Monthly Archives: March 2013

Eatocracy

UPDATE: The recall has been expanded from 196,222 pounds to over 10.5 million pounds. A full listing of the affected products is available at the USDA’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that 24 cases of E. coli O121 have been reported across 15 states, with at least one linked to the consumption of Farm Rich brand frozen meals and snacks. One third of the cases have required hospitalization and no deaths have occurred.

Illness related to this outbreak’s strain have been reported in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. 78% of those sickened are under the age of 22.

Rich Products Corporation recalled approximately 196,222 pounds of Farm Rich Mini Quesadillas, Philly Cheese Steaks, Mini Pizza Slices and Mozzarella Bites produced from November 12-19, 2012 after being informed by the U.S. Department…

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CNN Political Ticker

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama attended the Gridiron Club and Foundation’s annual dinner in Washington Saturday night, even cracking a joke on forced budget cuts along the way.

The annual event brings together politicians and Washington’s media elite. Because there’s limited press access, presidents who attend usually act a little looser than when the camera light is on.

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CNN Belief Blog

By Eric Marrapodi and Tom Foreman, CNN

Baltimore (CNN) — The capacity crowd at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore is bouncing in unison to the most widely sung music on the planet today. The catwalk above the arena is shaking.

Chris Tomlin grabs the microphone and asks the crowd if they’re ready.

“I feel alive, on God’s great dance floor!” He leads the packed venue in singing and jumping.

Tomlin is out touring the country with his latest studio album, “Burning Lights.” In January, it topped the Billboard 200 charts. But unlike those who’ve enjoyed performances by Beyonce, Johnny Cash and a host of others who’ve played this Baltimore hall, after these fans stream out the doors they will have ample opportunity to sing Tomlin’s songs again, as one.

That is the secret to Tomlin’s success – the stage, the lights, the band — aren’t about him. As…

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Light Years

By Amanda Barnett, CNN

A rare treat for sky watchers is hovering overhead.

Comet Pan-STARRS is now visible on the western horizon in the Northern Hemisphere and viewers in the United States may be able to see it with the naked eye.

The comet has been visible through telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere for a while and amateur photographers are now posting sightings online from the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists estimate that naked-eye comets happen only once every five to 10 years, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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Global Public Square

By Priyanka Motaparthy, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Priyanka Motaparthy is a children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of “Look at Us With a Merciful Eye,” a new report about death sentences in Yemen for juvenile offenders. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

I met Hind in a prison in Yemen almost a year ago. Nineteen years-old, she wore an orange hooded sweatshirt, a long denim skirt, and the sullen expression of a teenager who trusts that no one is on her side. “Hind doesn’t want to talk to anyone,” a social worker told me.

Hind al-Barti was a child offender – under 18 at the time of the alleged crime – on death row in the Central Prison in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. She was convicted of a murder committed when she was 15, according to her birth certificate. Hind denied committing the crime…

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Prophecy fulfilling??? 2009 New York Times article: Euphrates River Dwindles

Iraq Suffers as the Euphrates River Dwindles

Moises Saman for The New York Times

A boy rested on the mud in a dried-up section of the Euphrates River near Jubaish, Iraq, in June. 

Published: July 13, 2009
JUBAISH, Iraq — Throughout the marshes, the reed gatherers, standing on land they once floated over, cry out to visitors in a passing boat.

Moises Saman for The New York Times

Bashia Mohammed, 60, gathered salt in a drainage pool on the outskirts of Diwaniya. It is her family’s only source of income now that its rice farm has dried up. More Photos »

Moises Saman for The New York Times

Rice farmers surveyed their dry field near a village on the outskirts of Najaf. Iraq is now importing more and more grain. “Maaku mai!” they shout, holding up their rusty sickles. “There is no water!”

The Euphrates is drying up. Strangled by the water policies of Iraq’s neighbors, Turkey and Syria; a two-year drought; and years of misuse by Iraq and its farmers, the river is significantly smaller than it was just a few years ago. Some officials worry that it could soon be half of what it is now.

The shrinking of the Euphrates, a river so crucial to the birth of civilization that the Book of Revelation prophesiedits drying up as a sign of the end times, has decimated farms along its banks, has left fishermen impoverished and has depleted riverside towns as farmers flee to the cities looking for work.

The poor suffer more acutely, but all strata of society are feeling the effects: sheiks, diplomats and even members of Parliament who retreat to their farms after weeks in Baghdad.

Along the river, rice and wheat fields have turned to baked dirt. Canals have dwindled to shallow streams, and fishing boats sit on dry land. Pumps meant to feed water treatment plants dangle pointlessly over brown puddles.

“The old men say it’s the worst they remember,” said Sayid Diyia, 34, a fisherman in Hindiya, sitting in a riverside cafe full of his idle colleagues. “I’m depending on God’s blessings.”

