Thursday, May 15, 2008

Indians Find U.S. at Fault in Food Cost

Lisa Poole/Associated Press

The purchases and disposal of food by typical American shoppers have tongues wagging bitterly at Indian research institutes.

NEW DELHI — Instead of blaming India and other developing nations for the rise in food prices, Americans should rethink their energy policy — and go on a diet.

That has been the response, basically, of a growing number of politicians, economists and academics in this country, who are angry at statements by top United States officials that India’s rising prosperity is to blame for food inflation.

The debate has sometimes devolved into what sounded like petty playground taunts over who are the real gluttons devouring the world’s resources.

For instance, Pradeep S. Mehta, secretary general of the center for international trade, economics and the environment of CUTS International, an independent research institute based here, said that if Americans slimmed down to the weight of middle-class Indians, “many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates.”

He added, archly, that the money spent in the United States on liposuction to get rid of fat from excess consumption could be funneled to feed famine victims.

Mr. Mehta’s comments may sound like the macroeconomic equivalent of “so’s your old man,” but they reflect genuine outrage — and ballooning criticism — toward the United States in particular, over recent remarks by President Bush.

After a news conference in Missouri on May 2, he was quoted as saying of India’s burgeoning middle class, “When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.”

The comments, widely reported in the developing world, followed a statement on the subject by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that had upset many Indians.

In response to the president’s remarks, a ranking official in the commerce ministry, Jairam Ramesh, told the Press Trust of India, “George Bush has never been known for his knowledge of economics,” and the remarks proved again how “comprehensively wrong” he is.

The Asian Age, a newspaper based here, argued in an editorial last week that Mr. Bush’s “ignorance on most matters is widely known and openly acknowledged by his own countrymen,” and that he must not be allowed to “get away” with an effort to “divert global attention from the truth by passing the buck on to India.”

The developing nations, and in particular China and India, are being blamed for global problems, including the rising cost of commodities and the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, because they are consuming more goods and fuel than ever before. But Indians from the prime minister’s office on down frequently point out that per capita, India uses far lower quantities of commodities and pollutes far less than nations in the West, particularly the United States.

Explaining the food price increases, Indian politicians and academics cite consumption in the United States; the West’s diversion of arable land into the production of ethanol and other biofuels; agricultural subsidies and trade barriers from Washington and the European Union; and finally the decline in the exchange rate of the dollar.

There may be some foundation to Indians’ accusations of hypocrisy by the West. The United States uses — or throws away — 3,770 calories a person each day, according to data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization collected in 2001-3, compared with 2,440 calories per person in India. Americans are also the largest per capita consumers in any major economy of the most energy-intensive common food source, beef, the Agriculture Department says.

And the United States and Canada lead the world in oil consumption per person, according to the Energy Information Administration, an Energy Department agency.

When it comes to trade, Western farming subsidies undercut agricultural production in fertile areas of Africa, India’s commerce minister, Kamal Nath, said in a telephone interview, repeating the point that Americans waste more food than people in many other countries.

The United States is responsible “many times more” than India for the world food crisis, said Ramesh Chand, an economist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which advises the government on farm policy.

The Bush administration has called for a truce. President Bush is a “great friend and admirer” of India, the United States ambassador here, David C. Mulford, said last week. He added that “this is a time for increased cooperation among nations to solve this problem and that hostile political commentary is not productive.”

A White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said, “We think it is a good thing countries are developing, that more and more people have higher standards of living.”

Some economists argue that blaming India’s growth is not only unfair, but makes little sense.

Food prices have not been rising continually as developing nations grew, said Ramgopal Agarwala, a former World Bank economist and senior adviser at RIS, a research institute in New Delhi. “They were static until 2006, then in 2007 and 2008 there was a sudden spark,” he said. But India has been growing for the last decade. This is “not last year’s phenomena,” he said.

“I don’t know who advised the president” on his recent comments, Mr. Agarwala added, but his analysis is “subprime.”

Mr. Mehta of the research institute conceded that his remarks on liposuction were meant to be tongue in cheek, but that “politically incorrect” attitudes like President Bush’s and Ms. Rice’s needed to be challenged. Rather than blaming India, Mr. Mehta said, the West should be adjusting to a changing world.

“If the developing world is going to develop, demand is going to go up and there are going to be new political paradigms,” he said.

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

Original here

'Dang-it-Dolls' help troops with stress

CAYCE, South Carolina (AP) -- A South Carolina grandmother has become a sensation among stressed-out U.S. military men and women around the globe by sending the most incongruous of gifts: pliable, google-eye dolls.


