Kellia’s World – Recommended Reading

Challenging the assumptions we live by — Because I want to.

Archive for April, 2009

Poor debtors go to jail and are billed for the privilege

Posted by kelliasworld on April 30, 2009

Commentary
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Apr 27, 2009, 00:20

A doctor in the Midwest wrote to me again this past Friday about how the economic mess is destroying people.

He wrote, “One of my patients is a . . . 40ish CPA and she was in for an eye problem yesterday . . . She was distraught over the state of the economy and its effect on her clients. She has had many this year who have lost their homes to foreclosure. To her — and her clients’ — dismay, the bank or lending institution is issuing 1099 forms for re-po’d property to the victims. Apparently, since the hapless former homeowners are effectively ‘forgiven’ the remaining amounts on their loans, that is imputed as earned income and they are turned into the IRS for large tax liabilities!!! How’s that for justice? She said that she had actually had people speak seriously about killing themselves!”

“What a screwed up country . . . Yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and cashed in part of my IRA (already down near 50%) to pay off office credit cards (we have depended on these credit lines for office expenses for some time) because they all raised their rates to 30%!!! Of course, O[bama] has nothing to say about usury . . .

“On top of this, I ran across this today . . .” What followed was an article by Eric Ruder, Guilty of Being Poor from dissidentvoice.org. I will highlight some of its points but this is a must-read. It picks up the theme that the good doctor and his patient experienced firsthand, that of debtor’s prison, or jail time for nonpayment of debt.

As Ruder points out, “19th century jailers, even pre-Civil war, largely abandoned this odious practice of putting people in jail for falling into debt . . . In fact, in the 1970s and 80s, the US Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating people who can’t pay fines because of poverty violates the US Constitution.” As he states, “some states and county jails never got the memo. Welcome to the debtor’s prisons of the 21st century.” He then detailed a number of real-life, often tragic cases.

The first was a poor Michigan resident who was ordered to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for holding her 16-year old son. This was the subject of a New York Times editorial, as well. I wonder if Ponzi swindler Bernie Madoff will be billed for his coming stay in prison, or Tyco International’s CEO Dennis Koslowski or Enron’s former CEO Jeff Skilling pay for their stays in prison.

In regard to the hapless Michigan resident, Edwina Nowlin, the Times wrote, “When she explained to the court that she could not afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is seeing more people being sent because they cannot make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric and unconstitutional.”

Ruder wrote Nowlin’s case was more serious than the Times imagined. “Not only was Nowlin under orders to pay a fine stemming from someone else’s actions, but she had been laid off from work and lost her home at the time she was ordered to ‘reimburse’ the county for her son’s detention.” And even though she couldn’t pay, the court held her in contempt and laid a 30-day sentence on her.

Three days after she was jailed, she was let out for a day to work. She picked up a paycheck of $178.53, which she assumed could be put towards paying off the $104 to gain release from jail. But no, when she returned to the jail, “the sheriff told her to sign her paycheck over to the country—to pay $120 for her own room and board plus $22 for a drug test and booking fee.”

Nowlin asked for but was denied a court-appointed lawyer for her defense. “So, because she was too poor to pay for a lawyer and denied her constitutional right to a court-provided lawyer, she couldn’t fight the contempt charge that resulted from her poverty.” This as the fines and fees she was supposed to pay now multiplied like a credit card balance.

The director of the Michigan ACLU said, “Jailing her because of her poverty is not only unconstitutional. It’s unconscionable and a shameful waste of resources. It is not a crime to be poor in this country, and the government must stop resurrecting debtor’s prisons from the dustbin of history.”

Nor is Michigan the only state where you can be jailed for involuntary poverty. This nefarious process is going on every day in courtrooms around the USA. Read Ruder’s story for these hair-raising examples.

They take place in a number of southern states, including Georgia and Louisiana, and bear the unmistakable stamp of racism, as well as state-sponsored usury, a kind of terrorism all its own. It includes debtors being turned over to for-profit collection companies until they pay off their fines. So, while on prison probation, they have to come up with substantial monthly “supervision fees” that can double or triple the amount that a well-situated person would have to pay for the same offense.

Thus, this poverty profiling of debtors only serves to dig its victims deeper into debt with the possibility of longer and longer jail time, for which, in turn, there will be new charges.

That’s almost as vicious as Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and as criminal, given the defendant’s inability to obtain legal counsel.

Eric Ruder’s writes, “We need to build a movement, like the working-class struggles of the 1930s, that can demand an end to the inhuman practice of incarcerating people for no other crime than finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder.”

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net. His new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” is available at http://www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.

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The judges who did these things are a disgrace to the constitution and the court system. They should be immediately impeached, removed from office, and disbarred.

As for imputed income, I say we should pay taxes on imputed income when we can buy groceries with it. K.R.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Flu articles via Legitgov.com

Posted by kelliasworld on April 26, 2009

Citizens for Legitimate Government gathered these articles? Go to CLG’s BREAKING NEWS and COMMENTARY to pick up the many links within the articles that did not copy over to this site. — K.R.
Last updated: 04/26/2009 10:17:22

CLG has a Flu ‘Oddities’ RSS Feed http://www.legitgov.org/CLG_Flu_Oddities.xml to add to your blog or website.

Breaking: US declares public health emergency for swine flu 26 Apr 2009 The U.S. declared a public health emergency Sunday to deal with the emerging new swine flu. Officials reported 20 U.S. cases of swine flu in five states so far, with the latest in Ohio and New York. “As we continue to look for cases, we are going to see a broader spectrum of disease,” predicted Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re going to see more severe disease in this country.”

