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Topic: LivingThe new items published under this topic are as follows.
Monday, December 9, 2013
The witness trees: Undisturbed forests are essential to our mental well being
Audio: The witness treesPosted at: Monday, December 09, 2013 - 06:42 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
"Ideas" CBC Radio One Canada November 25, 2013
Pitts Lake, Nova Scotia. Photo: Dick Miller
You can listen to this stimulating program (53:58) from a pop-up link on this page.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem "Evangeline" begins with the words "This is the forest primeval". Longfellow was talking about the rich Acadian forest, and was taking a little poetic license. In fact, settlers and boat-builders had already pillaged those forests. They were later altered again and again as the pulp and paper industry flourished. Some wonder whether those forests of 500 years ago can be regrown. Are our forests fiber mines or recreational playgrounds? Are they an economic engine or necessary for our environmental health? And are they essential, as some neuroscientific research is suggesting, to our mental well being? IDEAS contributor Dick Miller re-imagines the forest of the future.
Participants in the program:
Peter Lee - Executive Director, Global Forest Watch Canada
Tom Beckley - Professor, Faculty of Forestry and Environmental Management, University of New Brunswick
Diana Beresford Kroeger - Chemist, Environmentalist, Author: The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can Save Us (Viking, 2010); The Sweetness of a Simple Life: Tips for Healthier, Happier and Kinder Living Gleaned from the Wisdom and Science of Nature (Random House, 2013)
Donna Crossland - Historical ecologist, writer
Bob Bancroft - Wildlife biologist, consultant
Mark Brennan - Artist, audio recordist
What climate change does to our minds
Below: Pioneering research out of Cape Breton University is measuring how rising global temperatures affect the mental well-being of Canada's Inuit.Posted at: Monday, December 09, 2013 - 06:28 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
What climate change does to our minds
Geoff Dembicki TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada December 9, 2013
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Sometimes the smell of Skidoo exhaust makes Melva Williams yearn for the winters of her childhood, when cross-country journeys began in the darkness of early morning, layers and layers of clothing kept the intense cold out, and the ice was so thick people rarely worried about plunging through it. A few years ago, Williams and her husband found themselves unable to traverse Labrador's frozen wilderness after an unusually warm winter left the ice too thin to support their snowmobile.
Now she wonders whether "there may be a time when the weather conditions change so drastically that we cannot safely travel on the ice" at all. Each mild winter Williams experiences -- and lately there have been a lot of them -- brings her closer to that "heartbreaking" reality. "To be a part of a culture and a people that has a necessary connection to nature and the outdoors and is used to living in a certain way -- to see that slipping away is scary," she lamented in a video posted to YouTube.
Her fears may seem anachronistic in a highly modern Western culture that's never felt so detached from the physical world. Our generation venerates the self-inventing tech entrepreneurs building a "new economy" unbound by traditional notions of place or time. We spawned a transglobal class of plutocrats that calls no country home. Yet an emerging body of mental health research suggests we may share more in common with people like Williams than most of us imagine.
"We've totally misunderstood our connection to the natural world," said Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, a Canada Research Chair at Cape Breton University who's helping lead first ever studies that measure how rising global temperatures affect the mental well-being of Canada's Inuit. One of her biggest takeaways: that human identity is inextricably tied to the natural world. As climate change alters that world in profound and unexpected ways, she told The Tyee, "very few people are going to be untouched."
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Love 'em or hate 'em, we all know Greenwald and Snowden are important & The new political prisoners: Leakers, hackers and activists
How two alienated, angry geeks broke the story of the year.Posted at: Thursday, December 05, 2013 - 06:09 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Snowden and Greenwald: The men who leaked the secrets
Janet Reitman Rolling Stone USA December 4, 2013
Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. Photo: Max Vadukukl/Guardian/EyePress/Newscom
Early one morning last December, Glenn Greenwald opened his laptop, scanned through his e-mail, and made a decision that almost cost him the story of his life. A columnist and blogger with a large and devoted following, Greenwald receives hundreds of e-mails every day, many from readers who claim to have "great stuff." Occasionally these claims turn out to be credible; most of the time they're cranks. There are some that seem promising but also require serious vetting. This takes time, and Greenwald, who starts each morning deluged with messages, has almost none. "My inbox is the enemy," he told me recently.
And so it was that on December 1st, 2012, Greenwald received a note from a person asking for his public encryption, or PGP, key so he could send him an e-mail securely. Greenwald didn't have one, which he now acknowledges was fairly inexcusable given that he wrote almost daily about national-security issues, and had likely been on the government's radar for some time over his vocal support of Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. "I didn't really know what PGP was," he admits. "I had no idea how to install it or how to use it." It seemed time-consuming and complicated, and Greenwald, who was working on a book about how the media control political discourse, while also writing his column for The Guardian, had more pressing things to do.
"It felt Anonymous-ish to me," Greenwald says. "It was this cryptic 'I and others have things you would be interested in. . . .' He never sent me neon lights – it was much more ambiguous than that."
So he ignored the note. Soon after, the source sent Greenwald a step-by-step tutorial on encryption. Then he sent him a video Greenwald describes as "Encryption for Journalists," which "walked me through the process like I was a complete idiot."
And yet, Greenwald still didn't bother learning security protocols. "The more he sent me, the more difficult it seemed," he says. "I mean, now I had to watch a fucking video . . . ?" Greenwald still had no idea who the source was, nor what he wanted to say. "It was this Catch-22: Unless he tells me something motivating, I'm not going to drop what I'm doing, and from his side, unless I drop what I'm doing and get PGP, he can't tell me anything."
The dance went on for a month. Finally, after trying and failing to get Greenwald's attention, the source gave up.
Greenwald went back to his book and his column, publishing, among other things, scathing attacks on the Obama administration's Guantánamo and drone policies. It would take until May, six months after the anonymous stranger reached out, before Greenwald would hear from him again, through a friend, the documentarian Laura Poitras, whom the source had contacted, suggesting she and Greenwald form a partnership. In June, the three would meet face to face, in a Hong Kong hotel room, where Edward Snowden, the mysterious source, would hand over many thousands of top-secret documents: a mother lode laying bare the architecture of the national-security state. It was the "most serious compromise of classified information in the history of the U.S. intelligence community," as former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said, exposing the seemingly limitless reach of the National Security Agency, and sparking a global debate on the use of surveillance – ostensibly to fight terrorism – versus the individual right to privacy. And its disclosure was also a triumph for Greenwald's unique brand of journalism.
Greenwald is a former litigator whose messianic defense of civil liberties has made him a hero of left-libertarian circles, though he has alienated elites across the political spectrum. Famously combative, he "lives to piss people off," as one colleague says. And in the past eight years he has done an excellent job: taking on Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, the Republicans, the "liberal establishment" and, notably, the mainstream media, which he accuses – often while being interviewed by those same mainstream, liberal-establishment journalists – of cozying up to power. "I crave the hatred of those people," Greenwald says about the small, somewhat incestuous community of Beltway pundits, government officials, think-tank experts and other opinion-makers he targets routinely. "If you're not provoking that reaction in people, you're not provoking or challenging anyone, which means you're pointless."
This perspective has earned Greenwald tremendous support, especially among young, idealistic readers hungry for an uncompromised voice. "There are few writers out there who are as passionate about communicating uncomfortable truths," Snowden, who was one of Greenwald's longtime readers, tells me in an e-mail. "Glenn tells the truth no matter the cost, and that matters."
The same, of course, could be said of Snowden, who, from the moment he revealed himself as the source of the leaks, has baffled the mainstream critics who've tried to make sense of him. ...
Related: More from Rolling Stone: "The New Political Prisoners: Leakers, Hackers and Activists"
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On February 28th, Army private first class Bradley Manning pleaded not guilty to the charge of aiding the enemy for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks in 2010. After more than 1,000 days in prison, Manning may be America's most famous political prisoner – but he's far from the only one. From environmentalists to hackers to whistleblowers, the U.S. government has made a policy of charging and convicting a wide range of activists across the country. To the FBI, an information transparency activist like the late Aaron Swartz is apparently more dangerous than the men who ruined the nation's economy, and an environmentally-minded economics student poses a greater threat than the oil companies polluting America's natural resources. The government insists that such harsh penalties are necessary to protect national security – but as hacker Jeremy Hammond said in a recent letter from prison, this misleading rhetoric ultimately "enables the politically motivated prosecution of anyone who voices dissent."
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Best wishes to our Jewish vistiors on the first day of Chanukah, November 27 - December 5, 2013
Hanukkah (/ˈhɑːnəkə/ HAH-nə-kə; Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה, Tiberian: Ḥănukkāh, usually spelled חנוכה, pronounced [χanuˈka] in Modern Hebrew; a transliteration also romanized as Chanukah or Chanukkah), also known as the Festival of Lights and Feast of Dedication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
According to Wikipedia:
Many people define major Jewish holidays as those that feature traditional holiday meals, kiddush, holiday candle-lighting, etc., and when all forms of work are forbidden. Only biblical holidays fit this criteria, and Hanukah was instituted some two centuries after the Bible was completed and canonized. Nevertheless, though Hanukah is of rabbinic origin, it is traditionally celebrated in a major and very public fashion. The requirement to position the menorah, or Hanukiah, at the door or window symbolizes the desire to give the Hanukah miracle a high profile.
The classical rabbis downplayed the military and nationalistic dimensions of Hanukkah, and some even interpreted the emphasis upon the story of the miracle oil as a diversion away from the struggle with empires that had led to the disastrous downfall of Jerusalem to the Romans.
Some Jewish historians suggest a different explanation for the rabbinic reluctance to laud the militarism. First, the rabbis wrote after Hasmonean leaders had led Judea into Rome’s grip and so may not have wanted to offer the family much praise. Second, they clearly wanted to promote a sense of dependence on God, urging Jews to look toward the divine for protection. They likely feared inciting Jews to another revolt that might end in disaster, like the 135 C.E. experience.