Carol Davis with some "Dang It Doll" that have yet to join the nearly 17,000 she has shipped around the world.

Not that soldiers, Marines and airmen are doing much cuddling with her hand-stitched, foot-tall playthings. Carol Davis' "Dang-it-Dolls" are built to take punishment from homesick, frustrated troops and her work is getting rave reviews.

"The legs are shaped so you can grasp onto them," Air Force Staff Sgt. Rachel Staub wrote in a recent e-mail recalling her homesick days based in the United Arab Emirates.

"It returned with me to the States with an eyeball missing and the stitching around the legs loose with some of the stuffing coming out," she wrote.

The little doll "was used mostly for laughs and to keep my mind off being homesick," said Staub, of Melbourne, Florida. "It brought a smile to all our faces!"

Nearly 17,000 of the goofy dolls have been shipped around the world in the four years since Davis made her first one and sent it as a joke to her grandson, who was in the Air Force then in Aviano, Italy.

"I thought it would get a rise out of my grandson, 'Why are you sending me a doll?"' Davis said. "But after I sent 'em, I got messages back: "Can you send us some more?"'

Davis's grandson, 26-year-old Senior Airman Thomas Hagmaier, estimates he's given out between 1,000 and 1,500 of the dolls on his own.

"Everybody around me asks for one," he said in a phone interview from his base in Little Rock, Arkansas. "And I tell them, even if they destroy one, that's what it's for. I can give you more."

The foot-tall figures are made during periodic gatherings of military spouses, college students and friends who form assembly lines in Davis' garage in this small city outside Columbia. Piles of dolls covered tables and bookshelves. Some seemed anemic, awaiting stuffing and decoration. Boxes of yarn, fabric and craft paint tubes lined the walls.

Each doll is decorated at the whim of its maker. Patterns are cut out of fabric ranging from checked gingham to fuzzy fur. Yarn often sprouts from the top of the doll's head and smiles or stuck-out tongues are dabbed on with craft paint.

A few take on military dress code and colors. Davis displays photo books that show images of one unit that fashioned a flak jacket out of desert camouflage fabric for a doll that became its mascot.

Davis formed a nonprofit group to absorb the costs, with shipping being the highest expense. Most of the supplies are donated, she said.

"When you come to a workshop to help, you have to bring a box of stuffing," she said. "We will feed you, but you have to bring some stuffing."

Davis has shipped dolls to forces in Italy, the Middle East and Asia. Hundreds have been sent to Afghanistan over the past year to support a South Carolina Army National Guard unit deployed to train members of the Afghan police.

She said she hopes the dolls are used to counter the stress of far-flung deployments for troops.

"We know the hard transitions they have to make," Davis said, holding aloft one of the dolls. "And if these little fellas make them smile, that's great, too."

Army Staff Sgt. James Borchardt said that when tension rises in his tactical operations center in Iraq, he grabs his doll by the legs and beats the stuffing out of it.

"It made me laugh more than anything," he said in an e-mail. "I gave them to almost everyone in my unit."

Borchardt, an Essex, Maryland, native in Tikrit on his third deployment, said he first got a box of 100 dolls in the summer of 2005. His latest shipment numbered 300 because so many of his comrades wanted one.

"I was getting requests throughout the deployment," he said. "I am honored to get these dolls."

Original here

Feds: Drugs made at kosher meat plant

Federal authorities charged that a methamphetamine laboratory was operating at the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and that employees carried weapons to work.

The charges were among the most explosive details to emerge following the massive raid Monday at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa.

In a 60-page application for a search warrant, federal agents revealed details of their six-month probe of Agriprocessors. The investigation involved 12 federal agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the departments of labor and agriculture.

According to the application, a former plant supervisor told investigators that some 80 percent of the workforce was illegal. They included rabbis responsible for kosher supervision, who the source believed entered the United States from Canada without proper immigration documents. The source did not provide evidence for his suspicion about the rabbis.

The source also claimed to have confronted a human resources manager with Social Security cards from three employees that had the same number. The manager laughed when the matter was raised, the source said.

At least 300 people were arrested Monday during the raid, for which federal authorities had rented an expansive fairground nearby to serve as a processing center for detainees.

The search warrant application said that 697 plant employees were believed to have violated federal laws.

Agriprocessors officials did not return calls from JTA seeking comment.

Original here

Did The Church of Scientology lie on CNN?