Obama orders active measures to deal with swine flu 26 Apr 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered his administration to take active and aggressive measures to deal with swine flu, which has infected at least 20 people in the United States. As one of the measures, the administration declared a public health emergency on Sunday. [See: DoD to carry out ‘military missions’ during pandemic, WMD attack 08 Mar 2009 and DoD to ‘augment civilian law’ during pandemic or bioterror attack 11 May 2007.]

Obama Was In Mexico For Swine Flu Outbreak –Man Obama Met Later Died With Flu-Like Symptoms 25 Apr 2009 President Barack Obama’s health is fine a little more than a week after he traveled to Mexico, where an outbreak of swine flu has killed at least 68 people and sickened more than 1,000, the White House said Saturday. “The president’s trip to Mexico has not put his health in any danger,” said spokesman Robert Gibbs. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Margaret Chan, said the outbreak of the never-before-seen virus is a very serious situation and has “pandemic potential.”

As Nations Try to Contain Flu, N.Y. Cases Are Confirmed 27 Apr 2009 American health officials announced Sunday they had confirmed 20 cases of swine flu across the United States, and they said the number of infections was likely to grow as investigators fan out to track down the path of the outbreak. “We are seeing more cases of swine flu,” said Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control, in a news conference in Washington. “We expect to see more cases of swine flu. As we continue to look for cases, I expect we’re going to find them.”

Israeli suspected of having swine flu in Mideast first –Patient had been put in isolation 26 Apr 2009 In the first suspected swine flu case in the Middle East, a 26-year-old Israeli man has been hospitalised upon returning from Mexico on suspicion of contracting the potentially fatal strain, hospital officials told AFP on Sunday. The man checked into the Laniado hospital in the coastal city of Netanya with flu-like symptoms and doctors were trying to determine whether he had contracted the disease, a spokeswoman said.

CLG: Baxter working on vaccine to stop swine flu, though admitted sending live pandemic flu viruses to subcontractor By Lori Price 26 Apr 2009 The OMFG moment of the century. Illinois-based Baxter working on vaccine to ‘stop’ swine flu outbreak in Mexico (25 Apr 2009). But, looky here! Baxter admits sending live avian flu viruses to subcontractor –People familiar with biosecurity rules are dismayed by evidence that human H3N2 and avian H5N1 viruses somehow co-mingled [!] in the Orth-Donau facility. (27 Feb 2009) Is Baxter International taking a page from the Blackwater playbook? Just as Blackwater/Xe keep on killing to justify their multi-billion dollar contracts to provide ‘security’ in Iraq and Afghanistan, Baxter International is poised to make *billions* to vaccinate people against their pandemic.

Briton quarantined as killer flu spreads 26 Apr 2009 A British Airways cabin crew member was taken to hospital with flu-like symptoms yesterday afternoon after falling ill on a flight from Mexico City to Heathrow. The Health Protection Agency said it was keeping a close eye on the situation.

New Zealand quarantines 25 amid swine flu alert 26 Apr 2009 Twenty-five students and teachers in New Zealand, some with flu-like symptoms, were quarantined and tested for swine flu after returning from a trip to Mexico, officials said Sunday, as Asia stepped up surveillance for the deadly virus.

Minister: 10 NZ students likely have swine flu 26 Apr 2009 New Zealand said Sunday that 10 students “likely” have swine flu after a school trip to Mexico, as governments across Asia began quarantining those with symptoms of the deadly virus and some issued travel warnings for Mexico.

Mexico Takes Powers to Isolate Cases of Swine Flu –The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Saturday that it had sent a team of experts to Mexico to assist with the investigation cover-up of the outbreak.26 Apr 2009 This sprawling capital was on edge Saturday as… President [sic] Felipe Calderón published an order that would give his government emergency powers to address a deadly flu outbreak, including isolating those who have contracted the virus, inspecting the homes of affected people and ordering the cancellation of public events. The newspaper Reforma reported that President Obama, who recently visited Mexico, was escorted around Mexico City’s national anthropology museum on April 16 by Felipe Solis, an archaeologist who died the next day from flu-like symptoms.

Mexico declares national emergency amid outbreak 25 Apr 2009 President [sic] Felipe Calderon declared a national emergency Saturday, authorizing federal officials to quarantine the sick, shut down public events and businesses, and take other measures to contain the virus’ spread. Many in this crowded capital of 20 million are holing up or fleeing town as Mexico braces for what the World Health Organization warns could explode into a deadly global flu epidemic.

Texas Gov orders 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from Strategic National Stockpile –New possible case of swine flu identified in Texas 25 Apr 2009 A Texas high school where two students are confirmed to have swine flu is temporarily closing after a new possible case of swine flu was identified there, state health officials announced Saturday. Carrie Williams, a state Department of Health Services spokeswoman in Austin, confirmed Saturday that another student in Guadalupe County near San Antonio is now believed to have the illness… Gov. Rick Perry announced Saturday that because of the outbreak he was asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to give Texas 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to prevent the spread of swine flu.

11 more suspected swine flu cases in U.S. –Total reaches 19 26 Apr 2009 Kansas health authorities had confirmed two new cases of swine flu in their state, California has confirmed another case in Imperial County and New York City officials have identified eight probable cases, bringing the U.S. total to 19 likely cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously identified six cases in San Diego and Imperial counties and two cases in Guadalupe County, Texas.

Officials: 8 NYC Students Probably Have Swine Flu –Department of Health Officials Tests 75 Students at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens 25 Apr 2009 At least eight students at a high school in New York City probably have human swine influenza, but authorities don’t know for sure whether they have the strain that has killed people in Mexico. City health officials say more than 100 students at the private St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens have come down with a fever, sore throat and other aches and pains.