With the advent of Zionism and the state of Israel, however, these themes were reconsidered. In modern Israel, the national and military aspects of Hanukkah became, once again, more dominant.
In North America especially, Hanukkah gained increased importance with many Jewish families in the final decades of the 20th century, including large numbers of secular Jews, who wanted a Jewish alternative to the Christmas celebrations that often overlap with Hanukkah. Though it was traditional among Ashkenazi Jews to give "gelt" or money coins to children during Hanukkah, in many families this has changed into gifts in order to prevent Jewish children from feeling left out of the Christmas gift giving.
While Hanukkah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday, as indicated by the lack of religious restrictions on work other than a few minutes after lighting the candles, in North America, Hanukkah in the 21st century has taken a place equal to Passover as a symbol of Jewish identity. Both the Israeli and North American versions of Hanukkah emphasize resistance, focusing on some combination of national liberation and religious freedom as the defining meaning of the holiday.
Chabad Lubavitch Media Center Chabad.org
The ultimate Chanukah (Hanukkah) website featuring how-to, insights, stories, history, multimedia audio and video, games, global event directory and more.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Changing the global food narrative. The dominant story about the future of the world food supply is logical, well known and wrong
Ensia is a magazine showcasing environmental solutions in action. Powered by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, it connect people with ideas, information and inspiration they can use to change the world. The magazine covers a broad spectrum of environment and sustainability issues, looking at the crossroads of sectors, disciplines, ideologies and geographies for new perspectives and solutions to emerge.Posted at: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 06:58 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Changing the global food narrative
Jonathan Foley Ensia Magazine USA November 12, 2013
Illustration by Glen Lowry
There’s a powerful narrative being told about the world’s food system — in classrooms, boardrooms, foundations and the halls of government around the world. It’s everywhere. And it makes complete sense when you listen to it. The problem is, it’s mostly based on flawed assumptions.
You’ve probably heard it many times. While the exact phrasing varies, it usually goes something like this: The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by mid-century, putting substantial demands on the planet’s food supply. To meet these growing demands, we will need to grow almost twice as much food by 2050 as we do today. And that means we’ll need to use genetically modified crops and other advanced technologies to produce this additional food. It’s a race to feed the world, and we had better get started.
To be fair, there are grains of truth in each of these statements, but they are far from complete. And they give a distorted vision of the global food system, potentially leading to poor policy and investment choices.
To make better decisions, we need to examine where the narrative goes off the rails.
Culture wars: Dining with Dear Leader
The global corporatists have their McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Subway, etc. The 'Hermit Kingdom', the Stalinist state of North Korea, has its chain of about 100 overseas restaurants. And, the waitresses, all in their 20s, are perfect comrades.Posted at: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 06:48 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Dining with Dear Leader
Daniel Otis Roads and Kingdoms USA November 22, 2013
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—
The restaurant’s fluorescent lights dim and give way to multicolored spots as an upbeat synthesized tune begins to play. Three waitresses—nearly identical with their red aprons, pale smiling faces, and jet black hair—rush onto the small stage, each clutching a microphone and dancing in unison as they sing the North Korean classic “Pan Gap Sumnida” (“Nice to Meet You”) while scenes from their homeland flash on a television behind them.
This is Phnom Penh’s Pyongyang Restaurant, part of a pan-Asian chain established in the 1990s that now has about 100 branches scattered across China, Indonesia, Russia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Nepal. Despite functioning like regular—if kitschy—restaurants, they are believed to be a part of Bureau 39, a secretive arm of the Korean Workers’ Party that acquires and launders foreign currency for the cash-strapped Hermit Kingdom through ventures as diverse as agricultural exports, arms sales, and methamphetamine production.
The great irony of the Pyongyang Restaurant chain is that South Koreans are some of their best customers. Cambodia’s original North Korean restaurant opened in Siem Reap in 2002 to cater to the busloads of South Korean tourists descending on the area’s famed Angkor Archaeological Park. Its success led to the opening of a Phnom Penh branch in 2003. There are now two of these North Korean–themed restaurants in Siem Reap and three in the Cambodian capital. South Korea’s [Chosun Ilbo] daily newspaper estimates that each restaurant funnels between $100,000 to $300,000 in hard currency back to the Stalinist state each year.
The oldest of the three Phnom Penh restaurants is surprisingly propaganda free. Instead of didactic slogans and portraits of the Kim clan, the walls are adorned with massive pastoral paintings: cherry blossoms, mist-shrouded mountains, a serene birch forest.
It’s Friday night, and around us, well-heeled Cambodians and South Korean businessmen knock back bottles of soju and Angkor Beer from tables piled high with specialties from above the 38th parallel: Savory Pyongyang cold noodles, pungent dog meat casserole, and viscous pine nut gruel are all on the menu. A shelf near the entrance holds expensive bottles of North Korean liquor—ginseng ($50), mushroom ($50), sea cucumber ($70)—and small boxes of herbal pills ($120 per package!) that a waitress claims will cure anything. At one table near the back of the restaurant, a lone Cambodian bodyguard listens intently to a walkie-talkie while munching on a platter of grilled pork. When a waitress asks him if friends will be joining him, he points upstairs to the VIP karaoke rooms that westerners are barred from entering.
Mandatory military service means that nearly all of the South Korean customers have served in the armed forces. The irony of patronizing a restaurant owned by a regime bent on their destruction seems lost in the boozy haze. The overwhelmingly male crowd appears to be more interested in the pretty young waitresses than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Brewed Free! Homage to Catalonia ... and Catalan beer
Catalan identity has made headlines recently, as a secessionist movement long relegated to the fringes has entered the mainstream. Since 2008, the movement has been making headway, gaining traction, as Catalonia felt increasingly overtaxed and underserved by the Spanish government in Madrid. The Catalan president, Artur Mas, is calling for a referendum on independence, which Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has already declared unconstitutional. From 2008 to 2012, the number of people supporting Catalan independence has doubled, reaching 46 percent. This September, hundreds of thousands of supporters formed a 250-mile human chain across Catalonia, from the French border through Barcelona to Valencia. - Carla Parks (a freelance writer living in Barcelona) reportingPosted at: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 04:49 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Jim comment: In my experience, the differences between Madrid (Spain's largest metropolitan area) and Barcelona (Spain's second largest metropolitan area) are immense. The most significant differences are cultural and qualitative. Catalonians are independently-minded folk in the day-to-day. As a group they are also increasingly independence minded. Ever since my first 1962 visit to Barcelona and the autonomous community for which Barcelona serves as the capital city, I have felt a bond with the people. The main reason I settled permanently on Salt Spring Island a decade later was a similar cultural bond of shared values with the community. Salt Spring Islanders are independently-minded folk in the day-to-day. And, increasingly year-by-year, we are independence minded—but that's a subject for numerous other posts. One of the things we are proud of in our community is our local brewery. Our award-winning brewery was established in 1996. A decade later, Barcelona's first craft brewery was opened for business. To it and to the others that have followed in the city and the region, I raise a glass: Txin txin! And add: Força Catalunya!
Brewed free in Catalonia
Cara Parks Roads and Kingdoms USA November 15, 2013
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In early 2005, when Àlex Padró opened Barcelona’s first microbrewery, craft beer was hard to find. As Llúpols i Llevats (which means hops and yeast in Catalan) began producing its first carefully wrought bottles, Padró got some quizzical looks. “They said, ‘What are you offering me? This is beer? And so expensive!’” he recalls.
For decades, Spanish beer behemoths such as Estrella Damm, founded in Barcelona in 1876, and Moritz, a recently revived competitor, have dominated the beer market in Catalonia. The mass-produced beers are cheap and usually served in a small glass known as a caña. “Ten years ago, every single guy in town was drinking beer,” says Joan Villar, editor of Gacetilla Cervecera and co-author of a comprehensive guide to Catalan beers. “It was just all the same beer, and we were fine with it.” For those looking for complex, challenging flavors, the default option was wine. Catalonia, which runs from the French border in the north, then along the Mediterranean to Valencia in the south, is especially known for the sparkling wine cava.
In the early 2000s, home-brewing beer began to spread among a small group of beer fans in the city. As they honed their skills, some of them began spinning off to become pioneer microbrewers throughout the region. Traditional beer styles from around the world appeared, from porters to brown ales. One day, a customer told Padró, “You have English ales, lagers, American-style IPAs—what’s missing is a Catalan style,” he recalls. “I thought, a-ha!” He began brewing D’hivern—which he calls a Catalan winter ale—with honey and rosemary, a common herb that grows wild throughout the area.
In Barcelona, where the streets are lined with Catalan flags and billboards feature images of the original Catalan constitution, regional pride is in full swing. Microbrewing, of course, is not activism, and these brewers are hardly waging the battle for independence with each bottle—sometimes a beer is just a beer—but that doesn’t mean developing a distinctly Catalan beer culture isn’t a marketing opportunity.
When it comes to thorny political issues (like secessionist movements), cultural branding matters. For centuries, a distinct Catalan culture, with its own language, cuisine, and customs (human tower, anyone?) has been part of the justification for regional independence. “Everyone knows Scotland—the kilt, the whiskey,” Ferran Civit, a member of the Catalonia National Assembly, recently told Reuters in reference to another distinct region planning to vote on independence in 2014. “But they don’t know much about Catalonia, so we want to make it an international ‘brand’ and publicize our struggle to become an independent state.”
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Belchite – Ghostly reminder of the Spanish Civil War
The war-devastated town of Belchite, Spain. The whole town was destroyed in 1937. The ruins have been left untouched as a "living" monument of war. (A new town was constructed near the former.)
Battle of Belchite (1937)
Wikipedia Last modified October 24, 2013
The Battle of Belchite refers to a series of military operations that took place between 24 August and 7 September 1937, in and around the small town of Belchite, in Aragon during the Spanish Civil War.