L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology wrote:' The only way you can control people is to lie to them'. Tommy Davis's interview with CNN, which is currently making the rounds on YouTube, shows that this strategy only works when people have no relevant information. The entire world can now see that Scientology cannot tell the truth on any topic.

1 TD lied about the alleged bomb threats and the other incidents listed on the CoS application to a Clearwater court for an injunction against the April Anonymous protest. The injunction was refused. Most incidents were either invented or involved disaffected former members. Anonymous have shown that the video brought by the COS as evidence of the bomb threat was of manifestly higher quality (more pixels) than the video shown on YouTube. It is therefore closer to the original which suggests that the original was made by the CoS. Other incidents are either invented, unsubstantiated, or caused by disaffected former members. He also lied in saying that the cult report such incidents and then 'leave it to law enforcement'. If only they would. In fact their Office of Special Affairs works outside the law to fair-game or terrorize its critics.

2 TD lied when he denied that the cult operated a policy of disconnection. Tory Christman, in a response to this interview repeats that when she left the cult she lost all her friends of 30 years, and her husband of 27 years who stayed in. Tanya Neujahr and Vivien Krogman-Lutz were disconnected as teenagers by their Scientologist parents. David Miscavige's own family is split by disconnection. Ida XXX has not seen her son for more than thirty years. Grace and Ken Aaron have also lost their son. The rule is tightly enforced.

3 TD lied when he claimed that all members know the truth about Scientology. The cult restricts their exposure to TV, newspapers and the Internet. They are not allowed to read critical books. Lapses are disclosed by security checks and punished. Only those who pay considerable sums of money have access to the core belief in the evil galactic warlord Xenu and his creation of Thetans, spirits of dead space aliens (now freely available). As science fiction it is bad; as religious revelation it is ridiculous.

4 TD had nothing to say when asked 'What are your basic beliefs?' since Scientology has none, unless you count Xenu and his Thetans, or their belief in the miraculous power of L.Ron Hubbard to resolve all problems including blue asbestos and mental illness. Tommy fell back on the standard Scientology rant: 'Come into the org, always open; read a book; take the free stress test; find out what we are about.' It is factually untrue that you can walk into a Scientology center and find out what it is about. For that you have to pay, and pay. It can also be difficult to get out again.

5 Surprisingly, TD said he did not recognize the concept of dead space aliens infesting human bodies. This is surprising. Just about everyone knows that advanced Scientologists spend enormous amounts of time and money recognizing and banishing evil body thetans. The process leads to a kind of mad couch-jumping euphoria.

This is not where the lying stops. They also lie on their tax returns, in their filed accounts, in court hearings, in their claims of membership numbers, in their claims about what you will achieve (always your fault when you fail). They are not a gentle, kindly, tolerant humanitarian organization but a totalitarian, intolerant, cruel sect, interested only in how much money or forced labour they can squeeze out of their 'parishioners' and utterly detached from whatever disasters may befall them.

Be careful! Don't believe anything a Scientologist says. Think for yourself!

To comment about this or any other story, write to comment AT newsblaze DOT com

More Scientology Stories:
Scientology Asbestos Ship Quarantined, Thousands Exposed
Left Behind: Leaving the Church of Scientology
Scientology: Why it didn`t work for me
Mission Control: The Church of Scientology Has a Problem
My 2 Cents Worth on Alan Gray`s Article Concerning Scientology
Scientology`s Silence of Free Speech
Jason Beghe Crusade Against Scientology
Scientology: `The End Justifies The Means`
Scientology and Their Anonymous Adversary
Scientology Gains: Undeniable Problems That Scientology `Cured`
Any Article by Scientologists Should Have Health Warnings Attached
A Heartbreaking Scientology Video - Ms. Boucher`s Story
Scientology Took His Money and His Life
Scientology`s Approach to Mental Illness: How Crazy Can You Get?
Global Protest Against the CoS Suppression of Free Speech
The Ideal Scientologist: Konrad Aigner
Did The Church of Scientology lie on CNN?

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Original here

Photos from Friday's Freeway Ride

Last Friday, Crimanimal Mass took their second bicycle ride on the freeway during drive-home rush hour (see a video of their first ride here). Whizzing by gridlocked cars, the demonstration, albeit illegal, raises questions. Good questions. One of the group's organizers, Morgan Strauss, 29, was quoted in the Santa Monica Daily Press (.pdf) this weekend saying that he “just wanted to raise questions about the transportation infrastructure. In a city ruled by cars, why is it that you can get places faster on bikes?”

Many photos were taken of the ride, which included nearly 30 bicyclists, but also three rollerbladers: