Archive for the ‘Sustainable Food’ Category


Did you know that the USA does not have the world’s highest living standard?! Norway, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden and the USA, in that order, had the highest incomes per head. On income per hours worked, the USA comes 8th, after Luxemburg, Norway, France, Ireland, Belgium, Austria and the Netherlands.

This book offers a concise blast of iconoclastic, eye-opening economic truth-telling; essential reading to understand where free market thinking falls short.

Just take a look at the titles of some chapters, and you’ll know if this book is for you:

(1)There is no such thing as a free market
(2) Companies should NOT be run in the interest of their owners
(3) Most people in rich countries are paid more than they should be
(4) The washing machine has changed the world more than the Internet has
(5) The U.S. does not have the highest living standard in the world
(6) Making rich people richer doesn’t make the rest of us richer
(7) People in poor countries are more entrepreneurial than people in rich countries
(8) More education in itself is not going to make a country richer
(9) What is good for General Motors is not necessarily good for the United States
(10) We are not smart enough to leave things to the market

Review

“Chang, befitting his position as an economics professor at Cambridge University, is engagingly thoughtful and opinionated at a much lower decibel level. ‘The “truths” peddled by free-market ideologues are based on lazy assumptions and blinkered visions,’ he charges.”Time  Magazine

“Chang presents an enlightening précis of modern economic thought—and all the places it’s gone wrong, urging us to act in order to completely rebuild the world economy: ‘This will [make] some readers uncomfortable…[;] it is time to get uncomfortable.’”—Publishers Weekly

“Myth-busting and nicely-written collection of essays”—Independent (UK)

“Shaking Economics 101 assumptions to the core … Eminently accessible, with a clearly liberal (or at least anticonservative) bent, but with surprises along the way—for one, the thought that markets need to become less rather than more efficient.”Kirkus Reviews

“For anyone who wants to understand capitalism not as economists or politicians have pictured it but as it actually operates, this book will be invaluable.”—John Gray, Observer (UK)

“A lively, accessible and provocative book.”Sunday Times (UK)

“For 40 years, I have worked as a journalist and trained thousands of other journalists from my former perches as a University of Missouri Journalism School professor and as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. I have written newspaper articles, magazine features and entire books with heavy doses of economics policy and business behavior. I wish the book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism had been available when I was a rookie; I would have been more alert to the hands-off-business catechism by which Americans are relentlessly indoctrinated.”—Steven Weinberg, Remapping Debate

“I doubt there is one book, written in response to the current economic crisis, that is as fun or easy to read as Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell you About Capitalism.”—AlterNet Executive Editor Don Hazen


 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 20, 2010; 12:53 PMA new analysis showing the presence of carcinogen in the tap water of 31 cities across the country, including the District and Bethesda, has raised questions about what consumers in those communities can do to reduce their exposure.

The chemical, hexavalent chromium, got public attention via the 2000 film “Erin Brockovich” and has been deemed a “probable carcinogen” by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Although basic water filters such as those made by Brita and PUR do not remove hexavalent chromium, several reverse-osmosis systems designed for home use can take the chemical out of water.

The analysis, released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide look at hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public. The advocacy group sampled tap water from 35 cities and detected hexavalent chromium in 31 of those communities. Of those, 25 had levels that were higher than a health goal proposed last year by the state of California.

The federal government has not set a limit for hexavalent chromium in drinking water but is reexamining the chemical to decide whether it should impose such restrictions.

Last year, California proposed a “public health goal” for a safe level of hexavalent chromium in drinking water: 0.06 parts per billion. If the state sets a limit, it would be the first in the nation.

Hexavalent chromium was a commonly used industrial chemical until the early 1990s. It is still used in some industries, such as chrome plating and the manufacturing of plastics and dyes. The chemical can also leach into groundwater from natural ores.

Public awareness about the possible health effects of hexavalent chromium was heightened when residents of Hinkley, Calif., accused Pacific Gas & Electric of leaking the chemical into groundwater for more than 30 years. The company paid $333 million in damages in 1996 and pledged to clean up the contamination. The case was the basis for the movie “Erin Brockovich,” which starred Julia Roberts.