Two swine flu cases confirmed in Dickinson County 25 Apr 2009 The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed two cases of swine flu involving a husband and wife in Dickinson County. KDHE officials said one had recovered and the other is still being treated, but neither was hospitalized. One of the patients had recently traveled to Mexico, flying in and out of Wichita, the KDHE said.

CLG: Flu Kills The Torture Memos –In a ‘Holy convenience, Batman!’ moment, a ‘unique’ flu virus (one likely concocted in US Army labs) overtakes media coverage of revelations that the highest levels of the US government instructed the CIA (and private contractors) to torture terror suspects. By Lori Price 26 April 2009 Guess where the first swine flu outbreak occurred? That’s right, Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1976. Thirteen soldiers died, leading the US government to force a questionable vaccine on the population — backed by a legal liability escape clause mandated by and for the pharma-terrorists. Next, people started dying not from the flu — but from the *vaccine.* [See compendium of key flu articles here.] Updated!

Posted in Pandemic, Science, Terrorism | 3 Comments »

Gov and MSM Articles on Mexican Swine Flu

Posted by kelliasworld on April 26, 2009

Centers for Disease Control

Swine Influenza (Flu)

Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses has been documented. See General Information about Swine Flu.

From December 2005 through February 2009, a total of 12 human infections with swine influenza were reported from 10 states in the United States. Since March 2009, a number of confirmed human cases of a new strain of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in the U.S. and internationally have been identified. An investigation into these cases is ongoing. For more information see Human Swine Flu Investigation.

General Information about Swine Flu
Questions and answers and guidance for treatment and infection control

Human Swine Flu Investigation April 26, 2009 11:30 ET
Information about the investigation of human swine flu in the U.S.

CDC Health Advisory April 25, 2009, 3:00 EST (03:00 PM EDT)
Investigation and Interim Recommendations: Swine Influenza (H1N1)
Distributed via Health Alert Network
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Note: as of Sunday Morning 4/26, the count is 81 dead 1,000 sickened in Mexico; 0 dead 20 sickened in US — KR
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US DECLARES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY AS SWINE FLU SPREADS

(CNN) — The United States government declared a public health emergency Sunday as the number of identified cases of swine flu in the nation rose to 20.
A couple kisses through their masks at the Historic Center in Mexico City on Saturday.

The declaration is part of a “standard operating procedure” that will make available additional government resources to combat the virus, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said at the White House.

Additional cases of swine flu are expected to be reported in the coming days, added Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No one has died in the U.S. from swine flu, officials said Sunday.

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said eight students at St. Francis Prepatory School in Queens have tested positive for swine flu. More than 100 students at the school were absent with flu-like symptoms last week, he said.

State public health officials in Ohio confirmed one case of swine flu on Sunday. There have been seven confirmed cases in California, two in Kansas, and two in Texas, Besser said.

The World Health Organization advised all countries to be on the lookout for “unusual” outbreaks of flu, after an emergency meeting Saturday as the seriousness of the outbreak became clear.

By Sunday, 81 deaths in Mexico had been deemed “likely linked” to swine flu. Viral testing has confirmed 20 cases, said Dr. Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, Mexico’s health secretary.

In Mexico City, the massive downtown Cathedral of Mexico City was open but Masses were not scheduled. Dozens of worshippers put on masks and went inside the church anyway to pray on their own.

The H1N1 strain of swine flu is usually associated with pigs. When the flu spreads person-to-person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat or fight off.

Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. Learn more about swine flu and how to treat it »

President Obama recently returned from a trip to Mexico, but has not shown any signs of flu-like symptoms, the White House said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the outbreak “is of great concern to the White House,” and Obama is receiving regular briefings on the issue.

“I would tell people it’s certainly not a time to panic,” Gibbs told reporters. “If you’re sick, stay home, get treatment, go see a doctor.” But he added, “The government is taking all the steps it needs to and must do to take the precautions to deal with whatever size and scope we may be facing.”

In New Zealand, officials said 22 students and three teachers back from a three-week-long language trip to Mexico may have been infected with the swine flu virus.

The 25 students and teachers at Auckland’s Rangitoto College returned to New Zealand via Los Angeles on Saturday.

Fourteen have shown flu-like symptoms, with four “more unwell than others,” said Dr. Julia Peters, clinical director of Auckland Regional Public Health Service. It is not clear whether anyone else who was on the plane with them has shown signs of the disease.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said 10 students tested positive for influenza A. The specimens will be sent to WHO to determine whether it is H1N1 swine influenza.

H1N1 influenza is a subset of influenza A. The WHO results are expected back by midweek. The group remains quarantined at home.

“It certainly has not been confirmed that they have swine flu,” said Dr. Craig Thornley of Auckland Regional Public Health Service. “We already have provisional information that some of the group have influenza A. We won’t know if they have the type of influenza A that is swine flu.”

A British Airways crew member developed flu-like symptoms during a flight from Mexico City to London and was tested for swine flu, but the results came back negative.

“I can confirm that the patient doesn’t have swine flu,” said Jonathan Street, a spokesman for Northwick Park Hospital in north London. “We have done all tests, and they all came back negative.”

The flight attendant is back at work, British Airways told CNN.

Britain is not putting travel restrictions in place, according to British Airways and Heathrow airport operator BAA, and the country’s Port Health Authority has no reason for concern over swine flu, BAA said.

The Mexico Tourist Board said Saturday there are no restrictions on travel to the country.

In Israel, doctors are running tests on a man who recently returned from Mexico with light flu symptoms.

U.S. health officials said Friday that some cases of the virus in the United States matched samples of the deadly Mexican virus.

