. I noticed the guy in the car in front was looking at me in his side mirror, smiling and waving. I didn’t immediately recognize him, but then again…

Well, the girl was at the window now and I focused on her. She reiterated my order, I told her that was correct and started to hand her my card. She told me the guy in the car in front of me had paid for my coffee so.. no need to pay. Confusion – why I asked her?

She explained that everyone that morning was paying for the coffee of the person behind them; I wasn’t obligated to continue, but that was how the morning was going. Wow, I thought. I asked her what the order behind me was – she told me. I quickly thought I am not going to be the one to break this, even if it was twice my order cost, and handed her my card – I’ll pay for it, I told her. She laughed, took my card, and shortly handed me back my card and receipt.

“You have a great day,” she said. “You, too,” I replied and pulled forward.

As I pulled away I waved to the guy behind me knowing that he hadn’t a clue on who I was and why I was waving. I drove up to the stop sign and looked back. I saw the girl talking to the next customer; he looked confused. I smiled and thought, I hope he doesn’t break this feel good feeling…


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You should be reading a lot about biofuels and famine issues these days… If not, please do. These are subjects that you should become familiar with.

From Online Journal

Global famine? Blame the Fed
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Apr 29, 2008, 00:19

The stakes couldn’t be higher for Ben Bernanke. If the Fed chief decides to lower rates at the end of April, he could be condemning millions of people to a death by starvation.

The situation is that serious. Food riots have broken out across the globe destabilizing large parts of the developing world. China is experiencing double-digit inflation. Indonesia, Vietnam and India have imposed controls over rice exports. Wheat, corn and soya are at record highs and threatening to go higher still. Commodities are up across the board. The World Food Program is warning of widespread famine if the West doesn’t provide emergency humanitarian relief.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said it best: “It is a massacre of the world’s poor. The problem is not the production of food. It is the economic, social and political model of the world. The capitalist model is in crisis.”

Right on, Hugo. There is no shortage of food; it’s just the prices that are making food unaffordable. Bernanke’s “weak dollar” policy has ignited a wave of speculation in commodities which is pushing prices into the stratosphere. The UN is calling the global food crisis a “silent tsunami,” but its more like a flood; the world is awash in increasingly worthless dollars that are making food and raw materials more expensive. Foreign central banks and investors presently hold $6 trillion in dollars and dollar-backed assets, so when the dollar starts to slide, the pain radiates through entire economies. This is especially true in countries where the currency is pegged to the dollar. That’s why most of the Gulf States are experiencing runaway inflation. This doesn’t mean that oil depletion, biofuel production, over-population, and giant agribusinesses don’t add to the problem. They do. But the catalyst is the Fed’s monetary policies; that’s the domino that puts the others in motion.

Here’s Otto Spengler’s summary in his recent article in Asia Times, Rice, Death and the Dollar: “The global food crisis is a monetary phenomenon, an unintended consequence of America’s attempt to inflate its way out of a market failure. There are long-term reasons for food prices to rise, but the unprecedented spike in grain prices during the past year stems from the weakness of the American dollar. Washington’s economic misery now threatens to become a geopolitical catastrophe. . . . The link between the declining parity of the US unit and the rising price of commodities, including oil as well as rice and other wares, is indisputable.

“Never before in history has hunger become a global threat in a period of plentiful harvests. Global rice production will hit a record of 423 million tons in the 2007-2008 crop year, enough to satisfy global demand. The trouble is that only 7% of the world’s rice supply is exported, because local demand is met by local production. Any significant increase in rice stockpiles cuts deeply into available supply for export, leading to a spike in prices. Because such a small proportion of the global rice supply trades, the monetary shock from the weak dollar was sufficient to more than double its price.” [“Rice, death and the dollar”, By Otto Spengler, Asia Times]

The US is exporting its inflation by cheapening its currency. Now a field worker in Haiti who earns $2 a day, and spends all of that to feed his family, has to earn twice that amount or eat half as much. No wonder that six people were killed in Port au Prince in the recent food riots. People go crazy when they can’t feed their kids.