But a recent California study found that cancer levels in Hinkley are not elevated. The California Cancer Registry’s third study on the town, released this month, found that cancer rates remained unremarkable from 1988 to 2008. The state survey did not explain why any individual in Hinkley got cancer. State epidemiologist John W. Morgan has said it is still important that PG&E clean up the groundwater contamination, which continues to migrate despite efforts to contain it.

PG&E has been giving affected residents bottled water and has sent letters to about 100 property owners expressing interest in buying their property. The company has said it will continue those efforts despite the recent cancer study.

Washington Post Source: http://wapo.st/fenT8l

Environmental Working Group Source: http://www.ewg.org/chromium6-in-tap-water

Full Report: http://www.ewg.org/chromium6-in-tap-water/executive-summary


PAUL B. FARRELL

Aug. 10, 2010, 12:45 a.m. EDT

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — “How my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy.” Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, “Four Deformations of the Apocalypse.”

Get it? Not “destroying.” The GOP has already “destroyed” the U.S. economy, setting up an “American Apocalypse.”

Yes, Stockman is equally damning of the Democrats’ Keynesian policies. But what this indictment by a party insider — someone so close to the development of the Reaganomics ideology — says about America, helps all of us better understand how America’s toxic partisan-politics “holy war” is destroying not just the economy and capitalism, but the America dream. And unless this war stops soon, both parties will succeed in their collective death wish.

But why focus on Stockman’s message? It’s already lost in the 24/7 news cycle. Why? We need some introspection. Ask yourself: How did the great nation of America lose its moral compass and drift so far off course, to where our very survival is threatened?

We’ve arrived at a historic turning point as a nation that no longer needs outside enemies to destroy us, we are committing suicide. Democracy. Capitalism. The American dream. All dying. Why? Because of the economic decisions of the GOP the past 40 years, says this leading Reagan Republican.

Please listen with an open mind, no matter your party affiliation: This makes for a powerful history lesson, because it exposes how both parties are responsible for destroying the U.S. economy. Listen closely:

Reagan Republican: the GOP should file for bankruptcy

Stockman rushes into the ring swinging like a boxer: “If there were such a thing as Chapter 11 for politicians, the Republican push to extend the unaffordable Bush tax cuts would amount to a bankruptcy filing. The nation’s public debt … will soon reach $18 trillion.” It screams “out for austerity and sacrifice.” But instead, the GOP insists “that the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers be spared even a three-percentage-point rate increase.”

In the past 40 years Republican ideology has gone from solid principles to hype and slogans. Stockman says: “Republicans used to believe that prosperity depended upon the regular balancing of accounts — in government, in international trade, on the ledgers of central banks and in the financial affairs of private households and businesses too.”

No more. Today there’s a “new catechism” that’s “little more than money printing and deficit finance, vulgar Keynesianism robed in the ideological vestments of the prosperous classes” making a mockery of GOP ideals. Worse, it has resulted in “serial financial bubbles and Wall Street depredations that have crippled our economy.” Yes, GOP ideals backfired, crippling our economy.

Stockman’s indictment warns that the Republican party’s “new policy doctrines have caused four great deformations of the national economy, and modern Republicans have turned a blind eye to each one:”

Stage 1. Nixon irresponsible, dumps gold, U.S starts spending binge

Richard Nixon’s gold policies get Stockman’s first assault, for defaulting “on American obligations under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement to balance our accounts with the world.” So for the past 40 years, America’s been living “beyond our means as a nation” on “borrowed prosperity on an epic scale … an outcome that Milton Friedman said could never happen when, in 1971, he persuaded President Nixon to unleash on the world paper dollars no longer redeemable in gold or other fixed monetary reserves.”

Remember Friedman: “Just let the free market set currency exchange rates, he said, and trade deficits will self-correct.” Friedman was wrong by trillions. And unfortunately “once relieved of the discipline of defending a fixed value for their currencies, politicians the world over were free to cheapen their money and disregard their neighbors.”