All the patients have recovered or are expected to.

The panic over the virus prompted Canada to issue a travel health notice, saying the public health agency was “tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico.”

South Korea said it will test airline passengers arriving from the United States. Japan will convene a Cabinet meeting Monday to develop measures to block entry of the virus into the country.

The United States has not issued any travel warnings or quarantines.

But US Airways said Saturday it would allow passengers to change plans if they wanted to because of the outbreak.

Airline spokeswoman Michelle Mohr said it was not asking people not to travel to Mexico, but wanted to “give them that flexibility” if “they don’t feel comfortable.”

Gregory Hartl of the World Health Organization said the strain of the virus seen in Mexico is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains.

“Any time that there is a virus which changes … it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to deal with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to deal with this new virus,” Hartl said.

Mexico City has closed all of its schools and universities until further notice because of the virus.

CNN’s Saeed Ahmed, Raja Razek, Phillip Warrington, Paul Vercammen and Ted Rowlands contributed to this report.

MORE CASES OF SWINE FLU REPORTED; W.H.O. WARNS OF HEALTH EMERGENCY.

(CNN) — A potentially deadly new strain of the swine flu virus cropped up in more places in the United States and Mexico on Saturday, in what the World Health Organization called “a public health emergency of international concern.”
Women wearing masks wait at a health clinic Saturday in Mexico City.

The most recent reports Saturday afternoon were of two confirmed cases of the virus in Kansas — bringing the number of confirmed U.S. cases to 11.

Those joined nine confirmed cases in Texas and California and an apparent outbreak at a private school in New York City, where officials say eight children likely have the virus.

By Saturday night, health officials in Mexico said 81 deaths there were “likely linked” to the swine flu.

Dr. Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, Mexico’s Secretary of Health, said viral testing has confirmed 20 cases of swine flu across the country.

President Felipe Calderon on Saturday issued an executive decree detailing emergency powers of the Ministry of Health, according to the president’s office.

The order gives the ministry with the authority to isolate sick patients, inspect travelers’ luggage and their vehicles and conduct house inspections, the statement said.

The government also has the authority to prevent public gatherings, shut down public venues and regulate air, sea and overland travel.

The WHO’s Gregory Hartl said the strain of the virus seen in Mexico is worrisome because it has mutated from older strains.

“Any time that there is a virus which changes … it means perhaps the immunities the human body has built up to dealing with influenza might not be adjusted well enough to dealing with this new virus,” Hartl told CNN.

In Mexico, otherwise young and healthy people have been hit by the virus — “one of the pieces of the puzzle that is worrying us,” he said.

Mexico City has closed all of its schools and universities because of the virus, and the country’s National Health Council said all Saturday’s soccer games would be played without public audiences. Video Watch an alarmed Mexico City react with face masks, cancellations »

WHO has sent experts to Mexico at the request of the country’s government, Chan said.

All of the U.S. patients have recovered or are expected to. Two of the border cases were in Texas, near San Antonio, and seven of the cases were in southern California, the CDC said.

More than 1,300 people with flu-like symptoms have been admitted to hospitals in Mexico, and officials are trying to determine how many of those patients have swine flu, the country’s health minister, Cordova said.

U.S. health officials said Friday that some cases of the virus matched samples of the deadly Mexican virus.

On Saturday, New York’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases said preliminary tests from a Queens school suggest that eight out of the nine children tested probably have the swine flu virus.

Dr. Don Weiss said up to 200 students at the school reported feeling ill.

He said the samples will be sent to the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia, to determine the subtype of the strain. The results could be known as early as Sunday.

“What’s concerning about this is, first, that it’s likely swine flu; second is that at this time it is spreading from person to person,” said New York City health Commissioner Thomas Frieden.Video Watch news conference with NYC health department spokesman »

When the flu spreads person to person, instead of from animals to humans, it can continue to mutate, making it a tougher strain that is harder to treat or fight off.

The infected people in Kansas are a man who had recently traveled to Mexico and his wife, officials said. Neither of them was hospitalized, said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The United States had not issued any travel warnings or quarantines by Saturday evening.

The Canadian Public Health Agency had issued a travel health notice, saying, “The Public Health Agency of Canada is tracking clusters of severe respiratory illness with deaths in Mexico.”

Symptoms of swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, the CDC said.

Besser advised people with flu-like symptoms to stay home from work or school and to see a doctor.

CNN’s Mayra Cuevas, Ann Curley, Caleb Hellerman, Elaine Quijano and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

Posted in America, Pandemic, Science, Terrorism | 3 Comments »

Ill From Food? Investigations Vary by State

Posted by kelliasworld on April 20, 2009

New York Times Original Content
April 20, 2009

By GARDINER HARRIS

In just about every major contaminated food scare, Minnesotans become sick by the dozens while few people in Kentucky and other states are counted among the ill.

Contaminated peanuts? Forty-two Minnesotans were reported sick compared with three Kentuckians. Jalapeño peppers last year? Thirty-one in Minnesota and two in Kentucky became ill. The different numbers arise because health officials in Kentucky and many other states fail to investigate many complaints of food-related sickness while those in Minnesota do so diligently, safeguarding not only Minnesotans but much of the rest of the country, as well.

Congress and the Obama administration have said that more inspections and new food production rules are needed to prevent food-related diseases, but far less attention has been paid to fixing the fractured system by which officials detect and stop ongoing outbreaks. Right now, uncovering which foods have been contaminated is left to a patchwork of more than 3,000 federal, state and local health departments that are, for the most part, poorly financed, poorly trained and disconnected, officials said.