Food and energy prices are sucking the life out of the global economy. Foreign banks and pension funds are trying to protect their investments by diverting dollars into things that will retain their value. That’s why oil is nudging $120 per barrel when it should be in the $70 to $80 range.

According to Tim Evans, energy analyst at Citigroup in New York, “There’s no supply-demand deficit.” None. In fact suppliers are expecting an oil surplus by the end of this year.

“The case for lower oil prices is straightforward: The prospect of a deep U.S. recession or even a marked period of slower economic growth in the world’s top energy consumer making a dent in energy consumption. Year to date, oil demand in the U.S. is down 1.9% compared with the same period in 2007, and high prices and a weak economy should knock down U.S. oil consumption by 90,000 barrels a day this year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.” [“Bears Baffled by Oil Highs,” Gregory Meyer, Wall Street Journal]

There’s no oil shortage; that’s another ruse. Speculators are simply driving up the price of oil to hedge their bets on the falling dollar. What else can they do, put them in the frozen bond market, or the sinking stock market, or the collapsing housing market? The Fed has gummed up the entire financial system with its low-interest credit scam, now it’s on to commodities where the real pain is just beginning to be felt.

This is what happens when there’s too many dollars sloshing around the system; they all need a place to rest, and when they do, they create equity bubbles. Sound familiar? Indeed. This is Greenspan’s legacy in a nutshell; the dark specter of Maestro will continue to haunt the world until all the hyper-inflated asset-classes (real estate, bonds, stocks, commodities) return to earth and all the red ink is mopped up. That’ll take time, but Bernanke could make things a lot easier if he accepted some responsibility for the current turmoil and raised rates by 25 basis points. That would show speculators that the Fed was serious about defending the currency, which would send the commodities bubble crashing to earth. Prices would go down overnight.

But Bernanke won’t raise rates because he doesn’t really give a hoot about the people in Cameroon who have to scavenge through garbage dumps for a few morsels to keep their families alive. Nor does he care about the average American working-stiff who goes into cardiac arrest every time he pulls up to the gas pump. What matters to Bernanke is making sure that his fat cat buddies in the banking establishment get a steady stream of low interest loot, so they can paper over their bad investments and ward off bankruptcy for another day or two. It’s a joke; it was the investment banks that created this mess with their putrid mortgage-backed securities and other debt exotica. Still, in Bernanke’s mind, they are the only ones who really count.

And don’t expect Bush to step in and save the day either. The “Decider” still believes in the unrestricted activity of the free market, especially when his crooked friends can make a buck on the deal.

From the Washington Times: “Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas. Costco and other grocery stores in California reported a run on rice, which has forced them to set limits on how many sacks of rice each customer can buy. Filipinos in Canada are scooping up all the rice they can find and shipping it to relatives in the Philippines, which is suffering a severe shortage that is leaving many people hungry.” [Patrice Hill, Washington Times]

The Bush administration knows there’s hanky-panky going on, but they just look the other way. It’s Enron all over again — where Ken Lay & Co. scalped the public with utter impunity while regulators sat on the sidelines applauding. Great. Now it’s the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) turn; they’re taking a hands-off approach so Wall Street sharpies make a fortune jacking up the price of everything from soda crackers to toilet bowls.

“A hearing Tuesday in Washington before the Commodity Futures Trading Commission starts a new round of scrutiny into the popularity of agricultural futures, once a quieter arena that for years was dominated largely by big producers and consumers of crops and their banks trying to manage price risks. The commission’s official stance and that of many of the exchanges, however, is likely to disappoint many consumer groups. The CFTC’s economist plans to state at the hearing that the agency doesn’t believe financial investors are driving up grain prices. Some grain buyers say speculators’ big bets on relatively small grain exchanges, especially recently, are pushing up prices for ordinary consumers. [“Call Goes Out to Rein In Grain Speculators”, Ann Davis]

“The agency doesn’t believe financial investors are driving up grain prices”?