Belchite – Ghostly reminder of the Spanish Civil War
R. J. Evans Kuriositas USA June 14, 2011
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As you approach the ghost town of Belchite in the Spanish province of Aragon the soil turns a deep red, almost like a sign that the place you are approaching is soaked in the blood of battle. Belchite is perhaps the most powerful reminder in Spain of the devastation that war (in this case the civil war of 1936 – 39) can bring to human populations. It remains today as it was at its surrender on 1 September 1937.
August 24 1937 saw the beginning of the Battle of Belchite. The Spanish Civil War cost the lives of over 300 thousand people and today the town can be seen as a quiet tribute to people – any people – who lost their lives in the conflict. However, the town was left initially as it is for much darker political motives.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Crimes abroad and at home: Why do we not care? The slow destruction of our public life—what to do about it?
Smartphones are killing us — and destroying public lifePosted at: Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - 05:46 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Henry Grabar Salon.com USA November 2, 2013
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The host collects phones at the door of the dinner party. At a law firm, partners maintain a no-device policy at meetings. Each day, a fleet of vans assembles outside New York’s high schools, offering, for a small price, to store students’ contraband during the day. In situations where politeness and concentration are expected, backlash is mounting against our smartphones.
In public, of course, it’s a free country. It’s hard to think of a place beyond the sublime darkness of the movie theater where phone use is shunned, let alone regulated. (Even the cinematic exception is up for debate.) At restaurants, phones occupy that choice tablecloth real estate once reserved for a pack of cigarettes. In truly public space — on sidewalks, in parks, on buses and on trains — we move face down, our phones cradled like amulets.
No observer can fail to notice how deeply this development has changed urban life. A deft user can digitally enhance her experience of the city. She can study a map; discover an out-of-the-way restaurant; identify the trees that line the block and the architect who designed the building at the corner. She can photograph that building, share it with friends, and in doing so contribute her observations to a digital community. On her way to the bus (knowing just when it will arrive) she can report the existence of a pothole and check a local news blog.
It would be unfair to say this person isn’t engaged in the city; on the contrary, she may be more finely attuned to neighborhood history and happenings than her companions. But her awareness is secondhand: She misses the quirks and cues of the sidewalk ballet, fails to make eye contact, and limits her perception to a claustrophobic one-fifth of normal. Engrossed in the virtual, she really isn’t here with the rest of us.
Consider the case of a recent murder on a San Francisco train. On Sept. 23, in a crowded car, a man pulls a pistol from his jacket. In Vivian Ho’s words: “He raises the gun, pointing it across the aisle, before tucking it back against his side. He draws it out several more times, once using the hand holding the gun to wipe his nose. Dozens of passengers stand and sit just feet away — but none reacts. Their eyes, focused on smartphones and tablets, don’t lift until the gunman fires a bullet into the back of a San Francisco State student getting off the train.”
The incident is a powerful example of the sea change that public space has suffered in the age of hand-held computing. There are thousands of similar stories, less tragic, more common, that together sound the alarm for a new understanding of public space – one that accounts for the pervasiveness of glowing rectangles.
The glut of information technology separating us from our surroundings extends well beyond our pocket computers. “Never has distraction had such capacity to become total,” writes the urban theorist Malcolm McCullough in Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information. “Enclosed in cars, often in headphones, seldom in places where encounters are left to chance, often opting out of face-to-face meetings, and ever pursuing and being pursued by designed experiences, post-modern post urban city dwellers don’t become dulled into retreat from public life; they grow up that way. The challenge is to reconnect.”
McCullough sees ambient information, from advertisements to the music in shops to Taxi TV, as an assault on our attention. But he’s no Luddite, and he’s not oblivious to the powerful ideas that spring from the shared ground of technology and urbanism, like Citizen Science, SeeClickFix or “Smart Cities.” What he’s calling for, in Ambient Commons, is “information environmentalism,” the idea that the proliferation of embedded information deserves attention and study, from planners, architects, politicians and especially from you and me.
Monday, November 4, 2013
A classic Big Pharma bully tactic? Health Canada crackdown on Viagra alternative kills family business & It’s time for healthcare to wash its hands of Big Pharma’s influence
Kathy Tomlinson has worked as an investigative reporter for more than a decade. Among other things, she discovered Health Canada's Winnipeg branch initiated recalls of Libidus, despite not having definitive proof the product was tainted.Posted at: Monday, November 04, 2013 - 04:46 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Health Canada crackdown on Viagra alternative kills family business
Kathy Tomlinson CBC News Canada November 4, 2013
A Manitoba entrepreneur who sold natural health products is accusing the federal government of putting her family out of business — without justification — leaving them devastated by huge losses.
"For seven years, we've tried to get somebody to listen. There was a mistake made," said Cheryl Swarath, of Gonor, Man., who is suing the federal government over the ordeal.
"I got screwed by my own government, and I know that my government doesn't care."
Libidus (right) was the company's marquee product until the crackdown by Health Canada. Photo: CBC
The Swarath family company, NorthRegentRx, was licensed to import and sell a natural, non-prescription alternative to Viagra called Libidus. At its peak in 2005, annual sales were well over a million dollars and growing fast.
"This was something we built from nothing, and it meant everything to us," said Swarath, who stressed the product she imported was tested to meet the highest international standards.
"We were going to bring in only the best, highest, safest quality stuff that we could find on the market."
Swarath said everything soured the following year, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cracked down on similar products sold online in that country.
She believes the sweep was sparked by complaints from the pharmaceutical industry, which didn't like shady operators moving in on its market share.
"The [natural products] industry does need regulation. There are a lot of basement bandits out there," said Swarath.
The FDA tested a product also marketed as "Libidus" that was sold online and found it was spiked with real Viagra, making it illegal to be sold as a natural supplement.
Swarath said those products were cheap knock-offs — different coloured pills sold in different boxes — not from the Malaysian manufacturer she purchased from.
"We weren't putting junk out on the market. We take this stuff. My father-in-law was taking it at the time," said Swarath.
When the FDA told Health Canada about its crackdown, the regulator tested the product NorthRegentRX was selling.
Those tests found no trace of Viagra or similar pharmaceuticals, but because of other anomalies in the results, Health Canada wanted to do further testing.
It suspected a pharmaceutical was being masked, but documents show it never did prove that.
"It's like saying, 'I've got a white powder here — and it's cocaine.' And it could be baby powder," said Swarath.
Soon afterward, Health Canada asked Swarath to contact all 700 of her retail customers and tell them to remove the product from their shelves.
Swarath said she bent over backward to comply, but the results were devastating.
"Once Health Canada accuses you of being the bad guy, nobody wants to touch you. Stores are not interested in purchasing from you," said Swarath.
In the meantime, she said, months went by without Health Canada producing conclusive test results to justify its actions.
Sawarth switched to a Canadian manufacturer licensed by Health Canada, but still, the agency wasn't satisfied with the product.
The company struggled with more bureaucratic delays, recalls and seized shipments. In 2010, crippled and out of money, NorthRegentRx closed its doors.
"We couldn't do it anymore. We were hemorrhaging money," said Swarath.
Swarath hired a former Health Canada chemist to test the products independently. He found no trace of pharmaceuticals and concluded Health Canada's testing was flawed. Another expert agreed.
"We called them on it and we followed up on it. We didn't just drop off the face of the planet like they figured we would," said Swarath.
An internal government memo she has obtained since suggests Health Canada knew it made a number of mistakes.
"This investigation is likely to identify a number of weaknesses in the branch," wrote Julie Desrosiers in a 2007 email about the NorthRegentRx case.
Related: Pharmaceutical companies are among the most powerful and lucrative corporations on the face of the planet. Alan Cassels is a pharmaceutical policy researcher at the University of Victoria and the author of several books.
It’s time for healthcare to wash its hands of Big Pharma’s influence
Alan Cassels Common Ground Magazine British Columbia Canada November 2013
Every day in the world of pharmaceuticals, we see potentially harmful, conflicted medicine. Drug company influence seems to be everywhere: shaping the definition of diseases and the writing of prescribing guidelines, funding political campaigns, inserting themselves into the education of our doctors, carrying out research that only gets published when it paints the drug in a good light, paying for ghost-written articles in medical journals and on and on. To top it all off, we have TV drug advertising and the drug industry’s support of astro-turf patient groups, all of which shape and distort peoples’ expectations of drugs.
The worst, and perhaps most avoidable harm, revolves around the marketing of drugs directly to doctors, as more than half of our physicians have frequent contact with drug industry sales people. Industry representatives will tell you their strategy of plying doctors with food, flattery and friendship is a thing of the past and I will state, point blank, they are lying. That is, and has been for a long time, the dominant business model used to get your doctor to use new drugs.
I do, however, sense that a revolution is in the works. There are a growing number of modern-day medical rebels who are alarmed at the system we have and calling for a new one.
One such rebel is Danish physician Peter C. Gotzsche. In his new book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare (Radcliffe, 2013), he says that “virtually everything we know about drugs is what the companies have chose[n] to tell us and our doctors…” In his opinion, although our doctors are very knowledgeable about some things, such as human physiology, which is vital in treating patients, “They know very, very little about drugs that hasn’t been carefully concocted and dressed up by the drug industry.”
His book is a damning indictment of modern prescribing where he musters the chutzpah to say Big Pharma is basically another form of organized crime. Gotzsche names names and points to the long rap sheets of many of the world’s major pharmaceutical companies, listing their nefarious activities of all stripes, including kickbacks, extortion, fraud, buying politicians, pressuring bureaucrats and health policymakers as well as corrupting doctors and specialists.
Gotzsche writes that the third major cause of death in the modern world today, after cancer and heart disease, is pharmaceuticals.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Strange and mysterious: Ouija boards, what can they tell us? Quite a lot, actually
Tool of the devil, harmless family game—or fascinating glimpse into the non-conscious mind?Posted at: Sunday, November 03, 2013 - 02:59 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Visual Cognition Lab think the board may be a good way to examine how the mind processes information on various levels. ... UBC’s experiments show that the Ouija could be a very useful tool in rigorously investigating non-conscious thought processes. ... [T]he UBC team has managed to make good on one of the claims of the early Ouija advertisements: The board does offer a link between the known and the unknown. Just not the unknown that everyone wanted to believe it was. - Linda Rodriguez McRobbie reporting. (To learn more about the team and to help further their research, visit their website.)
