Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Syria and the refugees (video)

Insect life

Did you know that there are an estimated 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects (about 900,000 species) on the planet according to Smithsonian Information? That seems like a wonderfully massive untapped source of animal protein that would be valuable for feeding the world’s growing population. 

There are at least 2037 edible species according to a comprehensive survey of literature performed by Mr. Yde Jongema, taxonomist at the Department of Entomology of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. 

If we start to look at insects as the “shrimp” of the land (insects, shrimp, lobsters, and crab are all a part of a group or phylum called arthropods), maybe we can learn to get over our aversion and start including them as a part of our diets. 

With the huge economic impact from crop losses due to insects, isn’t it time we turned the tables on them and have them for dinner?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Hidden Hunger

A silent epidemic is afflicting more than a quarter of humanity — 2 billion people — around the world. It accounts for 11 percent of the global burden of disease. This epidemic disproportionately harms young children and in some of its forms causes 1 in 5 maternal deaths. Unlike with climate change, cancer or global conflicts, ending this epidemic is well within our grasp; in fact, the cure has existed for almost a century, and it costs pennies per person.

“Hidden hunger” is a new term for an age-old problem we know how to solve. It refers to the lack of access to micronutrients critical to proper physical and cognitive development. In the developed world, the simple practice of food fortification has integrated essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, iron, iodine and folic acid into diets invisibly, effectively and on a mass scale. Nothing illustrates or makes the case better than the simplest of foods: salt. Since we began adding iodine to salt in 1922 and enriched other staple foods such as bread and milk, we have virtually eradicated many debilitating but preventable diseases, raised collective IQ and provided a stronger foundation for healthy, productive lives. Ninety years ago, the introduction of salt iodization wiped out goiter and cretinism in parts of the United States and Europe

Food fortification is a simple, cost-effective recipe that could improve the well-being of millions, yet too many countries are falling behind. For many in the international community, addressing malnutrition is a footnote to acute health crises such as food insecurity and the outbreak of diseases, yet the chronically malnourished more than twice outnumber the hungry, and 60 percent of children who die from easily treatable diseases such as malaria would survive with adequate nutrition. Vulnerable countries lose 2 to 3 percent of GDP to hidden hunger’s effects.


Sunday, September 06, 2015

Network's Jensen Speech (video)

Iraqi Oil - In case we have forgotten

Many opponents of the war suspected that one of West's main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil. It was not a conspiracy theory as Tony Blair attempted to claim to throw us of the trail. Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show. Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as "highly inaccurate". BP denied that it had any "strategic interest" in Iraq, while Tony Blair described "the oil conspiracy theory" as "the most absurd". But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq's enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair's military commitment to US plans for regime change. The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP's behalf because the oil giant feared it was being "locked out" of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity." After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office's Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: "Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future... We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq." Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything we've seen for a long time". BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf's existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world's leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take "big risks" to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq's reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Immigrants Feed America

The way the 2016 Republican presidential candidates tell it, the nation’s biggest problem is illegal immigration. Billionaire Donald Trump, says that the only solution to this problem is that “They’ve got to go!”

“They,” noted conservative columnist George Will in late August, are “approximately 11.3 million illegal immigrants.” If all were gathered to be deported, he said of the Trump’s big-sweep plan, the group would be “94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of Japanese descent.”

 Undocumented workers — including women and children — pick most of the nation’s fruit and vegetables, slaughter most of our livestock, milk a growing number of our cows, and mow millions of acres of our lawns. They are the key source of cheap American labor for our food system and losing any portion of it will cost us dearly.

Recent estimates suggest roughly 70 percent of the 1.2 million employed by American farms have no legal right be in the U.S. If accurate, estimated the American Farm Bureau Federation in 2012, the last time such a mass deportation strategy was discussed (and, not coincidentally, the last presidential election year), the exodus would bring “labor shortages that will result in losses of up to $9 billion” to American agriculture. According to USDA, if the U.S. cut the number of undocumented workers within our borders by half, or 5.8 million, “Fruit, tree nuts, vegetables, and nursery production [would experience] long-run relative declines of 2.0 to 5.4 percent in output and from 2.5 to 9.3 percent in exports ...” 

According to a Feb. 2015, National Public Radio report by Dan Charles one grower told him, “They’re just trying to feed their families.” But, the grower added, “giving more legal rights to those workers is probably bad for his business. He believes that if some of the workers ... working in agriculture ... gain legal status then the pressure is off. Now they can go to the cities and look for construction jobs, or manufacturing jobs.’”

Rural America is “a good place to hide from the authorities.” The hiding, of course, carries a price; there is little job safety and even fewer job benefits for undocumented workers and their families.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

No way forward, no way back

Migrants in Libya are faced with three equally grim choices: they can take their chances crossing the Mediterranean in an unsafe smuggler’s boat; return home via an equally perilous route through the desert; or stay in Libya, where work is limited and conditions miserable and insecure. More speak of going forward or back. No one wants to remain in Libya, which has descended into civil war since the 2011 uprising that that dislodged long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi from power.

Many still see the boats as their only option. Libya’s crumbling economy has reduced employment opportunities in a country once viewed as a lucrative place to work. “I’m really scared about taking the boat, but what else can I do?” said 31-year-old Mohamed, a labourer from Sudan currently working in Tripoli. For every migrant who chooses to return home, many more are still prepared to risk the boat journey. Even knowing friends and family who have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean is not always a deterrent. Porthé, 28, from Senegal, said he was still saving for the voyage despite having lost both his parents when they attempted the crossing two months ago. “I am told they died at sea and I believe it because I never heard anything from them again, but I will still go. I have no family and nothing in Senegal now, so I will place my life in God’s hands.”

“I’m not going in that sea,” said 23-year-old James, from Ghana. “No way. I thought I would, but now I see the reality, no way.” He travelled to Libya a year ago, planning to follow in the footsteps of his brother, who successfully made the crossing to Italy in 2013. “He told me not to come. He has been there two years and still has no papers, no work and no money. He said it was too hard to make a life in Italy and told me to stay here in Libya or go back home. “I don’t know what I will do. I can’t go back through the desert – it was too hard and there was too much suffering. I didn’t even care if I died by the end of the third day in the desert.” How to pay for the return journey also presents a problem, with labourers and tradesmen struggling to find regular work. The dollar is now strong against the Libyan dinar on the black market, meaning prices for places on a boat have fallen to as little as $500, often less than the cost of the arduous overland desert route. “It would take me a year to save the money to make that journey home, if I don’t get robbed,” James said.