Prices have doubled, people are starving, and the Bush troop is still parroting the same worn party-mantra. It’s maddening.

The US has been gaming the system for decades; sucking up two-thirds of the world’s capital to expand its cache of Cadillac Escalades and flat-screen TVs; giving nothing back in return except mortgage-backed junk, cluster bombs, and crummy green paper. Nothing changes; it only gets worse. But this time its different. The world is now facing the very real prospect of famine on a massive scale because 12 doddering old banksters at the Federal Reserve would rather bail out their sketchy friends than save the lives of starving women and children. Bernanke, with one swipe of the pen, now has an opportunity to send more people to their eternal reward than Bush. If he cut rates, the dollar will fall, commodities will spike, and people will starve. It’s as simple as that.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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Allegedly Starbucks pays their supervisors a low wage and expects that they will make up for any pay difference by sharing in the tip money. How crazy is that?

This week a California judge has ruled, in a class action suit, that Starbucks owes its baristers, present and former, “the sum of $86.7 million, plus awards interest of 7%, for tip pool money that the coffee retailer used to compensate shift supervisors.”starbucks.jpg

A former barister went to court over the issue in October 2004 when he felt it was wrong that Starbucks’ supervision should be dipping into the tips.

California state labor laws were on his side as it is explicitly stated that owners, managers or supervisors may not share in tip pools.

David A. Lowe, lead trial attorney stated, “Starbucks was subsidizing labor costs for shift supervisors by diverting money from the tip pools to shift supervisors instead of paying more to them out of Starbucks’ pocket.”

Wow! Life at Starbucks isn’t as wonderful as it looks from the outside!

Hope this doesn’t mean a regular cup of coffee that is now $1.65 will have to go up in price exponentially to make up for the increase to supervisions’ pay and the multi-million dollar pay-out Starbucks will be making…

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From Excite/AP News

More Testing for Drugs in Water Soughtmedication_pills.png

Mar 16, 3:38 PM (ET)

Test it, study it, figure out how to clean it – but still drink it. That’s the range of reactions raining down from community leaders, utilities, environmental groups and policy makers in reaction to an Associated Press investigation that documented the presence of pharmaceuticals in major portions of the nation’s drinking water supplies.

“There is no wisdom in avoidance. There is wisdom in addressing this problem. I’m not suggesting that people be hysterical and overreact. There’s a responsible way to deal with this – and collectively we can do it,” said Washington-based environmental lawyer George Mannina.

A five-month-long inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team found that many communities do not test for the presence of drugs in drinking water, and those that do often fail to tell customers that they have found trace amounts of medications, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones. The stories also detailed the growing concerns among scientists that such pollution is adversely affecting wildlife and may be threatening human health.

As a result, Senate hearings have been scheduled, and there have been calls for federal solutions. But officials in many cities say they aren’t going to wait for guidance from Washington to begin testing.

Pharmaceutical industry officials said they would launch a new initiative Monday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focused on telling Americans how to safely dispose of unused medicines.

The subject of pharmaceuticals in drinking water also will be discussed this week when 7,000 scientists and regulators from 45 countries gather in Seattle for the annual meeting of the Society of Toxicology. “The public has a right to know the answers to these questions,” said Dr. George Corcoran, the organization’s president.

“The AP story has really put the spotlight on it, and it is going to lead to a pickup in the pace,” he said. “People are going to start putting money into studying this now, instead of a few years from now, and we’ll get the answers sooner than we would have otherwise.”
Environmental leaders said some answers are easy.

“It’s basic. We need to test, tell and protect health,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

Wiles said the Environmental Protection Agency needs to widely expand the list of contaminants that utilities are required to test for. That list currently contains no pharmaceuticals. He also said government agencies and water providers that don’t disclose test results “are taking away people’s right to know, hiding the fact that there are contaminants in the water. We don’t think they have that right. It’s hubris, it’s arrogance and it’s self-serving,” said Wiles.