The strange and mysterious hstory of the Ouija board
Linda Rodriguez McRobbie Smithsonian Magazine USA October 28, 2013
The makers of the first talking board asked the board what they should call it; the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Ilustration: Robert Murch. Visit this page for its embedded links.
In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Another advertisement in a New York newspaper declared it “interesting and mysterious” and testified, “as Proven at Patent Office before it was allowed. Price, $1.50.”
This mysterious talking board was basically what’s sold in board game aisles today: A flat board with the letters of the alphabet arrayed in two semi-circles above the numbers 0 through 9; the words “yes” and “no” in the uppermost corners, “goodbye” at the bottom; accompanied by a “planchette,” a teardrop-shaped device, usually with a small window in the body, used to maneuver about the board. The idea was that two or more people would sit around the board, place their finger tips on the planchette, pose a question, and watch, dumbfounded, as the planchette moved from letter to letter, spelling out the answers seemingly of its own accord. The biggest difference is in the materials; the board is now usually cardboard, rather than wood, and the planchette is plastic.
Though truth in advertising is hard to come by, especially in products from the 19th century, the Ouija board was “interesting and mysterious”; it actually had been “proven” to work at the Patent Office before its patent was allowed to proceed; and today, even psychologists believe that it may offer a link between the known and the unknown.
The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992; when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”
But the real question, the one everyone wants to know, is how do Ouija boards work?
Friday, November 1, 2013
Green activists navigate life in the post-privacy era
It’s no longer possible to see environmentalists as just hippies. When the front lines of environmental battles are being fought by ranchers, hunters, indigenous people.... Ramsey Sprague, a Texas environmentalistPosted at: Friday, November 01, 2013 - 07:45 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Green activists navigate life in the post-privacy era
Heather Smith Grist USA November 1, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
We now know that the U.S. government can obtain virtually any email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, Skype messages, file transfers, and social networking details it wants. We know that it can monitor the location, duration, and telephone numbers involved in any phone call on an ongoing, daily basis. We know that it monitored the foreign officials who traveled to the G20 summit in 2009. We know that it has deliberately weakened the encryption software meant to protect financial transactions. We know that it has tapped into the fiber-optic cables connecting international servers so that it can copy, basically, any information that moves through them.
What does this mean for environmental activists, who, like the rest of us, increasingly organize their lives over the internet? “I remember in the past we used to tell each other to wipe our phone’s contacts before protests,” says Joshua Kahn Russell, who once organized protests with the Ruckus Society and now is a global community manager with 350.org. “I can’t imagine activists doing that now, since the government and private companies have infinitely more access to our personal information that we freely provide through Facebook and other social networking sites.”
The ’90s and early ’00s were, arguably, the peak of government paranoia about the environmental movement. In 2005, John Lewis, the top FBI official in charge of domestic terrorism, declared that radical environmentalists were the No. 1 domestic terrorist threat. ...
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Cairo's pigeon culture. Getting Kabul's milk to market. A Moscow chef eats Andalucia
All over the world, markets are not just about commerce: they can explain the intricacies of a country and its culture. In Egypt, the pigeon market is a witness to an age-old tradition that is still alive and well, not least because it provides solace from the ongoing turmoil. In Afghanistan, the growth of the dairy market is an operation that the communists, commanders, shopkeepers and even the Taliban have a stake in. And market photography (and consumption) is a tradition among traveling chefs, including Moscow's Ivan Shishkin of Delicatessen Restaurant, who talks profanely about the bounty of Andalucia.Posted at: Sunday, October 13, 2013 - 08:10 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Pigeons of Cairo: Q&A with Amanda Mustard
Interview by Pauline Eiferman Roads and Kingdoms USA October 7, 2013
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When Amanda Mustard was searching for a city to start her photojournalism career in, Cairo was one of many contenders. She had visited the Egyptian capital before the revolution and remembered it as an “electric” place. When she returned in 2012, she decided to stay. The combination of low rent and high excitement made her forget New York City quickly and enabled her to concentrate fully on her work. But after a year of constant news coverage (she moved shortly before the first anniversary of the Revolution) in a city that continues to move from crisis to crisis, the young photographer started searching for longer stories that would let her breathe and focus on storytelling. That’s when she started shooting pigeons.
Roads & Kingdoms: So what is it about pigeons that fascinates photographers?
Amanda Mustard: It seems to have become a cliché, but I believe it’s one of those things that’s really easy to get creative with. Pigeons are really, really compliant subjects. When I was in the US, pigeons really didn’t occupy much of my mind. But after moving to Cairo, I started noticing these comically tall sheds painted brightly on top of buildings. I wondered what they were for a long time, and became fascinated with the subculture. Now that I’ve dug into the community here, I’ve noticed that although it started in Egypt thousands of years ago, pigeon fanciers can be found all over the world.
R&K: What was your first experience with pigeons in Cairo?
AM: I spent a lot of time in Garbage City. I really liked it there. That’s where I first noticed the pigeon coops. After 10 or so trips, I finally asked someone if I could climb up one. My first trip up into a coop was quite nerve wrecking, I can’t say that it ever got easier after. Most of the coops are built by their owners, and would by no means meet any Western safety standards. They were quite shaky, and there would often be children scrambling up the ladders and jumping around. That’s really been the only challenge, getting myself up without my knees shaking.
Getting Kabul's milk to market
May Jeong Roads and Kingdoms USA October 4, 2913
A shop in my neighborhood in Kabul sells dairy products. Butter, cheese, milk, that sort of thing.
In a country that is still very literal—bakeries advertise by nailing loaves of bread to sheets of plywood, and butcher shops hang freshly slaughtered goat meat on hooks—Kabul’s Guzergah Dairy is something else entirely. There are no jugs of milk or knobs of butter on display.
In fact, when it first opened in May, it had no sign on the store at all, which predictably made it easy to miss. Many would-be patrons, including myself, drove past it, armed only with poor directions and a hunger for fresh dairy. (“It’s across from the mosque on the main road.” Which mosque? Which main road?)
When the shop did finally get a sign—lebaniyat furushi, the dairy shop—I still didn’t realize the coup this place represented. (The shop is actually one of 27 in Kabul and 157 nationwide that is run by local dairy unions.) That knowledge came later, when I had my first taste of their butter.
It happened during an iftar dinner to break the Ramadan fast. Our host brought out a bowl of butter, sat it next to a stack of Afghan bread, and insisted we all try some. In the warm night, the butter had already melted somewhat. Tearing off a corner of the bread, we scooped up the soft butter to taste. Right then it occurred to me that I had never tasted real butter until now. It tasted both full and light, like some kind of an imagined ideal of a food I thought I knew.
It’s a small thing, in light of Afghanistan’s many ailments. But what makes this dairy shop truly remarkable is that it is part of an operation that comprises all elements of Afghan society—communists, commanders, shopkeepers, everyday citizens, and yes, even the Taliban. That’s an incredibly rare thing in this war-torn country. But when it comes to fresh milk and butter, Afghans have found something worth not fighting over.
"Every fucking thing": A Moscow chef eats Andalucia
Interview by Nathan Thornburgh Roads and Kingdoms USA October
Moscow chef Ivan Shishkin runs a handful of acclaimed restaurants and even a food truck in Moscow. So what was he doing for nearly a month in Andalucía? Eating, and cooking, of course.
He and a group of ten friends, including kids, rented a villa in Cabo Roche and spent the bulk of this month trying to live, and eat, la vida andaluza. This is, in some ways, a necessary part of the life of a chef now: be jealous if you must, but cooking is a remorseless business, and anyone who doesn’t make time for this sort of continuing education may find themselves out of the kitchen soon enough. With that in mind, I caught up with Shishkin by phone in Moscow on his first day back home to talk about inspiration, Mediterranean cooking made with Russian ingredients, and, of course, fish sperm.
Roads & Kingdoms: Let’s start with the best market you found. Where was it?
Ivan Shishkin: Mercado Central, in Cadiz.
R&K: Your pictures here are all of the seafood there. Is that all they have?
Shishkin: Oh, not at all. I got an cured goat cheese cured in pork fat [laughs]. Smells amazing, tastes amazing. Very nice texture, still a little soft inside.
R&K: Is the market always the first thing you head for when you get to a town?
Shishkin: Absolutely. First thing I say: Donde esta el mercado de abastos? [laughs] It’s enough Spanish.
I went to the markets from Sevilla to Marbella, including some local markets in Chiclana de la Frontera, Jerez, many towns. But the market in Cadiz seems to be the most fashionable. It’s exquisite. The guys working there, they look nice, they speak in a funny way.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Human beings have never been happy with the world as it is. We reshape it repeatedly, including our own bodies. Thus the undergarment, a place to reshape our parts.Posted at: Sunday, October 06, 2013 - 07:08 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Jenny Diski London Review of Books UK Vol. 35 No. 19 (in print October 10, 2013)
Was there ever a time when clothes were worn purely for warmth? La Mécanique des dessous, the book of the exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (until 24 November) begins its investigation into underthings in the 14th century. You have to start somewhere and the actual beginning is too difficult: speculative, lacking the beautiful, horrific, enticing objects that could be photographed for this gorgeous occasion.
The earliest form of adornment, shells used as beads, is thought to date back about 100,000 years. Homo sapiens appeared 195,000 years ago. The imagination worked slowly, frozen as it probably was by a lack of history and heat. But once homo saps were warmed up, they were on the non-stop express to the couture houses of Paris and Milan. Adornment presupposes that someone is looking and that the adorned know it. The question of whether people dress for themselves or for others was answered when the first shell turned into a brooch. It may be for status or sexual attraction, or to bribe the powers that be in the afterlife, but adornment always requires another’s eye, or the idea of another’s eye. Underwear, except in sexual circumstances when underwear is outerwear for the naked flesh, is not so much to be admired for itself, but for how it variously presented the wearer in his or her day and night clothes for the eye’s shifting pleasure.