And without discipline America was also encouraging “global monetary chaos as foreign central banks run their own printing presses at ever faster speeds to sop up the tidal wave of dollars coming from the Federal Reserve.” Yes, the road to the coming apocalypse began with a Republican president listening to a misguided Nobel economist’s advice.

Stage 2. Crushing debts from domestic excesses, war mongering

Stockman says “the second unhappy change in the American economy has been the extraordinary growth of our public debt. In 1970 it was just 40% of gross domestic product, or about $425 billion. When it reaches $18 trillion, it will be 40 times greater than in 1970.” Who’s to blame? Not big-spending Dems, says Stockman, but “from the Republican Party’s embrace, about three decades ago, of the insidious doctrine that deficits don’t matter if they result from tax cuts.”

Back “in 1981, traditional Republicans supported tax cuts,” but Stockman makes clear, they had to be “matched by spending cuts, to offset the way inflation was pushing many taxpayers into higher brackets and to spur investment. The Reagan administration’s hastily prepared fiscal blueprint, however, was no match for the primordial forces — the welfare state and the warfare state — that drive the federal spending machine.”

OK, stop a minute. As you absorb Stockman’s indictment of how his Republican party has “destroyed the U.S. economy,” you’re probably asking yourself why anyone should believe a traitor to the Reagan legacy. I believe party affiliation is irrelevant here. This is a crucial subject that must be explored because it further exposes a dangerous historical trend where politics is so partisan it’s having huge negative consequences.

Yes, the GOP does have a welfare-warfare state: Stockman says “the neocons were pushing the military budget skyward. And the Republicans on Capitol Hill who were supposed to cut spending, exempted from the knife most of the domestic budget — entitlements, farm subsidies, education, water projects. But in the end it was a new cadre of ideological tax-cutters who killed the Republicans’ fiscal religion.”

When Fed chief Paul Volcker “crushed inflation” in the ’80s we got a “solid economic rebound.” But then “the new tax-cutters not only claimed victory for their supply-side strategy but hooked Republicans for good on the delusion that the economy will outgrow the deficit if plied with enough tax cuts.” By 2009, they “reduced federal revenues to 15% of gross domestic product,” lowest since the 1940s. Still today they’re irrationally demanding an extension of those “unaffordable Bush tax cuts [that] would amount to a bankruptcy filing.”

Recently Bush made matters far worse by “rarely vetoing a budget bill and engaging in two unfinanced foreign military adventures.” Bush also gave in “on domestic spending cuts, signing into law $420 billion in nondefense appropriations, a 65% percent gain from the $260 billion he had inherited eight years earlier. Republicans thus joined the Democrats in a shameless embrace of a free-lunch fiscal policy.” Takes two to tango.

Stage 3. Wall Street’s deadly ‘vast, unproductive expansion’

Stockman continues pounding away: “The third ominous change in the American economy has been the vast, unproductive expansion of our financial sector.” He warns that “Republicans have been oblivious to the grave danger of flooding financial markets with freely printed money and, at the same time, removing traditional restrictions on leverage and speculation.” Wrong, not oblivious. Self-interested Republican loyalists like Paulson, Bernanke and Geithner knew exactly what they were doing.

They wanted the economy, markets and the government to be under the absolute control of Wall Street’s too-greedy-to-fail banks. They conned Congress and the Fed into bailing out an estimated $23.7 trillion debt. Worse, they have since destroyed meaningful financial reforms. So Wall Street is now back to business as usual blowing another bigger bubble/bust cycle that will culminate in the coming “American Apocalypse.”

Stockman refers to Wall Street’s surviving banks as “wards of the state.” Wrong, the opposite is true. Wall Street now controls Washington, and its “unproductive” trading is “extracting billions from the economy with a lot of pointless speculation in stocks, bonds, commodities and derivatives.” Wall Street banks like Goldman were virtually bankrupt, would have never survived without government-guaranteed deposits and “virtually free money from the Fed’s discount window to cover their bad bets.”

Stage 4. New American Revolution class-warfare coming soon

Finally, thanks to Republican policies that let us “live beyond our means for decades by borrowing heavily from abroad, we have steadily sent jobs and production offshore,” while at home “high-value jobs in goods production … trade, transportation, information technology and the professions shrunk by 12% to 68 million from 77 million.”

As the apocalypse draws near, Stockman sees a class-rebellion, a new revolution, a war against greed and the wealthy. Soon. The trigger will be the growing gap between economic classes: No wonder “that during the last bubble (from 2002 to 2006) the top 1% of Americans — paid mainly from the Wall Street casino — received two-thirds of the gain in national income, while the bottom 90% — mainly dependent on Main Street’s shrinking economy — got only 12%. This growing wealth gap is not the market’s fault. It’s the decaying fruit of bad economic policy.”

Get it? The decaying fruit of the GOP’s bad economic policies is destroying our economy.

Warning: this black swan won’t be pretty, will shock, soon

His bottom line: “The day of national reckoning has arrived. We will not have a conventional business recovery now, but rather a long hangover of debt liquidation and downsizing … it’s a pity that the modern Republican party offers the American people an irrelevant platform of recycled Keynesianism when the old approach — balanced budgets, sound money and financial discipline — is needed more than ever.”

Wrong: There are far bigger things to “pity.”

First, that most Americans, 300 million, are helpless, will do nothing, sit in the bleachers passively watching this deadly partisan game like it’s just another TV reality show.

Second, that, unfortunately, politicians are so deep-in-the-pockets of the Wall Street conspiracy that controls Washington they are helpless and blind.

And third, there’s a depressing sense that Stockman will be dismissed as a traitor, his message lost in the 24/7 news cycle … until the final apocalyptic event, an unpredictable black swan triggers another, bigger global meltdown, followed by a long Great Depression II and a historic class war.

So be prepared, it will hit soon, when you least expect.

Source: http://bit.ly/9bawpV



September 18, 2010

Senate Bill on Food Safety Is Stalled

By GARDINER HARRIS

WASHINGTON — After his mother died from eating contaminated peanut butter, Jeff Almer went to Washington to push for legislation that might save others from similar fates. And then he went again. And again. And again.

Nearly two years have passed since Shirley Almer’s death. In that time, food contamination involving chocolate chip cookie dough and eggs has sickened thousands more.

But the Senate has still not acted to fix many of the flaws in the nation’s food safety system — although a bill to do so has broad bipartisan support, is a priority for the Obama administration and has the backing of both industry and consumer groups. The House passed its version of the bill more than a year ago.

“It’s so frustrating,” said Mr. Almer, of Savage, Minn. “I don’t even know who to blame.”

The blame lies with a tight Senate calendar, a stubborn senator from Oklahoma and an unusual coalition of left- and right-wing advocates for small farmers who have mounted a surprisingly effective Internet campaign. Their messages have warned, among other untruths, that the bill would outlaw organic farming.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of food and drugs, said in an interview that she was still confident the legislation would pass, although she confessed to being bewildered by the lengthy battle to schedule a vote.

“This is a historic opportunity,” Dr. Hamburg said. “This legislation would provide F.D.A. with important resources and authorities that we really need to be able to do our important job.”

The latest hope for the bill’s advocates was that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, would schedule a vote on the bill this week. But the Senate calendar is full of measures that need to be passed before members leave in October to campaign, so Mr. Reid sought a routine agreement to limit debate on the measure.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, refused, saying that the powers granted to the F.D.A. in the bill would have financial costs, and that those costs needed to be offset by spending reductions.

Mr. Coburn also expressed doubts that expanding the authority of the F.D.A. would “result in improved food safety,” said John Hart, his spokesman.

Mr. Reid responded Thursday, saying, “In light of recent events like the egg recall in Iowa, it is unconscionable that Senator Coburn and his Republican colleagues are putting politics ahead of a common-sense, bipartisan bill to ensure that the food products our families consume every day are safe.”