The importance of a few epidemiologists in Minnesota demonstrates the problem. If not for the Minnesota Department of Health, the Peanut Corporation of America might still be selling salmonella-laced peanuts, Dole might still be selling contaminated lettuce, and ConAgra might still be selling dangerous Banquet brand pot pies — sickening hundreds or thousands more people.

In these and other cases, epidemiologists from Minnesota pinpointed the causes of food scares while officials in other states were barely aware that their residents were getting sick. From 1990 to 2006, Minnesota health officials uncovered 548 food-related illness outbreaks, while those in Kentucky found 18, according to an analysis of health records.

The surveillance system is vital because even with reforms intended to prevent outbreaks, food-related disease will remain among the most common sources of illness. One-quarter of the nation’s population is sickened every year by contaminated food, 300,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die, and decades of steady improvements in the safety of the nation’s food supply have ended in recent years.

“The longer it takes you to nail an outbreak, the more people are going to get sick,” said Dr. David Acheson, associate commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration. “And if it’s a pathogen that causes death, the more people are going to die.”

With states cutting back in the face of budget crises, disease surveillance is worsening, several officials said.

“Just $50 million spread over the entire country would make a huge difference,” said Dr. Timothy Jones, the state epidemiologist in Tennessee.

Take the case of Lauren Threlkeld, who went to a Kroger grocery store in Lexington, Ky., in August 2007 and bought a bag of Dole baby spinach contaminated with E. coli O157. She became violently ill with bloody diarrhea and was hospitalized for nearly a week.

When Ms. Threlkeld finally went home to recuperate in Madisonville, Ky., a county health worker called only to verify that she had fallen ill in another county. No one asked about the foods she had eaten or what might have made her so ill, she said. Later efforts by her lawyer pinpointed the source of her illness — far too late to help others avoid similar fates.

Dr. William D. Hacker, the public health commissioner in Kentucky, blamed tight budgets. “We have had a historically poor record of reporting” food-borne illnesses, Dr. Hacker said. “We are working hard to change our culture even with limited resources.”

In Minnesota and a few other states, victims of food-related illnesses tell very different stories. Sarah Kirchner of Belle Plaine, Minn., said health workers called her three separate times and spent hours discussing her children’s diet almost immediately after a laboratory test verified that one had fallen ill with salmonella. Officials in Minnesota traced the outbreak to peanut butter in part because of Ms. Kirchner’s responses.

“There is no question that some states take this far more seriously than others,” Dr. Acheson said.

Even when county and state health departments investigate, their methods often differ so greatly that federal officials have difficulty uncovering patterns. This leads to terrible delays.

“Everybody does things differently, even within many states,” Dr. Acheson said. “It’s a huge challenge.”

Some delay is inevitable. Most people sickened by food do not bother to see a doctor. Many of those who do are not asked to provide a stool sample, and when asked, some refuse.

When patients are willing, laboratories may not be. In Utah, for instance, only 18 of the state’s 1,388 medical laboratories process stool tests, said Dr. Pat Luedtke, director of the Utah public health laboratory. Well-meaning doctors who wish to send stool samples sometimes must pay the postage because insurers often refuse to pay for a test that largely serves a public health function; many doctors do not bother.

By the time public health officials notice that a growing number of such samples carry the same genetic fingerprint — a clear sign that a popular food is contaminated — weeks have passed. By then, victims’ memories of what they ate have faded. So rapid and thorough responses by health officials, a rarity in many states, are crucial.

“I’ve learned in the last few months that the real secret to our success is that we have urgency,” said Dr. Kirk Smith, supervisor of the food-borne diseases unit for the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Acheson of the F.D.A. said federal authorities had been meeting with state health officials to seek ways to improve the surveillance system, including standardizing menu questionnaires and improving response times. But he said more federal financing was crucial.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of food-borne diseases, said the agency planned immediate investments “to increase the capacity of several health departments.”

Ruth Ann Merrick of Somerset, Ky., said she was still bitter about how her case was handled. She went with friends to a local Chinese restaurant on June 26, 2004. Within 45 minutes, she was vomiting so violently that she passed out and her heart stopped. After her husband performed C.P.R., she was taken to Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital, where she remained in intensive care for four days.

Although four of the eight people in her party were sickened, the state never investigated, she said.

“I thought I was going to die,” Ms. Merrick said.
_____________
Food safety is one of those situations where the Federal government needs to set standards that represent the floor of protection, so that everyone, regardless of where they live, gets a certain level of investigation, transparency and protection. But then the states should be able to provide an even higher standard if they wish. Think that is too much of a problem for the multi-state food distributor? Not if the distributor fulfills the highest standard instead of the lowest. — K.R.

Posted in America, Economics, Food | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Let Me Chew My Coca Leaves

Posted by kelliasworld on April 13, 2009

March 14, 2009
Op-Ed Contributor
New York Times Original Content

By EVO MORALES AYMA

La Paz, Bolivia

THIS week in Vienna, a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs took place that will help shape international antidrug efforts for the next 10 years. I attended the meeting to reaffirm Bolivia’s commitment to this struggle but also to call for the reversal of a mistake made 48 years ago.

In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs placed the coca leaf in the same category with cocaine — thus promoting the false notion that the coca leaf is a narcotic — and ordered that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years from the coming into force of this convention.” Bolivia signed the convention in 1976, during the brutal dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer, and the 25-year deadline expired in 2001.

So for the past eight years, the millions of us who maintain the traditional practice of chewing coca have been, according to the convention, criminals who violate international law. This is an unacceptable and absurd state of affairs for Bolivians and other Andean peoples.