Underwear is only minimally practical. It might be another layer of warmth, or a device to catch and contain the body’s seepings or inconvenient activity, that can be kept clean or renewed more easily than fur, brocade and lace. In my first school we had regulation navy blue knickers with a pocket on the front. We had to keep our hanky there. I don’t know why: it involved considerable rummaging and revelation – knicker elastic in those days was very prone to break, and I liked to extract the rubbery threads inside and nibble on them. I can’t think that the idea was to keep a sleek pocketless outline in the uniform of six-year-olds.
Perhaps underwear was merely useful beneath the voluminous fabric that draped the Greeks and Romans and provided the fluid silhouette of medieval maidens, but it became essential beyond the practical for those apparently physically varied sub-species of humans who kept coming later on. An innocent (me, say, diverting myself from the trouble I’d be in for yet again losing my knicker-hanky) surveying portraiture from the robed bundles of Giotto, through the rigidly constructed Renaissance notables, up to the regulation casual of present-day sitters, might conclude that humans had continued to undergo wild evolutionary changes to and from waists the size of a thumb, sharp, towering or droopy shoulders, hippopotamus or slinky hips, bottoms and breasts waxing and waning like the moon, penises filling ever more bulky and elaborate embroidered and leather packages.
Human beings have never been happy with what they’ve got. We reshape the world, construct machines and contraptions of every kind to alter and control it. ...
But undergarments these days are nostalgia, museum pieces or cultural history, for making beautiful books that seduce the eye and consider the social meanings of the shapes they were intended to produce. We’ve cut out the middleman, cut up the actual woman (and man), filled and sculpted, lifted, tightened, enhanced and suctioned the actual body. The surgeon’s knife is the new corset, and surely, in terms of discomfort and effect, a step back from my mother’s supple rubber device pricked with tiny airholes to allow the skin to breathe. Or if we can’t manage the knife, from squeamishness or lack of money, there’s changing the shape of the body by the rigorous manipulation of muscle and fat into our notional perfect form. Suzy Menkes, reviewing La Mécanique des dessous, says that ‘the rigidity of underclothes has been exchanged for the tyranny of the gym.’ And yet again, it seems to me that the young of the 1960s had the best of it. It must have been the only time (perhaps rivalled by the 1920s) when, given a degree of genetic luck, the body was more or less left to its own devices, and underwear was optional.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Celebrating being alive: The koshks of Cairo, soul music from the Levant and the promise of the camels of Somaliland
With a sudden outbreak of peace looking possible in Syria (at least the foiling of the overt, unilateral, globally risky US military assault on that sovereign nation), it's a good time to remember that the world doesn't always suck. Truly, it doesn't. Roads & Kingdoms has been looking for silver linings of late, and finding them in places like Cairo, where cops and aunties and students still gather and socialize over tea and snacks at their neighborhood koshk, or kiosks. It found them in the bodegas of Brooklyn, where a Syrian cornershop's CD bin offers up the honeyed sounds of home. And it even found them in the dusty plains of Somaliland, where a would-be nation has sweet, starry dreams of becoming the camel kings of the world. Life is good.Posted at: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 02:18 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The koshks of Cairo
Ghazala Irshad Roads & Kingdoms USA August 27, 2013
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There’s been enough talk of the things that divide Egyptians—things like razor wire, armored personnel carriers, makeshift trauma centers, Molotov cocktails and the like. But as Cairo catches its breath before the post-counter-revolution or whatever comes next, it’s worth pointing out that there’s still something that unites Egyptians of all political stripes: the koshk.
A koshk (kiosk) is something analogous to a perfect handbag for Egyptians: a compact carryall of essentials that can be accessed anywhere, any time of day. But more than that, it is a communal property. In cramped Cairo, sharing a koshk is a collective use of public space and, if anything, a respite from the city’s ongoing power struggle.
You can find koshks outside of the capital, of course, on almost every other corner in the smaller cities, along dirt roads in rural areas, even at the summit of Mount Sinai. But the Cairene koshk seems the most vibrant form—with goods stacked to the ceiling, spilling out onto the street, it’s a perfect metaphor for the organized chaos of the city. And for a population with no access to (nor time to waste at) big box stores, a koshk is “always around the corner, around the clock,” as one Egyptian put it.
Most koshks are stocked with basic necessities that get Egyptians through the days and nights: snacks, gum, tissues, phone cards, lighters, and the most popular items—cigarettes and soda, usually cracked open on the spot. In fact, it was the glistening sun-softened bottle caps, melting into the concrete around koshks that first caught artist Jasmine Soliman’s eye.
While most Egyptians don’t give a second thought to this fixture in the urban landscape, Soliman has become obsessed with koshks, embarking on an ambitious journey to document the history and culture of as many koshks around Egypt as she can, part of a comparative urban study and interactive map she calls “The Koshk Project.”
Unlike street cafes (which are traditionally for men only) or exclusive members-only clubs, or out-of-the-way supermarkets, “koshks are one of the few entities that everybody—no matter what gender or class—visits for something,” says Soliman.
It’s a significant social function, helping make a big, impersonal world smaller, more familiar—like the rural villages where some Cairenes have migrated from. ...
The Syrian bodega top ten
Gary Sullivan Roads & Kingdoms USA September 9, 2013
Jim comment: Be sure to read "Brooklyn Bodega, Syrian Soul", Gary Sullivan’s ode to bodega pop, before listening to his favorite jams from this page. I was up and dancing and/or transported into the rich culture of "The Levant", the crossroads of western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean and northeast Africa. Great music.
Top ten all-time songs I ever bought from a Syrian bodega in Brooklyn:
How do you like your camel meat?
Mark Hay Roads & Kingdoms USA September 6, 2013
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HARGEISA, Somaliland—From early in the morning until midday, the streets of southern Hargeisa, Somaliland periodically shut down as hundreds of camels trundle along the narrow city streets. Taxi drivers give way, milling on the side of the road, wiping their cars clean of the dust and mud kicked up by the procession. Ultimately, the beasts file through the gates of the Hargeisa Camel Market.
No one really runs the market. It’s just one of dozens of sites across the country where nomads, locals, and traders converge daily to buy and sell thousands of live animals, some for the neighborhood butcher’s block, others for export. And to most folks in Hargeisa, it’s just a fact of life—a reflection that, despite the boom in the city’s population and the development of modern, multistory office buildings, Somaliland is still a largely pastoral economy.
But downtown, in the knot of government offices near the presidential palace, the ministers are eyeing this market with new ambitions. They have analyzed the country’s resources, crunched the numbers, and decided that these nomads may offer the safest and quickest passage for taking this fragile economy from relative poverty to a more thorough modernity.
Actually, it’s not as if Somaliland has many options. A self-declared but officially unrecognized nation, Somaliland is a little smaller than Idaho, with twice the population, but less than 5 percent of the annual budget. The de facto nation is rich in natural resources beyond livestock, but its infrastructure—potholed roads and no central electrical grid or water system to speak of—can’t get the goods to market. If that doesn’t deter intrepid investors, the place’s legacy of violence and piracy probably does.
With a paltry national budget—a finance ministry official estimated that it stands at $125 million—the government lacks the means to do much about it. What aid money they receive is mostly earmarked by donors for pet projects. There is no banking industry, and insurance companies are nonexistent. “There is no way on Earth a country can develop without financial institutions in place,” laments Sa’ad Ali Shire, the Minister of National Planning and Development . “You cannot have investment and you cannot move forward.”
The country may lack roads, cash, and skilled workers, but it does have one important source of manpower: nomads. It’s hard to say how many there are, as there’s been no census since the civil war in the early 1990s, but some estimate that up to 70 percent of Somaliland’s population is nomadic.
The modern nomad isn’t the lone ranger he once was, says Shire. “A hundred years ago, the nomad was self-sufficient. He was disconnected from the urban center. That has totally changed. The rural household more or less consumes what the urban household consumes.”
The nomads have created trade routes and depots across terrain that cars can’t easily navigate, but camels can. The Hargeisa Camel Market is just one point in a nation-wide network of markets. ...
Somalia houses more than 6 million camels, the largest population in the world. (Somalis have some 46 words for camels; nomads have composed and handed down hundreds of poems that extol the animal’s role in Somali culture.) Mainly beasts of burden, vehicles for war, and sources of milk, they also served until very recently as the only acceptable unit of payment for blood money in clan disputes. Yet Somalis typically do not raise more camels (or other livestock) than they need. The size of herds has rarely exceeded demand.
Where camels are concerned, it’s typically only been local demand that mattered. But, in recent years, the world has started to buy camels for their flesh rather than just their labor. Part of the growing market for camels is novelty. Although every neighborhood here has at least one café that serves up camel dishes, it is rarely eaten outside of Somaliland and is still considered a delicacy in other camel-rearing countries—reserved more for parties and special events than daily consumption. But it’s not just the sheer numbers of this luxury livestock in Somaliland that offers so much economic upside; perhaps camel’s greatest appeal lies in its health properties. ...
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Social justice issues: Food banks as instruments of segregation; low pay for workers with no benefits endangers food safety
Hungry hearts: A grassroots alternative to food banks in small town OntarioPosted at: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 02:20 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Brad Dunne rabble.ca Canada August 28, 2013
"Woodstock is a small town with big city problems," says Steve Giuliano, a self-described "community chaplain." Nestled in southern Ontario's Oxford County, the town of 38,000 has more than its share of problems. Substance abuse and unemployment throttle development.
Operation Sharing, a charity run by local churches, is discovering new ways of helping the less fortunate. Giuliano, Operation Sharing's director, has found success in eschewing traditional forms of humanitarianism for more innovative programs.
