Monday, August 30, 2010

Chiquita installs Green Technology in Costa Rica

Chiquita has announced the release of an innovative biodigester in Costa Rica that will improve fertilizer, reduce energy consumption, and provide a sustainable energy source for its operations. The company behind the famous blue and yellow sticker found on your bananas and pineapples (along with their newly introduced green Rainforest Alliance sticker) is at work on a wide-sweeping sustainability plan.

Corporate Responsibility Officer, Manuel Rodriguez, states, "This technology enables us to harness the full energy potential of fruit materials that previously could not be captured. It provides a sustainable energy source for our facility, nutrient rich fertilizer for local farmers and filters processing water. It benefits our company, our communities and our planet. The Biodigester is the latest demonstration of Chiquita's global citizenship and our drive to incorporate sustainability into everything we do."

Echoing Green Award recipient, AIDG (Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group) says of biodigesters, "As waste is processed in a biodigester, it is sterilized by methane-producing bacteria and the high-methane environment; over 90% of protozoa, cysts and disease-causing bacteria, such as E. Coli, are killed." According to AIDG, biodigesters don't function too well in colder climates, which won't be a problem in Costa Rica.

The Chiquita biodigester has essentially created a "carbon neutral circulation process," according to the press release, by taking extra fruit material and excess water from its operations that is then used by their facilities and local farmers. And no electricity is used, in what they call a "unique gravity utilizing design."

You go, Costa Rica. With your new biodigester and Happiest Country ranking, your capital, San Jose, may just be on track to becoming an international Fast City.   Source: Fastcompany

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Egg Recall, More Pressure to Pass Safety Act

The largest egg recall in history is creating more pressure on Congress to pass new legislation to give the Food & Drug Administration more authority.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began noticing an increase in cases of illness from salmonella in May, and noted increases to four times the seasonal norm in June and July, we're seeing a voluntary recall from the company only now in late August !!

Eggs are packed in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946.  Dates and codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton.  The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number.  The Julian date follows the plant number, for example:  P-1946 223.

It is unacceptable to delay a critical public health announcement, yet as too often happens with so-called voluntary recalls, it means many millions of those eggs are already in grocery stores and kitchens across the country, or on breakfast tables this week. This means that we are likely to see more people getting sick before this recall is over. The government says that hundreds have already gotten sick.

This is by no means the first big food recall this summer. In June, Kellogg's recalled 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks and other breakfast cereals because chemicals in their packaging gave the cereal an unusual smell and flavor and made some consumers nauseous.

Last week, Fresh Express recalled 2800 cases of its Veggie Lovers Salad because of a positive test for e. coli contamination.

In all of these cases, the food was already on store shelves and in consumer kitchens - putting our health at risk-- before the company issued a voluntary recall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 76 million cases of food borne illness each year, with 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths.

In the United States.  In the 21st century. That's unacceptable.

The egg recall is a good example of how an outbreak of food-borne illness can begin in one food factory and become a national outbreak involving multiple processors and stores in all 50 states. Wright County Eggs ships shell eggs to processors in eight states who then sell them across the country under at least thirteen different brands. Once the genie is out of the bottle, an outbreak like this is difficult to contain.

 FDA needs expanded authority to inspect food processing facilities to keep unsafe food off grocery store shelves in the first place, and needs mandatory recall authority to expedite action when problems occur. Otherwise, how can it protect consumers?

The U.S. Senate has the opportunity to bring the nation's food safety system into the 21st century by finishing the job of reforming the Food and Drug Administration's food safety authority.

The House of Representatives passed its food safety bill on a bipartisan vote more than a year ago. The Senate's bipartisan bill has been waiting for floor time since the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee reported it out in November 2009.

To protect American consumers, when the Senate returns in September, it should waste no time in sending the FDA Food Safety Modernization bill (S. 510) to President Obama's desk.

Ironically, the outbreak comes just one month after new federal egg production safety regulations went into effect, a decade after they were first proposed by the FDA

 Source Huffington Post

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Green Leafy Veggies May Cut Diabetes Risk

People who add more green leafy vegetables to their diet may significantly reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study says.

Patrice Carter, a research nutritionist at the University of Leicester, and colleagues reviewed six studies involving more than 220,000 people that focused on the links between fruits and vegetables and type 2 diabetes.

They conclude that eating one and one half servings of green leafy vegetables per day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14%.
However, they also found that eating more fruits and vegetables combined doesn’t seem to affect this risk. Fruit and Vegetable Intake Although many studies have found that diets high in fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, many people don’t seem to be getting the message, researchers say.

For example:
* 86% of adults in the United Kingdom ate less than the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, according to a 2002 study.
* 62% ate fewer than three servings.