Many plants have small quantities of various chemical compounds called alkaloids. One common alkaloid is caffeine, which is found in more than 50 varieties of plants, from coffee to cacao, and even in the flowers of orange and lemon trees. Excessive use of caffeine can cause nervousness, elevated pulse, insomnia and other unwanted effects.

Another common alkaloid is nicotine, found in the tobacco plant. Its consumption can lead to addiction, high blood pressure and cancer; smoking causes one in five deaths in the United States. Some alkaloids have important medicinal qualities. Quinine, for example, the first known treatment for malaria, was discovered by the Quechua Indians of Peru in the bark of the cinchona tree.

The coca leaf also has alkaloids; the one that concerns antidrug officials is the cocaine alkaloid, which amounts to less than one-tenth of a percent of the leaf. But as the above examples show, that a plant, leaf or flower contains a minimal amount of alkaloids does not make it a narcotic. To be made into a narcotic, alkaloids must typically be extracted, concentrated and in many cases processed chemically. What is absurd about the 1961 convention is that it considers the coca leaf in its natural, unaltered state to be a narcotic. The paste or the concentrate that is extracted from the coca leaf, commonly known as cocaine, is indeed a narcotic, but the plant itself is not.

Why is Bolivia so concerned with the coca leaf? Because it is an important symbol of the history and identity of the indigenous cultures of the Andes.

The custom of chewing coca leaves has existed in the Andean region of South America since at least 3000 B.C. It helps mitigate the sensation of hunger, offers energy during long days of labor and helps counter altitude sickness. Unlike nicotine or caffeine, it causes no harm to human health nor addiction or altered state, and it is effective in the struggle against obesity, a major problem in many modern societies.

Today, millions of people chew coca in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and northern Argentina and Chile. The coca leaf continues to have ritual, religious and cultural significance that transcends indigenous cultures and encompasses the mestizo population.

Mistakes are an unavoidable part of human history, but sometimes we have the opportunity to correct them. It is time for the international community to reverse its misguided policy toward the coca leaf.

Evo Morales Ayma is the president of Bolivia.
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I would trust indigenous peoples who have been using a plant for thousands of years, and the way they use it, over bureaucratic and often racist institutions that don’t want to understand the difference between a natural plant (the coca leaf) and a manufactured chemical (cocaine).

The coca leaf is not alone in being unfairly demonized. Peyote, as used in Native American rituals, and marijuana — I know several people who use it medicinally here in California — are two other plants the use of which has been deemed “abuse” per se by the mainstream.

It is well past the time we stopped tarring everything with the same brush and started looking at the differences between natural and manufactured substances, between “use” and “abuse” –just about everything on earth can be both used and abused in our dualistic world–and between medicinal, cultural or religious uses of substances and casual, even careless recreational uses. Scientific investigation of these substances should be welcomed, IF the inquiries are scientifically rigorous and the experiments, and the reports of their results, are devoid of politics.

Of course, that would require a few things our society is short of right now: Politicians who are not looking for votes by promoting a “war” on drugs; parents, teachers, clergy and others who are willing and able to communicate to the young the differences between use and abuse of substances, (even the currently legal ones), legitimate scientific inquiry into biological reasons why people seek intoxication, legitimate social science inquiry into why people seek intoxication, government dedicated to eradicating the social conditions which induce people to abuse substances, and a healthcare system that welcomes medicinal herbs into its pharmacopeia, rather than “Big Pharma’s” fear of competition for its highly processed and expensive chemicals from more cheaply available natural substances.–K.R.

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Feigned Indignation: Of marauding exploiters, their “ethical qualms,” and a new proposal

Posted by kelliasworld on April 13, 2009

By Jason Miller

3/15/09

Since there was little appetite for my recent polemic in which I advocated including necro-cannibalism as an integral part of our strategy to combat ecocide and world hunger, because very few appeared to take note of the fact that it was not my intention to carefully craft an update of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” (I was actually hurling a hunk of concrete into the placid waters of the indoctrinated readers’ minds in order to observe the resultant splash and subsequent ripples), and since despite the depth of Homo rapien moral depravity and their sheer indifference to the suffering, murder, mayhem, and destruction that the human collective causes in order to satiate our desires and perpetuate the disease we call civilization, reader response indicated that the thought of eating our “fellow man” was taking things a bit too far, I’m advancing yet another potential solution to the myriad and complex maladies we’ve inflicted upon nonhuman animals, the Earth and ourselves.

Homo rapiens, who, judging by the state of the world, outnumber Homo sapiens by a wide margin, are a self-centered, mean-spirited bunch. Maybe their swarming hordes can get behind an idea that saves their asses, eases what little conscience they have, requires little or no risk or effort on their part, and doesn’t involve the possibility of their cherished grandmas winding up as hotdogs rather than worm fodder or cinders.

As an aside, had I written my apologia for necro-cannibalism as a serious assertion, what pray tell would have been so ghastly, macabre, reprehensible, or unthinkable about it? It’s not like we would be committing homicide. The people we would be eating would have died prior to being slated to appear on the menu at McDonald’s. Some amongst us directly perpetrate (and many of the rest of the rest of us openly or tacitly support) the murder of billions of sentient beings (including “universally sacred” human animals) each year in factory “farms,” laboratories, and in faraway lands inhabited by the uninitiated whom we must bomb into the stone age that they might become enlightened enough to embrace the American Way of Life.