Seven years ago, Operation Sharing abandoned its food bank, opting instead for Foods for Friends, a system that uses non-transferable cards with a pre-determined amount of money. People who qualify for the program can use the card to buy non-taxable groceries. Locals are asked to donate a quarter to the program at the checkout of participating stores.
"We always hear about whether we need a food bank or not," explains Giuliano. "It always seems like that or nothing. This offers a more progressive step forward."
Because the card stipulates non-taxable items, users can take advantage of real food instead of the processed stuff food banks usually have to offer.
"Whenever you see those food bank bins, do you ever see a loaf of bread in them?" asks Chris Chapman, a local businessman who manages Foodland. "A pack of chicken thighs? A head of lettuce? Some tomatoes? No, it's usually processed food."
Since coming into vogue during the '80s, food banks have entrenched the hunger problem. Dependence on food banks has been rising historically with a notable spike during the recession. Last year, in the Greater Toronto Area alone, there were 1,123,500 visits to food banks, an 18 per cent increase since the pre-recession period in 2008.
Moreover, the cost of hunger is decimating Canada's economy. The poor are disproportionately affected by heart disease and diabetes, costing billions in health care. According to the Ontario Association of Food Banks, poverty costs approximately $7.6 billion a year for health care nationally.
As André Picard observes in the Globe and Mail, "low income is the single biggest predictor of poor health for individuals, and inequality...is the best single measure of the overall health of a population."
Furthermore, food banks ensconce class hierarchy. Food banks relegate users to a space that is separate from mainstream society, disallowing any kind of interaction. This stigmatizes food bank users and can even discourage people from taking advantage of services out of fear of being identified as poor. ...
Fast-food walkout: Does worker well-being affect food safety?
James Andrews Food Safety News USA August 29, 2013
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Thousands of fast-food workers in dozens of U.S. cities are reportedly set to stage a one-day national strike on Thursday to protest the industry’s low wages and predominant lack of basic benefits. Organizations representing restaurant employees say they expect it to be the largest-ever strike within the fast-food industry, which employs an estimated 4 million Americans.
Protest organizers have already held rolling one-day strikes starting this past November in cities such as New York, Chicago and Seattle, but Thursday will mark the first nationwide day of protest. Employees are asking for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, or the equivalent of $31,000 a year working full-time, up from the current federal minimum of $7.25, or around $15,000 a year full-time.
Raising wages and supplying basic benefits such as paid sick leave would not only boost worker well-being, but directly improve food safety and public health as well, said Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC).
In 2010, ROC released a report titled “Serving While Sick,” which surveyed more than 4,000 restaurant workers. The survey found that 88 percent of those workers did not have paid sick days and 63 percent reported cooking and serving food while sick.
In turn, those sick workers have been linked to outbreaks of norovirus, hepatitis A and typhoid fever among customers.
In a similar study, 48 percent of restaurant employees reported working shifts while ill, while 11 percent said they had experienced diarrhea or vomiting during a restaurant shift. Workers who did not have paid sick leave were found to be twice as likely to work while sick compared with their counterparts who did receive paid sick time.
The problem, Jayaraman said, is that restaurant workers simply cannot afford to take time off from work, even if they are severely ill. Of those who worked while sick, 74 percent said they could not afford to take the day off without pay, and 27 percent said they coughed or sneezed while handling food.
“Even if you’ve got hepatitis A, if you’re living on minimum wage or living off your tips and don’t get paid to stay home, you’re going to go to work regardless of your condition,” she told Food Safety News.
Low wages also equate to poor living conditions for fast-food employees, Jayaraman added. A portion of workers report being homeless or home-insecure, meaning that they may not have access to showers or other necessities for personal hygiene. ...
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Our way of living: Spies and oil spills
Below: Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance—local landowners, Indigenous communities, and environmentalists opposed to TransCanada's tar sands pipeline—infiltration part of a larger pattern of government surveillance of tar sands protesters.Posted at: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 - 04:41 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Undercover agents infiltrate anti-Keystone protests
John Upton Grist USA August 13, 2013
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What do you get when you mix America’s national security apparatus with TransCanada’s determination to build a tar-sands pipeline between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico?
A whole lot of arrests.
Earth Island Journal profiles the infiltration of peaceful Keystone protest groups by police and investigators — and in so doing paints a troubling picture of a government security force working in league with TransCanada:
... The new documents also provide an interesting glimpse into the revolving door between state law enforcement agencies and the private sector, especially in areas where fracking and pipeline construction have become big business. One of the individuals providing information to the Texas Department of Homeland Security’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division is currently the Security Manager at Anadarko Petroleum, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies. In 2011, at a natural gas industry stakeholder relations conference, a spokesperson for Anadarko compared the anti-drilling movement to an “insurgency” and suggested that attendees download the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual.
The article, which includes scanned excerpts from documents the magazine obtained, is worth reading in full. For even more on the topic, read Earth Island Journal’s in-depth article from earlier this year: “We’re Being Watched: How Corporations and Law Enforcement Are Spying on Environmentalists.”
Related: Inevitable future spills and actual spills. No spies or agents provocateurs here, but a fuel spill in BC's Slocan Valley. Jet fuel slated for forestry helicopters battling a summer forest fire spills into Lemon Creek and the aftermath hasn't ended. Author Nelle Maxey is a Slocan Valley resident with an interest in water and the ecosystem, community and economy it supports. She is retired. Like all the other grandparents and parents of the Slocan Valley, she hopes to see the Valley’s children paddling happily in the river before summer’s end.
Anatomy of a jet fuel spill
Nelle Maxey TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada August 7, 2013
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Friday, July 26 was a beautiful, sunny summer day in the Slocan Valley in the West Kootenay region of B.C.
At the height of the tourist season bed and breakfasts, restaurants and retail stores served the many visitors. River recreation was at its height. Kayaks and canoes, rafts and tubes filled the Slocan River. Swimmers packed the public and private beaches along the river. Other folks were in their gardens, assessing if the beans were ready for canning and the garlic was ready for digging. Market gardeners and local greenhouses were irrigating their crops and picking produce for local and regional sale.
The only unsettling activity was the drone of helicopters flying over the Winlaw area, dumping water scooped from the river on the two-day-old Perry Ridge fire. And then disaster struck. ...
Eight days after the spill, the Interior Health Authority posted an updated Do Not Use water order: "Until further notice, a Do Not Use order for Drinking Water and Recreational Use remains in effect for Lemon Creek, Slocan River and Kootenay River above and below Brilliant Dam. Fuel is still visible in the containment booms and along the shoreline," it read.
Again, the smell test applied to garden vegetables, fruit, eggs, and dairy milk -- "SAFE to consume as long as they do not smell like fuel or have a fuel sheen."
Residents learned in the Nelson News online that approximately 1,000 litres of contaminated material was recovered, and the company responsible for the spill provided some information on its website Lemon Creek Response. An update posted on August 3 demonstrated that some of the residents’ requests were being fulfilled, such as the establishment of a "resiliency centre" with a shower, lavatory and emergency support services, the hiring by the local Streamkeepers of a world-renowned expert in spill clean-up operations to assess the accident, and more.
I visited the spill site and Lemon Creek on August 3. The water and the rocks in Lemon Creek still smell strongly of jet fuel. There was still some sheen visible and emulsion (milky-looking jet fuel and water mix) under rocks in the creek at the Lemon Creek bridge on Highway 6. The road had been remediated just before the accident site where fuel spilled from the tanker as it was pulled from the creek the previous week. There was no fuel on the road at the actual location where the truck went off. There was water from seeps in the rock face running across the road at that location. Workers at the site agreed with my assessment that the water run-off contributed to weakening the bank that collapsed under the truck resulting in the fuel spill.
Yesterday, 12 days after the spill, all Do Not Use water restrictions on the Kootenay River above and below Brilliant Dam were removed. However, they remain in effect for Lemon Creek and Slocan River.
The media reports that the clean-up is going as expected, though no one is certain how much longer it will take…
The greatest hardship for residents is the water use restriction. As current cleanup involves flushing fuel from the banks of Lemon Creek for collection in downstream booms on both the creek and the river, it will be a while before these restrictions are lifted. Watering livestock and gardens is still an issue for many as well. The lack of information on the air and water monitoring data is also wearing on residents. Above all is the lack of any official word on whether or how badly the river and aquatic life have been damaged.
But rural folk are resilient and neighbourly. We are all working to help each other as best we can. We patiently or impatiently await future developments.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Our food buskers series continued. Southeast Asia: The lions of street food—Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon (the latter, since July 2, 1976, officially Ho Chi Minh City, although the name Sài Gòn is still commonly used)
Our first post in this series, The food buskers: Street food culture finally getting established in Canada, was posted June 9, 2011. Check our archives for the other posts.Posted at: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 06:56 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Jim comment: Some good memories of Viet Nam— Bánh cuốn, Bánh mì thịt nướng, Phở ... I'm sympathetic to Matt Goulding who says, "If I had to choose one city in which to spend my last day on earth eating, it would be Saigon."
To take those little touches one step further, street vendors empower eaters with a table full of condiments, turning you into a sous chef of sorts. Too spicy? A squeeze of lime and a dusting of sugar should curb the burn. Lacking punch? A splash of fish sauce and a spoonful of fresh chilies should fix that right up. It’s an unspoken agreement between cook and eater: I give you these tools, if you promise me you won’t fuck up my creation. ... A few meals into a trip to a place like Bangkok you begin to wonder how it ever got so good, how they cracked the code on one of gastronomy’s most enduring challenges: How to make food fast, healthy, inexpensive and unthinkably delicious all at the same time. - Matt Goulding, writing while in Bangkok
The lions of street food
Matt Goulding Roads and Kingdoms USA August 5, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links, photos and interactive map.