As part of its effort, the AP surveyed 62 metropolitan areas and 52 smaller cities, reporting on positive test results in 24 major cities, serving 41 million Americans. Since release of the AP investigation, other communities and researchers have been disclosing previously unreleased local results, positive or negative.

In Yuma, Ariz., for example, city spokesman Dave Nash said four pharmaceuticals – an antibiotic, an anti-convulsant, an anti-bacterial and caffeine – have been detected in that city’s drinking water. In Denver, where the AP had reported undisclosed antibiotics had been detected, a Colorado State University professor involved in water screening there e-mailed the names of 12 specific drugs that had been detected.

Officials at many utilities said that without federal regulations, they didn’t see a need to screen their water for trace amounts of pharmaceuticals. But others have now decided to test, including Scottsdale and Phoenix in Arizona, Palm Beach County in Florida, Chicago and Springfield, Ill., Bozeman, Mont., Fargo, N.D.; Danville, Va.; and a group of four sewer partners in the Olympia, Wash., region.

“We read the AP story and made a determination that we should test our water and be transparent, just let the people know what we find. I’m confident we have safe and clean drinking water,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Officials in Freeport, Ill., one of the smaller cities surveyed, said they plan to work with the state EPA to test the area’s drinking water for pharmaceuticals. Mayor George Gaulrapp said he is looking to the state agency for standards, regulations and testing procedures for that city’s water, which comes from a deep well.

In some places, residents learned that the rivers and lakes that feed their drinking water treatment plants have already been tested, or that tests are under way.

In Marin County, California, officials said repeated tests in their watershed for pharmaceuticals have come back clean. In Massachusetts, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced a program to screen rivers, streams and reservoirs for pharmaceuticals.

Dozens of newspaper editorials called for testing in communities where water is not being screened and the release of any test results.

“The first, and least expensive, step is to let the sunshine in: Water utilities that currently test for pharmaceuticals should make that information freely available to their customers, along with more information on the potential impacts of drugs in the water supply,” read an editorial in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has filed an open records request for a copy of a study conducted on the city’s water after the mayor refused to give the AP and the newspaper the name of a pharmaceutical detected in the drinking water. City officials say publishing that information could jeopardize public safety, citing post-Sept. 11 security concerns. A Texas attorney general’s opinion is being sought on possible release of the information.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel urged readers to take responsibility as well.

“It’s a problem in which the average person has both a stake and a role in the solution,” read a Journal Sentinel editorial. “He or she can do something as simple as not flushing unused medications down the toilet or into the drain.”

And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette observed that “given the national scope of the problem, a strong leadership role for the federal government suggests itself in areas such as testing and upgrading water treatment plants. So it is discouraging to note that the Bush administration in its 2009 budget proposal cut $10 million from the water monitoring and research program.”

While the local responses are encouraging, Lisa Rainwater, policy director of Riverkeeper, a New York-based environmental group, said the EPA should step aside and let the National Academy of Sciences or the General Accounting Office study the impacts on humans and wildlife.

“Frankly, the EPA has failed the American public for doing far too little for far too long,” she said.

At least one local water official is putting part of his faith in another quarter. Wayne Livingston of the Oxford Water Works in Alabama said he has confidence in the existing treatment system. But he said his agency probably will test for pharmaceuticals now, although he doubts anything will turn up because the water is pumped from underground.

“The good Lord filters it,” he said. “But this is something we should keep an eye on.”

National writer Jeff Donn in Boston and writers Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

The AP National Investigative Team can be reached at investigate (at) ap.org

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Super Size Me is an eye-awakening movie for those who still are asleep and/or are overweight and/or are feeding the greedy giant corporate machines on a regular basis.

Morgan Spurlock decides to try an experiment in which he only eats McDonald’s fast foods and drinks for one month. It’s interesting to watch his adventure as he downs processed fat and calorie laden foods three times a day but it’s also a learning process as Morgan interviews experts, writers and doctors on the subject of corporate irresponsibility/responsibility, the scientific research performed into making processed foods taste good, and the mental manipulation techniques that are begun with children as young as 3 years of age. It is no wonder that many Americans, and others around the world, are obsessed and addicted to eating fast food, junk food, and sugar products – all foods high in calories, sugars, salts, and fat and empty in ‘good for you’ by-products.