Eat More Vegetables
The authors say that fruits and vegetables can prevent several chronic diseases, likely because of their antioxidant content.
Spinach and other green leafy veggies may reduce type 2 diabetes risk because of their high concentrations of polyphenols and vitamin C, both of which have antioxidant properties. They also contain magnesium, which may further reduce risk.
They conclude that specific, tailored advice needs to be given to people to encourage them to eat more green leafy vegetables.   Read Full Article

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

BP to stop handling most Gulf claims

BP has picked today as the deadline for accepting claims from people and businesses affected by the Gulf oil disaster.

After that, the oil giant will direct people to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, led by attorney Kenneth Feinberg.

"Effective August 23, GCCF will be the only authorized organization managing business and individual claims related to the Deepwater Horizon Incident," the British energy giant said in a statement.

Feinberg is charged with independently administering the $20 billion escrow account established by BP to compensate for damage caused by the Gulf disaster. He will hold a public meeting in Houma, Louisiana, at 10 a.m. (11 p.m ET).

BP, which said it has paid $368 million in claims so far, will continue to handle claims by government entities.

On Tuesday, a major environmental watchdog group called for more stringent testing of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, where the fall shrimping season began this week. The state of Alabama also reopened coastal waters to fishing for the first time since the disaster.

The National Resources Defense Council released a statement saying it sent letters to the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, co-signed by almost two dozen Gulf coast groups. The letters asked the government agencies to:

-- Ensure that there is comprehensive monitoring of seafood contamination.
-- Ensure public disclosure of all seafood monitoring data and methods.
-- Ensure that fishery re-opening criteria protect the most vulnerable populations, including children, pregnant women and subsistence fishing communities.

"With the opening of shrimping season and near-daily reopening of fishing areas, seafood safety is a major issue right now," Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council, said in the statement. "The government needs to show it is putting strong safety criteria and testing standards in place to ensure that the seafood from the Gulf will be safe to eat in the months and years to come."

Government officials, including Vice President Joe Biden and Steve Murawski, NOAA's chief scientist for fisheries, have said in recent weeks that waters closed to fishermen after the worst oil spill in U.S. history would be reopened when officials guarantee that seafood would pass tests for safety and edibility.

The oil spill has hampered the seafood business across the Gulf as federal and state authorities put much of its waters off-limits amid safety concerns. With the once-gushing well capped temporarily for more than a month now, NOAA and the Gulf states have started lifting those restrictions.

Deborah Long, a spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said it will probably take days to assess what impact the spill has had on the Gulf catch. And while some shrimpers are eager to get back out, many are still working for the well's owner, BP, which has hired boats to skim oil off the surface and lay protective booms along the shorelines.

Two reports published Tuesday express concern about the lingering effects of oil spilled from the ruptured BP well.

A team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that gushed from the well "has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem," the university said in a release.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of South Florida have concluded that oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico farther east than previously suspected -- and at levels toxic to marine life.  See Full Story

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Health officials gear up for flu vaccination season

 This time last year, health officials were scrambling to protect kids going back to school against what was feared to be an exceptionally deadly flu outbreak. And while that scare has passed, they don't want parents to lower their guard as another academic year approaches.

The H1N1 flu pandemic was far milder than anticipated and was officially declared over this week by the World Health Organization
While the United Nations agency declared the H1N1 pandemic over, it urged continued vigilance, as it disproportionately affected young people, and the message is still about vaccination.

We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course,” said Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO. The announcement comes 14 months after H1N1 was declared a pandemic by the U.N. body.

According to the WHO, the virus had spread with "unprecedented speed," reaching 120 countries and territories in less than two months.

Chan says she expects the H1N1 virus "to take on the behavior of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come."

Officials point to a new recommendation from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone 6 months and older be immunized against seasonal flu rather than just vulnerable groups.

Although the world is entering a "post-pandemic period," this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away, Chan said. It just means the H1N1 virus will behave more like a seasonal flu virus and continue to circulate for years to come.

Officials point to a new recommendation from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that everyone 6 months and older be immunized against seasonal flu rather than just vulnerable groups.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Road Trip

A caravan will take off from St. Louis, Missouri, Monday in support of Gulf Coast businesses in the aftermath of the oil disaster.

"We've learned of so many businesses in the Gulf region that are losing their customers, employees and dreams because of the impact on tourism," organizer Dennis Gorg said in a statement. "As a small business owner, I can't imagine how I'd support the people who depend on me. We can do something. We can become tourists with a purpose."

The caravan plans to stop and spend money at businesses along the Gulf in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle, completing their trek on Friday. The group says it will blog about its experience.

Obama administration officials said Sunday that while the undersea gusher in the Gulf of Mexico has been brought under control, the worst oil spill in U.S. history will continue to be felt along the Gulf Coast for some time.

"If you're sitting in Barataria Bay, it's still a disaster. If the folks have not come back to the panhandle of Florida, it's still a disaster," former Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the administration's point man for the disaster, told CNN's "State of the Union."

A report from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration last week found three-quarters of the oil spilled between late April and mid-July has been collected, dispersed or evaporated. But Allen said, "We need to keep a steady hand at the tiller to keep the cleanup going."