What an arbitrary, skewed, hypocritical and bizarre set of ethics and priorities we have. The Earth is teeming with 6.5 billion people who are stripping it bare like a plague of locusts, food shortages are reaching crisis levels, and the Homo rapiens are going to balk at the source of the flesh they so love to devour? Though they may represent the next stage in hominid evolution (on the other hand, one could advance a strong argument that they represent a de-evolution), they need to get over themselves. Or they won’t have any selves left to get over.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist tossing another chunk of cement and muddying those placid waters once more. As a critical thinker who has stopped drowning out my inner voice with Western civilization’s ubiquitous and numerous forms of anesthetizing, conscience-killing soma, I have my eyes wide open to the constant barrage of inanities, perversities, hypocrisies, deceptions, distortions, and insanities with which our barbaric “civilized” culture perpetually pelts us. As my beloved Sylvia often says about the Homo rapiens she encounters each day, “If they come at me crazy, I’m getting crazy right back.” So let’s talk cannibalism a bit more.

Moral and ethical objections to necro-cannibalism are hollow and pathetically feeble when voiced by the savage mob of our collective “advanced, industrialized civilization” that preys economically upon “developing nations;” subjugates hundreds of millions of people through the use of puppet plutocracies, neo-liberal economic policies, military bases installed for “protection,” or outright imperial invasion; gluttonously gobbles up far more than its share of the world’s “natural resources”—eating them and shitting them out or running them through atmosphere-toxifying factories that create more “things” that will quickly become a part of the breathtakingly enormous mountain of garbage through which we will eventually be wading; drops smart bombs (now there’s an oxymoron for you) that only kill the “bad guys”–plus a few hundred “victims of collateral damage;” tortures and murders millions of nonhuman animals every day to yield a plethora of unnecessary products; ends millions of lives before they get started through abortions; locks up nonviolent substance abusers because of their skin color and economic class whilst letting mass murderers like Bush and Cheney run free; leaves billions to live in miserable squalor to enable the American Dream for a relative few; and more. Yet in the midst of an ecocrisis in which industrial agriculture plays a large role, we’re going to keep downing “pork,” “beef,” and “poultry” by the shovel full and get squeamish about stabbing our fork into a morsel of nourishing human flesh that would otherwise go to waste? How about a steaming plate of self-centeredness and an ice cold glass of hypocrisy to wash that down?

My apologies; again I digress. Forget cannibalism. As my “friends” who grease the gears of capitalism would say, “There’s no market for it!” Unlike our imperialistic, war-mongering government (which is merely a reflection of our Homo rapien society), those who are fighting for the Earth obviously don’t have the luxury of keeping “all options on the table.”

I’ll skip moralizing about the abject cruelty of exploiting nonhuman animals to consume their flesh because I recognize that Homo rapiens are too selfish to give up their beloved “meat,” despite the fact that many give lip service to ending the horrors of factory “farming” in favor of “happy meat.” So as my dear “compatriots,” the capitalists, love to say, “I’ll give you the bottom line here.” The bottom line is that the extant system of factory “farming” is an environmental disaster and a tremendous waste of resources.

You can Google the statistics if you prefer more specificity, but for those flesh addicts who are comfortable with the savagery of nonhuman animal consumption, there are two compelling pragmatic reasons to find an alternative “meat” source: pollution and “resource” depletion.

The billions of nonhuman animals destined to wind up on plates or between slices of bread produce seas of urine and excrement. For now Tyson, Smithfield Farms and their ilk pump this waste into storage lagoons, which are filled with this putrid slurry of piss and shit mixed with a host of other waste products, including antibiotics, pesticides, the rotting corpses of nonhuman animals crushed or trampled to death, afterbirth, and stillborns.

What the hell are we going to do with all of that infectious, repugnant sludge as time progresses? Perhaps we could simply do what the billions of sentient beings we’ve oppressed and exploited to sustain our American Way of Life (the soul-sucking, murderous machine we call Western civilization) would love to see us do and “eat shit and die.” No, that’s too drastic. We, as a collective, have done some pretty rotten things and our system’s got to go, but there’s plenty of room for personal redemption on a case by case basis—for most of us any way. So, the question remains, what are we going to do with vast seas of poisonous sewage that threaten to contaminate groundwater, streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes?

Pollution aside, we have another problem that is perhaps even bigger. It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2500 gallons of water to make one pound of “beef.” The global demand for “meat” is skyrocketing as populous nations like China and India aspire to the “heights” of American capitalism and clamor for body parts on their menus. One third of the global population is starving, mostly in “developing” nations, so that the “deserving” citizens of wealthier nations can gorge themselves on flesh. I realize that I’ve wasted a sentence on another of those idiotic moral concerns which Homo rapiens have rationalized away or are just too fucking mean to care about, so let me instead point out that world-wide demand for “meat” is projected to double by 2050 and that our industrial agricultural system is already incapable of providing food for a rapidly growing population of 6.5 billion humans. Therefore, there’s a strong chance that you and your children, dear reader, could be affected—very adversely I might add. (That’s how you get the attention of a Homo rapien—you inform them of something that’s going to directly impact THEM and “theirs.”)

Our current form of “meat” production is rife with irresolvable problems, vegans/vegetarians are still about as rare as recent stock market success stories, and the number of people demanding to feast upon rotting flesh is rising meteorically. A head-scratching, hair pulling dilemma if ever I encountered one.

Eliminating “meat” from our collective diet is a non-starter. Necro-cannibalism went over like reruns of the Lawrence Welk show on MTV. Lowering demand by voluntarily decreasing consumption would be impossible given our “all about me,” “individual freedom with no responsibility to the group” ethos. Appeals to conscience, you say? No, I tried that and most people just laughed and stuffed their mouths with another hunk of rotting animal flesh.

Therefore, we can once again look to the holy trinity of science, technology, and capitalism for our salvation. Interspecies chimeras, laboratory-created genetic crosses between two unique animal species, can rain “meat” down upon us like manna from heaven. Since 2003, researchers have successfully formed chimeric embryos by fusing human animals with three different nonhuman animals: rabbits, sheep, and cows.