Hopefully, after watching the movie, you will wake up, get the message, and stop feeding the corporate monster. An additional benefit would be to stop eating those “who knows what it really is” processed fast food items (also the soda and candy) and get back to eating what is good for you. Super Size Me is a “Wake up America” anthem documentary and one that should be heeded by those that watch it.

Super Size Me Movie Trailer

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 From Fox News

U.N. Conference Promotes Insect-Eating for Everyone From Famine Victims to Astronauts

CHIANG MAI, Thailand  —  Crickets, caterpillars and grubs are high in protein and minerals and could be an important food source during droughts and other emergencies, according to scientists.

edible-water-bugs.jpg“I definitely think they can assist,” said German biologist V.B. Meyer-Rochow, who regularly eats insects and wore a T-shirt with a Harlequin longhorn beetle to a U.N.-sponsored conference this month on promoting bugs as a food source.

Three dozen scientists from 15 countries gathered in this northern Thailand city, home to several dozen restaurants serving insects and other bugs. Some of their proposals were more down to earth than others.

A Japanese scientist proposed bug farms on spacecraft to feed astronauts, noting that it would be more practical than raising cows or pigs. Australian, Dutch and American researchers said more restaurants are serving the critters in their countries.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 1,400 species of insects and worms are eaten in almost 90 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Researchers at the conference detailed how crickets and silk worms are eaten in Thailand, grubs and grasshoppers in Africa and ants in South America.

“In certain places with certain cultures with a certain level of acceptance, then insects can very well be seen as part of the solution” to hunger, said Patrick Durst, a Bangkok-based senior forestry officer at the FAO.

The challenge, experts said, is organizing unregulated, small bug food operations in many countries so they can supplement the food that aid agencies provide. The infrastructure to raise, transport and market bugs is almost nonexistent in most countries.

Prof. Arnold van Huis, a tropical entomologist known as “Mr. Edible Insect” in his native Netherlands, blamed a Western bias against eating insects for the failure of aid agencies to incorporate bugs into their mix.

“They are completely biased,” van Huis said. “They really have to change. I would urge other donor organizations to take a different attitude toward this … It’s excellent food. It can be sustainable with precautions.”

There are questions about the safety of eating bugs and potential dangers from over-harvesting them, said Durst, who became interested in the practice known scientifically as entomophagy during his years working in Bangkok, where crickets and bamboo worms are sold as food by street vendors.

Tina van den Briel, senior nutritionist at the World Food Program, the U.N. agency that provides food in emergencies, expressed doubt that insects can benefit large, vulnerable populations. Most bugs are seasonal and have a short shelf life, she said.

“They can be a very good complement to the diet,” said van den Briel, not a conference participant. “But they do not lend themselves to programs like ours where you transport food over long distances and where you have to store food for a few months.”

She suggested a more practical benefit might be adding insects to animal feed or crushing them into a meal powder that could be used to make cookies or cakes.

Meyer-Rochow said aid agencies might even find a way to harvest crop-destroying swarms of locusts and crickets.

“These mass outbreaks could be a valuable food source,” he said. “If the technology is available, they could be ground up like a paste and added to the food humans eat.”


Note:  As Prof. Arnold van Huis has stated Americans need to stop being repulsed by alternative food choices such as bugs. Bad, bad Americans!

The Sunday meal, instead of the old pot roast, can be a healthy alternative such as broiled crickets topped with fried earthworms served with a side of boiled green grass topped with a pat of butter. Most items can be found in your yard or under your shed.

And put those flowers you have been growing in your garden to good use and eat them too! Think of the money you will save (you’ll need it to pay for the higher gasoline prices)! You can pat your tummy and your wallet at the same time!

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