"It's a catastrophe. It's a catastrophe for the people of the Gulf, and it requires our attention until we get the job done," he said.

Allen will hold a teleconference Monday to update response efforts in the Gulf.

And White House environmental adviser Carol Browner told NBC's "Meet the Press" that the "first phase" of the disaster was over -- but it is "not the end by any means."   See Full Story

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What's So Great About The Month Of August?

Little League World Series,   That's What !!!

Upon further review, turns out instant replay in baseball isn't such a bad idea after all.

The very first Little League World Series was held back in 1947 in South Williamsport, PA and it is still held there every August.

Managers at this month's Little League World Series will be able to challenge certain calls under a revised instant replay system.

The 2-year-old system also will be expanded to include more plays, including force outs, tags on base paths, missed bases and hit batters.

Reviews were previously limited to plays that should have resulted in a dead ball, but were called otherwise by the umpire, such as questionable home runs and other close plays at the outfield fence.

While Commissioner Bud Selig and major league umpires continue to treat the idea of video replay as if it were radioactive, Little League President Stephen Keener is expanding its use at this month's World Series to include virtually everything except ball and strike calls.

"This is just another tool to help them do their job better," Keener said of the volunteer umpires who will work the 16-team World Series, which begins Aug. 20. "This retains not only the human element, but the volunteer element."

A spokesman for Selig declined Monday to comment on Little League's latest innovation, but expect MLB to be watching. It was Little League that made the use of batting helmets mandatory, 10 years before they were required in the majors. And it was Little League that pioneered the postgame ice cream and pizza parties, though that idea still hasn't gained much traction in the pros.

"It's exciting news," Barry Mano, a former college basketball official and publisher of Referee magazine, said of instant replay. "I would expect that something that happens in Little League baseball, [Selig] would look at it. They will look at any evaluation they can get their hands on."

The Little League World Series has used instant replay the last two summers, limiting it to plays that should have resulted in a dead ball, such as home runs. During that time four rulings were challenged, with replays showing the umpire's call was correct each time.

But Little League decided to go ahead and expand the use of instant replay anyway, largely because it can. Each game in the tournament is scheduled to be televised by ESPN, which will use 12 to 14 cameras and up to 16 playback machines. That's nearly twice as many network cameras as ESPN uses for many regular-season major league telecasts.  Read Full Story

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Heart Impacts Brain

 What's good for the heart is probably also good for the brain.

Keeping your heart fit and strong can slow down the aging of your brain, US researchers say.

A Boston University team found healthy people with sluggish hearts that pumped out less blood had "older" brains on scans than others.

The current study included more than 1,500 people who had participated in the Framingham Offspring Study. Their average age was 61 years, and 54 percent of the study volunteers were women. Anyone with significant cardiovascular problems was excluded from the study. 

A poor cardiac output aged the brain by nearly two years on average, Circulation journal says.

The link was seen in younger people in their 30s who did not have heart disease, as well as elderly people who did.

Lead researcher Dr Angela Jefferson said: "These participants are not sick people. A very small number have heart disease. The observation that nearly a third of the entire sample has low cardiac index and that lower cardiac index is related to smaller brain volume is concerning and requires further study."

The participants with smaller brain volumes on magnetic resonance imaging did not show obvious clinical signs of reduced brain function.

But the researchers say the shrinkage may be an early sign that something is wrong.

More severe shrinkage or atrophy occurs with dementia.

Dr Jefferson said there were several theories for why reduced cardiac index - how much blood the heart pumps out relative to body size - might affect brain health.

For example, a lower volume of blood pumping from the heart might reduce flow to the brain, providing less oxygen and fewer nutrients needed for brain cells.

"It is too early to dole out health advice based on this one finding but it does suggest that heart and brain health go hand in hand," she said.

Experts say a person's cardiac index is fairly static - meaning it would be difficult to change it if it were low, without doing pretty intensive exercise training.

Dr Clinton Wright, a brain and memory expert from the University of Miami, said: "Whether lower cardiac index leads to reduced brain volumes and accelerates neurodegeneration on an eventual path to dementia is not yet clear.

"To address the health needs of our aging population, a better understanding of the links between cardiovascular disease and brain structure and function will be required."

The Boston School of Medicine team will now continue to study the individuals in the trial to see if and how the brain changes affect memory and cognitive abilities over time.  Source

Exercising regularly, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and managing high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes -- will lead to better heart, blood vessel and brain health.

Know that these things are important, not just for the heart but also for the brain.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

CS Sunday: Spill Bills & Sunrise Transmission | Clean Skies

Congress is working on two versions of spill bills in the wake of the Gulf oil spill. But those bills may end up costing the renewable energy industry. Neither has a Renewable Electricity Standard and without that wind, solar and geothermal experts say those industries can't flourish. Tyler Suiters delves into the bills, and speaks with a woman whose family invested in solar, and sees a bright future for the energy source.    Watch Video


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