The drought is widespread in Iraq. The area sown with wheat and barley in the rain-fed north is down roughly 95 percent from the usual, and the date palm and citrus orchards of the east are parched. For two years rainfall has been far below normal, leaving the reservoirs dry, and American officials predict that wheat and barley output will be a little over half of what it was two years ago.

It is a crisis that threatens the roots of Iraq’s identity, not only as the land between two rivers but as a nation that was once the largest exporter of dates in the world, that once supplied German beer with barley and that takes patriotic pride in its expensive Anbar rice.

Now Iraq is importing more and more grain. Farmers along the Euphrates say, with anger and despair, that they may have to abandon Anbar rice for cheaper varieties.

Droughts are not rare in Iraq, though officials say they have been more frequent in recent years. But drought is only part of what is choking the Euphrates and its larger, healthier twin, the Tigris.

The most frequently cited culprits are the Turkish and Syrian governments. Iraq has plenty of water, but it is a downstream country. There are at least seven dams on the Euphrates in Turkey and Syria, according to Iraqi water officials, and with no treaties or agreements, the Iraqi government is reduced to begging its neighbors for water.

At a conference in Baghdad — where participants drank bottled water from Saudi Arabia, a country with a fraction of Iraq’s fresh water — officials spoke of disaster.

“We have a real thirst in Iraq,” said Ali Baban, the minister of planning. “Our agriculture is going to die, our cities are going to wilt, and no state can keep quiet in such a situation.”

Recently, the Water Ministry announced that Turkey had doubled the water flow into the Euphrates, salvaging the planting phase of the rice season in some areas.

That move increased water flow to about 60 percent of its average, just enough to cover half of the irrigation requirements for the summer rice season. Though Turkey has agreed to keep this up and even increase it, there is no commitment binding the country to do so.

With the Euphrates showing few signs of increasing health, bitterness over Iraq’s water threatens to be a source of tension for months or even years to come between Iraq and its neighbors. Many American, Turkish and even Iraqi officials, disregarding the accusations as election-year posturing, say the real problem lies in Iraq’s own deplorable water management policies.

“There used to be water everywhere,” said Abduredha Joda, 40, sitting in his reed hut on a dry, rocky plot of land outside Karbala. Mr. Joda, who describes his dire circumstances with a tired smile, grew up near Basra but fled to Baghdad when Saddam Husseindrained the great marshes of southern Iraq in retaliation for the 1991 Shiite uprising. He came to Karbala in 2004 to fish and raise water buffaloes in the lush wetlands there that remind him of his home.

“This year it’s just a desert,” he said.

Along the river, there is no shortage of resentment at the Turks and Syrians. But there is also resentment at the Americans, Kurds, Iranians and the Iraqi government, all of whom are blamed. Scarcity makes foes of everyone.

The Sunni areas upriver seem to have enough water, Mr. Joda observed, a comment heavy with implication.

Officials say nothing will improve if Iraq does not seriously address its own water policies and its history of flawed water management. Leaky canals and wasteful irrigation practices squander the water, and poor drainage leaves fields so salty from evaporated water that women and children dredge huge white mounds from sitting pools of runoff.

On a scorching morning in Diwaniya, Bashia Mohammed, 60, was working in a drainage pool by the highway gathering salt, her family’s only source of income now that its rice farm has dried up. But the dead farm was not the real crisis.

“There’s no water in the river that we drink from,” she said, referring to a channel that flows from the Euphrates. “It’s now totally dry, and it contains sewage water. They dig wells but sometimes the water just cuts out and we have to drink from the river. All my kids are sick because of the water.”

In the southeast, where the Euphrates nears the end of its 1,730-mile journey and mingles with the less salty waters of the Tigris before emptying into the Persian Gulf, the situation is grave. The marshes there that were intentionally reflooded in 2003, rescuing the ancient culture of the marsh Arabs, are drying up again. Sheep graze on land in the middle of the river.

The farmers, reed gatherers and buffalo herders keep working, but they say they cannot continue if the water stays like this.

“Next winter will be the final chance,” said Hashem Hilead Shehi, a 73-year-old farmer who lives in a bone-dry village west of the marshes. “If we are not able to plant, then all of the families will leave.”

NYT Author: Amir A. al-Obeidi, Mohammed Hussein and Abeer Mohammed contributed reporting.

 

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CNN Belief Blog

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) — Mark Burnett is the king of reality television. His shows and spinoffs command hours of prime-time television real estate. The seal of his production company One Three Media appears at the end of “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “The Apprentice,” “Shark Tank,” “The Job” and “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”

He will tell you each show was No. 1 in the time slot. He will tell you he will take on all comers in his bare-knuckle, ratings-driven world and beat them. He will tell you on any given day he has 150 video-editing systems churning through edits on his dossier, which spans the three major broadcast networks.

But if you suggest he may not have the chops to take on a massive scripted dramatic presentation of the Bible as a 10-hour miniseries, his eyes will tell you he wants to throttle…

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