The worst meal I ever ate in Southeast Asia was at a beautiful candlelit restaurant in Bangkok. The waiters wore sarongs and offered lemongrass-scented towels to wash off the day. Back in the kitchen, the chef, a young European, had taken to reinterpreting traditional Thai food, adding modern twists and foreign “refinements”—replacing chicken with duck confit, daubing noodles with foie. It was twice as expensive and half as good as any other meal I ate on that trip (including the tame farang fare of the island bungalow circuit). Later that same night, I went out and ate the dishes the young chef was trying to approximate and promised myself to never eat inside a real restaurant in this part of Asia again.
That experience, coupled with other letdowns over the past decade of travel to the Far East, helped form the basis of what I’ll call the Pretty=Shitty Postulate: That is, the more attractive the restaurant in Southeast Asia, the less likely it is to serve delicious food. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, but they are shockingly scarce. No, to eat well in this part of the world, look for the establishment with the tiny plastic stools, the gathering insects, the fluorescent glare of a hospital waiting room.
While you’re at it, might as well skip the place with the credit card machine and the his and hers bathrooms. And there’s really no use for that team of waiters. Or even a menu. Come to think of it, what you’re really looking for is a stretch of cement with just enough room for a few plastic stools and a raging fire. That’s where the good stuff is.
By a sheer stroke of culinary providence, I found myself in Asia this spring with an itinerary that included just three stops: Singapore, Bangkok, and Saigon. Bound by more than just silty rivers and punishing heat, these lions of Southeast Asia may also be the three finest street food civilizations on the planet.
Street food is big news these days. Guidebooks dedicate entire sections to street food safety, tour operators take westerners to not-so-secret locations to observe this exotic style of eating, and vast blogging communities busy themselves with mapping out the best of a city’s sidewalk offerings. All the while, the Western world tries to find a way to make it theirs. Some people buy trucks and pass black bean burgers and Korean tacos through the window. The more ambitious ones, the chefs with names you might recognize, make the pilgrimages to these cities, often with their team of underlings in tow, where they eat and eat and eat. Back in their spotless kitchens, they set about recreating the stars of the street scene with impressive precision and first-class products. They add that garnish of fried shallots they tried in the Chiang Mai market; they serve their shrimp with lime and black pepper like it’s done in Hanoi. But when you bite into that $19 “small plate”? It is fine. It is perfectly satisfying.
But it isn’t street food. Not even close.
Considering all the noise, I figured it was time to take the temperature of this feverish global phenomenon. This wouldn’t be an exhaustive report on the best and the brightest of the region; it would take many lifetimes to ever truly gain a comprehensive understanding of these dense ecosystems (that being said, the key to understanding and interpreting the specific tastes of a given city lies in the networks of bloggers who live there, writers like Graham Holliday in Vietnam or Austin Bush in Thailand have been heroically cataloging street eats for years). No, this would be a journey into the wok-fired heart of street cuisine, a time to feast on asphalt chased with fish sauce and exotic fruit juices. To sit elbow to elbow with a million other hungry, sweaty humans and consume in hushed reverence. To free myself from the tyranny of candle lights and lemongrass towels.
And with any luck, after enough noodles have been slurped and enough stir-fries devoured, to learn what lies at the soul of a form of dining as ancient as dining itself. ...
If Singapore stands as a crossroads of Eastern culinary traditions, and Bangkok’s identity is found in the delicate balance of flavor extremes, Saigon street food is about subtle elegance and sophistication, part of it left behind by French colonialism, part of it birthed from the Vietnamese’s own exacting standards. ...
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
A huge issue, revolutionary even, worth fighting for. Food: What is healthy—emotionally, physically and socially?
Jim comment: Thinking about the value of a meal, here's my position. Let's not ignorantly beat around the whisking bowl. Eat real food intelligently and regularly in a social setting. Eat (except once in a while) neither GMO and monoculture crops from the supermarket nor industrialized processed and fractionalized meals/snacks 'on the run' or at home most of the time. But that's just me. Below better minds outline and debate both sides of the argument.Posted at: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 - 07:36 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Hand-in-glove with the authorities that promote self-scrutiny are the businesses that sell it, in the form of weight-loss foods, medicines, services, surgeries and new technologies. ... A report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co predicted in May 2012 that ‘health and wellness’ would soon become a trillion-dollar global industry. - David Berreby, a science writer and the author of Us and Them: The Science of Identity (2008). He lives in New York.
Popular food producers, fast-food chains among them, are already applying various tricks and technologies to create less caloric and more satiating versions of their junky fare that nonetheless retain much of the appeal of the originals, and could be induced to go much further. In fact, these roundly demonized companies could do far more for the public’s health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50. - David H. Freedman. Freedman says demonizing processed food may be dooming many to obesity and disease. He expostulates below on his argument, could embracing the drive-thru make us all healthier?
... hey, real food can be pretty convenient, too.... Tom Philpott who takes issue with Freedman's arguments.
The obesity era
David Berreby Aeon UK June 19, 2013
The previous belief of many lay people and health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible. Photo: Karen Kasmauski
Years ago, after a plane trip spent reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground and Weight Watchers magazine, Woody Allen melded the two experiences into a single essay. ‘I am fat,’ it began. ‘I am disgustingly fat. I am the fattest human I know. I have nothing but excess poundage all over my body. My fingers are fat. My wrists are fat. My eyes are fat. (Can you imagine fat eyes?).’ It was 1968, when most of the world’s people were more or less ‘height-weight proportional’ and millions of the rest were starving. Weight Watchers was a new organisation for an exotic new problem. The notion that being fat could spur Russian-novel anguish was good for a laugh.
<iThat, as we used to say during my Californian adolescence, was then. Now, 1968’s joke has become 2013’s truism. For the first time in human history, overweight people outnumber the underfed, and obesity is widespread in wealthy and poor nations alike. The diseases that obesity makes more likely — diabetes, heart ailments, strokes, kidney failure — are rising fast across the world, and the World Health Organisation predicts that they will be the leading causes of death in all countries, even the poorest, within a couple of years. What's more, the long-term illnesses of the overweight are far more expensive to treat than the infections and accidents for which modern health systems were designed. Obesity threatens individuals with long twilight years of sickness, and health-care systems with bankruptcy.
And so the authorities tell us, ever more loudly, that we are fat — disgustingly, world-threateningly fat. We must take ourselves in hand and address our weakness. After all, it’s obvious who is to blame for this frightening global blanket of lipids: it’s us, choosing over and over again, billions of times a day, to eat too much and exercise too little. What else could it be? If you’re overweight, it must be because you are not saying no to sweets and fast food and fried potatoes. It’s because you take elevators and cars and golf carts where your forebears nobly strained their thighs and calves. How could you do this to yourself, and to society?
Moral panic about the depravity of the heavy has seeped into many aspects of life, confusing even the erudite. ...
How junk food can end obesity
David H. Freedman The Atlantic USA Webposted June 19, 2013
Includes a video "David Freedman and Atlantic senior editor Corby Kummer discuss this month's cover story" (11:37).
Late last year, in a small health-food eatery called Cafe Sprouts in Oberlin, Ohio, I had what may well have been the most wholesome beverage of my life. The friendly server patiently guided me to an apple-blueberry-kale-carrot smoothie-juice combination, which she spent the next several minutes preparing, mostly by shepherding farm-fresh produce into machinery. The result was tasty, but at 300 calories (by my rough calculation) in a 16-ounce cup, it was more than my diet could regularly absorb without consequences, nor was I about to make a habit of $9 shakes, healthy or not.
Inspired by the experience nonetheless, I tried again two months later at L.A.’s Real Food Daily, a popular vegan restaurant near Hollywood. I was initially wary of a low-calorie juice made almost entirely from green vegetables, but the server assured me it was a popular treat. I like to brag that I can eat anything, and I scarf down all sorts of raw vegetables like candy, but I could stomach only about a third of this oddly foamy, bitter concoction. It smelled like lawn clippings and tasted like liquid celery. It goes for $7.95, and I waited 10 minutes for it.
I finally hit the sweet spot just a few weeks later, in Chicago, with a delicious blueberry-pomegranate smoothie that rang in at a relatively modest 220 calories. It cost $3 and took only seconds to make. Best of all, I’ll be able to get this concoction just about anywhere. Thanks, McDonald’s!
If only the McDonald’s smoothie weren’t, unlike the first two, so fattening and unhealthy. Or at least that’s what the most-prominent voices in our food culture today would have you believe.
An enormous amount of media space has been dedicated to promoting the notion that all processed food, and only processed food, is making us sickly and overweight. In this narrative, the food-industrial complex—particularly the fast-food industry—has turned all the powers of food-processing science loose on engineering its offerings to addict us to fat, sugar, and salt, causing or at least heavily contributing to the obesity crisis. The wares of these pimps and pushers, we are told, are to be universally shunned.
Consider The New York Times. Earlier this year, The Times Magazine gave its cover to a long piece based on Michael Moss’s about-to-be-best-selling book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Hitting bookshelves at about the same time was the former Times reporter Melanie Warner’s Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal, which addresses more or less the same theme. Two years ago The Times Magazine featured the journalist Gary Taubes’s “Is Sugar Toxic?,” a cover story on the evils of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. And most significant of all has been the considerable space the magazine has devoted over the years to Michael Pollan, a journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley, and his broad indictment of food processing as a source of society’s health problems.
“The food they’re cooking is making people sick,” Pollan has said of big food companies. “It is one of the reasons that we have the obesity and diabetes epidemics that we do … If you’re going to let industries decide how much salt, sugar and fat is in your food, they’re going to put [in] as much as they possibly can … They will push those buttons until we scream or die.” The solution, in his view, is to replace Big Food’s engineered, edible evil—through public education and regulation—with fresh, unprocessed, local, seasonal, real food.
Pollan’s worldview saturates the public conversation on healthy eating. You hear much the same from many scientists, physicians, food activists, nutritionists, celebrity chefs, and pundits. Foodlike substances, the derisive term Pollan uses to describe processed foods, is now a solid part of the elite vernacular. Thousands of restaurants and grocery stores, most notably the Whole Foods chain, have thrived by answering the call to reject industrialized foods in favor of a return to natural, simple, nonindustrialized—let’s call them “wholesome”—foods. The two newest restaurants in my smallish Massachusetts town both prominently tout wholesome ingredients; one of them is called the Farmhouse, and it’s usually packed.