We’ve struck gold. Now all we need to do is to start mining. With our scientific knowledge, technological infrastructure, and immense wealth, we could create and distribute chimeras for mass consumption within a couple of years. After all, “product” design and commodification are our specialties in this capitalist society. Replacing “farm animals” with chimeras as our source of “meat” would not be that difficult.

Big Meat could finish butchering the remaining stock of domestic nonhuman animals and make preparations to start slaughtering chimeras and distributing their flesh and body parts for consumption. Marketing this new product could be a problem initially, but the Bernays protégés on Madison Avenue could sell ‘morning after’ pills to members of the Army of God, so no worries there.

Rabbit, lamb, and cow are tastes with which many “meat” eaters are already familiar. Geneticists could most certainly bring pigs into the fold as well. Perhaps they could even engineer an egg-laying chimeric chicken.

Imagine the myriad advantages of fusing human DNA into our chimeras. Once we got the Medical Industrial Complex coordinating with Big Meat and Big Food, we could develop massive breeding and housing facilities for these artificial beings and start cranking them out like autos rolling off an assembly line.

Once weaned from their mothers, the exceptional female stock could be retained, nurtured and reared to serve as birthing machines. Genetically limiting their intellect so that they could perform simple tasks and engage in manual labor (without the capacity to think critically), would enable us to employ a skeleton crew of people to oversee immense chimeric laboratory farms, as these production facilities could be staffed primarily by chimeras.

Chimeras would be the perfect “meat” source. With their opposable thumbs and limited ability to cogitate, the sanitation problems related to factory “farming” would be largely eliminated as the chimeras could use toilets and clean up after themselves. Chimeras would virtually eliminate a corporation’s biggest expense: employees. They could tend to themselves and the facilities that manufacture them with limited human oversight. Once they were transported to the slaughter-houses currently processing cows, pigs and the like, they could be processed in a similar fashion. With IQ’s hovering around 80, passivity would be a virtual given as they queued up to have their skulls bashed in with sledgehammers, and for the unlucky ones who survived the bludgeoning, to be gutted alive with razor sharp knives.

Aside from the breeding stock, laboratory farm staff, and those we ground into chimera burgers, we could exploit the remaining “things with a pulse” in any way we saw fit. Corporations operating laboratory farms could garner immense income streams from both “meat” production and from the sale of chimeras as slaves. Since these Petri-dish concocted beings couldn’t possibly have a soul and would be synthetic creatures, our chimeras would not be endowed with human rights nor protected by animal welfare laws. Homo rapien capitalists would be living larger than a pedophile on a deserted isle full of 12 year old virgins! No extant ethics, morals, laws, or social taboos would impede commerce, progress, profit, advantage, pleasure, or fulfillment derived from said beings.

Chimeras would eliminate the need for nonhuman animal vivisection. With human DNA woven into their genetic structure, their value and reliability as test subjects would be far superior to that of nonhuman animals. We could even conduct the tests in the same laboratories that produce them.

Imagine owning a chimera. It would be like having a cow that could mow your lawn, do your laundry, wash your dishes, and even, if you could get past their odd physical appearance, satisfy you sexually. When you came home from a rough day at the office, instead of kicking the cat or yelling at the kids, you could beat the chimera. And when your stock of “meat” in the freezer started running low, you could simply run your chimera down to the nearest butcher, have it stunned, bled, gutted, cleaved, hacked, and sliced, and scurry home with a car-load of neat little packages of mouth-watering rotting flesh.

Obviously, chimeras would be a “must have.” Clean, “green,” essentially self-perpetuating, and highly coveted by all, chimeras would be capitalism’s crowning achievement. Our environmental nightmare would be mitigated, world hunger would disappear, and everyone could own at least one chimera to afford them more leisure time and ensure they’d be able to gorge themselves on “meat.”

Now don’t tell me that faux ethical concerns are going to hold us back on this one. Remember, we’re the group that’s collectively gang raping Mother Earth and sodomizing her to death. Don’t proclaim to me, dear Homo rapiens, that you don’t want to have your “meat” and eat it too; to strengthen the illusion of “safe food, medicine, and consumer products” provided by vivisection; and to possess your very own personal slave. And don’t try to convince me that a society of marauding exploiters has “ethical qualms” about artificially creating beings that would satisfy these “needs” while at the same time helping to slow or end the impending ecological collapse we’re causing.

Don’t talk crazy to me, and as Sylvia would also say, “Don’t front!”

Jason Miller is a relentless anti-capitalist, vegan straight edge, and animal liberationist. He is also the senior editor and founder of Thomas Paine’s Corner and the blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute.

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I’m a dedicated carnivore. In fact, I have some chicken legs boiling in a pot as I write this. I have been diagnosed as diabetic and have found out from several sources that a protein breakfast helps keep the blood sugar under control all day. (I do not take insulin). Besides, I like chicken.

Nevertheless, I deplore the way our farm animals are treated. I buy free-range chicken, cage-free eggs, yogurt made from milk from cows that haven’t been shot up with growth hormones, etc. Fortunately, I have easy access to such products, albeit at a premium. My food budget has sky-rocketed since I made the switch. Sorry to say my income has not increased proportionally.

That the poor have to suffer with garbage as food while our food animals are mistreated are both results of the capitalist factory farm system that cares only about profits and not product quality for the humans and humane treatment for the animals. We see this all in non-meat food production, To wit: the recent salmonella outbreaks in peanuts and pistachios. –K.R.

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Twitter Comments

Posted by kelliasworld on April 3, 2009

April 3, 2009
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