So the legislation may have to wait until the Senate’s lame-duck session after November’s elections, when it still could die. Many of the gaps in the nation’s food protection system that the bill would close became apparent in the recent recall of 500 million eggs after more than 1,500 people became ill.

For instance, the F.D.A. never inspected the Iowa egg facilities at the center of the recalls. Even if it had, the agency would not have had the power to order that their eggs be recalled despite conditions it later found to be filthy. And until recently, producers were not required to ensure that their eggs were safe.

By requiring regular inspections of high-risk facilities, providing the F.D.A. with the power to order recalls and demanding food makers create plans for safe processing, the proposal would change many of the circumstances that led to the illnesses.

But in a little-known footnote to the egg recall, inspectors from the Agriculture Department regularly visited the Iowa egg facilities to grade the eggs and noted unsanitary conditions but never told the F.D.A. about them. That kind of poor communication and coordination between the government’s main food agencies is routine, and the legislation stalled in the Senate would do little to correct them.

Nonetheless, mainstream consumer advocates and major food makers are nearly united in calling for passage. Just a few years ago, many manufacturers were opposed to expanding the F.D.A.’s food authority. But when a relatively small producer sold contaminated spinach several years ago, the entire industry’s crop was thrown out, resulting in huge, industrywide losses. And once a food contamination scare affects a product, sales are slow to return to normal.

Tired of getting punished for the sloppiness of others, food companies have become so supportive of greater government oversight that they even embraced a House proposal to charge manufacturers an annual registration fee to finance more regular inspections. That proposal is not in the Senate bill.

“Industry needs a strong partner at F.D.A. with the right tools and, importantly, the right resources,” said Scott Faber, vice president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

Cries of alarm about the legislation have arisen from some small farmers and their advocates, who have argued that the new regulations would be too costly and that F.D.A. inspectors would come barging into their homes. Linn Cohen-Cole, a small-farm advocate from Atlanta, calls the bill “a fascist takeover of the entire food supply.”

The bill’s sponsors in the Senate agreed to allow some exemptions for small farms and facilities, but those provisions are not forceful enough for Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana. In an interview, Mr. Tester promised to offer amendments that were “meant to let state and local laws deal with small producers, and the federal government will deal with the big guys.”

Both industry and consumer advocates have argued against such exemptions, saying that all food needs to be safe and that state and local laws often provide few protections.

No matter how such issues are resolved, consumer and industry advocates have called for some form of the bill to be passed.

“People understand that eggs can be contaminated, spinach can be contaminated, peanut butter can be contaminated,” said Erik Olson, the deputy director of the Pew Health Group. “And it really is the government’s responsibility to prevent that.”

Source: http://nyti.ms/bpsqDF


Do you know what your lungs are breathing? The American Lung Association State of the Air 2009 report shows that over 186 million Americans live in counties where air pollution endangers their lives. This includes over 40 million people in counties where the air failed every test.

You can help make the air you breathe cleaner.  Tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen the air pollution health standards, known as National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particulate matter (soot) and ozone (smog). These standards protect your health by setting a legal limit on the safe levels of pollution in the air.

The current standards set by the EPA are insufficient in protecting the health of sensitive populations such as children, the elderly, and those with heart and lung disease.

Please help by urging EPA to set tougher standards that protect the health of you and your family. We must let EPA know that the evidence is clear that allowing more pollution in the air is dangerous, even deadly.

Source: https://secure3.convio.net/ala/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2000

Source: http://www.lungusa.org


Katie Spotz 22, of Mentor, Ohio, did this not just to challenge herself but to raise funds and awareness for the Blue Planet Run Foundation, a charitable organization that funds safe drinking water projects for billions of people around the world in need.

“I am so thankful to all of the people who followed my journey and sent me encouraging messages, but especially for their donations and support for safe drinking water, which were inspirations for the row,” said Spotz.

She has raised over $100,000 for this wonderful cause!  Congratulations!

Source: http://rowforwater.com/