A new generation of business, social, and policy entrepreneurs is rising to further cater to these tastes, and to challenge Big Food. Silicon Valley, where tomorrow’s entrepreneurial and social trends are forged, has spawned a small ecosystem of wholesome-friendly venture-capital firms (Physic Ventures, for example), business accelerators (Local Food Lab), and Web sites (Edible Startups) to fund, nurture, and keep tabs on young companies such as blissmo (a wholesome-food-of-the-month club), Mile High Organics (online wholesome-food shopping), and Wholeshare (group wholesome-food purchasing), all designed to help reacquaint Americans with the simpler eating habits of yesteryear.
In virtually every realm of human existence, we turn to technology to help us solve our problems. But even in Silicon Valley, when it comes to food and obesity, technology—or at least food-processing technology—is widely treated as if it is the problem. The solution, from this viewpoint, necessarily involves turning our back on it.
If the most-influential voices in our food culture today get their way, we will achieve a genuine food revolution. Too bad it would be one tailored to the dubious health fantasies of a small, elite minority. And too bad it would largely exclude the obese masses, who would continue to sicken and die early. Despite the best efforts of a small army of wholesome-food heroes, there is no reasonable scenario under which these foods could become cheap and plentiful enough to serve as the core diet for most of the obese population—even in the unlikely case that your typical junk-food eater would be willing and able to break lifelong habits to embrace kale and yellow beets. And many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement are, in any case, as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King.
Through its growing sway over health-conscious consumers and policy makers, the wholesome-food movement is impeding the progress of the one segment of the food world that is actually positioned to take effective, near-term steps to reverse the obesity trend: the processed-food industry. Popular food producers, fast-food chains among them, are already applying various tricks and technologies to create less caloric and more satiating versions of their junky fare that nonetheless retain much of the appeal of the originals, and could be induced to go much further. In fact, these roundly demonized companies could do far more for the public’s health in five years than the wholesome-food movement is likely to accomplish in the next 50. But will the wholesome-food advocates let them? ...
Why the Atlantic's defense of junk food fails
Tom Philpott| Mother Jones USA June 26, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
According to the CDC, 69 percent of US adults are overweight or obese. How did this happen? In a long article in the current Atlantic, David H. Freedman offers a mechanistic explanation: people are ingesting too many calories, particularly "energy-intense" fat, sugar, and "other problem carbs." The simple diagnoses leads to an easy solution: the food industry should apply its flavor-engineering wizardry to churn out lower-cal product that people will still scarf up, preserving its own bottom line while solving the obesity crisis. Indeed, he writes, this remedy is already playing out under our noses:
Popular food producers, fast-food chains among them, are already applying various tricks and technologies to create less caloric and more satiating versions of their junky fare that nonetheless retain much of the appeal of the originals, and could be induced to go much further.
Among the examples Freedman cites are McDonald's Egg White Delight McMuffin, a "lower-calorie, less fatty version of the Egg McMuffin'; a "new line of quarter-pound burgers, to be served on buns containing whole grains," and Carl's Jr's "Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich."
And what of food-industry critics like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman, who who urge people to eat "real food" and reject highly processed fare, even in low-cal versions? They—we I guess I should say we—are part of the problem.
How? First of all, the "real food" we push includes—gasp—fat. "Many of the dishes glorified by the wholesome-food movement," Freedman frets, "are as caloric and obesogenic as anything served in a Burger King." He reports watching aghast as Bittman, appearing on the Today Show, whipped up a "lovely dish of corn sautéed in bacon fat and topped with bacon." He adds: "Anyone who thinks that such a thing is much healthier than a Whopper just hasn't been paying attention to obesity science for the past few decades."
Then there's the Pollanites' relentless criticism of Big Food, even when it's ramping down calories. "By placing wholesome eating directly at odds with healthier processed foods, the Pollanites threaten to derail the reformation of fast food just as it's starting to gain traction," Freedman warns. We are, in short, holding up progress, and we need to shut up and accept, as the article's title has it, that "junk food can end obesity."
Except, not so fast. First of all, I object to Freedman's out-of-hand demonization of fat. "Fat carries more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins do per gram," Freedman writes, "which means just a little fat can turn a serving of food into a calorie bomb."
And so he avoids it. He reveals in the article that he has taken to dressing his salads with straight vinegar, since he's "long hated the taste of low-fat dressing." And he admits to having been a "big fan" of an early-90s McDonalds' product called the McLEan Deluxe, a "healthier version of the Quarter Pounder, made with extra-lean beef infused with seaweed extract." And several times in the piece he pauses to gape in horror at the amount of fat found in "real food" dishes—I'm sure he'd howl in outrage at the recipes in my Tom's Kitchen series, with their easy hand with olive oil.
In fact, after reading the piece, I realized that Freedman is really pining for an old, mostly discarded food trend: the "low-fat" craze that flourished starting thirty or so years ago. For me, (dietary) fat phobia peaked at some point in the 1990s, when I discovered lurking in my mother's refrigerator a carton of pre-made "fat-free guacamole." What? Some food-industry genius had managed to strip out the very thing that makes guacamole not only delicious but nutritious—the glorious fat in avocados.
Forget for a second that the low-fat-everything moment occurred right during the time frame—1980s-1990s—when US obesity rates were surging. The problem here is that there's no real evidence that consuming fat, per se, causes obesity or related health problems. The French, for example, are famous for their love of butter, cream, eggs, and animal fat—but their obesity rates only started creeping up when they began to shun their traditional diet and embrace processed food. Same with Italians and their olive oil.
But there is real evidence that, by foregoing oil in his salad dressing, Freedman is also foregoing vital nutrients. ...
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Bold journalist dies in a single-vehicle car accident in Los Angeles. Michael Hastings dead at 33
Bold journalist died in a car accident in Los AngelesPosted at: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - 03:27 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Tim Dickinson Rolling Stone USA June 18, 2013
Photo: Michael Hastings. Hastings died in a single-vehicle automobile crash in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in the early morning of June 18, 2013. Visit this page for its embedded links.
Michael Hastings, the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, Rolling Stone has learned. He was 33.
Hastings' unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, "The Runaway General," captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House. The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. "The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general," Obama said, announcing McChrystal's departure. "It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system."
Hastings' hallmark as reporter was his refusal to cozy up to power. While other embedded reporters were charmed by McChrystal's bad-boy bravado and might have excused his insubordination as a joke, Hastings was determined to expose the recklessness of a man leading what Hastings believed to be a reckless war. "Runaway General" was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, won the 2010 Polk award for magazine reporting, and was the basis for Hastings' book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan.
For Hastings, there was no romance to America's misbegotten wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He had felt the horror of war first-hand: While covering the Iraq war for Newsweek in early 2007, his then-fianceé, an aide worker, was killed in a Baghdad car bombing. Hastings memorialized that relationship in his first book, I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story.
A contributing editor to Rolling Stone, Hastings leaves behind a remarkable legacy of reporting, including an exposé of America's drone war, an exclusive interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at his hideout in the English countryside, an investigation into the Army's illicit use of "psychological operations" to influence sitting Senators and a profile of Taliban captive Bowe Bergdahl, "America's Last Prisoner of War." ...
He always sought out the hard stories, pushed for the truth, let it all hang out on the page. Looking back on the past ten years is tough for anyone, but looking back on Michael's past ten years and you begin to understand how passionate and dedicated to this work he was, a passion that was only equaled by his dedication to his family and friends, and how much more he lived in thirty-three years than most people live in a lifetime. That's part of what makes this all so tough: exiting, he leaves us all with little more than questions and a blank sheet of paper. Maybe that's challenge to continue to use it to write the truth. I hope we can live up to that. ...
Journalist Michael Hastings dies at 33
Andrew Rafferty NBC News USA June 18, 2013
Includes three brief video clips featuring Hastings.
... "We are shocked and devastated by the news that Michael Hastings is gone," BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians."
Fellow reporters and others Hastings came across throughout his career took to Twitter to pay respects and remember the man known for his confident and fearless style.
Award-winning journalist Michael Hastings dies
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer Associated Press USA June 19, 2013
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Michael Hastings, the war correspondent whose unflinching reporting from Afghanistan led to the resignation of a top U.S. army general, has died in a car accident in Los Angeles, according to his employer and family.
Hastings, who was 33, was described by many of his colleagues as an unfailingly bright and hard-charging reporter who wrote stories that mattered. Most recently, he wrote about politics for the news website BuzzFeed, where the top editor said colleagues were devastated by the loss.
"Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians," said Ben Smith, BuzzFeed's editor-in-chief.
Smith said he learned of the death from a family member.
Authorities said there was a car crash early Tuesday in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles that killed a man, but coroner's officials could not confirm whether Hastings was the victim.
Hastings won a 2010 George Polk Award for magazine reporting for his Rolling Stone cover story "The Runaway General."
His story was credited with ending Gen. Stanley McChrystal's career after it revealed the military's candid criticisms of the Obama administration.
Hastings quoted McChrystal and his aides mocking Obama administration officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, over their war policies.
At a Pentagon ceremony for his subsequent retirement in 2010, McChrystal made light of the episode in his farewell address. The four-star general warned his comrades in arms, "I have stories on all of you, photos of many, and I know a Rolling Stone reporter."
When he died, Hastings was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where Managing Editor Will Dana was quoted Tuesday saying Hastings exuded "a certain kind of electricity" that exists in great reporters whose stories burn to be told. ...
Hastings was also an author of books about the wars. The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan was published late last year and details shocking exploits of the military overseas. ...
"Michael Hastings' death cuts short a life dedicated to speaking truth to power. He believed that journalists must be more than bystanders; he was a truthteller, a charming provocateur and a relentless seeker of decency in a nasty world," said David Rosenthal, president of The Blue Rider Press, which published The Operators. ...